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Doctrine of Lawful Oaths and Vows II

December 11, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Matthew 5:33, James 5:12

Scripture: Matthew 5.33, James 5.12, WCT 22.1-4

Review/ Introduction

We started this short series by asking the question:

  • Is it lawful then to take any oaths at all?

It could seem that James-5.12 and the Lord's words in the Sermon on the Mount prohibits all oathtaking

  • So, we examined several passages in to understand
  • And we saw many examples of godly men
    • taking oaths
    • proclaiming vows
  • And we saw many examples of godly men
    • verifying/ certifying they're telling the truth

Remember we said we did not want to set one piece of Scripture against another?

  • we said we wanted to be “Whole-Bible Christians”
  • we took two apparently disparate scriptures
    • and learned how to understand them together

In Deuteronomy 6.13 and 10.20 -> Moses sets the taking of an oath or swearing an oath as an act of religious worship.

Remember what Abraham did in Genesis 14?

  • I have lifted up my hand to the Most High God.
    • What does that mean? he's taken an oath

Examination of Matthew 5.33-34

Notice in this passage, Jesus is forbidding the swearing by Heaven, by Earth, by Jerusalem.

In chapter 23, He's going to forbid them to swear

  • by the altar
  • by the gold on the altar
  • by other things on the altar
  • by other various objects in the temple.

What we see here is He is showing them their folly

  • they had given themselves over to lying so much that they felt that they must vow in order to be believed in anything that they were doing

Matthew 23.16

These verses reveal that the Pharisees had built up all kinds of scenarios regarding

  • different kinds of vows
  • different levels of binding in each of those vows

They would say things like

  • if you swear by the altar - you can get out of that.
  • but if you swear by the gold that's on the altar, be careful you may not be able to get out

The Pharisees had attempted in their humanistic style to build up a system which only they controlled

  • So that they could bind and release men’s consciences from making a vows

Why do you think this system of vows came to be?

  • perhaps because they were a society of liars
  • perhaps because they couldn't be trusted
  • perhaps because they were so untrustworthy
    • that they felt the need to offer a vow with almost every sentence

So, they began to say things like

  • I swear by the gold on the altar, I'm telling the truth
  • I swear by the altar, I'm telling you the truth

But Jesus says, Let your yea be Yea, and your Nay, Nay

  • In other words, be people of integrity in your speech


Jesus is not condemning all vowing.

There's too much Scripture going the other direction

Jesus is condemning certain vows that are taken

  • with meaningless objects
  • rashly
  • falsely
  • frivolously
    • like…crossing your fingers

These are the kinds of things that Jesus is forbidding

In all these Scriptures we have heard the voice of Jesus coming through in the Word

  • Christ does not contradict Christ.

So, we find a way to bring these kinds of scriptures together into a cohesive unit

When Jesus says to them in Matthew 26

  • Do not swear by Heaven, because it is the throne of the Lord.

He is saying that to swear by Heaven, is to swear by the Lord because it is his throne.

  • this is no relief in invoking the name of the Lord

The rabbis taught if you were to swear by Heaven, you could come back and treat that vow as optional

Jesus says, if you're swearing by Heaven, remember that you're swearing by the throne which is in heaven, and that is indeed, by the great name of God.

Sufficient Weight and Moment

What might those times be?

First - times when we are brought into a court of law.

Why is that of sufficient weight and moment?

  • We are endeavoring to find the truth of a matter
  • That truth belongs to God who is truth

We invoke His name with regard to telling the truth.

It is important to get to the truth because

  • somebody’s life might be in jeopardy
  • somebody’s freedom might be in jeopardy

There can potentially be changing events for people that are made in the image of God.

We're talking about

  • the protection of our society, from criminals
  • the punishment of evildoers before God

The vow is an act of religious worship.

  • It is invoking the name of God and His strength
    • that he will help us on the witness stand to tell the whole truth & nothing but the truth

Second - times when we engage in marriage

Are their vows taken in marriage?

This is the joining of a man and woman in the divine institution of marriage, was instituted at creation.

  • This is certainly a time of sufficient weight and moment when vows are to be exchanged

Marriage is a divine institution, and it ought to be performed in the presence of God

  • His help should be invoked with regard to the keeping of the marriage vows.

Neither the church nor society are able to generate people for their ongoing generations

Marriage is the only thing in the world God has given whereby we can expect the perpetuation of our race

  • this is the way the Lord populates the earth
  • this is the way the Lord populates the churches
  • this is the way the Lord has chosen to bring His elect into the world

Therefore, it is right then to enter in with vows

  • those vows being inviolable before the Lord

We understand marriage is not always easy

  • we come together as different and disconnected people
  • we learn to live together in very close proximity
  • this is not always the easiest thing to do

We invoke the name of the Lord to help us

We will have difficulties need the Spirit to help us

With these considerations in mind

  • marriage vows are entirely appropriate
  • It is a sufficient time of weight and moment

In the nature of vows, these are not to be broken but only by some extraordinary Providence to take place.

Third - times when we enter into church membership

  • vowing to be the Lord's people
  • vowing to church membership

We see this over and again, in the scriptures.

  • We saw an example of this last week when we spoke about Deuteronomy 29
  • where the Lord is speaking to that second generation that came out of the wilderness

Fourth - times when we enter in church leadership

Ministers also take vows, as those who will teach

  • the people upon the Pure Word of God
  • the people upon the doctrines of Jesus Christ

Seeing that ministers and elders deal in the eternal souls of men and women

  • this is a time of sufficient weight and moment

Times a Vow should not be made

We cannot ever vow to sin.

There is no authority in heaven or earth, that can call you to into a vow that would result in you sinning.

  • They don't have that authority.

If an authority, asks you to vow a vow to sin

  • they've overstepped their authority

Sometimes this can get a little bit difficult

  • because of the authority they have over you

If you do vow something with good conscience, and you find out later that that vow is unlawful

  • then it would be a sin to fulfill that vow

If you make a vow that ends up with you being forced to choose between sin or breaking the vow

  • You must break the vow
    • That is what the Lord requires.

We should not make rash vows

But if you do make a rash vow, keep it

  • even if it is costly

Judges 11.29-40 -> What's going on here?

  • It seems Jephthah uttered a rash vow

We understand the words spoken and the meaning

  • He said he would offer whatever came out of his house as burnt offering

We must first remember and understand

  • that the Lord has forbidden human sacrifice
  • that Jephthah knows that the Lord has forbidden human sacrifice

What then is the burnt offering about?

  • When a person is dedicated to the Lord, you did not sacrifice them as a burnt offering
    • you offered a burnt offering with them
      • indicative they are holy to the Lord

When he said, Whatever comes forth, from the doors of my house, will be a burnt offering unto the Lord

  • that what Jephthah meant is he's going to dedicate whoever comes out of his house
    • to perpetual service to the Lord
    • and offer a commensurate burnt offering

Why does his daughter bewail her virginity?

  • It is not just because of no marriage.
  • she was Jephthah’s only child
    • without marriage her father’s name dies
    • this was a great curse among the Israelites.

Jephthah made a rash vow, yet he is included in Hebrews 11 with the faithful

  • as a righteous man he vowed and kept his vow
  • even though it was to his hurt.
Psalm 15.1-4

The Lord commends someone who makes a vow

  • and who didn’t know at the time of the making of the vow it would be so costly to him.
    • yet, he keeps the vow even if it's to his hurt.


You see, our Lord Jesus Christ, then is not speaking about never taking vows.

  • He is speaking about vowing only by the great and terrible name of God.
  • He is speaking that when we vow
    • it should not be for frivolous things

He is speaking that when we say to someone and we look them in the eyes, and we shake their hand, and we give our word

  • that we are going to do something by simply saying “Yes” or “No”

He is speaking of when we encounter something of sufficient conditions of weight and moment

  • that we should at that time, because we understand our own weakness, to take a vow

God is God and He will always be God

  • He will call us to account with regard to the vows that we have made in His name
  • He will be there to strengthen and support us

Some of the things that we vow are beyond our strength to perform

  • And we need His help to do them rightly

How do we Apply This to Our Daily Lives?

What Christ is doing is calling His people to honesty

  • to render the common use of vows unnecessary

If your habit is to keep your word, then you don’t really vows with ordinary things

  • You won’t need to say I really mean at this time

When we say something, we will do what we said

Whatever comes out of our mouth

  • we keep it.

We don't live as those who say and do not.

If something goes forth from your lips, even if it's hard

  • do it.
First - Avoid Exaggeration

There are times when exaggeration can be used.

It can be used with good taste, to communicate a particular difficulty.

  • exaggeration for effect
  • we see this sometimes in the Bible.
Second - Avoid Absolutism

We use the word super now and we don't even use it anymore because now it's lost all of its meaning.

We've destroyed the word super in our language.

  • So now we say super duper or super galooper

We've lost the use of that word through overuse

  • Words such as greatest, best, most

How can you say something is the absolute “best”?

  • You must be omniscient.

There are there are other kinds of ways that we press this kind of intensity of speech

  • We’ll says things like “You’ve got to do this” or “You must do this”
Third – Improve your Speech

Often, we try to work our way into other’s confidences

  • for the sake of pride
  • for gaining some other advantage

Often, we reveal secrets or exaggerate the truth

  • as we are seeking some influence with folks

Be careful how you handle your speech

Jesus tells us to let our Yea, be yea and our Nay, Nay

  • In other words, be upfront and open and honest
    • as far as you can be and not beyond that
  • Be true
  • Be people that have integrity

When you say something, when you make a commitment

  • honor that commitment.
I'm not at liberty to say,

That's a great phrase because sometimes we're not.

When people ask a question, and you really don’t have permission to share the answer

  • Respond with “I’m not at liberty to say”
I don’t know

When someone asks you a question you don't know the answer, say, I don't know.

  • Sometimes that's the best and most honest answer

But because we don't want to sound ignorant, or we want to help out the other person

  • We say something that perhaps we shouldn't
  • We make up something or exaggerate or guess
That's really not my concern.
  • Sometimes the right answer to a query is, why am I hearing this?
  • Have you talked to the person about what you just brought up?
Fourth - Season your Speech

This is what our word Jesus is getting at in Col 4.6

That's a tall order, isn't it?

  • But that is how we ought to answer everyone.

This is a kind, merciful, truthful, and faithful speech

It is a speech that is free

  • from false and frivolous oaths
  • from unnecessary exaggerations
  • from absolutism

It is a speech that is full of

  • moderation
  • wisdom
  • truth

It is a speech that is calm and measured

Where are these kinds of men and people today?

We need the kind of people that let their yea be yeah, and their nay be nay

When they speak

  • they receive respect.

When they speak

  • everybody knows they mean what that they say

We live in the midst of a society where we think we cannot survive without lying.

  • But we must
  • We must be a people of the Lord God of truth.
  • That's who we are to be

And this level of integrity goes hand in hand with full obedience to the Lord.

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