Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exo 20:7)
The third commandment is not a prohibition against cursing. To take the name of the Lord is to declare that one is committed to serving the Lord God. Today, this is done by making an affirmation the one is a Christian. It means that one has not blasphemed the power of the Holy Ghost who reveals Christ unto men, but has instead fallen at the feet of the Son of God. This is the Christ who has redeemed man by His blood, and this message of salvation is made known to men by the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Spirit. We take on the name of the Lord when we identify ourselves as His. Afterwards, a person is guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain when his actions run counter to God’s commands and instructions, or when his speech is against the word of God.
The early church became notable for large numbers taking the name of the Lord in vain, and God did not hold them guiltless. Many were using the communion as an opportunity to engage in public exhibitions of drunken and glutinous behavior. For that cause, God allowed them to become feeble, and infirm, and even for some to die (1Cor 11:30). Unfortunately, examples are not so hard to come by as to require going that far back into the Church’s past.
In the early nineteen eighties, I heard a preacher on the radio who challenged his audience to examine the Bible not as a text of dry history, but to put flesh and blood on it. The preacher was phenomenally talented and he made listening to the book of Ezekiel over the radio absolute theater. I’m sure now he wasn’t the first to be able to do that, but he was the first I’d heard do it.
One thing you were immediately impressed with about that preacher was he had faith; the kind of faith anyone in the Church would want. It was strong, firm, certain, and unwavering. The following Sunday, I found myself setting on gymnasium bleachers in a church building in Glendale, California, where this man preached. He could mix raw meat with gun powder to deliver a charge that would send you into the next week with the power to stand toe to toe with death and stare it in the eye until it backed down. I attended Faith Center for a few years being taught by Dr. Gene Scott until one day, he waivered.
Dr. Scott had a television ministry that spanned the globe. He was one of the first preachers to make the switch from local television stations to satellite broadcasting. He broadcasted twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and was so famous that satellite dish installers programmed equipment by using his broadcast as an index point from which to locate all the other satellites in the sky. He was a public exhibition. Then he did it. On the day that it happened his words were going out to the entire world; even on short wave radio. It must have at first appeared to be a small statement. In fact, for a man who was in front of a television camera and live microphone as often as he was, it might have been easy for some to dismiss it as an off-hand remark. It was not.
I was standing when I heard it, and then I had to sit down. Dr. Scott said that he didn’t have a problem if God had created man by using the process of evolution. It was over. A paragon of faith, an extremely talented man, a loud voice for the Lord; had called God a liar. I left the church. It seems that it wasn’t long after that Scott’s programming began to consist mostly of scantily clad women and prancing horses (he owned several, of the horses). Certainly, evil communications corrupt good manners (1Cor 15:33). To an onlooker, it might have appeared that Dr. Scott was sinking into dissolution. He had taken the Lord’s name in vain, and God did not hold him guiltless, but he was merciful.
Some years later, Dr. Scott was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He admitted publically that it was his cancer that forced him to go back to the book, to the Bible. While he was in that book, God must have revealed to him what he had done. Dr. Scott not only repented, he recanted. In a series where he preached from the book of Romans, in top form; God enabled Dr. Scott to spend several weeks demolishing any idea other than the one that Darwinian evolution was pure, godless heresy. He had wasted so many years, and was having the rest cut short, but God was merciful and had allowed him his finest moment. Still, it appears that Dr. Scott’s name is to be associated with heresy until Jesus comes. After he passed away, his wife took his pulpit and claimed his title as Pastor Scott. Mrs. Scott also claims to be a natural linguist and to be familiar with twenty languages, yet cannot find, either in Greek or English, the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to Timothy. What is left of Dr. Scott’s ministry survives today as a sorry edifice to a man who had so much potential, but took the Lord’s name in vain.