April 3 – Third Commandment / SC Qs 53-56

Q. 53.
 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 (Exod 20:7Deut 5:11).
Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names (Matt 6:9Deut 10:20; 28:58), titles (Ps 29:2; 68:4), attributes (1 Chr 29:10-13Rev 15:3-4), ordinances (Mal 1:11, 14Eccl 5:1Acts 2:421 Cor 11:27-28), Word (Ps 138:1-2Rev 22:18-19), and works (Job 36:24Ps 107:21-22Rev 4:11).
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 (Lev 19:12Mal 1:6-7, 12Mal 2:2; 3:14Matt 5:33-37Jas 5:12).
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 (Deut 28:58-591 Sam 2:12, 17, 22, 29; 3:13; 4:11).


“The third commandment teaches us the attitude required in true worship. Just as it is wrong to worship a false god (the first commandment), or to worship the true God in a wrong manner (the second commandment), so it is of no avail to worship the true God-in the right way-without a sincere heart (the third commandment).”

G. I. Williamson. Westminster Shorter Catechism: For Study Classes (Kindle Locations 2457-2459). Kindle Edition.


A Reflection on Taking God’s Name Seriously

+ God’s Name Reveals His Glory

Once Moses asked to see the glory of the Lord. The Lord called him to come up on the mountain and stand in a cleft of a rock. And when the Lord passed by he revealed his glory. How? By proclaiming his Name —

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:5-7)

The Name of God reveals the glory of God.

In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, John Proctor is falsely accused of practicing witchcraft and binding himself to the devil. When given a chance to lie and save himself by confessing to the false charges, he signs his name, but quickly grabs the paper and retracts his confession. When his accusers ask him why, he says (with a cry of his soul), “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!…How may I live without my name?” (p 138) He refuses to sign his name to a lie. His name is his identity, character, and legacy.

The same goes for the Triune God and for all who bear his Sacred Name.

+ God Puts His Name On You in Baptism

We were baptized in the triune Name of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be baptized in the One Name of the Triune God means to be submerged and engulfed in the personal-infinite Name of covenant mercy, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, righteousness, and discipline. It means to be immersed and overwhelmed in the glory of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

N. T. Wright explains that baptism is “the public, physical and visible way in which someone is marked out, branded almost, with the holy ‘name’. The ‘name’ which we are all to share is the new name of the living God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson explains that baptism is a special naming ceremony in which the triune God puts his name on his people.

Peter Leithart explains that “Baptism ‘into the name’ is the language of ownership. When the Name of God is placed on us in baptism, we become His property, sacred ground, a temple of the Spirit. Those who are baptized into the Name are no longer their own, but belong to another…Receiving the name of the Triune God in baptism means that we are made part of a new family, the church, and that we are to present ourselves to the world bearing this name well.”

So baptism is a means by which a person becomes a bearer of the sacred Name of God.

In the movie Toy Story 2, Woody gets taken captive by Al the Chickenman and carried away from his family and friends. He ends up in a far away place where he is treated like royalty, repaired and repainted. His friends come to rescue him from his captor, but Woody resists. Buzz preaches the same gospel to Woody that he had once preached to him: “Life is only worth living if you’re loved.” But Woody resists. At his stage of life he thinks he would rather be looked at than loved. Reluctantly, his friends leave him, but the message echoes in Woody’s heart and mind. Finally, he looks down at his boot, scratches off the paint, and he sees the truth: Andy’s name written in permanent marker.

If you have been baptized, you need to know that God has written his Name on your life; and he has written your name on his heart and on his hands. Sometimes you can’t see it because it gets buried, covered, or disguised in the course of life. But it’s written there, and if you scrape away the filth and grime you will see it.

+ God Signs You to an Endorsement Deal 

When you and your children were baptized, the triune God placed his sacred and glorious Name on you, and you became bearers of the Divine Name. No matter where you go or what you do, you take the Name of the Triune God with you. You represent his Name and all that goes with it.

When God puts his name on us, he is signing us to an endorsement deal. He wants us to represent his Brand in the world, to advertise for him so to speak.

But you must be careful lest you take the Name of the Lord your God in vain. As it is written, “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.”

To take up his name in vain means to treat it as a light thing. To take up his name in truth means to treat as a weighty thing. (In Hebrew ‘glory’ means it is weighty, hefty.) That is why we pray “Hallowed be your name” and why Jesus prayed that God’s glorious name would be on his people (John 17:6, 11, 12, 26).

Sadly, many professing Christians take the Name of the Lord in vain in baptism and beyond. They think that baptism is the end of the journey rather than the start of it. They think it is enough just to be baptized, and then go on to live any way they please — even if it means living in disobedience to Jesus.

But God’s Name-bearers represent God to the world. So they ought to wear his Brand, and live, move, and exist in a way that brings glory and honor to his Name — not shame and reproach.

To bear the Name of God is the bear the weight his Glory.