The third commandment is, 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.
We begin our study looking briefly through the wording and focus of the commandment as well as some of the implications of it.
The wording of the commandment:
First, the pronoun “Thou” is a second person singular, not only making the commandments personal, but also directing them to the entire congregation of the Lord in their covenant solidarity: “I am the Lord your God, who brought YOU out of the land of Egypt…YOU shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Each member of the entire covenant community—individuals and families—is a recipient of God’s saving grace in Christ and therefore is privileged to live in terms of His Law; and the community as a whole, with all its societal relationships and institutions is accountable to construct its civilization on the righteousness of that “perfect law of liberty.”
Second, the negative form of the commandment, “Thou shalt NOT take,” is a sharp reminder to believers of the antithesis that must always be maintained between our way of life as the people of God and the way of life of the fallen race in rebellion against God....We therefore must restrain, by the power of the living Christ, the sinful desires that still remain within us.
Third, the verb “take,” occurs frequently in the Old Testament. It is also translated take away, bear, bring, bring forth, stir, lift up, set up. It generally has the sense of “use” or “employ:” You shall not use or employ the name of God in vain.
Fourth, the focus of this commandment is on “the name of the Lord your God.” God’s name is Jehovah Himself, anything by which He is known, any way by which He has revealed Himself, and anything He has revealed about Himself.
Fifth, the God whose name man is not to take in vain is “the Lord your God.” Because of the eternal bond of intimate friendship which the Lord has established with His people in Christ, He refers to Himself as “your God,” because of the union and communion they enjoy with Him in His covenant (Gen. 17:7).
Sixth, “in vain” in Hebrew is a noun which occurs nearly fifty times in the Old Testament....This noun means evil, iniquity, wickedness, falsehood, emptiness, vanity and nothingness. God’s name may not be used wickedly, falsely, emptily, vainly or as if it were of no value.
Seventh, “guiltless” may also be translated “clean”—The Lord will not hold him clean that takes His name in vain. So then, a person is clean or unclean according to the way he uses the name of God—in truth or in vanity.
We must never misuse God’s holy and precious “name,” i.e., Himself, any way by which He has revealed Himself, anything He has revealed about Himself—His titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, His works, and whatsoever else there is whereby He makes Himself known. His “name” must always be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word and writing. (246)
"The purpose of this commandment is: God wills that we hallow the majesty of his name. Therefore, it means in brief that we are not to profane his name by treating it contemptuously and irreverently." 9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols. ed. by John T. McNeill, trans. by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950), 1: 388. (247)
God has given us this commandment to impress us with the holiness and majesty of His name, so that whenever we think of Him or mention Him we must do so with complete reverence and adoration. (247)
...He gives us FIVE REASONS for careful observance of His Law.
First, His name is holy. In fact, it is so incomparably and infinitely holy that any corruption of His worship or any failure to maintain its purity and integrity is a blasphemous profaning of His most holy name.
Second, He wills to be sanctified by His people. Because God is absolutely and totally consecrated to Himself and His own glory, He has made as the chief end of man, who is the image of God, to glorify Him by the total consecration of himself to God and to His glory.
Third, He is “the Lord who sanctifies you.” No one can sanctify himself to the Lord until the Lord first sanctifies him, i.e., sets him apart from this evil world by the Father’s choice of him in eternity, by the Son’s purchase of him for the Lord, and by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of his inner life. God calls upon His people to obey His commands scrupulously because now, being sanctified by the Spirit, they are motivated and enabled to do so.
Fourth, He is the Redeemer of His covenant people. He brought His people out of their bondage to sin and Satan, just as He brought Israel out of Egyptian bondage, and joined them to Himself in an everlasting bond of friendship, wherein they may speak of Him as “our God.”
Fifth, He is “the Lord.” He is not only their sovereign Lord whom they are bound to obey, He is “Jehovah,” their covenant Lord and Friend, who has bound them to Himself in an everlasting covenant in Christ.
The reason given for His involvement in the history of the world’s nations, for His nearness, and His accessibility to all the peoples of the world is “for Thou alone are holy.” God’s holiness is His impeccable moral purity and His absolute and majestic transcendence over creation. Because He is transcendent, He can be immanent. Because He is holy He will judge His enemies; and the inevitable result and goal of His judgments is the conversion of the world’s nations, that they might altogether “glorify Thy name.” (254)
The greater glory of the New Testament is seen in the fact that Jesus Christ is the name of God incarnate. In the Old Testament, God revealed His name in ceremonies and feasts and in special places connected with these ceremonies and sacrifices: “There shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose, to cause His name to dwell there” (Deut. 12:11–12; 14:23–24; Ex. 20:24). In the New Testament, because Jesus is the incarnate revelation of God, and is God incarnate, His disciples gathered “in His name” to worship and serve Him trusting His promise—“where two or three are gathered IN MY NAME, THERE I AM IN THE MIDST OF THEM” (Matt. 18:20; emphasis added). (255-256)
"If we know the name of Jesus and all that it stands for, we know the true name of God, the name that He cannot and will not deny, for He has for ever identified Himself with it. Knowing this name we know the secret of God’s heart, we know that which gives us power and status before Him, and fills our life with all kinds of new possibilities."23
Christ, as the incarnate Son of the Father, came to earth to reveal the name of the Father so that He could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In Christ, God Himself in all His glorious perfections stands before us, therefore we cannot honor the name of the Lord as required by the Third Commandment without taking into consideration the name of Jesus Christ.
23. Wallace, The Ten Commandments, 57. (256)
Christians are identified as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 9:14, 21). Saving power is in the name of Jesus which must be invoked in faith if it is to bring salvation (Acts 3:16). (257)
 Index of Social Deterioration:
"The direction of profanity is thus progressively downward.…When the religion of the triune God is denied, the religion of revolution, the cults of chaos, take over. Vitality, power, and force are seen as coming from below; profane language seeks
to be forceful and the forceful is that which is below… there is a religious progression in profanity; it moves from a defiance of God to the invocation of excrement and sex, and then perverted forms of sex. This religious progression is social as well as verbal. The profane society invokes, not God, but the world of the illicit, the obscene, and the perverted. What it invokes in word it also invokes in act. The downward trend of society is a quest for renewed energy, the shock of new force and vitality, and it is a perpetual quest for new profanations.…Verbal profanity is an oral witness to a social profanity. As the verbal profanity delves downward, so does society in its actions.
This means, therefore, that… profanity is a barometer. It is indicative of revolution in process. It is an index to social deterioration and degeneration. ..." 26. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 109–10. (258)
 Foundation of a Just Legal System:
The heart of the Third Commandment is the foundation of a just and free legal system.
"The oath of office, the trustworthiness of witnesses, the stability of a society in terms of a common regard for truth, the faithfulness of the clergy to their ordination vows, of wives and husbands to their marital vows, and much more all hinge on the holiness of the oath or vow. Where there is no regard for truth, when men can subscribe to oaths and vows with no intention of abiding by their terms, then social anarchy and degeneration ensue. Where there is no fear of God, then the
sanctity of oaths and vows disappears, and men shift the foundations of society from the truth to a lie.… The presidential oath of office, and every other oath of office in the United States, was in earlier years recognized precisely as coming under the third commandment, and, in fact, invoking it. By taking the oath, a man promised to abide by his word and his obligations even as God is faithful to His word. If he failed, by his oath of office, the public official invoked divine judgment and the curse of the law upon himself." 27. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 111. (259)
 Defense Against Assaults on the Life of an Entire Society:
The despising or profaning of the oath denies the validity of all law and order; it is an act of anarchy and revolution, an assault on the life of an entire society, and not just an assault on individuals. It is so heinous in the sight of God and so destructive to the life of a society that the only just punishment of such a crime is the death
penalty, for the heinousness of a crime determines the severity of the punishment. (256-260)
'The existence of a mandatory oath has important implications for civil government: “The oath in God’s name is the ‘legal recognition of God’ [writes T. Robert Ingram] as the source of all things and the only ground of all being. It establishes the state under God and under His law. The removal of God from oaths, and the light and dishonest use of oaths, is a declaration of independence from Him, and is warfare against God in the name of the new gods, apostate man and
his totalitarian state.”' 29. Gary North, The Sinai Strategy (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), 55–56. (261)
 The Three Institutions
"The essence of the third commandment is the defense of God’s three institutional monopolies that can legitimately pronounce curses in God’s name: the church, the civil government, and the family. The civil government pronounces the curse of earthly punishment in the name of God, and so does the family (Gen. 49:3–7). The church pronounces the curse of eternal punishment in the name of God. Individuals
and associations other than these three monopolies are prohibited by God from exercising autonomous power by invoking God’s name in a curse." 31. North, The Sinai Strategy, 53. (262)
Not anyone can demand an oath from another person. Only those people who are acting in the name of God and by the delegated authority of God according to His Word may do so. In the Bible, we find three parties who have been delegated with the authority to impose lawful oaths in the name of God when necessary: (1) The head of the family (Gen. 24:2–9; 1 Sam. 25:22, 32–34); (2) The rulers of the church (Num. 5:19–21; Ezra 10:5; 2 Cor. 1:23); and (3) The governors of the state (1 Kgs 8:31; Neh. 13:25). This means that oaths imposed by another person, organization or institution are ungodly oaths and are forbidden to the Christian. (262)
 Civil Government and the Oath
Civil government is covenantal. It is based on covenant oaths taken by elected officials and by the citizens, to which oaths God holds the takers strictly accountable: “‘As I live,’ declares the Lord, ‘Surely in the country of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he broke, in Babylon he shall die’” (Ezek. 17:16–19)....(1) The political officials swear to God to be faithful to Him as their supreme King and to His revealed Law as their source of law (2 Kgs 23:1–3). (2) The political officials swear to God before the people to faithfully administer God’s revealed Law and no other (2 Chron. 15). (3) The citizens swear to God to be His faithful servants (Ex. 34). (4) The citizens swear to God before their political officials to be respectful and submissive to them and obedient to their laws, as they (the officials) are faithful to their oaths before God (2 Chron. 15).
If civil rulers break their covenant oaths, the civil government and the people have the responsibility to remove them from office and to replace them with covenant-keepers. John Knox taught that Christian citizens and lesser magistrates have the duty to remove tyrants from office. (262-263)
 Moral Obligation to take Oaths Imposed by Lawful Authority:
When lawful oaths are imposed by a lawful authority regarding matters of weightiness and solemnity, they ought to be taken (WCF, XXII, ii). (264)
Our obligation to fulfill a LAWFUL oath is not impaired when that oath is extorted from us either by deceit or fraud, or even by violence, such as in the case of Nehemiah extracting lawful oaths out of the Israelites (Neh. 13:25). (265)
Question 112: What is required in the third commandment?
The third commandment requires, that the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.
The name of the Lord must never be spoken without meaning or with deceitful intentions. It must always be used with utmost reverence. We are not prohibited from saying the name of Jehovah. Nowhere in the Bible do we find that the four letters of the sacred name—YHWH—(Yahweh, or Jehovah) are too sacred to speak, as orthodox Judaism alleges. Rather, we are commanded to use that name, but never to misuse it because of its holiness. (266)
As we have shown, the “name” of God includes everything by which God is pleased to make Himself and His will known, everything He had made known about Himself and His will for us. This includes His titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, His works, and whatsoever else there is whereby He makes Himself known. (267)
God’s “name” is God’s “Word” is God’s “words” is God’s “truth” is God’s “glory” (i.e., the revelation of all the perfections of God) is “everything” God has given Jesus to manifest to us about Himself and His will for us in His verbal revelation, i.e., the Bible.
Christ’s manifestation of God’s name to His disciples in the power of the Spirit is not merely the transmission of divine information, although God’s name does have rational, verbal content. It is a manifestation that enlightens (vs. 7–8), unites us with God personally (vs. 11), protects (vs. 12), produces joy (vs. 13), sanctifies (vs. 17), and glorifies (vs. 22). Hence it is a glorious and powerful name, a name that is
always to be thought of and spoken of with reverence and awe. (268)
We are commanded by God to speak His name and to “use” His name, but always with holiness and reverence, and we may never misuse it. His Name is to be thought of with reverence: “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary” (Isa. 8:13–14a). How does one “regard the Lord of hosts as holy?”...It is to set God apart in the heart as highly exalted and of supreme and final authority in one’s life; it is to treat God as the Holy One He is. We are to set Him apart in our
hearts and life as the object of supreme and absolute reverence and praise, as free from all defilement and possessing all excellence, and to set Him above all other loves and allegiances. (269)
Even in a time of general moral decay in a culture, some retain their integrity and zeal for the Lord. They are distinguished by a character that is the opposite of those around them. (1) They “feared the Lord,” which is “the beginning of wisdom and the root of all [true] religion; they reverenced the majesty of God, submitted to his authority and had a dread of his wrath in all they thought and said; they humbly complied with God, and never spoke any stout words against him.”39 (2) They “spoke to one another” concerning the One whom they feared and loved and concerning His name which they thought so much of, for the mouth speaks that which fills the heart.
(3) They “esteem His name” or “thought upon His name.”
39. Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 4:1181.
God’s Name is the subject of frequent, reverent and deep meditation by the believer in Jesus. (271)
"We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God." 44. J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 18. (272)
Furthermore, His Name is to be spoken and used with reverence and in holiness, i.e., every way by which God reveals Himself and all He has revealed of Himself are to be treated by us in a manner becoming of His supreme majesty. (272)