How seriously should we take the Third Commandment today?


In the weekly Update No. 146 on June 6th 2004, we printed an editorial, entitled “The Third Commandment”. Last week, we printed a Q&A, entitled “How do we need to apply the 3rd Commandment about not using the LORD’S name in vain?”. Also, on May 24, 2008, in a StandingWatch program, Evangelist Norbert Link presented a program titled, “Corrupt Communication–Why Not?” It is appropriate to emphasise this matter as it now seems that blasphemy is used by the youngest to the oldest in our nations, with virtually no consideration given at all to how serious a matter this is.

In Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11, we read “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

It is best to define what “taking the name of the LORD your God in vain” (or blasphemy as it can also be defined) really means. We could look at many definitions, but the bottom line is that we simply should not, and must not, use the name of God in any irreverent way because that would be disrespectful. When we look at God’s creative power and the awesome size, beauty and majesty of His creation, it really is something wonderful to behold, and to denigrate the name of the Creator of it all is simply unacceptable.

Wikipedia gives this definition: “Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.”

It is interesting to read the following in Leviticus 24:16: “And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.” It was certainly something to be taken very seriously in those times, unlike today.

But why would God, the greatest Being in the universe, be so concerned about His Name? Isn’t He, as some have observed, able to look after Himself? For anyone to make such an observation shows that they have no understanding at all about what is involved.

Some may think that they can hurt God by taking His Name in vain or rejecting Him. God can certainly be very disappointed when this happens but we have to remember that He is the Creator of all things, He sustains life, He has provided salvation for us through Jesus Christ. God is a Family, consisting of God the Father and Jesus Christ , the Son of God, and they are both God… the only true God Beings. Therefore, God deserves our worship and we are hurting ourselves when we go contrary to His way. It is not about ego and the feeling of importance but God knows that we lose out when we don’t honour His precious Name. By so dishonouring Him, we are also showing disrespect and that doesn’t have any rewards attached to it, quite the reverse. Revelation 4:10-11 is instructive in this regard: “… the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.’” Honouring God’s Name as per the third Commandment is truly one way of showing our love for the One who will always be the greatest Being of all.

In a well-ordered, God-obeying family, the relationship that children have with their parents is the same relationship that a begotten son or daughter of God has with his or her heavenly Father. In the human family, there are rules, regulations and behaviour that children are expected to act upon and the same applies to God the Father who gives His begotten children commandments and standards that must be part of a true Christian’s way of life. We read in Colossians 3:8: “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

We also have to make sure that by our actions, God’s Name is not disrespected outside the true Church of God, and Romans 2:21-24 is instructive in this regard: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?  You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?  For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, as it is written.’”

We are to set an example as expressed in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” If we blasphemed God’s great name, we wouldn’t be setting the example that we are commanded to so do.

It is interesting to note that, whilst God’s Name is taken in vain by so many people around the world, other “deities” don’t seem to suffer in the same way and we know how Muslims revere “the prophet Mohammed” who was just a human being anyway. None of these names are used as an expression of surprise, frustration or anger as the name of the true God so often is.  Satan is doing everything he can to upset true Christians as he knows that he has but a short time left.

An interesting and, it seems, not a very well-known fact, is that the blasphemy law in some parts of the UK was abolished a few years ago. Wikipedia notes that in the UK “on 5th March 2008, an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 which abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales. The peers also voted for the laws to be abandoned during March. The Act received royal assent on 8 May 2008, and the relevant section came into force on 8 July 2008.”

On the Humanists UK website, they state the following: “Outdated and discriminatory blasphemy laws are still far too common all around the world. But the English and Welsh blasphemy laws were abolished in May 2008. The offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were common law offences which were contrary to the principle of free speech and probably contrary to human rights laws adopted by the UK, which protect freedom of expression. The law fundamentally protected certain, Christian, beliefs and made it illegal to question them or deny them.”

In 2016, a Pew Research Center analysis found out that, as of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories (26%) had anti-blasphemy laws or policies.

In August 2018 the BBC website had this very unusual story about an Italian footballer (soccer player):

“Former Juventus midfielder Rolando Mandragora has been suspended for one Serie A game after he was caught on television cameras shouting “Porca Madonna, Vaffanculo, Dio Cane”, an insult to the Virgin Mary, while also referring to God as a dog. The outburst from the Italy international came after Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Eudero saved his shot in a game which Mandragora’s side, Udinese, won 1-0.

“‘After acquiring and examining the relevant television images, the player, while cursing without referring to anybody around him, was nevertheless clearly seen by the television images to make blasphemous remarks, visibly identifiable from reading his lips without any margin for reasonable doubt,’ a disciplinary report from the Lega Serie A said. There is a strict ban on taking God’s name in vain in Italy, and since 2010, the country’s football association has disciplined players and coaches heard doing so.”

“Taking the name of the LORD your God in vain” is all a part of the erosion of biblical standards that there are organisations which exist in their bid to remove, if it were possible, all traces of the way of God from society. Of course, we understand that Satan, the arch-deceiver is behind all of this and his time is now very limited but, in the meantime, much damage can be done to decent standards that served communities well for a very long period of time. It involved the historical position that Christianity has had within the establishment – the monarchy, Parliament and the law.

It would appear that freedom of speech trumps just about everything else and that penalties for blasphemy, however that is defined, would be in contravention to the right of free speech. Along the same lines is the fact that quoting the Bible about the sin of homosexuality can be viewed as hate speech and therefore punishable in law which means that the legal provisions and requirements of man trump the Word of God.

In short, the third of God’s Ten Commandments is seen as an anachronism in today’s “more enlightened” society!!

In a newspaper article in 2018, details about social media speech were given showing that there are 60 new abbreviations that are dominating the way young people communicate with one another and the second most common one is “OMG,” and we all know that this is an abbreviation for “Oh my God.” It is now a marketing tool as the advertising industry, it seems, will do anything they can to promote products or services at any cost. The fact that God’s name is used irreverently doesn’t seem to matter one iota to those who use such language.

We should realise that the names of God the Father and Jesus Christ are so important. We know that in the model prayer in Matthew 6:9 Jesus told His disciples to pray: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” We also read in Philippians 2:10 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” No one should use the great name of God in a harsh and irreverent way today, but so many do. The name of Jesus Christ is so important: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), and this is another reason why the 3rd Commandment must be taken very seriously.

In our weekly Update, Number 77, on 23rd January 2003, we had a Question and Answer, entitled “Is it Wrong to Use Slang such as ‘gosh’ or ‘gee’?,” and this clearly showed that such euphemisms were also clearly wrong. You may wish to review this Q&A.

King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and he had great respect for God’s name. In Psalm 145:1-2 we read: “I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.” We would do well to emulate this example.

One internet commentator made these observations:

“We are not to use God’s name as a curse word. We are not to use His name lightly. If we study who God is, we understand a bit more why this is such a grave sin. God is holy, sovereign, unchangeable, omnipotent, omniscient, faithful, patient, and merciful. This is just a short list of the adjectives that could be used to describe God, the One who made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. If He is so awesome and so wonderful (and He is!), then we can understand why it is so important for us not to use His name when we are angry or surprised.”

Another writer summed it up well and succinctly when he wrote:

“The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honour His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His name in vain.”

It was interesting to read what a teaching assistant with no religious views wrote about the use of the phrase “Oh my God”:

“I work as a teaching assistant with kids aged 8-10 and so many of them say this whenever they are frustrated, stroppy or feeling argumentative. I’m not religious but I certainly consider it an inappropriate phrase for children to use. I had a chat with a couple of the girls today after one of them said it. Neither of them had any concept that this was anything other than normal, as it’s a phrase used by all the family. I suggested that they might like to think of other things to say that won’t sound so offensive or rude.”

A prominent American preacher was interviewed on British television during 2018. He was asked how he felt after receiving an invitation to a particular function in the UK and he said, slowly, deliberately and with feeling “Oh my God” three times consecutively in order to express his surprise. If those in mainstream Christianity don’t find it necessary to keep the 3rd Commandment, what example does that send out to those who are members of those churches? This example was appalling and showed a complete lack of understanding how important it is to revere God’s Holy Name.

We should only use God’s name in a reverential way, showing Him the respect that He deserves, and anything less is not acceptable to Him.

Let us remember that Jesus never took His Father’s name in vain. So many people today use God’s Name in vain when they have trials, difficulties and pain and we must remember that even when Jesus was crucified, in His final hours on the stake, suffering with agonising pain and distress, He never resorted to such an approach. His approach to the third Commandment was perfect, and we are to follow Him in every way and that includes honouring, not disrespecting His Father’s Name.

God’s Name should not be blasphemed today and the third Commandment makes this quite clear. But what about the future? We read in Ezekiel 39:7: “So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.” During the Millennium, taking God’s Name in vain will not be tolerated, nor will it be tolerated for eternity after that time.

Yes, we really should take the third Commandment very seriously today!

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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