For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, said Isaac Newton in his third law of motion. When air is compressed by the fans in a jet engine, mixed with jet fuel, and then ignited, it blasts with explosive thrust out the back of the engine. In reaction, the plane is powerfully thrust forward. Graphically, thrust in the “negative” direction produces “positive” movement. Where there is a negative statement, there are also positive implications. This is true with the Ten Commandments. Let’s take the Third Commandment as an example. “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” (Exodus 20:7). You can translate it, “The LORD will not acquit him who takes his name in vain.”
On one hand, the commandment is negative. It condemns unclean speech. Profane speech curses or damns creatures bearing God’s image. But this is God’s privilege alone. Vulgarity refers to sex and to bodily functions in normal conversation. God reserves sexual intimacy for marriage and marriage is God’s means to picture His particular love for His church. Blaspheme uses God’s name with cursing and vulgar diatribes. Blaspheme uses God’s name as though it is worthless. This means blasphemers look upon God himself as worthless. God’s Name and God’s person are connected just as your name and your person are inseparable. When your mother or your wife calls your name, she is calling you. The profane and vulgar use of God’s Name is blaspheming God.
Those who practice profanity, vulgarity, and blaspheme show their character. They are God opposers and God haters. And as Paul says, “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). This is another way of saying, “The LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Literally, that is, there is no acquittal for those who, as practicing blasphemers, consider God’s Name and God Himself to be worthless.
All of this includes Jesus Christ and the names ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ.’ Paul speaks of “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). And speaking of Jesus Christ, Hebrews 1:8 declares, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” There is no acquittal for those blaspheming the Savior with the profane and vulgar use of the names ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ.’
What about the positive side of the Third Commandment? God’s name is not at all worthless; it is of enormous value. Joel 2:32 declares, “It will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered.” Peter applies the words of Joel to Jesus Christ, saying, “And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Then Peter points to Savior proclaiming, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The psalmist, who hears and loves God’s word, confidently cries to God, “Acquit me of hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12), using the words of the Third Commandment. The ESV says, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” This prayer is the language of justification. When you call upon the name of the Lord and trust in Christ as the only adequate sacrifice for your sins, God declares you free from guilt. You shall trust in the name of the Lord your God; He will declare you innocent and acquit you. This is the positive side of the Third Commandment.