A production of Sola Media
Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

You Can Be Freed from Blasphemy {Lord’s Day 36}

by William Boekestein posted September 8, 2022

This article is part of our weekly series, “Our Life’s Comfort: One Year of Being Shaped by the Scriptures.” Read more from the series here.

(99) Q. What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?
A. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. In summary, we must use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in everything we do and say.

(100) Q. Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent and forbid it?
A. Yes, indeed. No sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than blaspheming his name. That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.

Have you ever overheard someone slandering you? How people talk about us—especially when they think we’re not listening—can reveal what they truly think.

This is true of how we talk about God. If we could see God we would never blaspheme. We can’t. We live by faith. But God always sees and hears us. And he is zealous to protect his good name. Honoring God’s name is part of how we love him, the point of the law’s first table. The first two commandments teach who and how we must worship. The third teaches the language of worship. We must not use God’s name as if it were inconsequential.

Why Is This Law So Strict?

Why does Scripture say, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exod. 20:7)? Why did God allow the execution of blasphemers (Lev. 24:15, 16)?

Divine names are the holy property of a holy God. They are used in Scripture not, like ours, as labels for God. God’s names are special self-revelations of his being. To call upon God’s name is to worship him (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Ps. 113:1). To claim his name is protection (1 Sam. 17:45; Ps. 20:7). His name is our help (Ps. 124:8) and salvation; “There is no other name under heaven … by which must be saved” but Christ’s (Acts 4:12). God cares for his name because he values his glory.

So misusing God’s name is a “horrible” sin. “No sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than blaspheming his name.” Blasphemy is blatant treachery. No one curses God accidentally; blasphemy assumes enlightenment, an awareness of the names God calls himself but a refusal to honor him. So how we use God’s name reveals what we think of God. In fact, “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[i] God will not be mocked; blasphemers will reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7). The penalty for misusing God’s name is still death. Blasphemy is a certain way to make shipwreck of your faith. And unless we learn not to blaspheme, we will endure the same fate as Satan (1 Tim. 1:18–20). Since the name of God is so important, and the penalty for misusing it so severe, we need to know how not to use it.

How Is God’s Name Misused?

We must not blaspheme.

Blasphemy is deliberately and brashly contradicting what the Bible reveals about God. Blasphemers call God evil, mock his goodness, taunt his judgment, and put themselves in his place.

We must not curse.

Cursing here is different from using foul language (which is also unlawful; Eph. 5:4). We may not invoke God’s name in cursing, saying, “God damn you.” God isn’t our hired gun. And part of our spiritual worship is to bless and not curse even our persecutors (Rom. 12:14). Pray for justice; leave cursing to the Lord.

We must not commit perjury.

When we “swear to God,” we invoke him as a witness to our integrity. So we may not swear falsely (Lev. 19:12) or back out of even inconvenient oaths (Ps. 15:4). We may break an oath only when fulfilling it would be sin (Matt. 14:7–12), when a mutual oath is broken by the other party (1 Cor. 7:15), or when circumstances prevent compliance. Even then, broken promises will bring consequences.

We must not make unnecessary oaths.

Some people regularly “swear to God” to portray sincerity. The Pharisees were careful not to swear in God’s name but they too commonly swore by other holy things. In comparison with trivial swearing it is better to “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37; cf. 23:16–22; James 5:12).

We must not misuse God’s name in any way.

God’s name is a precious treasure, not an ordinary word. God’s name isn’t an interjection—“Oh God.” It isn’t texting shorthand—“OMG.” We should not make light of divine things, joking about heaven or hell. Our talk of godly things—even the weather he controls—should show that everything about God is respectable.

We must not be party to blasphemy.

We must honor God’s name even when others are misusing it. What would you do if someone misused the name of your wife, child, or best friend? Why would it be different when people misuse God’s name? Our silence is culpable (Lev. 5:1).

The command is negative: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” But that warning assumes a positive command.

How Should We Use God’s Name?

First, we must have the right, reverent attitude toward God. Do we believe that God reigns in holiness? Let us tremble before him (Ps. 99:1). Do we know that our exalted God has come down to rescue us from sin’s destructiveness? Let us love him more than any created thing. How we use God’s name depends on whether we believe him to really exist and truly care about us and how we live. We must hallow God (Matt. 6:9). To do so we must use God’s name well. Here are three ways.

Confess God’s name.

First we confess God’s name privately. The Spirit convinces us that there is no other name that can save us. We come to believe that the name of the Lord is a strong tower and by faith we run into it (Prov. 18:10). We receive a new name when we confess Christ’s name. For believers to live is Christ! But we also confess God’s name publicly. We talk about God to others (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9, 10), giving credit to God for his providence (Heb. 13:15; contra Acts 12:23).

Call upon God.

Pray! “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Ps. 50:15). Don’t simply call yourself a Christian—entrust yourself to God. It is vain to maintain an appearance of godliness but deny its power by prayerlessly refusing the help of the most-high God.

Praise God.

Use the names of God to worship him in his manifold beauty. Praise the Father as your Creator, the Son as your Redeemer, and the Spirit as your Sanctifier. Praise Jehovah as your covenant-keeper, the Lord of Hosts as your protector, and God Almighty as your strength. God’s names assure us that we can know him and enter into a loving relationship with him. This truth should make us “praise him in everything we do and say.”

The third commandment teaches the language of worship. Someday everyone will confess God’s name (Phil. 2:11). Those who learn the language of worship now are preparing for an eternity of rejoicing in God’s great name.

[i] AW Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961), 1.

Sign Up for Email Updates