Don’t Live Inanely: A Sermon on the Third Commandment

The following is an excerpt from a sermon preached to students in the School of Logic and Rhetoric of Annapolis Christian Academy by faculty member, Rev. Geoff “The Unmerciful” Smith.

Exo 20:7 states:

“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.”

The most common interpretation of this passage is that we shouldn’t say curse words or use the phrase “OMG.”  I agree that we shouldn’t, but what the Lord was getting at in the third commandment is so much bigger.

The connotation of the the word “take” is to take up as a banner or to claim public association and cooperation with someone. To “take up” the Lord’s name is to claim to act as a representative or as a beneficiary of the Lord.  “In vain” means without purpose or with negative purposes.

If we put these two ideas together, taking the Lord’s name in vain is to live at cross purposes with or without reference to the purposes of the Lord. This kind of life raises Jesus’ most frightening question,

“Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)’

The third commandment then, by implication, is a command to take up the Lord’s name correctly. Jesus did this with his Father’s name. He came in his Father’s name (John 5: 43). He did what his Father does (John 5:19). He lived his whole life this way, from childhood, to carpentry, to the cross (John 8:29). And he trusted his Father to complete his work (John 5:17). Paul tells us to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). What he means by this is three fold:

  1. live under the authority of Jesus,
  2. act in the character of Jesus, and
  3. trust the competence of Jesus.

To learn how to live in Jesus’ name, I have a simple exercise for you. For the next seven days start your day with these three steps:

  1. ask God for help to do the will of Christ,
  2. plan to put one specific teaching of Christ into practice throughout the day (love your neighbor, call God Father when you pray, bless those who curse you, etc), and
  3. think of three things for which you are thankful.