The Shorter Catechism, 17
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Q53: Which is the third commandment?
A: 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."
See Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11.
Q54: What is required in the third commandment?
A: The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of Godís names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
The commandment forbids taking Godís Name in vain, but thereby it commands to do the opposite. Instead of taking Godís Name in vain, we should reverently use it. The commandment requires that we use the Name of God holily and reverently. As is written: "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name", Psalm 29:2. Whenever we use Godís Name, let we then keep in mind that we do that with reverence. Also His titles; we should use them, thinking of Godís majesty. Some titles used for God can be seen in: "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?" Rev. 15:3,4. Also the ordinances God has established; let we also remember that these are Godís ordinances, and that we should behave ourselves with reverence and fear in them. "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools", Eccl. 5:1. Going to Godís house is not something that can be done loosely. We should keep in mind that Godís house is the place where Godís congregation meets, and where God works. The Word of God; our Bible. It is not some book, but it is Godís Word. The Scriptures are given by God for our benefit, and we should use them with reverence. The Holy Scriptures are different from all other books, because it is Godís Word. When reading in it; when listening to one reading it, let we keep in mind that the book is holy. "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name", Ps. 138:2. We should honour not only God, but also all His works. The works of creation, and the works of regeneration. These are Godís works. We are not free to use all Godís works at our pleasure, because all is of God. We should always keep in mind, when using the things of this world, and when looking at the creatures, that they are of God. "Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold", Job 36:24.
Q55: What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A: The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning and abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known.
It is forbidden to profane anything of God. God makes Himself known by His Word. Let we never profane it, or abuse it by jesting about it (as many have the habit). The one that doesnít glory God, is cursed, as is written: "If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you", Malachi 2:2. Let we take heed lest we become like those of old, that profaned the Name. "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them", Ezek. 22:26.
Q56: What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A: 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 judgement.
It is often so that the transgressors of the third commandment, profaning Godís Name, escape unpunished. At least, they think so. They think that they have escaped, because no civil law punishes them. But then they have misjudged. It may be that men keep their mouth, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape His righteous judgement. Because they that profane Godís Name donít look higher then this low earth, they forget that there is a God in heaven. He hears all; He sees all. And though they are for a time profaning God unpunished, yet their time will come. As is written: "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful", Deut. 28:58,59.
Letís then say with the Psalmist: "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty", Psalm 104:1. A natural manís eyes are closed for Godís majesty, but the regenerated man sees Godís glory. His eyes are opened by Godís Spirit, to behold Godís greatness; to behold His honour; and to behold His majesty. Then there are times that he says: "Bless the LORD, O my soul, because Thou are very great". A natural man doesnít know of this, but Godís chosen sometimes behold with spiritual eyes the glory of God.
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. This is true. Instead of vainly using Godís name, let we arouse ourselves that we may honour Him always, with our thoughts, with our mouth and with our works. And this only is possible through Godís grace which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.