Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Third Commandment: God's Judgment on Biblical Scepticism

"Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain." [ASV]
- Exodus 20:7

One of the blessings I receive from the Westminster Standards, the traditional doctrinal standards of all Presbyterians, is that they force me often to look at Scripture in ways that I hadn't considered. I had such an experience this morning.

In my church, we read one question from the Shorter Catechism each Lord's Day as part of our worship. Today, it was Question 54: "What is required in the third commandment? The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works." It is the inclusion of the Word, the Scriptures, the Bible, that I hadn't considered before as under this commandment. The Larger Catechism expands this statement, as is its wont. Regarding the Word, Question 113 condemns "misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the word, or any part of it, to profane jests, curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines."

Disrespect of the Bible is rampant today. It goes without saying that a professing unbeliever would refuse the authority of God's Word. But what of the sceptical minister or theology professor? The IIIrd Commandment condemns them. And rank heretics, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Papists, prosperity preachers, etc? The IIIrd Commandment expresses divine judgment on them.

Why is that? Because God claims His Word as His own. The obvious reference is II Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God..." Also, verses such as Hebrews 3:7, that introduces a quote from Psalm 95 with "as the Holy Spirit says..." And most importantly, to my mind, in Revelation 1:16, speaking of King Jesus, describes "from His mouth came a two-edged sword" (confer Hebrews 4:12). To impugn the Scriptures is not an alternative Christian doctrine; it is an attack on the revelation of the trinitarian God Himself, and opposition to the very assertion of Christ's authority. That is why the Catechisms place it under the condemnation of the IIIrd Commandment as a false profession of deity.

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