The Third Commandment
The Third Commandment establishes the path of perfect justice in the Kingdom. It is the foundational law that governs the entire system of justice. Deuteronomy 5:11 says,
11 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain [profanely].
Christians today have applied this verse mainly to cursing, swearing while using His name or some form of it. Certainly, that is an uncouth part of Western language and culture. However, that is not the main force behind the commandment. Neither does this command directly address vulgarity or obscene language, as many have defined “swearing.”
This law is really the key to the success of the entire judicial system for any nation that implements the laws of the Kingdom. It shows us God’s way of obtaining justice, not just for a few, not just for part of the time, but in every dispute that may ever be filed in a court of law.
Astounding claim? Unbelievable? Let us see how it works.
The Root Meaning of Profanity
Our English word profane comes from the Latin pro, “before,” and fanum, “temple.” It implies doing something “before (outside) the temple.” That is, it indicates some word or deed done outside of God's character as depicted by temples. Most curses are done outside of God's character and mind and are therefore profane. However, some curses are done according to the mind of God.
We see this in Genesis 3, where God cursed the serpent in verse 14 and also the ground in verse 17. We see this in Deut. 28:15 in regard to the “curses” of the law upon the disobedient. We also see Noah's curse upon Canaan in Genesis 9:25-27.
The Third Commandment prohibits the invocation of God's name for a dishonest or unlawful purpose that is contrary or hostile to God and His will. We are made in the image of God, and as such our words have a basic level of authority that we do not often understand or even believe.
It is my personal view that such ungodly curses actually create evil spirits, empowered according to the weight of spiritual intent. If these are not broken and nullified, they continue to affect the world indefinitely, moving from person to person and from generation to generation. Because few people understand these things well enough to deal with them, the problem has become progressively worse over the centuries.
Oaths in a Court of Law
All oaths in a biblical court of law invoke the name of God as witness to the truth of some testimony. This means that all testimony in God’s courtroom is required to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth “so help me God.” Conversely, if anyone gives misleading, incomplete, or false testimony, the testifier can be prosecuted for blasphemy for saying, in essence, that “God bears witness to my lie.”
Hebrews 6:16 says, “an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.” What does this mean? It means that in any dispute or controversy between two parties, where they cannot find agreement, they may go to court and take an oath saying that the testimony given is absolute truth. This ends the dispute.
For example, in Numbers 5:11-31 we see that if a man is “jealous” because he is convinced that his wife has had an affair with another man—and yet he has no real proof—he may take her to the Divine Court. He was to bring her to the priest, and if she persisted in her claim of innocence, she was to swear an oath in the name of God that she was innocent (Num. 5:19).
In other words, he could take her to the Divine Court and set forth his accusation (suspicion). She denies his allegations. The priest then administers an oath wherein she swears to her innocence by invoking the name of God. Having done this, the oath ends the dispute, because it is put into the hands of God Himself.
In effect, this provided easy public access to the Supreme Court at no cost. The husband was required to leave it in God's hands, allowing God to prove her guilt or innocence. In this case, Num. 5:27 says that if she were actually guilty, God would make the woman barren.
This law was greatly misunderstood and misapplied during the Middle Ages in their practice of “Trial by Ordeal.”
“In medieval Europe, like trial by combat, trial by ordeal was considered a judicium Dei: a procedure based on the premise that God would help the innocent by performing a miracle on their behalf.”
For example, they might tie a rock to the woman and throw her into the river, believing that if she were innocent, God would cause her to float and thus save her. In other cases, they would burn people at the stake, believing that if the accused were innocent, God would intervene and save them.
The medieval Trial by Ordeal presumed guilt unless God intervened, whereas in biblical justice the suspects were presumed innocent unless God intervened.
The point is that an oath in the biblical court of law ended the dispute. The jealous husband was to leave it in God's hands and refrain from further accusations against his wife. And if, in fact, she had taken God's name in vain, God would judge her accordingly, not by the death penalty, as some have assumed, but by making her barren.
Obtaining Justice All of the Time
The limitations of justice are quite obvious in any earthly court of law. No nation has ever devised a system whereby justice is done in every case. No matter how good the system is, there are always innocent men being condemned and guilty men being found innocent.
While it is true that good judges and good laws will reduce the amount of injustice in a court room, there is the larger problem of evidence and the reliability of those who testify, along with the lack of evidence caused by those who refuse to testify. The Bible provides the way to circumvent all of those problems and to institute justice in every case among men. The basic principle that is foundational to full justice is this:
Whenever true justice is not possible in an earthly court, or where justice is perverted either by evil design or by lack of evidence, men have the right to appeal to the heavenly court.
In other words the earthly courts are not the highest courts of the land. But when nations reject God, they deny that such a heavenly court exists and begin to undermine all testimony in their own earthly courts. How can an earthly court demand an oath using a Bible and the words “so help me God,” if the government does not recognize God’s sovereignty over the nation?
Yet oaths have been treated for so long as mere promises that most people no longer understand the difference. An oath recognizes the existence of God and links the truth of one’s verbal testimony to the character of light and truth found in the God being invoked. Hence, to lie under oath is to attribute that lie to the God that the testifier has invoked.
The court system, being a governmental function, recognizes God as sovereign according to the First Commandment. The seriousness of perjury, then, is not simply based on its effect upon men on earth, but upon the profanation of God’s name. For this reason, all perjury is a sin against God as well as men.
All court testimony is given under oath, as the Third Commandment indicates. While this tends to make people more careful to give truthful testimony, truth is never ensured. There will always be some who do not truly believe that there is a God who really cares whether or not testimony under oath is true. There will always be some who think that God does not exist, and others who believe that God does not involve Himself in the mundane affairs of men on earth.
If such people do not tell the truth, it is the job of the earthly judges to discern this. Yet judges are also limited in their ability to determine truth from lies. They can only render judgment according to evidence and testimony that is available to them. Thus, the justice they dispense may possibly be unjust, regardless of their own integrity and competence. For this reason, the judge must acknowledge his own limitations by appealing to God for justice at the end of each court case. The judge must pray and give all testimony into the hands of God for review and for final judgment.
Hence, even if the earthly judge makes a mistake, or if justice has been curtailed on account of false testimony or lack of evidence, the worst that can happen is that justice is delayed. Justice awaits divine action, but justice will be done. This may take place during the guilty party’s life time, or it may happen at the Great White Throne. But justice will be done before the case is fully closed.
This requires faith in God. Those who do not have such faith are those who will be dissatisfied with God’s judicial system. They think that “God helps those who help themselves.” They are the ones who think that God is incapable or unwilling to do justice, and so they will often seek to take justice into their own hands. They think God can do nothing on earth except through the hand of man, and so they assume the role of the hand of God.
Accessing the Supreme Court Today
A big question that arises is how to live in a secular nation or one that does not observe biblical law in its system of justice. What if a person today is convicted unjustly? What if a person cannot obtain justice because of insufficient evidence? What if the judge was perverted or coerced into rendering an unjust verdict? What can a person do in today’s world to obtain justice?
In fact, most cases are too “small” to reach a court of law. Men are maligned unjustly all the time in daily life. Theft takes place all the time without justice being done. Most of us simply absorb the cost and edit our friends list.
No case is too small to escape God’s interest. Every person can access the Supreme Court of God, for Hebrews 4:16 says,
16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
In other words, we all have access to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is a legal term. In any dispute, a judge must give grace to the one and condemn the other. This simply means that the judge rules in the favor of one and against the other. Grace means “favor,” or a favorable ruling in the dispute. Hence, Hebrews 4:16 is telling us that we have the right to access the throne of grace as we seek a favorable ruling from God.
Yet this is not the whole story. We do need to exercise some caution. First, we must be absolutely sure that we are in the right, because to go before the Supreme Court of heaven means that we are automatically under oath in all that we say and do. In many cases, there is some fault on both sides. The primary perpetrator of injustice will always be condemned in God’s court, but God will also judge both parties in the dispute.
In other words, if I am robbed and get no satisfaction in an earthly court, I can appeal my case to the Supreme Court. But God will also look at my own life and see where I have robbed others and have gotten away with it. In essence, if I testify against another man for robbing me, God will treat me equally by the same standard of measure.
I learned about the existence of the Supreme Court many years ago, but it was not until I made my first appeal that I came to see that God judged me first, and only later did He judge the ones who had harmed me by their false testimony. I then understood the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-3,
1 Do not judge, lest you be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
There is an advantage and a seeming disadvantage in appealing to the divine law in the Supreme Court. The advantage is that true justice will always be done. The disadvantage is that true justice will be done in my own case as well. We will obtain mercy insofar as we are able to give mercy. Matt. 5:7 says,
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
In that we all require mercy, is our access to the Supreme Court really open only to saints? No. God does not open the door to the Supreme Court only to put a lion at the door that eats sinners who try to obtain justice.
The answer is the same as in any other situation. Be led by the Spirit. God may say, “Let it go,” or He may tell you to proceed to the Supreme Court. Either way, you will learn righteousness. You may find that filing a case against one who has sinned against you may be the means by which God puts His finger upon some of your own faults. God’s judgment will benefit you in the end, even if it leads you into a temporary period of judgment.
It is important to obtain the mind of Christ, rising above one’s own personal interest and looking at the big picture that includes justice for the one you believe has wronged you. We do not know how God is working with the other party, for we focus too narrowly upon our own interests. We must realize that God is interested not only in justice, but He is also interested in the salvation of all men—not just the good guys.
In other words, if we see all men through Christ’s eyes, we will bring judgment, not to destroy but to correct and do good. True judgment is not mere destruction, but is designed to correct all sinners in the end. It may impose the death penalty as a short-term penalty, but even the most severe judgment of the law is designed to cause every knee to bow and to cause every tongue to confess Him as Lord—not by threat but by the force of love.
If we enjoy such a perspective, then this becomes a factor in our decision to appeal any case to the Supreme Court. Our motivation, then, is no longer based upon the injustice, loss, or harm that others have done to us, but upon the love of God that seeks to turn the hearts of all men back to the heart of the Father.
Hence, it comes down to love taking priority over justice when it comes to seeking personal justice. Of course, it is love to seek justice for all others who are oppressed. Jesus constantly sought to establish the rights of the downtrodden. But He did not defend Himself when accused of blasphemy.
The bottom line is that in seeking access to the Supreme Court of heaven, we should not be too quick to engage in such litigation. We should use that Court carefully and sparingly and only then by the direct word of the Lord. Only in this way can we be assured that if the law judges us (to cleanse our own hearts), we will be led through it by the Holy Spirit without being crushed.
Know that the throne of grace is a fiery throne (Daniel 7:9). Going into God’s courtroom is a fiery ordeal involving the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2). God does not deny us access to His throne, but when we access it, sin will burn, and the fire will cleanse us. Those who are unwilling to be cleansed by this fire should limit their access to the throne of grace. Appeals for mercy are always safe. Appeals that go beyond mercy should be done only by consultation with your Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
Public Adjuration to Testify
Under biblical law and in every case, the judge has the right to appeal to the public for evidence. In fact, it is more than an appeal or request. Leviticus 5:1 calls it “a public adjuration.”
1 Now if a person sins, after he hears a public adjuration [oath] to testify, when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it [what he has seen or heard], then he will bear his guilt.
A public adjuration is a judicial act in which the public is sworn in as a collective witness in a case. It means that they must testify the whole truth if any individual knows anything relevant to that case. The court does not need to know if there are any people who know anything relevant. If a witness refuses to come forward and testify, then God will hold him liable as if he had lied in court.
Hence, the law dealing with false witnesses in Deut. 19:19 would apply: “then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother,” that is, to the victim. In other words, if a man conceals evidence, he would be liable to receive a penalty equal to that which was imposed upon the innocent—or what would have been imposed upon the guilty party, if there had been sufficient testimony to convict him.
There was another situation that arose in Luke 19:37-40, which is related to this law of public adjuration to testify:
37 And as He was now approaching near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 And He answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Why would the stones cry out? It appears that God had ordained a silent, but very real, public adjuration to testify what the people had seen and heard. The multitude burst into praise “for all the miracles which they had seen.” And if they had not testified in this manner, the very stones would have been compelled to cry out and give testimony to what they had witnessed. Why? Because God had issued a public adjuration to testify that He is King.
In the end, this law of public adjuration will be administered at the time of the Great White Throne, when all are adjured to appear before the Throne and testify what they know as truth. At the Great White Throne all will be called to testify in the heavenly Court. Leviticus 19:32 says,
32 You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
When God sits to judge the earth in Daniel 7:9, the prophet sees him as an old man with gray or white hair, as it is written of the Ancient of Days, saying, “the hair of his head was like pure wool.”
When He adjures all mankind to stand before His throne and give testimony, all will rise from the dead and speak what they know. So we see that this law in Leviticus 19:32 requires all men to rise from the dead at the presence of the Ancient of Days. The law of public adjuration will require them to gather at the Great White Throne to declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
At that time, Paul tells us in Phil. 2:10, 11,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Hence, the law of public adjuration in Leviticus 5:1 prophesies of that great day when all lies will be swept away, every heart will be laid bare, every hidden motive will be uncovered, and the truth will be revealed to the glory of God the Father.
When Jesus was Adjured
By this law of public adjuration, the high priest adjured Jesus to testify at His trial, when He remained silent. Matt. 26:63 says,
59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; 60 and they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward…. 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ the son of God.”
Jesus was silent until the high priest invoked this law. Then He spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth:
64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest took this as blasphemy, and instead of ending the dispute, it brought about His condemnation. Under biblical law, Jesus should have been released into the hands of God, where He would be judged directly by heaven if He were guilty. But instead, the unbelieving high priest took it upon himself to label His testimony as blasphemy. Verse 65 says,
65 Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
The high priest should have known that Jesus’ testimony under oath would end all disputes and that His guilt or innocence would be determined by the God of heaven. After all, it was the name of God that was invoked. Jesus’ testimony was only blasphemous if it were untrue, but the priests had already decided the case among themselves. The trial was only a show to make themselves appear to be righteous.
Yet this is a good example where Jesus, the unspotted Lamb of God, followed the law perfectly. He had been adjured to speak the whole truth, and He did so, because the law demanded it. There were no credible witnesses to undermine His testimony, so there was no reason that He should have been put to death on the charge of blasphemy.
If the priests had truly believed that God would judge Him for blasphemy, they should have set Him free and allow God to pass judgment. The irony is that these priests did not truly believe that God intervened in that way—or if they did believe it, they thought that God might rule in Jesus’ favor. Hence, they decided to preempt God’s judgment and carry out the death sentence.
The Third Commandment depends totally upon the First Commandment, which recognizes the sovereignty of God over the nation. But the Third Commandment gives the First a more practical application. One might say that the Third Commandment reveals the hypocrisy in the hearts of those who give only lip service to the First Commandment.
We who truly believe in the sovereignty of God understand that God is concerned with daily life on earth. He acts as the Supreme Court Justice when there is insufficient evidence to convict anyone in a court of law on earth.
In fact, the Third Commandment assures everyone in the Kingdom of God that justice is always obtainable in God’s court of law. If justice cannot be obtained in an earthly court, one may appeal to a higher court where all things are known and judged with the perfect balance of justice and mercy.