The Third Commandment
James J. Barker

"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." - Exodus 20:7

Text: EXODUS 20:3-17



1.    D. L. Moody, in his excellent little book called D.L. Moody on the Ten Commandments, writes: “I was greatly amazed not long ago in talking to a man who thought he was a Christian, to find that once in a while, when he got angry, he would swear.  I said, `My friend, I don’t see how you can tear down with one hand what you are trying to build up with the other.  I don’t see how you can profess to be a child of God and let those words come out of your lips.’”

2.    Two of the ten commandments deal expressly with the sins of the tongue.  Some people say you have to “speak in tongues” to be spiritual.  I have enough trouble with the one I have, I do not need any more!

3.    In the third commandment God forbids man to speak anything that so much as reflects irreverence toward His name.  In the ninth commandment God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16).

4.    In the third commandment God wants us to honor His name; in the ninth commandment He is endeavoring to protect our name.  And nothing dishonors professed Christians more than a careless, disrespectful, dishonest tongue.






1.    We are indebted to God for the revelation of Him in His name.  The ancient Jews hallowed and regarded the name of God above all else.

2.    We are told that when the scribes copied the sacred manuscripts, the name of God was approached in holy awe and reverence.  The penman would stop, bathe himself all over, and then return to his desk with a brand new, never-used pen.  Then he would proceed to write the name of God in whatever form it appeared.

3.    Compare that with the situation today – Unsaved, worldly Bible translators have the audacity and the impertinence to translate (and oftentimes deliberately mistranslate) the Word of God into the sloppy, slangy vernacular of today’s corrupt, modern English.

4.    Today many Christians watch worldly TV shows, get in their car and turn on the radio to worldly rock music, and then walk into church and say, “Praise the Lord!”

5.    I am concerned that many Christians have lost most of the sacred respect for God’s holy name.   It is said that Sir Isaac Newton never mentioned God in conversation without visible pause, and if his head were covered at the time, he would remove his hat.

6.    There are any number of men who would fight for the honor of the name of their wife or mother, but many of these same men carelessly and thoughtlessly profane the name of God Almighty.

7.    It should be the chief concern of every Christian to see the name of our Lord exalted and magnified.  “Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee” (Psalm 5:11).

8.    “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

9.    “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).

10. Perhaps some here are wondering: What is meant by God’s name?  When we speak of one another by name, we are speaking of the person.  Therefore, when we use the name of the Lord we are referring to His person – His name stands for His person.

11. In other words, the name of the Lord stands for the totality of the person and the attributes of God.  For example, remember when Moses spoke to God by the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6)?  Moses asked God, when the children of Israel shall say to me, “What is His name?  What shall I say unto them?” (Ex. 3:13, 14).

12. Our attitude towards the name of God should be one of reverence, worship, and honor.  Remember what our Lord said when He teaching His disciples to pray.  He said, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9).

13. The apostle Peter, in Acts 4:12, said concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

14. We are to honor the Lord’s name. How is the Lord’s name honored?  God’s name is honored when we profess His name and are not ashamed to be called by His name – i.e. believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians.

15. His name is honored when we love His name.

        There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth;

        It sounds like music in mine ear, The sweetest name on earth.

8.    Jesus is the sweetest name I know,

And He’s just the same as His lovely name,

And that’s the reason why I love Him so;

Jesus is the sweetest name I know.

9.    All hail the power of Jesus’ name!  Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

10. His name is honored when we preach His name.  For the life of me I cannot understand preachers who get in the pulpit and do not preach Christ.  The apostle Paul said: “But we preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23).

11. So first we have a sacred revelation.  Next we have here…



1.    Let us now look at this serious prohibition (Ex. 20:7).

2.    There is a right way and a wrong way to use the Lord’s name.  The third commandment expressly forbids the wrong use of the name of the Lord.  Now we have to stop at this point and consider: What exactly does God mean when He says we are not to take His name “in vain”?

3.    God’s name is taken in vain when it is used lightly or irreverently.  Please remember that God’s name is unlike any other name.  The Bible says it is a “glorious and fearful name” (Deut. 28:58).

4.    God’s name is taken in vain when we profess that name but do not live up to our profession.  Many so-called Christians live like devils.  The Christian is named after Christ, and bears His name.  It is very sad when a poor testimony brings shame to the cause of Christ.  I recall several times out knocking on doors in Queens Village a few years ago when people would rebuke me because of some members who were rascals.  Upon further discussion, I always discovered that it was the church across the street!

5.    God’s name is taken in vain when men and women lie under oath (cf. Lev. 19:12).  This happens every today here in America.

6.    Furthermore, God’s name is taken in vain when we use it in some stupid and trivial oath: “I swear to God, I can eat 10 hot dogs without belching!” Or when we substitute something else for God’s name: “I swear on my mother’s grave” (cf. Matt. 5:34-36).

7.    God’s name is taken in vain when it is used in idle discourse.  The Bible says in Ps. 111:9, “Holy and reverend is His name.”  By the way, this is why I prefer not to be called “Reverend.”

8.    True Christians would never dare use God’s name as a curse-word (if you do, I do not think you are saved), but they use “minced oaths,” which still violate the third commandment.  I am talking about “golly” and “gosh” and “darn,” etc.

9.    God’s name is taken in vain every day on the street, on the job, and on the TV, and yet Christians sit back and do not seem to care.  How can a true Christian sit back when our Lord’s name is dragged through the mud?

10. This is one reason (and there are others) why Christians should not watch most of the junk on TV.

11. Have you ever noticed that unsaved people never say, “Oh Confucius!” or “Oh for Buddha’s sake!” or “Oh my Allah!” when they swear?  They only use the name of the true God for a curse word.

12. Some men curse so often and have been doing it for so long that they do not even realize that they are doing it.  They learned it at an early age from their family and have been cursing since early childhood.  

13. What is even more horrible is that there are some people who grew up in good Christian homes and have fallen into the dirty habit of swearing and cursing.


1.    I have spent some time going over the sacred revelation and the serious prohibition, now let me say a few words about this most solemn warning.

2.    The Bible says, “For the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (Ex. 20:7b).  This is a very solemn warning indeed.

3.    We are living in a day and age when people break the third commandment and no one seems to care.  In a day with legal abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography, war and terrorism, gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, the birth rate of illegitimate babies skyrocketing, corruption in Washington DC, and so on, people ask: “Who cares about the third commandment?”


5.    We need to realize that no sin or transgression is small or minor in God’s eyes.  In fact, in the OT, those who blasphemed God’s name were stoned to death (cf. Lev. 24:16).

6.    Taking the Lord’s name in vain is done in at least three ways: by profanity, by puerility, and by pretense.

7.    Profanity – cursing has practically become accepted here in our backslidden country.  Parents, if you hear your children use bad language you ought to get out the soap and wash out their mouths!  Then get the paddle out.

8.    Puerility – is triviality.  To be puerile is to be frivolous.  People use God’s name in a joking, flippant manner. Humorous stories and stupid jokes are told in which the name of our Lord is used to get a few laughs (Matt. 12:36, 37).  Would you tell that story if Christ was standing right next to you?  Remember, He is!

9.    Pretense – many a lost soul uses God’s name on a daily basis but they are nothing but hypocrites (cf. Matt. 7:21-23).



1.    During WWII, American soldiers on a Pacific island were surprised to read this announcement posted at the entrance to their mess hall:

          “American soldiers are requested to please be a little more careful in their choice of language, especially when nationals are assisting them in unloading ships and trucks.  American missionaries spent many years among us and taught us how to use clean speech.  Every day, however, American soldiers use bad words, and all the good work your missionaries did on our island is being undermined by your careless profanity.”

2.    The notice was signed by a Polynesian chief.  What a rebuke to these American soldiers!

3.    If you have a problem with your language, God can help you.  When He saves your soul, He will clean up your mouth!   But first you need to get saved – “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

4.    But those who do not call on Him must spend eternity in hell – “For the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).

<< Back                                       Next >>