Blog 64: 2.8.20 - 2.8.27
Ungodly people always take the higher ground when arguing with God and the lower ground when living their own lives. Is God unjust to visit iniquities on successive generations? On the contrary, Calvin argues, we are all responsible human beings and are punished for our own offences. Note how he states this plainly: "They perish by their own iniquity, not by any unjust hatred on God's part . . . Nor does it accord with God's justice for a righteous son to pay the penalty for a wicked father, and this is not implied in the present threat . . ." (II. 8.20).
Note too the abundance of God's contrasting mercy: God remembers the faithful to a thousand generations!
No wonder, then, that Calvin moves seamlessly on to the third commandment. In light of such favor, who would treat God's name lightly? Rather we seek to honor it greatly.
This commandment applies to our thoughts as well as our words, and summons us to three things:
1. To "savor" God's excellence. Enough said!
2. To honor God's word and his ordinances.
3. To praise all his works.
How beautifully simple is the life that pleases God.
Does Jesus' exposition of this command prohibit oath-taking (as many of Calvin's Anabaptist contemporaries and Quaker forerunners insisted). On the contrary, says Calvin--remember the intention of the command. What is forbidden is the vain use of God's Name, hypocritical swearing by something other than God as an escape hatch. In Jesus' words "swear not at all" the "not at all" refers to the forms of oath that follow, not to the God-sanctioned principle of calling him to witness one's integrity. Public oaths are usually safest, but simplicity in Christ will not be led astray by "wily sophistry"!