Chapter 23 Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

Table of Contents

The Introduction

This chapter was particularly difficult for me to exposit because I don't make a oft habit of given oaths nor making vows. I have had only solemnly sworn an oath twice in my life--both as witnesses in a court of law. And I have never intentionally or willfully made a vow except to my wife.

So I will keep this chapter brief. Rather than over-explain the chapter, I will just what it means and move on.1

23.1 Oath: The Witness of God

A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears, and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.

Exodus 20:7 (CSB) Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.

Deuteronomy 10:20 (CSB) You are to fear the LORD your God and worship him. Remain faithful to him and take oaths in his name.

Jeremiah 4:2 (CSB) then you can swear, “As the LORD lives,” in truth, justice, and righteousness, and then the nations will be blessed by him and will boast in him.

2 Chronicles 6:22–23 (CSB) If a man sins against his neighbor and is forced to take an oath and he comes to take an oath before your altar in this temple, may you hear in heaven and act. May you judge your servants, condemning the wicked man by bringing what he has done on his own head and providing justice for the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

Right out the gate, we are first reminded about the weightiness of taking an oath: it is part of our religion worship. Now, this is not in corporate worship on any given Lord's Day. Swearing an oath is a part of our private worship to God. To swear in truth, righteousness, and judgment in God calls upon God to bear witness.

God always bears witness to everything we do, say, or think. But this public announcement that I am standing in the presence of the Almighty God that I swear I will do what I say I am going to do--so help me God. When we swear an oath, we are calling upon God to judge me according to the truth or falseness of my words.

23.2 Oath: The Name Of God

The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred; yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God; so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.

Matthew 5:34–37 (CSB) But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all: either by heaven, because it is God’s throne; or by the earth, because it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. But let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.

James 5:12 (CSB) Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment.

Hebrews 6:16 (CSB) For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute.

2 Corinthians 1:23 (CSB) I call on God as a witness, on my life, that it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth.

Nehemiah 13:25 (CSB) I rebuked them, cursed them, beat some of their men, and pulled out their hair. I forced them to take an oath before God and said, “You must not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters as wives for your sons or yourselves!

Therefore, we do not get to take the Lord's name in vain:

Exodus 20:7 (CSB) Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.

I now look back at my upbringing the Evangelical church--fundamentalist Baptist for a moment and Charismatic for the majority of my life. I am grieved and shocked on how often I heard the Lord's name taken in vain. I am not talking about the liberal use of the Lord's name in exclamations. That is one little part. But what I want us to focus on is when we say, "God said this", "God told me that", "God lead me to that".

My friends, all of those are weighty oaths calling God as your witness and your judge. Shall we be way more frugal when we evoke the name of God? Shall we be more careful since doing so calling God to judge me so? Shall we tread lightly because like Joshua, stand on holy ground before the Lord?

23.3 Oath: The Weight of Glory

Whosoever takes an oath warranted by the word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knows to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns.

Leviticus 19:12 (CSB) Do not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God; I am the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:10 (CSB) For the land is full of adulterers; the land mourns because of the curse, and the grazing lands in the wilderness have dried up. Their way of life has become evil, and their power is not rightly used

My beloved, let us be careful with our words. Don't fivalously swear an oath in the name of God. Using the name of God actually means something--not a huge weight to help make your and my pithy little opinions sound more important.

23.4 Oath: The Clarity of God

An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.

Psalm 24:4 (CSB) The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully.

When you do take an oath, keep it simple. Real simple. Cut straight to the core and don't dance around. Don't try to give yourself an out. Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

23.5 Vow: To God Alone

A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness; but popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

Psalm 76:11 (CSB) Make and keep your vows to the LORD your God; let all who are around him bring tribute to the awe-inspiring one.

Genesis 28:20–22 (CSB) Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me during this journey I’m making, if he provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s family, then the LORD will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to you a tenth of all that you give me.”

1 Corinthians 7:2–9 (CSB) But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband. A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all people were as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one person has this gift, another has that. I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

Ephesians 4:28 (CSB) Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Matthew 19:11 (CSB) He responded, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given.

The vows we do make are not like the Roman Catholics or any other monastic order. We don't have to make vows that God has not called us to take. End of sentence. We exam the Scriptures and see that God has not called us to take any vows of celibacy, poverty, or obedience.

You know why? Because we, as the people of God, and therefore, his Church, are already called to as the Bride to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. In provision, we are already called to completely depend on the Father for he is our source for everything. We are called by God to obey him and his word.

But you see, we are already called to this and we have failed. Every one who has ever taken an monastic vow has failed before God. We have all failed before God.

And God knew that.

That is why he sent his Son--who swore upon his Father to rescue his people from their sins. He took a vow to live the celibate, poor, and obedient life from as an infant all the way to the cross.

Christ took this vow for us. And he completely it faithfully, flawlessly, and perfectly. All the words he spoken, the actions he took, and the thoughts he kept in his heart were as pure and as holy as we are called to be.

That is why, all the way to the core, Christ is our righteousness. He removed our sins and gave us his righteousness so that he could die and we could live with God forever.


I am reminded in this instance of Dr. Steven Lawson's words, "Major in the majors--don't major in the minors." I don't want to bog down here when I still have nine more chapters to write about.