The Third Commandment is very closely related to the Second. In the Second Commandment we learn that God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth because He Himself is a Spirit, immortal, invisible, Whom no man hath seen or can see (John 4:24; I Tim. 1:17, 3:16). The question, then, is, how do we know Him and worship Him if we can neither see nor touch Him, nor make any representations of Him to use in our worship? The Third Commandment answers that question for us when it speaks of God’s Name. Through His Name and the use of His Name we know Him, have fellowship with Him, and enjoy Him forever. It is for this reason that the temple could be called “the dwelling place of God’s Name” or “the place where He has put His Name” (Deut. 12:5, 11, 21; I Kings 8:29; Ps. 74:7), and the whole worship of the church there be remembered as a “calling upon His Name” (Ps. 116:13, 14). According to His Name, so is His praise unto the ends of the earth (Ps. 48:10).
The urgent, positive calling, therefore, of the Third Commandment is that we make constant use of God’s Name. The person who only refrains from swearing and blasphemy has not even come near to the obedience required by this Third Commandment. For the praise of His Name He has commanded and created all things in Heaven (Ps. 148:1-5), on earth (Ps. 148:6-13), and among His people (Ps. 148:14).
In connection with His Name and the Third Commandment God reveals the glory of His Holiness, as we have already seen. For this reason, His Name must also be used with fear and reverence. Of all His attributes, His holiness is singled out in Scripture and receives special emphasis, because in His holiness He is separated from all that is unholy and profane and consecrated to His own glory. In His holiness, therefore, we have the sum of all His other attributes, for whether we speak of His wisdom, His grace, His power, of His love, in all these things He is “separate,” so that there is none like Him. That, Scripture teaches, is the meaning of His holiness.
It is no wonder, then, that when He reveals Himself to us through His Name, it is His holiness that stands forward, so that His Name is above all a holy Name. And the Third Commandment requires that we use His Name in holiness, that is, in “separation” from all other names, and in hearty consecration to His glory. So too, the Third Commandment forbids us to “profane” the Name of God or to use it “in vain.” The word “vain” means “empty” and we are forbidden to use the Name of God as though it is empty of glory, a Name that is found among the vain and useless things of this sin-cursed and sin-darkened world. Something “profane” is something common and ordinary. Thus we are forbidden to use His Name as though it is just another name among the many names of men and other creatures.
All this means that it is not a small thing, but vilely wicked when men use the great Name of God as a mere exclamation of amazement or disgust, and, even worse, if that is possible, when they use it in spitting out the passionate words of their evil lusts and rages. In His displeasure against these sins, God promises that He “will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.” There is no justifying blood or pardon in Christ for those who continue in such sins as these.
Both the deliberate misuse and the careless use of His Name are forbidden, therefore. Nevertheless, these are not the only ways in which we can break the Third Commandment. We violate the holiness of His Name also when we speak carelessly of His attributes, His goodness, His grace, or His mercy, for they too are part of His Name. His Name as He proclaimed it to Moses on Sinai is “The LORD, the’ LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth” (Ex. 34:6). How evil it is that we use these attributes, which Scripture calls His perfections and praises, not for praise but merely to express the swelling tide of our emotions. Even the ruler who addressed Jesus as “Good Master” had to be rebuked because he spoke of goodness without ascribing it to the Only Good God, without seeing that God in Jesus (Luke 18:18, 19).
Also heaven and hell may not be spoken of lightly or carelessly, for, as Jesus told the Pharisees, “He that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth thereon” (Matt. 23:22), and hell is the place where His hot wrath burns forever.
Perhaps more than in anything else it is in the speech of men that the corruptions of their heart are revealed and they are uncovered as those who are “all together become filthy” (Ps. 14:3), whose every imagination and thought are only evil continually (Gen. 6:5), and who have not known the fear of God (Rom. 3:18). From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks always, and for all that they may live an outwardly decent life in the world, in their speech they are’ revealed as haters of God. This is not only true according to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 3:13, 14: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness,” but also in that even when they do not spew forth such filth, even then they still ignore the glorious and praiseworthy Name of God.
The fact is, of course, that our own careless and profane use of God’s Name reveals where we have come from. We too, by nature, are children of Satan, whose very name means “slanderer”—children who from the beginning have listened to his blasphemous accusations against his Creator and ours.
From all such blasphemous wickedness we are delivered and “separated” by the redemptive work of Christ. All through His ministry the Father’s Name was in His lips; and His prayer, even in His anguish, was “Father, glorify Thy Name” (John 12:27, 28). And finally when the dark night of God’s wrath against all our blasphemies and mocking words fell upon His soul, then also out of the darkness He used God’s holy Name with fear and reverence when He cried, “My God, my God . . . . ”
But He did not only come to separate us from all cursing and bitterness by His forgiving grace; He came also to consecrate us and separate us unto God in new holiness, to cleanse the open sepulchre of our throats, and to fill our mouths once again with the Name of God in worship and thanksgiving. Jesus Himself sums up His whole ministry from this viewpoint in John 17:26: “And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Likewise, the great reason for the outpouring of the Spirit, according to such notable passages as Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6is that we may once again, with reverence, cry “Abba, Father” for the glory of His Father and ours.
This, however, leads us to understand that we can all the more easily profane and misuse the Name of God and break the Third Commandment when we are not faithful in prayer, in repentance and confession of sin, in speaking to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all the many means which God provides for the use of His Name.
By way of summary, then, our calling is confession. How often do not the Scriptures speak of the importance of our confession of the Name of God in Christ both in the church and in the world. Jesus tells us that the only ones for whom He will intercede with the Father are those who have confessed His Name in the world (Matt. 10:32). Paul says in Romans 10:9, 10 that it is the confessing believer who is saved, and in Revelation we find that those who reign with Christ in His glory are those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and the word of God (Rev. 20:4). The very word “confession” shows why this is so. Confessing is “speaking along with someone.” That is our calling. God has revealed all His glory in His Name; and to us as lost sinners He has revealed it through Him Who cometh in the Name of the Lord. We tell His glory as those who are saved by His Name by repeating with Him and after Him all that He has spoken to us in His Word concerning the wonders of the glory of His Name.
We do this, as Jesus also did in fulfilling the words ofPsalm 22:22, “I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise into Thee.” We do that too in the world both by suffering for His Name, by bearing His Name among the Gentiles through the preaching of the Gospel, and by speaking of His Name to all those who ask us a reason of our hope, that Name of God in Christ being the only reason that we have for hope in the world.
This calling also involves “warring a good warfare.” We cannot honor God’s Name when we allow it to be blasphemed and dishonored without reproving and admonishing those who speak evilly against Him. Our attitude must be that of David toward Goliath: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy. . . the living God” (I Sam. 17:26, 45). Against such bold, blasphemous defiance we must fight both in our own hearts and lives and in others with the Spirit’s sword of God’s Word.
In order to do this we must also learn a love for God’s Word where He shows us the glory of His Name and impresses us with His holiness. We must learn through study and meditation to fear His Name and to think often upon it. To such as heed these things the Lord gives the promise, “They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in the day that I make up My jewels” (Mal. 3:16, 17).
So we see once again, that God’s Commandments are not arbitrary, but the gift of God to us that we may know His glory and praise Him accordingly. Those who know His glory will more and more pray for grace to keep His Commandments, also this Third Commandment, and they will love the Word of God to the church of Philadelphia, a church which kept His Word and did not deny His Name: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon Him My new name” (Rev. 3:12).
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.