Sermon: Misusing God's Name - Exodus 20

The third of the Ten Commandments informs us that we should be very careful about the use and misuse of God's name.

Sermon series: God's Story, Part I

  1. The Baptist Faith and Message: Mankind - Genesis 1
  2. Abraham, Called of God - Genesis 12
  3. The Forward Movement of God's Plan - Exodus 1
  4. Misusing God's Name - Exodus 20
  5. When God Leads the Way - Exodus 33

The Power of Praying in God's Name

  1. Calling on God's Name
  2. Make a Name for Yourself
  3. What's in a Name?
  4. For His Name's Sake
  5. Praise His Name
  6. He Is Lord
  7. He Is Personal
  8. The Definitive God
  9. Misusing God's Name
  10. The God We Call Father
  11. In the Name of Jesus
  12. My Favorite Name

Main Scripture: Exodus 20:7

The third of the Ten Commandments informs us that we should be very careful about the use and misuse of God's name. At first sight the third commandment seems to be banning profanity. But careful study reveals that much more is at stake. God's name represents his character and his nature. His name tells us what kind of God he is. Of the over 300 names for God given in the Bible, each is a revelation of the holy, sacred character of God. Never are they to be uttered or treated lightly.

The name of God was so profoundly sacred that the orthodox Jews would not pronounce the name of God in normal conversation. In fact, as the scribes were making copies of the Holy Scripture, when they came to the name of God they place their pen down, rise, bathe themselves, and put on different garments. Then they would write with a pen that had never been used before the holy name of God. It was that holy, that sacred, that reverenced, and that honored.

Unfortunately, our society, including well intentioned believers, misuses the name of God daily. The words misuse or vain means empty of content or to make void of meaning. It describes that which is empty, idle, or insincere.

One of the ways God's name is misused is through profanity. Webster's dictionary defines profanity as to violate or treat with irreverence or contempt something regarded as sacred. The word literally means "before the temple." So, a profane word is one you would not use in church.

Another way God's name is misused is through intimidation. This occurs when one uses God and his name to get their way. Personally, I am always leery of someone who says, "God told me to tell you ..." They are using God's name to get their way.

Still another way God's name is misused, oddly enough, is to impress. Sadly, some people use God's name to impress how spiritual they are. They become spiritual showoffs by employing spiritual sounding phrases and words while their heart is not in it. Every sentence is punctuated with the words, "Praise the Lord," "Hallelujah," "Amen," and "God Bless You." Don't misunderstand, I believe that we are to praise the Lord but let's not reduce God to a cliché. Well-meaning Christians have thoughtlessly cheapened God's name by continually and mindlessly saying these spiritual sounding phrases. For many, these phrases have been used with no more thought or sincerity than the popular but empty, "Have a nice day."

God's name is also misused frivolously. We often hear God's name uttered as an exclamation point.

"I caught a ten pound fish." "Good God."

"Bill and Sarah got married." "Oh Lord."

"I tore my pants." "Oh my God."

Such frivolous use of God's name reduces God to the level of "wow" and "amazing." God's name is not an exclamation point.

Let's not misuse God's name. Let's be ambassadors for him - not an embarrassment to him - because he is the Name above all names.

Rick Ezell is the pastor of First Baptist Greer, South Carolina. Rick has earned a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology in preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach.