Question – What does it mean to “swear to your own hurt”?


What does it mean to “swear to your own hurt”?

“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?”

“… He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”

Psalm 15:1, 4 NKJV


“In every business transaction be rigidly honest. However tempted, never deceive or prevaricate in the least matter. At times a natural impulse may bring temptation to diverge from the straightforward path of honesty, but do not vary one hairsbreadth. If in any matter you make a statement as to what you will do, and afterward find that you have favored others to your own loss, do not vary a hairsbreadth from principle. Carry out your agreement. By seeking to change your plans you would show that you could not be depended on. And should you draw back in little transactions, you would draw back in larger ones. Under such circumstances some are tempted to deceive, saying, I was not understood. My words have been taken to mean more than I intended. The fact is, they meant just what they said, but lost the good impulse, and then wanted to draw back from their agreement, lest it prove a loss to them. The Lord requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and truth, and righteousness.” Child Guidance, 154.

“The obligation to which one’s word is pledged—if it does not bind him to perform a wrong act—should be held sacred. No consideration of gain, of revenge, or of self-interest can in any way affect the inviolability of an oath or pledge. ‘Lying lips are abomination to the Lord’ (Proverbs 12:22). He that ‘shall ascend into the hill of the Lord,’ and ‘stand in His holy place,’ is ‘he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not’ (Psalms 24:3; 15:4).” Patriarchs and Prophets, 506.

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5 NKJV).

The Ten Commandments, Part VI: Judged by the Rock

As we look at the Ten Commandments, in Deuteronomy 5, we are able to see that eight of those ten begin with a negative prohibition, “Thou shalt not.” But we need to remember that wherever there is a negative, there is also a positive. With every negative command that is to prohibit us from something, there is always a positive encouragement to do what is right and good.

The negative command we will be considering in this article is the one of not taking the name of the Lord in vain. This negative command indicates that there is a positive command to serve God in an acceptable way with reverence and godly fear. From this positive perspective, we know that those who keep this commandment will have a reverent attitude. They recognize that the character of God is to be found in His name, and any time they are in proximity with God, they are to have a reverent attitude.

God’s name and His character are inseparable. You cannot look at one without looking at the other. You cannot examine one without being exposed to the other. As we study this commandment, we need to recognize this fact as well.

A Good Name

When we speak of a person having a good name, such as, “John has a good name in the community,” what are we really saying? He has a good character; he has integrity; he is upright; he treats other people right; everything about him is of a respectable nature. This is why the Bible says, “A [good] name [is] rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1. Many people have found themselves seeking after riches only to discover that they have lost their good name.

In the name of God, we see His character revealed. In this commandment, we see the endorsement that we are to come up to the level of all that God is in character. This is why, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.

Come Up

We are called to come up. We may not yet be at the highest point, but the call is to continually come up. So often we find that people are content with where they are, but we, as Christians, and particularly as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, should never, ever be content with where we are in our lives. Even though we may go day after day without the real sense that we have committed a sin, we know, because of our human natures, that we are in peril; we are in a constant state of temptation. We may feel that we are right with God, but we should never be content to stay where we are. We should always be studying and trying to discover more of what God can mean to us.

We are to live up to all that God’s name means. If we are not living up to all that God’s name means, in regard to His character, we are indeed taking His name in vain.

Meaning of a Name

What does “the name of the Lord” mean? The phrases, “name of God,” “the name of the Lord thy God,” and “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God,” are immensely comprehensive. These mean more than merely titles or descriptions by which Deity is distinguished from all other deities. They mean all that may be properly established or conceived of God.

When, for instance, we think of the name of George Washington, the first President of the United States, there immediately comes to our minds everything that we have learned and known about this man. There should be a great amount of respect for the name, but if we allow ourselves to think a moment about it, we will discover that it is a symbol for something more. When this great man’s name comes to our minds, we think of his character, his wisdom, his integrity, his patriotism, his heroism. Everything that Washington was and did comes to our minds. The same thing is true as far as God is concerned. When we think of the name of God, everything that He is and has done should come to our minds. It should have an effect on our hearts.

When we think of the name of God, we find that it signifies His nature, His attributes, His character, His authority, His purposes, His methods, His providences, His words, His institutions, His truth, His kingdom, or, in other words, everything and all that God is comes into mind. All that God asks is also included in His name.

Characteristics of Name

We can see all these things as we study the peculiar characteristics of the word name in Scripture and how they apply to God. All of these things come to bear upon the commandment that says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

For instance, in Psalm 8:1, we read: “O Lord our Lord, how excellent [is] thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.” Something interesting is brought out in this text. The first Lord is given in capital letters, meaning Jehovah God. “O Jehovah God, our Master,” is really what it is saying when it uses the word Lord. “O Jehovah, the God that we serve, the One that we love, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.”

Psalm 111:9 says, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name.” The commanded covenant, of course, is the Ten Commandments. How long will the Ten Commandment Law be in existence? Forever. It was in effect before the world was created; it will be in effect in the New Earth.


Another attribute is revealed to us in Malachi 3:16: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” In other words, those who fear the Lord, who have a reverent attitude concerning the Lord, are the ones who are going to reflect upon the character of God and what that means to them as relating to their Master.

In Matthew 6:9, the Lord is teaching the disciples how to pray: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” The word hallowed means holy. The name of God, the character of God, the attributes of God, everything about God is holy, and we should keep that in mind when we approach God.

“And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” Luke 9:48. This is why we are told, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20.

In Matthew 28:19, 20, is given the commission of Jesus just before He ascended to heaven: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.” In this passage, we learn also that we are to baptize in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead possesses a particular aspect that is to be revealed in the life of the baptismal candidate.


Finally, we read, “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] new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and [I will write upon him] my new name.” Revelation 3:12. What does it mean to have the name of God written upon us? It means that our lives are to reveal the character of God. And not only the name of God is to be written upon us but also the name of the city, and Jesus says, “I will even write My new name on him.” What a privilege it is for sinful, fallen human beings, who have been utter wretches, who have gone through the degradation of sin, to be lifted and exalted, to sit upon thrones, to have a new name given.

There are many stories that could be told about the process of adoption, of how families take in those who have no name, give them a name, and then try to instruct those children how to live up to that name. I remember one occasion when I was speaking with my son on the telephone. He was going through a particular trial, and he was relating to me that he was going to do a certain thing to an individual who had wronged him. I told him, “You cannot do that.”

“Why not?” he wanted to know.

“Because,” I said, “you are a Baugher. That is why you cannot do it. You must live up to the name.”

God expects the very same thing of us. Once we have entered into that relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, having been baptized in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, we have a life to live that should never have any shame cast upon it. He has called us into a family that has a name above all names, and we must live up to it.

Revelation 17:14 tells us, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him [are] called, and chosen, and faithful.” God has a plan and a purpose for us all. We are called; we are chosen; and we are to be faithful to the Lord of lords and King of kings.

Each Term Significant

The character of God is so great, so magnanimous, that there are about 350 different terms or names that are applied to God. Each title used to describe Him or used to describe His work reveals a little something different about the One called God.

I have been called a lot of things in my life. Some of them, used to describe what the other person felt was my character, were not so nice. Not so with God. Every aspect of the name that is used to describe God tells something wonderful about Him.

The most sacred name of all names or designations of God is that of Jehovah or Yahweh. It was considered so sacred among the Jews that if they were walking down a street and they saw a piece of paper lying in the way, they would never step on that piece of paper for fear that the name of God was written on it. We kind of snicker in our minds at some of the extremes the Jews used in this regard, and yet, when we stop and think about it, should we not be as careful as far as God and His name are concerned?

Need for Respect

I do not know about you, but I personally never, ever, ever, ever like to lay anything on the Bible. There is just something about that action that says, here is where the profane comes in contact with the holy. I do not even like to lay another Bible on the Bible, if I can keep from it. Now, this may sound like an extreme, but it helps me to have the sense that there is something holy about that Book which tells me about the God of the Bible.

Christians today, in many ways, are in danger of going to the other extreme by frequently being too familiar with God and not having the reverence that they are supposed to have with concern to God.

In a meeting I once attended, it was suggested, based upon the Greek text, that we should address God as Papa, Daddy, or other similar terms, because, some people said that this is what Jesus meant when He addressed His Father as Abba. This does not set quite right with me. We need to have a greater reverence for God than to call Him Daddy. We can think of Him as an endearing parent, but it should be done with reverence. There are things that can drag us down to the level of the common and the profane, if we allow them to happen.

This is one of the reasons why the seventh church of Revelation, the church of Laodicea, is designated to reflect the day and the age in which we are living. Their character is reflective of the common attitude toward the use of the name of God.

More Than Curse Words

What about taking God’s name in vain? How do we take the name of God in vain? This is what the third commandment prohibits. To take the name of the Lord in vain is thought by many to deal with cursing or profanity. If we use an expletive where the words God and Jesus are used, we think this is a violation of the commandment, and indeed it is encompassed there. We should not minimize that in the least, but it is not only that with which the commandment is dealing. It is dealing with something that is more profound than just curse words on our lips, where we use the name of the Lord when we hit our thumb with the hammer.

The word profanity is made up of two Latin words: pro, meaning “in front of,” and fane, meaning “temple.” When we use profanity, it is really an indication of irreverence for holy things. It is defying God, as it were, in the very precincts of His temple. This is one of the reasons why I believe this commandment covers all aspects of reverent attitude in the sanctuary of God.

If we could understand this, it would make a significant difference in the way we treat the sanctuary of God—if we truly believe the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent. There are very few of us who think about this commandment in terms of irreverence in the sanctuary of God. If we look at the sanctuary as the dwelling place where God is found, where we come to meet with Him, it would change our whole attitude as to how we relate to Him.

“The Lord [is] in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20. We all need to guard ourselves more closely on this particular point.

The Lord’s Name

We are treading on very dangerous ground when we use profanity that is touching on the Lord’s name. Some use profanity, believing that by doing so they are exalted in the eyes of their peers. This is how young people are usually trapped. As many enter into the age of individuality and separate from family ties, they begin to curse and swear. Anytime we seek for exaltation at the expense of God or at the expense of our fellowmen, we are surely going to be brought down as a result.

There are some who try to excuse the use of profanity as a weakness—the result of temper. I have heard people say, “I have such an awful temper. My father had an awful temper, and I guess I am just like him.” When confronted with such excuses as this, we need to ask some questions. One of the questions that we should ask is, “Are you born again?” If the answer is yes, then ask, “Is God your Father?” If the answer is yes again, remind this person of 11 Corinthians 5:17, 18: “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

“The old nature, born of blood and the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The old ways, the hereditary tendencies, the former habits, must be given up; for grace is not inherited. The new birth consists in having new motives, new tastes, new tendencies. Those who are begotten unto a new life by the Holy Spirit, have become partakers of the divine nature, and in all their habits and practices they will give evidence of their relationship to Christ. When men who claim to be Christians retain all their natural defects of character and disposition, in what does their position differ from that of the worldling? They do not appreciate the truth as a sanctifier, a refiner. They have not been born again.” Review and Herald, April 12, 1892.

“By” Words

There are certain “by” words that we, as historic Seventh-day Adventist Christians, have a tendency to slide by and still use, because we have not grown to understand that some of these words are profanity, as far as God’s name is concerned. Some words are right on the edge of profanity, and we use them as substitutes for the actual profane words. I am referring to words such as goodness or phrases such as goodness gracious. These words describe attributes of God, yet we hear people use them as expletives, never really thinking that these are attributes of God Himself or that they are taking this profanity upon their lips in saying such words.

Other examples of “by” words include mercy and abbreviations of the name of God or the name of Jesus, such as gee, golly, or gosh. A Christian, who is a disciple, will never use such slang words. If we have a habit of using these abbreviations, we need to cleanse our speech, because the language of Christ’s disciples should be as pure as any language can be.

As a college student, I was rebuked for using the phrase, for crying out loud. When I used this in the presence of a church member, he asked, “Do you know the origin of this phrase?” I had to admit that I did not; it was just an expression I had learned as a youngster. He explained to me that this is a phrase that came from Jesus just before He died on the cross, and that a Christian should never use such phraseology. Since that day, I have not used it.

Do Not Help the Devil

Many of these things we just do not think about, because we have been exposed to them on so many different occasions in non-religious settings that they do not bring a frown from anyone, so we continue using them. I share these things with you because we need to be careful in our speech that we do not, in the slightest way, profane our Lord.

In Mark 14:66–71, the scene is related of Peter in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial. “And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is [one] of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art [one] of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth [thereto]. But he began to curse and to swear, [saying], I know not this man of whom ye speak.” The speech of Christ’s disciples was different from that of the average person of that time. In an attempt to disassociate himself as a follower of Jesus, Peter spoke with cursing and swearing. Christ’s disciples did not use that kind of language.

The devil is very clever in how he is able to do his work in reproaching God. Let us make sure that we do not help him through our speech!

False Swearing

Another area covered by the third commandment is false swearing. Leviticus 19:12 says, “And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I [am] the Lord.” In other words, we should never link the name of God with taking an oath, and then violate that oath by telling a lie.

You may have heard someone say, “I am telling the truth. I will swear to it on a stack of Bibles.” If someone says that, you may begin to wonder about his or her truthfulness! Perjury is one of the greatest crimes in our modern world today. Often, God’s name is presumptuously and blasphemously taken in vain by those who take a judicial oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” and then bear false witness. It is an insult to the truth and to the Author of all truth. It is treating His name with contempt and defying His holy Law. Remember, “the Lord will not hold [him] guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” in the final day of reckoning.


Perhaps the chief application of the third commandment concerns the sin of hypocrisy. We play the hypocrite when we lie with our lives.

As you probably have heard before, the Greek word for hypocrite is one that is used for an actor, a person who plays a part and is really someone different under the mask. A hypocrite is a person who wears a mask. Theater actors in ancient Greece portrayed themselves by wearing masks. The actors are hypocrites; they play a double role in their daily lives, professing to be one thing by acting a part. There is no other sin that has so aroused the indignation of Jesus as the sin of hypocrisy.

This is why, on one occasion, Jesus rebuked the Jews for making the Commandments of God of none effect. He said to them, “[Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:7–9.

It is a dangerous thing to use the name of the Lord when we do not know Him, and perhaps even more dangerous when we profess to know Him. Many professed Christians feel secure, as far as the third commandment is concerned. Because they do not use vile oaths or vulgar language, they think that they are not in violation of the commandments of God. Yet, all the while, their lives are not representing God.

God’s name can be hallowed only by doing His will on earth, as it is in heaven. God’s will can only be done if we are living lives that are in harmony with His character. If we are living lives that are not in harmony with His character, then we are hypocrites. The hypocrisy may not be visible to those about us, but we are hypocrites nonetheless.

We must make sure that we are rightly representing God’s name. When we take the name of Christian, we are taking the name of Christ upon ourselves. If we live a life that is contrary to the name of Christian or the name of Christ, then we are hypocritical, and we are in dire violation of the third commandment.

Penalty for Violation

A study of the commandments also reveals the penalty for those who, in Old Testament times, violated the commandments. It was death by stoning. If they had other gods, it was grounds to take them out and stone them. If they were guilty of worshipping idols, it was grounds for stoning. If they were Sabbath-breakers, it was grounds for stoning. If children would not honor their parents, it was grounds for stoning. If they were guilty of committing adultery, it was grounds for stoning. The Bible says so. We do not stone people today, but it was done back then.

Why were people stoned who were in violation of the Ten Commandments? Why were they not beheaded? Why were they not hanged or pushed off a cliff? Let me ask you a question, and by finding the answer, you will know the reason why. Upon what were the Ten Commandments written? On stone. If the commandments were violated, punishment came from the commandments. It was just that simple. Think about it.

Fall on the Rock

The Bible tells us some of the names that reveal the character of God: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

How glad we should be to serve the Creator God. How glad we should be to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. When we think about other gods and what their worship required of the faithful, we realize that they were not wonderful. They were demanding. But our God is wonderful. When we are perplexed, He is our Counseller; that is His name. We are to go to Him. He is the One that we are to seek after to find the answers to life’s problems. His answers are better than any $100-per-hour “shrink”! He is the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.

With what great care we should take these meaningful names upon our lips! Every time we violate the third commandment, we soil the name of our God. Every time we violate the third commandment, His name is no longer “Wonderful.” His name is no longer “Counseller.” We have made those names a pro-fanity. Most likely we have all been guilty of this at one time or another. But the Bible gives the assurance that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

Perhaps there are things I have shared with you in this study that, as you reflect upon them, you are saying, “Woe is me. I am undone. I have never thought about these things before.” Now is the time that we can confess these things and say, “Lord, by Your grace, I never want to come into these kinds of attitudes ever again. I do not want to think this way. I do not want to be this way. I do not want to live this way.” Claim the promise from 1 John. Jesus tells us of a certainty that if we have not entered into this experience, if we have not fallen upon the Rock and become broken, the Rock is going to come upon us, and it is going to grind us to powder.

The counsel of the apostle Paul is important for each of us: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17. It should be our greatest desire to rightly represent Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we reflect the image of Jesus daily.

To be continued . . .

A retired minister of the gospel, Pastor Mike Baugher may be contacted by e-mail at:

Don’t Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

Exodus 20:1–4, 7 says, “And God spoke all these words, saying.” We need to take note that what follows is the beginning of the Ten Commandments spoken by the voice of the Lord. This is His preamble to the constitution of grace. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Verse 2.

He is your Deliverer and He is delivering you out of darkness into His light. He is cutting you free from the cord of the wicked that binds you. He says to listen and learn from the holy principles of His universal government, the constitution of His grace, His divine directive that sustains and maintains all that He has created. His commandments are ten promises of what He will do in your life if you will just surrender control over to Him.

“You shall have no other gods before me.” Verse 3. I will cause you to know my love for you and to understand My power. I will be your Father and will be the object of your worship when you come to know me.

“You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” Verse 4. He is delivering you from false worship. You will not be like the pagans who create their own gods rather than to worship their creator God. Your life will be marked by reverence for Him in contrast to being marred by malice, deceit, vanity and emptiness.

“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.” Verse 7.

There are serious consequences for breaking the third commandment and taking God’s name in vain. Why are we held guilty if we take His name in vain? What acts do we commit that amount to taking His name in vain?

To understand this we must understand the majesty of the Lawgiver as Nehemiah did when he said in Nehemiah 9:5, 6, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God Forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is therein, And You preserved them all. The host of heaven worships You.”

God says to fear, stand in awe and reverence of His glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 28:58).

The Bible refers to God by many names and all reflect His character and represent the glory of God, including His word in His law which is a transcript of His character.

God revealed His glory to Moses. This is a conversation that God had with Moses after Moses had swung those first tables of the Ten Commandments to the ground and broke them. In Exodus 33:17–23, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.’ And he replied, ‘Please show me Your glory.’ Then God said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man can see Me, and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on a rock. So it shall be, when My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.’ ”

Continue on in Exodus 34:6, 7:

“And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children unto the third and to the fourth generation.’ ”

What was Moses’ response to this revealed glory? In verse 8 it says, “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.”

God proclaimed His name as referencing His glory, His character. That is why His name is so exalted.

David wrote,

“I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word even above all Your name. In the day when I called, You answered me, And you strengthened me with strength in my inner self.” Psalm 138:2, 3.

Why does God magnify His word even above His name? Because, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. He became flesh and tabernacled among us. We have to recognize the majesty of the name of God, which represents His character.

When we take His name in vain, we are slandering His character. Do any of us take God’s name in vain?

We need to look at the spirit of the law and not just the letter. I would have never thought that I took the Lord’s name in vain. As I studied this, I found myself asking God to forgive me. The beauty of getting deep into the word of God is that the more we study His law, the mirror, we realize there is dirt on our own face and we recognize our great need for a Savior. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is alive and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even to the point of judging the intentions of our heart and our thoughts.”

There are four categories in taking the name of the Lord in vain.

When we first think of someone taking God’s name in vain we think of the ungodly, disrespectful, unbelieving, sacrilegious person who uses God’s name as an irreverent byword—a curse word.

Swearing falsely is also taking God’s name in vain; not performing our oaths to the Lord.

Becoming wearied by the requirements of true worship and offering less than our best to God is taking His name in vain.

Hypocrisy—dishonesty, double-minded behavior, insincere, empty talk, not walking the talk, deceitful rebellion against God’s governing regulations; in other words, disobedience. That is taking God’s name in vain.

Ungodly and Irreverent

The first category is the ungodly, irreverent people who use His name as a byword.

At the last company I worked for before going into full-time ministry, the director was a computer programmer. This man used God’s name in vain and that irreverent byword all throughout the day. Everybody was very intimidated by this man because if you got on his bad side, he would not help you and without his help, you could not do your job because he was the program computer developer.

I was so grieved that I could not help but speak up. When I told him what the name of the Lord meant to me and how I felt when he did this, rather than respecting me, he got worse. As he ignored my request I realized that this is the one who God would say is an enemy against God. Psalm 139:19, 20 says, “Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! … For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain.”

Each time he would do this I determined in my heart that I was not just going to let it go by. Every time he would use the name of the Lord in vain around me I would say, “The name of the Lord is great and greatly to be praised. Give glory to His holy name.” Psalm 48:1; I Chronicles 16:29. I want to tell you that this irritated him to no end.

Finally, one day he came to me and said, “I am tired of you doing that.” I said, “You have got to be kidding. You are upset by me saying this?” I sat and talked with him more and this man became a good friend and he did not take the name of the Lord in vain anymore. Not just around me, but he quit taking the name of the Lord in vain around others. God gave me favor with this man.

As Christians, we are to be especially careful to reverence God’s name. We need to take caution not to use His name as a byword in careless phrases as, “Oh my God,” or “God only knows,” or “I swear to God.” We need to be careful not to use His name lightly in jesting. People are sending a lot of jokes about Jesus and Satan and they will say that they are so cute. Please don’t send those to me. They grieve my soul, because the name of the Lord is great and greatly to be praised and we need to give glory to Him that is due glory.

As Christians, we need to be careful never to offer a prayer in a robotic jesting manner, casually repeating canned and clever phrases. That is taking His name in vain. Prayer is a great privilege and when we come to Him we should pause for just a moment as we think about this great God who tells us we can call Him Abba.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9 how to pray. He said, “In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed it be Your name.” What does it mean to be hallowed? It means to be kept holy. Jesus was saying, “Our Father, your name is to be kept holy” and Jesus did keep it holy.

When He was praying in the garden before he went to Gethsemane, in John 17:11, He said, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are one.” It goes on in verse 25, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.”

Jesus addressed His Father as holy and righteous. Should we not also likewise worship in the same manner?

Swearing Falsely

The second category of taking God’s name in vain is swearing falsely, not performing our oaths to the Lord. Leviticus 19:12 says, “You shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of the Lord your God: I am the Lord.” God wants us to be serious. Let our yes be yes and our no be no.

Jesus said, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say unto you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ For whatsoever is more than these is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:33–37. How cautious we need to be.

Becoming Weary

The third category of taking His name in vain is when we become wearied by the requirements of true worship and offer less than our best.

As I studied this out I thought, Lord, I let my schedule get so crammed that sometimes I am going off to do a revival series somewhere and I am studying on the plane to get the message and I feel sometimes that I am giving God less than my best.

God is speaking about offering polluted things beginning in Malachi 1:6–10: “ ‘A son honors his father, And a servant his master. Then if I am the Father, Where is My honour? If I am the Master, Where is my reverence? Said the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. And yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Will he be pleased with you? Will he accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts. But now I entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you, Says the Lord of hosts, Nor will I accept an offering from your hand.”

The priests and the people had found God’s requirements for sacrifice and worship contemptible. Are we not a holy nation, a royal priesthood—is this not also applicable to us? When they found the requirements for worship contemptible, God found their acts of worship contemptible. In fact, He said, Who among you would shut the door—shut the door to the church? Don’t kindle an offering in vain to me. I would rather the doors be shut. God help us!

Have we forgotten the reverence due a holy God? Have we become so overly familiar with Him that we forget to stand in awe and honor of the Almighty God? Has church become a social club? Do we come to honor Him in truth and spirit, or do we come to be entertained, or even worse, to be wearied, because the sermons are too long? Do we criticize the message from Scripture when we are called to magnify the word of God?

God says,

“ ‘For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 1:11.

God is telling them that He has a solution. If His people won’t correct their behavior He will raise up a people who will worship Him with gratefulness and purity in their hearts.

“But you have profaned my name, In what you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its food is contemptible.’ You said also, ‘Oh what a weariness!’ And you have sneered at it, Says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 1:12, 13.

The priests profaned and perverted sacred things. They provoked God by profaning His holy name, taking His name in vain. They may have started in full-time ministry with the right heart and the right spirit but they became polluted with pride. They sneered at the offering in which they were to give—they thought it too little, too plain for them, contemptible. They thought that they deserved more because they served in the temple.

Continuing on in verses 13, 14,

“ ‘You bring the stolen, and the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?’ Says the Lord. ‘But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished—For I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations.’ ”

The people had reckless disregard for the holy ordinances. The sacrifices they brought and the sacrifices that were accepted were substandard. It was not their best. They felt, it was enough just to come to the altar of sacrifice and they did not need to bring an acceptable offering. Surely they did not need to read their Sabbath School lesson before they came to Sabbath School.

He is a holy God whom we should worship in holiness, reverence, spirit and in truth. They had become wearied by real worship. God said, their offerings were offered in vain. He was not pleased with their acts of taking His name in vain.

As Christians in our home, are we blaspheming the name of the Lord, taking it in vain? Do our children see us arguing, fighting and not loving in character? Do they see us doing the very things that we tell them not to do? That is taking God’s name in vain.

Wherever you go, people are watching. If you get impatient in line and you think you are entitled to better treatment and you get all puffed up, you are taking God’s name in vain. You are profaning the name of the Lord and that causes people to blaspheme the name of God.


The fourth category is hypocrisy: dishonesty, double-minded behavior, insincere, empty talk, not walking the talk, deceitful rebellion against God’s governing regulations.

The Strong’s Concordance defines vain as emptiness, vanity, falsehood and nothingness, emptiness of speech, lying and worthlessness of conduct. That is taking God’s name in vain.

Jesus in Mark 7:6, 7, 9, 13 says, “He answered and said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. In vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ He said, All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

How cautious we need to be that we are not taking God’s name in vain.

The following Scripture should compel each one of us to check our spiritual pulse. In Matthew 7:21–23 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? And in Your name have cast out demons? And done many wonders in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ”

To these who thought they were in full-time ministry, doing the work of the Lord and professing the name of the Lord, Jesus says, “I don’t know you.” Professing the name is not what qualifies us for heaven. Obedience through His grace and by His divine power qualifies and equips us to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Those who called on Him were calling on Him in pretense only. They were not walking in obedience or in surrender to God. They were not really His followers, because they did not practice the Father’s revealed will. They were deceiving themselves into thinking that their own form of worship was enough. Yet they refused to practice His will.

Paul writes, “The Lord knows those who are His. Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” II Timothy 2:19. If we profess the name of the Lord, we must live according to the profession. We need to depart from our lawless ways; otherwise we are nothing more than hypocrites who are taking His name in vain and practicing a useless religion.

“Therefore shall you keep My commandments, and perform them: I am the Lord. You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 22:31.

By His grace He has promised to sanctify us and we will not then hypocritically take His name in vain. God’s commandments become His promises of what He will do in us if we will surrender to Him.

It is all about coming to the Lord and surrendering and saying, “Father I need you; I recognize my sinfulness. Work in me to will and to act according to your good purpose.”

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” I Corinthians 15:10.

The grace of God is more than His unmerited favor. Jesus Christ, your gift from God, is your only hope of glory. The Holy Spirit is the second greatest gift of God who works in us and allows God to do abundantly more than we could ever think or ask. And the word of God, the sanctifying, transforming power of the word of God, is another gift of His grace.

Do we call Him Saviour and refuse to accept His gift of salvation by grace? That is taking His name in vain. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do the good works that He prepared before Him that we should do.

He says in I John 2:3–6, “Now by this we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought also himself to walk just as he walked.”

Do we call Him Lord and refuse to do as he commanded? If so, we take His name in vain.

Shelley Quinn’s sermon was taken from the Ten Commandment Weekend, 2008 series aired on 3ABN. For more information contact

Lord’s Prayer Series – Scandalizing God’s Name

A father is shamed when his son scandalizes the family name thereby bringing the family name into disrepute. But many people who are called by the name of the God of heaven scandalize His name and bring His name into disrepute by their conduct. Unbelievers see Christians with behavior worse than their own. Therefore, the Christian religion has very little force in the world.

Throughout the Bible the number seven has special significance for God. In the Hebrew Bible the very first sentence, Genesis 1:1, has seven words. There are seven Hebrew words in the first commandment of the ten that were handed to Moses on the mount (Exodus 20:3). In the fourth commandment, there are seven commands (Exodus 20:8–10), and in the tenth commandment there are seven things mentioned that we are not to covet (Exodus 20:17). The number seven appears throughout the Bible and in the book of Revelation it is repeated significantly.

It should not be a surprise then that the Lord’s Prayer contains seven petitions. The first of these is the phrase, “Hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). This petition comes first because reverence is the very gateway into the divine presence. Reverence is the first step in approaching God because in that way we place ourselves in a proper attitude toward Him.

We place God where He rightly belongs by exalting Him above all earthly things that can claim our loyalty. It is the person who approaches God with reverence who finds God. One cannot find his way into the audience chamber of the Most High with a flippant or irreverent attitude. When Moses was speaking to the Lord, he approached Him with humility. He humbled himself because only the meek and the humble can enter into the secret chamber of the High and Holy God.

The Bible says that Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth. The book of Isaiah tells us that it is the meek person who is going to find God. “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15.

When Jesus gave the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the very first one that He gave was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Actually, this is a reference to what is written by Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 66:2: “ ‘For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ ”

It is the person who is humble and recognizes that God is Someone to be reverenced, the one who will properly approach God who will be received by Him and gain an audience with Him. We cannot properly approach God unless we recognize His holiness and His holiness is in His name. In the Bible, a person’s name and a person’s character are virtually synonymous. The wise man, Solomon, said, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.

Today when we say that somebody has a good name, we mean that the person has a good character or reputation. When Moses was called up into the mountain he wanted to know God’s name. “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ” Exodus 33:18, 19.

And then the Lord said to Moses, “ ‘You cannot see My face: for no man shall see Me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘… I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see my back part.’ ” Exodus 33:20–23. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.’ ” Exodus 34:5, 6.

Here the Lord proclaimed His name, “… merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” Verses 6, 7.

All of these adjectives are descriptions of God. They are part of His name. Therefore they should never be used in a flippant, careless way, making an epithet or trying to make the point to somebody. When Moses heard this, he … “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.” Verse 8. When the prophet Isaiah predicted when Jesus would come, he said that His name would be called Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6). The Bible contains many names of God to describe His character.

What does the name of God mean to you? We use names to distinguish one person or object from another. The mention of a person’s name always brings to mind the character or the nature of that person and causes a certain character image to be registered in our thoughts. We usually come to dislike the names of those whose characters are distasteful to us.

On the other hand, a noble character always glorifies the estimation of that name of a person who bears it. Our attitude toward any person’s name depends on our knowledge of the character to which that name is attached. God’s name is a revelation of Himself, a manifestation of who and what He really is. It stands for His matchless character. The purpose of the Scriptures is to reveal God’s character to man. This purpose was completed by the incarnation of God in human flesh through Christ.

When Jesus was on earth His disciples sometimes became impatient with Him. The night before He was betrayed, the day before He was crucified Jesus told them that they should not be troubled; He was going to go away but He was going to prepare a place for them. Then He would come back and receive them to Himself. He told them, “Where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:4–6. And then Jesus told them that they did not really know Who He was. He said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Verse 7.

When He said that, Philip said, “ ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.’ ” Verses 8–11.

Notice, when Jesus came into the world, by His life and also by His death, by His teaching and by His miracles, He revealed the character of the Father to all the inhabitants on this fallen planet. He made the name of God complete. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:9.

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is inseparably connected with the invocation, the address, because we cannot hallow God’s name unless we are His sons and He is our Father. Holiness in man can only be attained through a union of humanity with divinity. When we understand that and can truly call God our Father, then we begin to understand the unfathomable love of God in making us His sons through the death of His Son. And then we can cry, as the apostle Paul said, “Abba, Father.”

The chief delight of a true son is to honor and magnify His Father’s name that he also bears. The hallowing of the name of God must include the holiness of our own characters.

If we are born again Christians, we are members of His family and we bear His name. So our first desire should be to protect His name by conduct that is appropriate or fitting for a son or daughter of God.

God’s name, His family name, should never be polluted by sin and folly. Just as the delight of an earthly father centers in the character development of his children, so God delights in the character development of His children and He is glorified by His children when they reflect His image. When Jesus was facing the great trial at the end of His life in Gethsemane and Calvary, He said to His Father, “ ‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ ” John 12:28.

God’s name was glorified by the life of Christ, by His miracles, and by His teaching and it was going to be glorified again by His death. The love of the deity for a lost world in rebellion was demonstrated, as Paul says, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” Romans 5:10.

It is not unusual today for the name of God to be mentioned maybe 15 or 20 times in a prayer. But this practice has a tendency to bring the name of God down to the level of common names and should therefore be discarded. The third commandment (Exodus 20:7) forbids the taking of false oaths and common swearing. So, it also forbids our using the name of God in a light and careless manner without regard to its profound significance.

If we mention God’s name thoughtlessly or irreverently in common conversation, or frequently repeat His name, we make Him altogether one like ourselves and God rebukes this kind of behavior. Notice what the Lord said about it in Psalm 50:21. “These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.”

We dishonor Him if we use His name in a light or flippant manner or repeat it many, many times. If we are born again Christians, by virtue of the new birth of the Holy Spirit, we have a right to call God our Father. It is also our privilege to bear His name, His image. If you take upon yourself the name Christian, then you are bearing the name of Christ. This is an exalted privilege. In all respectable families whose members are proud of their family name, they make every possible effort to defend and protect it. The family name of God, His family name, should stand for the character of those who profess to serve Him. A good reputation is taken in vain if one brings a disgrace upon the name of his family by unbecoming conduct.

A professed Christian who is not like Christ, whose conduct is ungodly, takes God’s name in vain and is guilty of breaking the third commandment. The children of Israel were warned about this. “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’ And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:2, 12.

The apostle James wrote of rich people who despise and oppress the poor. “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” James 2:7. Thus we see that a name has significance only when applied to a person’s character. If your character is out of harmony with your name, your name is a falsehood or a lie.

To hallow God’s name, the person who prays the Lord’s Prayer must be a revelation of His character, a reflection of His image. The Bible describes a people who are alive when the Lord returns. They have God’s name, His character, in their minds. “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1.

Only those who reach this standard of character, with their Father’s name, His character, in them, will receive the seal of God. The apostle Paul describes the condition this way. He says, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from all iniquity.’ ” II Timothy 2:19.

If you have taken the name of Christ and call yourself a Christian, the Bible says you are to depart from all iniquity. Otherwise, your name is deceptive. You are claiming a name that does not really belong to you. What did it mean in ancient times, recorded in II Chronicles 6, when the Lord declared that His name was in the sanctuary?

This has reference to the fact that the Ark of the Covenant containing God’s law was located in the sanctuary. God’s law is a transcript of His character. Therefore, it is a manifestation of His name, a revelation of His nature. A word study in the Bible will find that every characteristic of God that is revealed is also a characteristic of His law.

The Bible says that God is true. It also says that His law is true. God is holy and His law is also holy. God is righteous and His law is righteous. In fact, concerning the law it says it converts the soul. So, the law of God is a description, a transcription of His character.

In the New Covenant, the law of God is written upon the fleshly tables of the heart so that we may do by nature the things contained in the law. (See II Corinthians 3:3; Romans 2:14.)

Those who have this experience will have the Father’s name written in their foreheads. It is evident then that only born-again Christians can call God their Father and truly offer this petition. Only born-again Christians can really say, “Hallowed be Thy name.” God’s name is hallowed when those who are called by His name reveal His character in the world. A person who has an unconsecrated heart has no right to pray this prayer, for it belongs to His sons and daughters. We must join the family of God through a spiritual birth before it becomes our privilege to pray this prayer.

Friend, has your life been changed? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you been born again? When you commit your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, when you acknowledge Him as your Lord and Saviour and choose to follow Him and obey Him in all things, then the promise is that you will receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will give you a new heart, a new mind and a new character. (See Romans 8.)

When you pray and say, “Hallowed be Thy name,” you ask that it may be hallowed in this world, hallowed in you, through you. God has acknowledged you before men and angels as His child if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and been born again. We need to pray that we might do no dishonor to the worthy name by which we are called.

God sends His children into the world as His representatives. In every act of life, we are to make manifest the name of God. This petition, this prayer, calls upon Christians to possess His character.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.