Shorter Catechism Qs. 53–56

Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?

A. The third commandment is, Thou shall 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.

Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?

A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God‘s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.

Q. 55. What is forbidden in the third commandment?

A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Q. 56. 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 judgment.

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“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.” (Exod 20:7)

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” (Ps 29:2)

see also Ecclesiastes 5:1–7

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The third commandment teaches us two things. First, what not to do. Second, what to do.

First, what not to do. God is holy. That means we must not think of him or speak of him with a cavalier attitude. We all know words are sometimes more than words. So our words about God - whether unspoken and silent, or spoken and heard - express our heart. That is why the third commandment goes deeper than forbidding the Lord‘s name being used as an expletive. It deals with the attitude of the heart which manifests itself in taking the Lord‘s name in vain.

Second, what to do. We should always be cultivating in our heart love and reverence for our Creator. He made us. He gave us the ability to think and to speak. If so, we really need to use the gifts he has given us to honor him.

The Lord is also our Father who sent his Son. How can we repay this great debt? We can never repay this debt. What we can do, should do, is to live, speak, and think with gratitude and love for the one who has loved us. So we should make it our aim to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” Indeed, this is one of the reasons we faithfully participate in the Lord‘s Day worship, family worship, and private worship.

Taken together, the third commandment puts before us a vision of believers who live with a heartfelt longing for the glory of their Creator and Redeemer. We all live for something. Some people dedicate their lives to political causes, environmental causes, or social causes. Others live for pleasure and comfort. But we the redeemed live for God‘s glory. Our desire is to think of him and to speak of him in such a way that our gracious God and Father is honored. Has the Holy Spirit given you this desire? I pray he has.