Heidelberg Catechism Q99

Q. 99. 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 a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess him, pray to him, and praise him in everything we do and say.


God’s name is holy. It is an extension of his character and being.  When Moses asked God to declare his name, he responded by saying “I AM”.  When the third commandment adjures us to not misuse the name of God it is reminding people that the speech they use to talk about God must be reverent, measured and true.  To speak of God casually or demeaning is to declare that God is something other than his reality.  Read Exodus 3:1-14.


Read Leviticus 24:10-17.  This story contains the tragic details of a person who curses the name of God treating God’s honor with contempt.  Such an action was probably a quick slip of the tongue in a moment of heated exchange, but it revealed a deeper reality at work in the person’s heart for harboring such thoughts.  Our words are windows into our souls, and our perception of God will always be displayed in the words we use.  Read Luke 6:45.


Perjury or untruths declared in a court of law, or in casual conversation are also to be shunned because these two reflect poorly on God’s character as displayed in his people.  Our God is a God of truth and when his people speak things that are untrue, especially in his name, we demean his honor in the public sphere.  Read Leviticus 19:12.


But the writers of the catechism also understood the failure to speak up and declare the truth to be as grievous a sin as the overt act of lying in the name of God.  As God’s people, we must not let lies propagate when it is within our power to bring the truth to light.  Read Leviticus 5:1.


There are many things we are called to avoid in this commandment but there are also wonderful things we can use our tongue for.  We can sing to the Lord.  We can pray to him.  We can declare his wonders before all creation.  In short, we can lift up our voices to the Lord.  Read Colossians 3:16-17.


In short, as Christian men and women we must let every word that comes from our mouth build up others and proclaim the truth of the gospel message.  These are two of the things we are recreated to do as Spirit filled believers.  Read 1Thessalonians 5:11 and Revelation 14:6.

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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