“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished [or guiltless] who takes His name in vain.” (Deuteronomy 5:11; Exodus 20:7).
The Third Commandment in modern terms1
Introduction. For some believers, the Third Commandment is a mystery. People know that they are not supposed to use God’s name as a swear word, but that’s about it. Why, for example, did God pick this to be one of the Ten Commandments? Why does it come before the Commandment against murder? Why would God care if someone takes His name in vain? The purpose of this study is to demonstrate why the Third Commandment exists. Unless you understand the hidden meanings behind God’s many names, the rule against profaning it will have little meaning. Hopefully, once the meanings of God’s many names are revealed, you will do more than simply avoid using God’s name in a profane way. You will instead hopefully be motivated to glorify God’s name by actually using His many names for their intended purposes in prayer. Likewise, you will hopefully seek to avoid profaning God’s name through unholy words or conduct.
We start our study by examining the very different roles between Biblical names and modern names. In modern culture, personal names frequently do nothing more than to distinguish one person’s name from another. A person does not select a name for a child based upon the child’s characteristics. English speakers frequently use the term “God” in the same way. It is to some simply a means of distinguishing the Supreme Being from ordinary people. Yet, in the Bible, a name was not only a means of identification. It expressed a person’s identity as well. “A good name is to be more desired than great riches.” (Prov. 22:1).
Names that God changed in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, God changed a person’s name to tell us that He changed that person. God, for example, changed the name Abram, which means “high father” to Abraham, which means the “father of many nations.” (Gen. 17:5). Abraham became the father of many nations only through faith and God’s sovereignty. God changed the name Jacob, which means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter” to “Israel,” which means “God contended.” (Gen. 32:28). God transformed Jacob through His many struggles into a man of God. Jesus likewise changed the name Simon, which means “God has heard” to Peter, which means “stone.” (Jo. 1:42). Although Peter was a failure while Christ was alive, Peter heard His calling and became an important “stone” of His Church after Jesus died. Jesus was the Rock upon which his stone rested. These examples tell us that God sees us for who we will become, not the failures we made in our past. No matter how much we have failed in the past, those failures are forgotten when you accept Christ as your Savior.
God will one day give you a new name. If you are a believer in Christ, you will also receive a new name in heaven (Rev. 2:17). Just as Adam named the animals to show his dominion over them (Gen. 2:20), God will name you to assert His dominion over you. “Everyone who is called by My name . . . I have created for My glory.” (Is. 43:7). You can safely assume that the new name will reflect some aspect of your character that God will develop in you.
The reverence given by orthodox Jews. The Jews considered God’s name to be so holy that they did not say the name “YHWH,” or Yahweh, out of fear for mispronouncing it. For orthodox Jews, they also cannot utter His name casually. Orthodox Jews further cannot erase or deface God’s written or printed name. In Deuteronomy 12:3, Moses commanded the people that when they took over the Promised Land, they should destroy all the idolatrous temples, including any written names of the pagan gods. Yet, immediately after that commandment, Moses commanded the Jews not to do the same to their God. Based upon this commandment, some rabbis taught that the Jews could not erase or deface God’s name in any printed form.
Examples of reverence for God’s Holy name in Scripture. Jesus instructed that the model prayer should specifically start by acknowledging God’s holy name: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name . . .” (Matt. 6:9). To “hallow” a thing is to make it holy or to set it apart as being worthy of absolute devotion. Alternatively, to “hallow” the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration. Throughout the Psalms, the psalmist also specifically and repeatedly referred to the “glory” God’s holy name as an example for us in both prayer and song: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him; worship the Lord in holy array.” (1 Ch. 16:29). “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Ps. 34:3). “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.” (Ps. 29:2). “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” (Ps. 86:9). “God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel.” (Ps. 76:1). “A Psalm, a song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;” (Ps. 92:1). “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” (Ps. 7:17). “Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.” (Ps. 66:2). “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him.” (Ps. 68:4). “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.” (Ps. 135:3). Are you specifically calling God’s name “holy” in your prayers?
Give thanks in God’s name. The Psalmist also gave thanks for God’s holy name: “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” (Ps. 54:6). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 92:1). Are you giving thanks in God’s name? If you are not comfortable calling God’s name “holy” in your prayers or giving thanks in His name, perhaps you have never considered what His name means.
Overview. Commentator Walter Kaiser once stated: “What then is involved in the ‘name’ of God? His name includes: (1) his nature, being and very person (Psalm 20:1; Luke 24:47; John 1:12; cf. Rev. 3:4), (2) his teachings and doctrines (Ps. 22:22; John 17:6, 26), and (3) his ethical directions and morals (Mic. 4:5.)” His holy attributes are revealed through countless adjectives, nouns, and proper names. The following is a listing of some of the names used to reveal God’s holy character.
Adjectives used to describe God. An adjective is the most common way that a modern speaker would use to describe someone’s qualities. In the Bible, adjectives used to reveal God’s holy name and character include: holy (Lev. 11:44; Rev. 15:4); lovingkindness (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10; Ps. 144:2); omnipotent (Rev. 19:6); omniscient (Ps. 147:5; 1 Cor. 2:10); omnipresent (1 Ki. 8:27; Ps. 139:7); eternal (Dt. 33:27; 1 Jo. 5:20); everlasting (Gen. 21:33; Is. 9:6); majestic (Ex. 15:6); heavenly (Matt. 5:48); excellent (Ps. 148:13); compassionate (Dt. 4:31); forgiving (Nu. 14:18); merciful (Jer. 3:12); slow to anger (Nu. 14:18); mighty (Is. 9:6; 60:16); most upright (Is. 26:7); comforting (2 Sam 14:17); perfection (Ps. 50:2); almighty (Rev. 15:3); and wonderful (Is. 9:6). God is also called Qanna (kan-naw), which means “jealous.” It appears six times in the Old Testament to describe God (e.g., Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). Qanna expresses that God is jealous of our devotion and praise for Him alone.
Nouns used to describe God. A noun is also frequently used in the Bible to describe God’s holy name and character. Examples include, but are not limited to the following: “my redeemer” (Job 19:25); “my rock . . . my salvation” (Ps. 18:2); “my strength” (Ps. 28:7; Jer. 16:19); “my shield” (Ps. 28:7; Gen. 15:1); “my deliverer . . . my merciful one, my fortress, my stronghold” (Ps. 144:2; Na. 1:7); the “strong tower” (Prov. 18:10); “fortress” (Jer. 16:19); “refuge” (Jer. 16:19); “our shade” (Ps. 121:5); “hiding place” (Ps. 32:7); “my savior,” (2 Sam. 22:3); “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29); “the wall of fire” (Zech. 2:5); “refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2); our “purifier” (Mal. 3:3); “judge” (Ps. 82:8); “fountain of living waters” (Jer. 2:13); “love” (Dt. 7:7); “truth” (Gen. 24:27); “creator” (Ecc. 12:1); “maker” (Job 35:10; Ps. 95:6); “architect” (Heb. 11:10); “breath of life” (Gen. 2:7, Rev. 11:11); “gentle whisper” (1 Ki. 19:12); “Jah” (Ps. 68:4)(kjv); “keeper” (Ps. 121:5); “lawgiver” (Is. 33:22); “like an Eagle” (Dt. 32:11); “lily of the valleys” (So. 2:1); “living God” (Dan. 6:20); “our portion” (Ps. 73:26; 119:57); the “potter” (Is. 64:8); our “Shiloh” (Gen 49:10); our “song” (Ex. 15:2; Is. 12:2); the “Stone of Israel” (Gen. 49:24); “Scepter” (Nu. 24:17); “our Father” (Matt. 6:9); and “Abba” (Ro. 8:15). The name Abba stresses God the Father’s provision, discipline, care, and how believers are to address Him in prayer (Matt. 7:11; Jam. 1:17; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:16; 16:23; Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 1 Thess. 3:11).
The 21 Old Testament Proper Names for God. Unlike modern culture, God also has multiple proper names. Because there is no equivalent for these terms in English, they are lumped together under the generic terms “God” and “Lord.” In the order that they first appear in the Old Testament, the following is a list of the 21 Hebrew or Latin proper names for God. These names reveal things about God’s character and His identity.
(1) Elohim (el-o-heem). El is translated as “God.” As set forth below, this name is frequently used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. The name appears more than 2,600 times in the Old Testament. The name Elohim appears in first verse of the Bible (Gen. 1:1). The name references His power, His might, His role as Creator, and His attributes of justice and rulership. The name, however, is also used in conjunction with other terms to show that He is personable and connected to us. This was the name that He used when He reminded Moses that He was the God of Moses’ ancestors: “I am the [Elohim] of your father, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6). The name also provides evidence in support of the Christian understanding that God is one entity consisting of the three individuals, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Elohim is the plural of El. Any Hebrew word ending in “im” is the plural for a masculine word. While creating mankind, Moses quoted God as stating, “Let Us make man in Our likeness. . . ” (Gen. 1:26). After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, the Father Almighty declared, “The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22). Likewise, in the story of the tower of Babel, Moses quoted God as stating, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Gen. 11:7). Isaiah also referred to God in the plural form: “Who shall go for Us?” (Is. 6:8). King Solomon also referred to the God in the plural form: “Remember now thy Elohim [Creator(s)] in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw night, when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecc. 12:1). In the New Testament, God reveals Himself to be plural in the form of the Trinity. The name reflects the Triune God who created all life and the universe. It also reflects the Triune God who is connected to us through the Son who became flesh and died for us.2
(2) YHWH (Although an orthodox Jew would never try to pronounce this name, others interpret it as either Yahweh (yah-weh) or Yehowah). The name appears 6,518 times in the Hebrew text. It first appears in Genesis 2:4. Yet, God does not reveal this name to mankind until the third chapter of Exodus when He speaks to Moses. In Hebrew, the name appears with four consonants and without vowels as “YHWH.” These letters are also called the Tetragrammaton or “the four letters”. It is related to the root word Hei-Yod-Hei, which means “to be.” The name reflects that God’s existence is eternal. Jesus, Yeshua, or Yehoshûa is a Hebraic personal name meaning “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” God is both eternal and the source of our salvation.
(3) Jehovah (yeh-ho-vaw). The name Jehovah is the Latin version of YHWH. Thus, it also appears 6,518 times in the text. Jehovah is translated as “The Existing One” or “Lord.” Because the exact vowels of YHWH are missing, the exact pronunciation is unknown. The orthodox Jews therefore feared violating the Third Commandment by mispronouncing it. By Jewish tradition, Moses also feared mispronouncing it because he allegedly was a poor speaker (Ex. 4:10). To avoid mispronouncing YHWH, many orthodox Jews substitute the names Jehovah or Adonai (see below) whenever YHWH appears in the text. For the English speaker, the names YHWH, Jehovah, and Adonai are all translated as Lord or God, something God apparently never intended.
(4) El Elyon (el el-yone). This name appears 28 times in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 14:18, 19-22; Ps. 57:2; 78:35; Is. 14:13-14). It means the most high God. It expresses God’s preeminence.
(5) Adonai (ad-o-noy). The name appears in the Old Testament 434 times (e.g., Gen. 15:2; Mal. 1:6). It means “Lord” in the context of God’s Lordship over mankind.
(6) El Roi (el-rowee). The name means “the God who sees” (Gen. 16:13). This refers to God as all-knowing. There is nothing good or bad that is hidden from Him.
(7) El Shaddai (el shad-di). The name appears 7 times in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 43:14; 48:3; Ps. 91:1). It refers to the God of the Covenant. It means the Lord God Almighty, the God who is Sufficient, or the God of the mountains.
(8) El Olam (el o-lawm). The name appears at least 4 times in the Old Testament (Gen. 21:23; Jer. 10:10; Is. 26:4; 40:28-31). Olam means “forever.” It can also mean “world.” Together, the name means God everlasting, the God of eternity, the God of Ancient Days, or the God of the universe.
(9) Jehovah-Jireh (yeh-ho-vaw' yir-eh'). The name Jehovah-Jireh is a combination that appears only once in the Bible (Gen. 22:13-14). In English, the name means the “Lord will see.” In this context, it means He will see to it or provide. It is the name Abraham gave for God at Mount Moriah for providing a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac. The name is a great name to invoke when asking in prayer for God’s provision.
(10) Jehovah-Raah (yeh-ho-vaw' raw-aw'). The name Jehovah-Raah appears several times in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ps. 23:1; 80:1). The name means “the Lord saw”. Some also translate it as the Lord my healer. The words suggest an intimacy between God and His people. God is our friend and protector.
(11) Ehyeh or Ehye-Asher-Ehyeh “I am” or “I will be” or “I Am that I Am.” When Moses asked who had sent him to free the Jews in Egypt, God said to Moses, “I am that I am. . . . Thus, you shall say to the sons of Israel, I am has sent me to you.” (Ex. 3:14). When Jesus made statements about Abraham as though He personally knew him, the Jews asked him: “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (Jo. 8:57). Jesus responded: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (Jo. 8:58). At that point, the Jews picked up stones to kill him for claiming to be God (Jo. 8:59). The name expresses that God has existed for all eternity. Jesus as well is the Alpha and the Omega who has existed for all time (Rev. 22:13).
(12) Jehovah-Rapha (yeh-ho-vaw' raw-faw'). The name appears in Exodus 15:26. Rapha can mean “to heal” or “to restore.” Together, the name means the Lord or Jehovah that heals.
(13) Jehovah-Nissi (yeh-ho-vaw' nis-see'). The name only appears once in the Old Testament (Ex. 17:15). In this verse, Moses built an altar to Jehovah Nissi after He defeated the Amalekites in battle. The name means the Lord my banner. It also means Lord my miracle. This name refers to the fact that God is the source of our victories. He is the one who fights for us. This is a great name to invoke when you petition God in your prayers to fight your battles for you.
(14) Jehovah-Maccaddeshem (yeh-ho-vaw' M-qadash). The name means “the Lord who sanctifies”. Alternatively, it means the Lord who makes holy. It can also mean the Lord who sets apart. The name only appears twice in the Bible (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 20:8).
(15) Jehovah-Shalom (yeh-ho-vaw' shaw-lome'). This name only appears in Judges 6:24. The name means “the God of peace.”
(16) Yahweh Elohim Israel: (yeh-ho-vaw' el-o-heem' Yisra’el). “The Lord, the God of Israel” identifies Yahweh as the God of Israel. This distinguished Him from the false gods of the nations (Jud. 5:3.; Isa. 17:6). “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord [Yahweh], which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel (Elohim Yisra’el)” (Is. 45:3, KJV).
(17) Jehovah Sabaoth (yeh-ho-vaw' se ba'ôt). Sabaoth means “armies” or “hosts.” The name means the Lord of Hosts or Lord of Armies. The names Jehovah and Elohim appear with Sabaoth more than 285 times in the Old Testament. The name first appears in 1 Sam 1:13 and again in 17:45. This name establishes God’s sovereignty over every army. He is the king of all heaven and Earth (e.g., Ps. 24:9-10; 84:3; Is. 6:5; Hag. 1:5).
(18) Jehovah-Rohi (Ps. 23:1). The name means that the Lord is my shepherd. The name shows God’s care for His people.
(19) Jehovah-Tsidkenu (yeh-ho-vaw' tsid-kay'-noo). This name only appears twice in the Old Testament (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). The name means “the Lord our righteousness”. It also refers to a God who will make us righteous.
(20) Jehovah-Gmolah (yeh-ho-vaw' gimolah). The name means the Lord of Recompense (Jer. 51:6).
(21) Jehovah-Shammah (yeh-ho-vaw' shawm'-maw). This name only appears in Ezekiel 48:35. The name means that the Lord is present or the Lord who is there. In context, it refers to the God who will not abandon Jerusalem. Rather, He will restore it to its intended purpose as a beacon to the nations. The name signifies His personal presence during the Millennial reign.
Although the Hebrew Bible is remarkable for the number of names used for God, it sometimes does not use a specific name at all. These generic references to the “name” of God include the power of all the names listed above. For example, in two places in the Book of Genesis, Abraham called upon the “name of the Lord.” (Gen. 12:8; 13:4). In two other places, it was referred to as an act of worship when someone called upon “the name” of the Lord (Gen. 21:33; 26:25). Likewise, on two occasions in the Book of Exodus, God proclaimed His “name” to Moses (Ex. 33:19; 34:5). Three times in the Book of Leviticus, God warned first the Jews and then the gentles not to profane “the name” of the Lord (Lev. 13:21; 22:2, 32). The Third Commandment, the subject of this study, also warns against taking “the name” of the Lord in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses also commanded the priests to minister in “the name” of the Lord (Dt. 18:5; 21:5). Joshua likewise called “the name” of God wonderful (Josh. 13:18). To fully know God’s “name” means that the person has put complete trust in all the Holy attributes of God to solve any problem or dilemma that the believer confronts: “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Ps. 9:9-10). God will also protect His name: “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath.” (Is. 48:9).
The divinity of Jesus Christ’s name. Throughout the New Testament, the divinity of Christ is confirmed by the names given to Him. In Greek, the name “Theos” means “God”. The name Theos is also used for Jesus (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Likewise, in Greek, the name “Kurios” means “Lord.” The term stresses authority or supremacy. Although the term can refer to Jesus as a rabbi (Matt. 8:6), it is used to refer to Him as God as well (John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11). The term “despotes” in Greek for “Master” is also used in reference to Jesus (Luke 2:29; 5:5; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4). Jesus “manifested [God’s] name to the men who [God] gave to [Jesus].” (Jo. 17:6). Jesus also prayed “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me.” (Jo. 17:11). Many other names stress Jesus’ divinity. He is the “Lord of All.” (Acts. 10:36). He is the King of Glory (1 Tim. 1:17). He is also the King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17). He is the creator (1 Pet. 4:19). He was also called “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He is the “firstborn,” which means preeminent one (Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5). He is the only begotten son (Jo. 1:18). He is the “highest.” (Lu. 1:76). He is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). He is also the gift of God (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “Word” of God that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). He is described as omnipresent (Matt. 28:20); omniscient (Jo. 16:30); omnipotent (Matt. 28:18); and as the holy one (Acts 2:27, 3:14). He is our “all in all” (Col. 3:11) and the “heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:2). He is the “ancient of days.” (Da. 7:9). He is also the author of our peace (1 Cor. 14:33). He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). He is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). He is the Radiance of God’s Glory (Heb. 1:3). He is potentate (the supreme power) (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8). He is the Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Harvest (Matt. 9:38). He is the Lord of Righteousness (Jer. 23:6). He is Love (1 Jo. 4:8). He is the Majesty on High (Heb. 1:3). He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is also the “beginning” and the “end.” (Rev. 21:6).
Salvation comes through Jesus Christ’s name. Belief in the name of Jesus Christ alone brings the salvation (Jo. 1:12). He is both the “anointed one” and “chosen one.” (Ps. 2:2; Is. 42:4). He is the “branch” (Jer. 33:15) and the “vine” (Jo. 15:5) leading to salvation. He is the “Christ.” (Matt. 16:16; 22:42; Lu. 2:11; 9:20). He is Jesus (Matt. 1:21). He is also Jesus Christ our Lord (Ro. 6:23). He is the “door” leading to salvation for those who believe in Him (Jo. 10:7). He is the “truth” (Jo. 14:6) and the “way” (Jo. 14:6). He is the “true light” (Jo. 1:9). He is the Light of the World (Jo. 8:12). He is the Arm of the Lord (Is. 53:1). He is the Bishop of Souls (1 Pet. 2:25). He is the King of Saints (Rev. 15:3). He is the Messenger of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1). He is the Messiah (Jo. 4:25). He is the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15). He is our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). He is the Price of Life (Acts 3:15). He is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He is our propitiation (1 Jo. 2:2; 4:10). He is the resurrection (Jo. 11:25). He is the rewarder (Heb. 11:6). He is the righteous one (1 Jo. 2:1). He is our rock (1 Cor. 10:4). He is our stone (1 Pet. 2:8). He is the Witness of God (Is. 55:4). The “sun” of righteousness (Mal. 4:2). He is our Temple (Rev. 21:22). He is the Ruler over Israel (Mi. 5:2). He is our Savior (Lu. 2:11). He is the blessed and Holy ruler (1 Tim. 6:16). He is the Captain of Salvation (Heb. 2:10). He is the “fuller’s soap” (Mal. 3:2)(kjv). He is the “desired of all nations” (Hag. 2:7). He is the “just one” (Acts 22:14). He is life (Jo. 14:6). He is the living stone (1 Pet. 2:4). He is the lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). He is the living water (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “true witness” (Rev. 3:14). He is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). He is both our “cornerstone” and “foundation” (Is. 28:16; 1 Cor. 3:11). He is both the bread of God and the bread of life (Jo. 6:33-35). He is the author of both our salvation and our faith (Heb. 5:9; 12:2). He is also our “deliverer” (Ro. 11:26). He is both the “elect one” (Is. 42:1) or “the one” (Ps. 144:2, 10). He is the “horn” or power behind our salvation (Lu. 1:69). He is the holy one of Israel (Is. 49:7). He is the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16). It is the name of Jesus that everyone will one day bow down to and confess as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
The compassion, humility, and humanity of Jesus Christ’s Names. The names given to Christ reveal that He is not only divine, He also humbled Himself so that we would know that He can relate to us in our earthly needs. His other names include: carpenter (Mark 6:3); avenger (1 Thess. 4:6); advocate (1 Jo. 2:1); intercessor (Ro. 8:26-27, 34; Heb. 7:25); counselor (Is. 9:6); mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); chief shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4); the good shepherd (Jo. 10:11); the great shepherd (Heb. 13:20); the high priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 6:20); friend (Matt. 11:19); faithful and true (Rev. 19:11); faithful witness and our hope (Tit. 2:13); commander (Is. 55:4); consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25); dayspring (Lk. 1:78); crown of beauty (Is. 28:5); “diadem of beauty” (Is. 28:5); King (Zech. 9:9); King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11); the “Lamb of God” (Jo. 1:29); the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45); leader (Is 55:4); man of sorrows (Is. 53:3); bridegroom (Is. 62:5); and husband (Is. 54:5; Jer. 31:32; Ho. 2:16). He was a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23). He is the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). He is our physician (Lk. 4:23). He is a prophet (Acts 3:22). He is the prophet of the Highest (Lk. 1:76). He is a Rabboni or teacher (Jo. 13:13; 20:16). He is the Root of David (Rev. 22:16). He is the Rose of Sharon (So. 2:1). He is the Son of David (Matt. 1:1). The Son of Man (Matt. 8:20). He is the Servant (Is. 42:1). He is the Star out of Jacob (Nu. 24:17). He is also the Seed (Gen. 3:15).
The power of attorney given to use Christ’s name. Believers are also commanded to gather in Jesus’ name (Matt. 18:20). We are to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). In the book of Acts, the early disciples also frequently referred to their service, worship, and suffering as being done in Jesus Christ’s “name.” (e.g, Acts 4:18; 5:28, 41; 10:43; 19:17). The name of Christ will, however, be a stumbling block to non-believers. Christ warns that those who bear His name will be hated (Matt. 10:22). Yet, for those believers who pray in faith, Jesus has given us the legal equivalent of a power of attorney to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Jo. 14:13-14). “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (Jo. 15:16). “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (Jo. 16:23). The name is so powerful that the archangel Michael was able to drive Satan away merely by rebuking him in Jesus’ name (Jude 1:9).
Prayer in Christ’s name while doubting or mindless repetition will not be answered. If you pray with doubt about the power of Christ’s name, your prayers are worthless and will not be answered: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:6-8). Likewise, mindlessly invoking Jesus’ name in prayer will be meaningless to God (Matt. 6:7).
Prayer in Christ’s name without knowing His will also will not be answered. Jesus also said ‘“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:21-23). If we pray in Christ’s name, but our conduct or beliefs do not conform with God’s will, our prayers also will not be answered when we use His name.
A broken wedding vow or other promise profanes God’s name. Both our words and our conduct can take the Lord’s name in vain. When we enter a Holy covenant like marriage we are to make a vow using God’s Holy name: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” (Dt. 6:13). Yet, Jesus warns us that the consequences of a broken vow to God are so serious that we should not in many cases make them at all (Matt. 5:33-37). God, for example, warns us not to break a Holy wedding covenant. When we do so, we take the Lord’s name in vain. Thus, we are warned not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12).
Stealing profanes God’s name. When we steal, we not only break the Commandment against theft, we also take the Lord’s name in vain: “Two things I asked of You . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9).
Abortion profanes God’s holy name. Many persons in Canaan in Old Testament times sacrificed their children to a local god named “Molech” out of the false belief that they would have a better life and more children in the future. But God warned that this profaned His holy name: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.” (Lev. 18:21). Today, people sacrifice their unborn children out of the belief that they too will have a better life without that child. Can we really say that this is any less detestable in God’s eyes?
Showing favoritism to the rich and powerful blasphemes God’s name. For those who show favoritism in favor of the rich against the poor, James warns: “Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (Jam 2:7). Are you judging people by their outward success?
Failing to tithe profanes God’s name When we fail to tithe, we also profane God’s holy name: “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says the Lord. ‘But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.” (Mal. 1:11-14). Have you withheld any monies owed to God?
Other sinful conduct profanes God’s Holy Name. Isaiah warned about those ‘“Who swear by the name of the Lord . . . and call upon His name, But not in truth nor in righteousness.’” (Is. 48:1-2). Paul says that we are “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). This means that we represent Him through both our words and our deeds. If we engage in sin, we cast both His name and what it means to be a Christian in an unholy light. Is there any conduct of yours that does not reflect fairly upon Christ?
For the unsaved, profaning God’s name is punishable by death. For the unsaved, the penalty for profaning God’s name was not a quick and painless death. It was death by stoning: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16(a)). Before we casually dismiss this as an Old Testament penalty that only applied to the Jews, God makes clear that it applied to non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16(b)) “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Deut. 5:11). In many translations, the word “unpunished” is also translated as guiltless. An unsaved person who curses in God’s name also has a death penalty.
Profaning God’s name can also bring curses. The punishment for profaning God’s name also is not limited to events that happen after we die. For either the saved or unsaved person, there are consequences to profaning God’s name while we are still on earth: “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic illnesses. He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you until you are destroyed. Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God.” (Dt. 28:58-62).
Profaning the name Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven Although Jesus will pardon a non-believer who repents of his or her sins, the sin of profaning the name of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. Jesus warned that: “blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” (Matt. 12:31-32). To understand this, we must understand what the Holy Spirit does. He testifies of Christ (Jo. 14:26). A believer blasphemes the Holy Spirit when the believer rejects the Spirit’s testimony and disavows what Christ did on the cross: “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29). In other words, any sin can be forgiven with faith in Christ’s blood. Yet, if a believer consciously disavows the power of Christ’s blood, that (former) believer’s sins will not be forgiven. This profanes God’s Holy name and the power behind Jesus’ miracles.
When Satan afflicted Job, his wife at one point advised him: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Satan was at this point speaking through Job’s wife. While we might understand the word “die” at the end of this to be a mere flippant expression, Satan knew that Job would have suffered an eternal death if not a physical death if he had cursed God. When we are angry, depressed, or consumed by our flesh, Satan always tries to have us use the Lord’s name flippantly or without good purpose. Satan’s goal is to have us insult and reject each and every aspect of His Holy character as identified by the many names listed above. If someone says “Jesus C _ _ _ _ !” as a swear word, that person is treating with contempt the name that holds the power of creation over a trivial daily dilemma. We say these names when we are angry or consumed with ourselves. Do you have control over your flesh? Do you stop and pray when you are angry? Or, does Satan allow you to profane the Lord’s Holy name by your words or your conduct?
Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). Yet, He made clear that you should want to follow the Ten Commandments if you love Him (Jo. 14:15; 15:10). Paul said that through the study of the Law our sins are revealed to us (Ro. 3:20). Is there any area of your life where you need to repent? Have you used the Lord’s name when you were angry? Are you praying in “Jesus’ Holy Name?” Are you giving thanks for God’s Holy name? Do you actually use any of God’s proper names in prayer? Is your conduct profaning God in any way? Are you praying for your nation to repent?
Elohim, however, is also used when referencing pagan gods: “You shall have no other gods [Elohim] before Me.” (Dt. 5:7).↩︎