Do You Swear?

During the Lord Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, He defined God’s standards for a righteous life. He cited common understandings for principled living and then raised the bar. Among these principles, He declared swearing (i.e., oath taking) off-limits.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’

But I say to you, do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:33-37 English Standard Version (ESV)

Specifically, Christ prohibits using God’s name (or euphemisms for it) to bolster our sincerity in what we promise or declare to others and to God.

John Calvin comments:

You shall not swear falsely… The man who perjures himself is not the only person who takes the name of God in vain, (Exodus 20:7). He does so, who idly and contemptuously pronounces the name of God on trivial occasions, or in ordinary conversation.

Calvin points out that some have used the Lord’s command to reject all vows. He says they’re mistaken:

Do not take an oath at all… His statement amounts to this, that there are other ways of “taking the name of God in vain,” besides perjury; and, therefore, that we ought to refrain from allowing ourselves the liberty of unnecessary swearing: for, when there are just reasons to demand it, the law not only permits, but expressly commands us to swear.

Stating the obvious, Calvin concludes:

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ Christ now prescribes… that men act towards each other sincerely and honestly… Fairness and honesty in our words are, therefore, demanded by Christ, that there may be no longer any occasion for an oath.

And James, in his letter to the churches, echoed his Lord’s admonition:

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. James 5:12 (ESV)

Therefore, let us speak truth, one to another.

Us – Michael Been, The Best of The Call

Confess with Your Mouth, Believe In Your Heart

In case you don’t already know, an elevator speech is a short summary description of a product or service and the benefits that result from receiving them. The Apostle Paul offers us just such a statement:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’ve always wondered; is that one sentence enough? Is its prescription adequate to attain eternal life?

First, where does this statement come from? The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Now, it’s important to realize that Paul is paraphrasing the prophet Moses and elaborating on what he said long ago:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 (ESV)

Moses was giving the people of his day the same Gospel. However, it was veiled. It was only a type and shadow of good things to come. Paul lifts the veil of Moses’s statement.

Further, Paul explains the sentence we are discussing by way of his very next:

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

The first clause: For with the heart one believes and is justified (i.e., made righteous) follows from another of Paul’s writings in the same letter, Romans 4:3, 23-25 (ESV):

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

But how is Jesus the Lord? The Apostle Peter proclaimed to those of his day:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36 (ESV)

The second clause: with the mouth one confesses and is saved is related to the first clause, as the Lord Jesus explains:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (ESV)

That accounts for the relation between our hearts and mouths. But what is the benefit of confessing Jesus as Lord? The Lord Jesus makes this starkly clear:

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV)

And what is one saved from? Paul explains:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:9-10 (ESV)

As with any elevator speech, it’s meant to win an opportunity for a longer hearing.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But, if you only have one chance, it’s a pretty good seed to plant.

“Oklahoma”, The Call (Likely lyrics, the Band, this Video)