top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke


"The Name To Be Honored!”

Please enjoy The Gospel as found in “The Leather Journal” of Pastor Phil Newton of South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, TN. Other ministries of the Church can be found at This is a service of the blog. Brought to you by The Duke Consulting Group

The Name to be Honored

(Used by Permission)

“You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

I’ve been familiar with the 3rd commandment since I can remember. Not that I understood it, but like all kids in my community, I viewed the 3rd commandment as a prohibition to attaching God’s name to a profanity. As long as one did not do this, then he had kept this commandment. A person might be extremely profane in his conversation, but as long as the Lord’s name did not enter into it, he might have been crass, but had not stooped to take the Lord’s name in vain.

In many ways, my understanding of the 3rd commandment bore resemblance to that of the Pharisees and ancient rabbis. They concluded the primary application of this commandment had to do with taking oaths. If one used the name of the Lord in his oath, he was bound and obligated against all odds to perform his vow; otherwise, he would have taken the Lord’s name in vain and thus held guilty before the Lord. But, if he vowed concerning a matter and used something other than the Lord’s name to strengthen the vow, such as, “I swear to you by the gold of the temple,” then he did not consider himself totally obligated to fulfill the vow. This is precisely what Jesus upbraids in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King” (Matt. 5:34-35). He implied much more in the 3rd commandment.

Jesus’ point is that the early Jews missed the point! Taking the Lord’s name in vain is more than an adverse construction in a sentence. His name can be taken in vain when we fail to rightly honor Him in the content of worship and life.

Each of the commandments makes use of a literary device called synecdoche, meaning, ‘to take together.’ For instance, if you say, “I’m working hard to put bread on the table,” you do not mean that your only purpose in working is to put a loaf of bread on your table. Putting literal bread on the table is part of the whole reason for your working but not all of it. So, synecdoche implies that the part stands for the whole. In this regard, the prohibition, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” is part of what God is commanding but there’s more to it. We might put it like this, “You shall not have other gods before Me, but you shall have Me alone as your God.” The prohibition implies the positive assertion as well. All the commandments hold the same.

This use of synecdoche is particularly important with the 3rd commandment, for in it we not only hear the prohibition against bearing God’s name improperly but also in the right use of His name in worship, faith, and conversation. We must consider the weightiness of God’s glory when we bear His name in life and with lips. That adds gravity to the 3rd commandment. The shift to the third person in the 3rd commandment highlights this. In the first two commandments, the Lord God addresses us by the use of personal pronouns “Me” and “I.” But the 3rd commandment calls special attention to the name of the Lord your God as though someone else in the high court of heaven instructs us in the proper way to honor Him and “His name.” That someone is Jesus who taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9). Our praying, worship, conversation, and confessions need to consciously reflect honoring the Lord’s name. That’s keeping the 3rd commandment.

15 views0 comments


bottom of page