The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

IV. The Third Commandment: Q & A 53-56

Q. 53 Which is the third commandment?

A. 53 The third commandment is “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” (Ex. 20:7).

Q. 54 What is required in the third commandment?

A. 54 The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.

The name herein used is the covenant name LORD. One thing this commandment teaches is that one should not claim to be a Christian lightly. To do so without it being a whole life commitment is to take His name in vain. This commandment involves our covenant relationship in its entirety. As the catechism states, it involves the “reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works,” for these all reflect on God’s character, which is represented in His name. This reverent use glorifies Him (Ps. 29:2; Rev. 15:3).

Q. 55 What is forbidden in the third commandment?

A. 55 The third commandment forbids all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God makes Himself known.

This commandment forbids the trivial use of God’s name, including taking the name of ‘Christian’ without a whole life commitment. There is no area of life where Jesus does not say “Mine”. To privatize or confine one’s commitment to things strictly “religious” is to take the name of the LORD in vain. This commandment also forbids swearing by anything at all-for everything in heaven and earth is His (Mt. 5:34-35). It would be better to remain silent (Eccl. 5:1). However, this commandment does not forbid taking oaths in  the LORD’s name (Dt. 6:13).

Q. 56 What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?

A. 56 The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the LORD our God will not suffer them to escape His righteous judgment.

The reason annexed to this commandment speaks to the special way that the LORD is jealous for His holy name. It is the name of the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. Cursing comes to those who do not glorify His name and take this commandment to heart (Mal. 2:2).

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