Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Keeping God's Name Holy
Hallowed be thy name.
Today we look at Question 112 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What is required in the Third Commandment?” It gives the answer, “The Third Commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.” Last week we considered the Third Commandment in general. This week we begin to consider what it requires us to do.
All but two of the Ten Commandments are given to us in the form of prohibitions. That is to say, they tell us what not to do. Consequently, the Third Commandment tells us that we must not take God’s name in vain. However, in order to not take God’s name in vain, we must be careful to always hallow God’s name. Accordingly, Jesus taught us in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer to ask that God’s name be hallowed. In giving us this prayer as a model for us to imitate, Christ teaches us that we are to actively seek this hallowing of God’s name. Here, God’s name refers to His reputation. English, like Hebrew, has this same connotation of a person’s name. Thus, we speak of a person having a good name, or we hear people complain that someone else’s actions have given them a bad name, or that their name has been dragged through the mud, etc.
All human beings, being created in the image of God, bear witness to God in all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Because we are God’s image-bearers, we cannot help but reflect upon Him in all that we do. Therefore, our lives will either bring honor or dishonor to God’s name, for His name is upon us by virtue of our being made in His image and likeness. Moreover, as Christians, God has, in a special way, placed His name upon us. The Bible declares that believers, in the Old Testament and in the New, are alone those who are “called by My name,” (2 Chr. 7:14; Acts 15:17). The titles given to us as God’s people manifest this reality of God having placed His name upon us. Thus, we alone out of all human beings are called Christ-ians, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ (the bride takes the name of her husband), the children of God, His heirs, His vineyard, His possession, His nation, His church, etc. So we see that it cannot be enough simply to not take God’s name in vain in order to rightly keep this command. As those who uniquely bear God’s name, we must do more than avoid the bad behavior that would dishonor it, we must positively, actively do the good things that honor God’s name.
The Catechism teaches us how to do it. Whenever we think of, speak, or write about God or anything that has to do with God, we must do so in a reverent and respectful manner. Thus, there can be no place for any attitude or demeanor that is irreverent, flippant, trite, or indifferent. We must consider God, and everything that reflects upon God, as sacred, for God must be set aside in our hearts as holy. This is what the apostle means when he commands us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,” (1 Pet. 3:15). When I am sanctifying God in my heart, I am conceiving of Him as holy. He is set apart in my heart above and beyond all other things. Thus, whenever we are considering God, we should think of Him in the way we would think about a precious vase that we have been entrusted to carry through a house to its honored place: careful to not be distracted by anything else, focused on maintaining the integrity of the vase until we safely put it down. Sanctifying God in our hearts is the exact opposite of taking God’s name in vain. The Hebrew word “vain” means emptiness, nothingness. To take God’s name in vain is to speak or think of God the way you would a pencil or a paper cup; that God is really nothing at all to be concerned about. He is common, ordinary, without any significant or unique value. Conversely, those who honor or hallow God’s name hold Him to be the greatest being, the most important thing, and their thoughts, words, and actions, when dealing with God, will reflect that attitude. May God grant that you and I grow in our not taking His name in vain, by our always and everywhere thinking and speaking of His being and His acts as holy!