Safeguarding the Name of the Lord

Do not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain

By Mike Robinson

Recently, a lady called the Mark Levin show[1] to express her displeasure regarding the numerous Hollywood movies that blaspheme and use the Lord’s name in vain. She was troubled that the movie industry is allowed to use Christ’s name as a curse word as well as incessantly declaring, “G-d damn it!” The radio host, Mr. Levin, was sympathetic with her concerns. While a bit uncomfortable about the topic, he tried to agree with her and move on, but she shared more. He showed that he was aghast at her disclosures by exclaiming, in an unguarded moment, “Oh my G-d!”  Yep, that did slip out by accident. She pointed out that Mr. Levin himself just used the name of the Lord in vain. He denied it as he slipped up again and sighed aloud, “Oh my G-d.” She attempted to educate the host, but Mr. Levin disagreed and denied that he used the name of the Lord in vain. He then offered a few pathetic reasons why his exclamation was not immoral. It’s too bad that Levin doesn’t safeguard the name of the Lord like he guards the proper application of the U.S. Constitution.[2]


The Third Commandment: Honoring God’s Name


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 (Exodus 20: The Third Commandment).

We are not just to put away idolatry[3] but we should have a passion to uphold God’s honor and His name.  John Calvin, the great theologian and reformer (he was the theological father of the Pilgrims and the Puritans, thus he is called the philosophical grandfather of the American Government), brilliantly taught:

If we had one grain of intelligence, we would be zealous for the honor of God, so much so that it would be entirely unnecessary for anyone to solicit us to that end. We should be engaged in fulfilling what is written in the Psalms: that this zeal should devour us, that we should be engulfed by it; and should we see anyone casting opprobrium against His majesty, or vilifying it, of necessity we would feel a burning fire within us. But observe!  We are so careful to maintain our own honor, yet whenever the world abandons itself into idolatry, we allow the honor of God to be trampled underfoot.[4]   

The third commandment is broken in almost every recent Hollywood movie. It is almost impossible to watch a modern movie without the actors seemingly insisting that God’s last name is damn. It is not. The movie industry also pushes the use of Jesus’ name as a cuss word. It is employed, by the uneducated, to express themselves more forcefully. You never hear anyone say, “Oh Muhammad!” or “Oh Buddha!” or “Oh Krishna!” You will never hear anyone curse any false god. It is always God or the name of Jesus. Those names are used as swear words and used in vain.

Thou shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain: Make use of the name Lord or God, or any other name and epithet of the divine Being, in a light and trifling way, without any show of reverence of him, and affection to him; whereas the name of God ought never to be mentioned but in a grave and serious manner, and with an awe of the greatness of his majesty upon the mind. ... Forbids, as all profane oaths; imprecations, and curses by the name of God, which the mouths of wicked men are full of, so swearing by it in matters trivial, and of no importance; for swearing even by the name of the Lord ought not to be used but in matters of moment and consequence, for the confirmation of a thing, and putting an end to strife, and where a matter cannot be determined and decided without an appeal to God.  And great care should be taken that a man swears to that which is true, and not false. ...This is the third command, and the reason enforcing it follows: "for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain;" will not look upon him as an innocent person, and treat him as such; will not acquit and discharge him as just and righteous; but on the contrary will consider him as a guilty person, a profaner of his name, and a transgressor of his law, and will condemn and punish him, if not in this world, yet in the world to come; and so the Targum of Jonathan, by way of explanation, adds, ‘in the day of the great judgment;’ (John Gill).

Today many people text a three letter abbreviation of “Oh my G-d” or Tweet it or write it as and reply to a fascinating FaceBook post. I have heard numerous average Christians use the name of God in vain. It is a habitual delinquency and reflects the breakdown of American morals, inside and outside the church.

The injunction to not take the Lord’s name in vain requires mankind to respect and honor His holy name. The English word “vain” is the translation of the Hebrew word shavah, which means: useless, vanity, emptiness, or nothingness. The command is to never blaspheme, utter, declare, speak, or use God’s name in a disrespectful, idle or an empty manner. Our duty is to respect Ha Shem (the name) and to never treat it lightly. Jesus at the start of the Lord’s Prayer says, “Our Father... hallowed be Thy name.” To hallow is to esteem as holy and to honor and revere His name.

The WSC nicely sums up the third commandment:

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 takes his name in vain.


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

A. The third commandment requires 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 forbids all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God makes 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.

Escaping the Judgment Due All Men

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs, according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

Moral laws are revelations (divine communication) of what people ought to do. God has clearly revealed, to every person, His moral law in their hearts.[5] There are objective moral duties. Yet, like Levin and others[6], we all fall short. We all sin. Thus we all need Jesus Christ the Savior. Since all men, universally, know what they should do we must aim to uphold God’s word and not sin.  God has revealed to our human will what we should and should not do. But we stumble and sin at times. This is one of the reasons we have feelings of guilt. This worry leads to the stocking of the huge selection of titles in the self-help sections on Amazon (bookstores are packed with a plethora of self-help titles on guilt and shame). Guilt helps spawn human religion and all its sacrifices and appeasements to nonexistent gods in an attempt to remove their guilty feelings. Dissimilarity, the biblical sacrificial system foreshadowed and pictured the only effectual sacrifice—Jesus Christ on the cross for the propitiation of God’s wrath—and secured the forgiveness of sins for His people. Through Christ, the Christian has all his guilt and shame removed (Romans 4:5 & 5:1; John 3:15-19). We must turn from our sin and trust in Jesus Christ; that He died for us and rose again. His amazing grace provides a full pardon to all who trust Him.

For more see my book There Are Moral Absolutes: Proof for God in Paperback or eBook on Amazon



1.        The Mark Levin Show, June 28, 2013.

2.        Mr. Levin is a potent defender of the U.S. Constitution and as a legal scholar he has written popular books that defend conservative and religious values.  Overall, his work is essential as it is influential.

3.        The Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

4.        John Calvin, Sermons on the Ten Commandments, Edited and Translated by B.W. Farley  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980), p. 68.

5.        Romans 1:18-22: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”

6.        Fox host Bill O’Reilly, despite writing a book about Jesus, consistently says “Oh my G-d!” (Factor 9/10/13 at 7:18pm CST) and “J-sus!” (9/10/13 at 7:20pm CST). He is but one example.