This Lord’s Day I am preaching a sermon on Exodus 20:7 – the third commandment. Quick… what is it?

“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.”

As I was studying for and writing this sermon it was fascinating to unpack all that this seemingly short commandment tells us as children of God. One of the areas that I was most fascinated with was how this commandment speaks of our salvation. How in the heck can “not taking the Lord’s name in vain” lead to talking about our salvation?

Blasphemy is the direct or the indirect detracting from the glory and honor of God. Doing anything to take away from the glory and the honor that is due the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) alone is blasphemous.

There are many preachers today who are telling believers that they can lose their election and their salvation if they are not righteous enough, if they are not faithful enough. When Christ comes again, in that final judgment these teachers say that when you are standing before God the Judge he will look at your obedience and render a verdict based on what you have done. To put it another way some would have us believe that God’s favor and acceptance of us ultimately depends on our obedience. This has taken root in many churches across the world (unfortunately) under the heading of “Federal Vision Theology.” It is amazing that the Reformed Confessions (both the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity) speak so clearly against this errant theology, but yet somehow they are tolerated even in so-called Reformed churches.

Teaching such as this takes away from the finished and completed work of Christ! Christ’s active obedience is our obedience and righteousness before God. Anybody that teaches or believes otherwise is diminishing the finished work of Christ and making our acceptance before God based, at least partly on our own work. Put simply, this is blasphemy!

Maybe you think that this is too strong. Really? Blasphemy? If you think that then listen to what The Belgic Confession says in article 22:

We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery [what Christ has done for us] the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. (Not even looking at ourselves.)

For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. (Its one or the other. Either completely not in Christ, or entirely in Christ)

Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior.

This is serious! “A most enormous blasphemy against God.” If this is misusing the name of God, then what does the commandment say? “… And the Lord will not hold him guiltless.” This blasphemy means that you will stand before God still clothed in your own filthy rags trying to impress him. God is not going to look on these blasphemers and see the perfect righteousness of Christ, but their own pitiful merits which the Heidelberg Catechism says in Q&A 114 “even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.” The name of God and of his Christ is the basis of our salvation. Looking to anything or anybody else means that we are misusing the Name of God and breaking the Third Commandment.

I hope and pray that if you believe in teaching such as this that you will seriously consider the ramifications of holding that position. The Federal Vision is not just a benign, innocent interpretation of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions and the only difference is just a misunderstanding. This theology is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, and one of the commandments that speaks of God’s just punishment for those who break it – “you will not be held guiltless.” Not quite the position that one wants to be in when they are standing before God. I am thankful everyday that I am standing before God guiltless, not because of anything I have done, but because I have been clothed in the pure garments of Christ and that he is my righteousness before God.

I once heard that if you continue on in your schooling and education from your Bachelor’s degree to your Masters all the way up to your Doctorate that you know more and more about less and less. In a way that it is very true because your interests are becoming more and more specialized. Part of that specialization is understanding the vocabulary of your field. You don’t pick up everything overnight, but it takes time, patience, and most of all study.

The same thing is true when it comes to Christianity. There is a very special vocabulary that Christians use to explain the truth of the Gospel and the truths contained in the Word of God. One of those words is “justification.” In the June 28 broadcast of the White Horse Inn (to listen to the June 28 broadcast click here) the hosts talk about this very subject/word as being the “heart of Christianity.” The producer even went around at the National Religious Broadcasters Association convention and asked people if they had heard of “justification” and if so what does it mean. There were a few people that got decent answers, but many, many others who fell flat on their face.

But is this really that big of a deal? YES!! There is a reason why we as Protestants are not part of the Roman Catholic church. The Reformed (and Lutherans) in the 1500s rediscoverd key Biblical truths that got to the very heart of what it meant to be a Christian, that is, how to be in a right standing with God. One of the key doctrines that they expounded on was justification. Every Evangelical church is a product of the Reformation, and therefore, this is their heritage, this is their vocabulary, but yet their churches are not doing their job.

So what is justification? Many people might be familiar with the phrase “just as if I never sinned” as being the definition of justification. However, this is only half of what it entails!! There is a very important idea that must come next in order to properly think about justificaton and how we are right before God. That part is the imputation (clothing/crediting) of Christ’s righteousness to us. God demands perfect obedience to his law, and we cannot fulfill those requirements, but Christ has for us!

A few months ago I was teaching this subject at my church and I gave this illustration which seemed to help bring out the concept in different terms. Imagine you wanted to buy a house that was $500,000. However, your bank account reads -$500,000. There is no way that you can buy a house with half a million dollars overdrawn in your account. But what if that debt was forgiven completely and your bank account read $0? You are no longer in debt, but you still wouldn’t be able to buy a house with absolutely no money. This is the “just as if I had never sinned” part of justification. Our debt to God, in the form of punishment of sins, has been completely paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. Back to the analogy… In order to buy that house you need to have the cash. What if, then, somebody gave you another $500,000 to bring your bank account up to a positive $500,000. You could then go and buy that house because your account was given the proper funds. This is where the second part of justification comes, in order to be in a right standing before God, one needs to not only have their sins forgiven, but they also need to be completely righteous and to have kept all of God’s laws perfectly. In Christ we can say that about us because his perfect righteousness is given to us as well! We are clothed (imputed) with his perfect and righteous garments.

Many people who think of only the first half of justification believe that once their sins are forgiven that it is up to them to do the rest of what God requires… to “trust and obey” in order to then gain that right standing before God. Sure we are to “trust and obey” but that is part of our sanctification not our justification (which will be another big and important word to discuss later).

In that White Horse Inn show, the producer asked the people whether or not their churches should actually teach them these important words. I believe that almost all of them said “Yes” they should and that they were not being taught that at their church right now. If this characterizes your church, then think about becoming part of our Bible study which, Lord willing, will lead to a church that will preach the whole counsel of God and the wonderful truths of Scripture concerning our redemption. You can contact us at gigharborreformed*at*gmail.com. If you have any questions then post a comment and we will discuss!