I help teach the high school Sunday school class at NLPC, and we’re teaching through the Westminster Shorter Catechism. My lot fell on questions 53 and 54, asking about the third commandment in the Decalogue: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Okay, so we should avoid profanities, right? Yeah. But that’s a small part. The drafters of the catechism understood that the name of God has reference to God’s whole being; it stands for the sum total of his character. When the Bible speaks of God’s name, it is often speaking of God himself. Thus the answer to the question What is required in the third commandment? is the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
Expounding on that would require a blog entry, but not this one. In fact, my introduction has already been stretched. I merely want to point out another understanding of what it means to take God’s name, in addition to the natural understanding that it means any time we talk about (or to), hear about, or think about God, his rules, his deeds, or his names and titles. It means we identify ourselves with him.
In our western culture (as a perhaps vestigial practice), when a woman marries a man, she generally takes his name. In doing so, she is professing publicly that she belongs to him and he belongs to her; that they are partnering and becoming one, and that from that point on, they will face life together. She is identifying herself with him. So much so, that it is even perfectly acceptable to refer to her as, for example, Mrs. Jon Doe.
When we choose to follow the true and living God in Christ, we choose to associate ourselves with him in an inextricable way. We are even called “Christians,” or little Christs. When we choose God, we take his name, as it were. We are now known as God’s people. This shouldn’t be done in vain! After taking God’s name, we are told to count the cost, to make our calling sure, to fight the good fight, to endure to the end. Those who do not endure will not be saved. It’s a facet of taking God’s name I had never thought of before.