LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 198

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 23. Of Lawful Oaths and Vows. Paragraph 2: “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.”

If you think about it, there should be nothing wrong with giving our word to someone by swearing. We should be able to swear to God with someone about something worthy of evoking his holy name…and not fear that we’ll break our word by dishonoring him. We should be people of our word, and God honors it when we are. We should avoid swearing rashly or foolishly, however, because we’re sinners. We fail and this is nothing to take lightly. I think Scripture builds its counsel well about when and how it’s proper to swear by God, and there are far more passages we could look to beyond what’s cited in the confession.

I note also quickly the precision accomplished here in this chapter. Throughout it the authors show that while vain or rash swearing is dangerous, they don’t want to advise people that they should never swear by the right thing or at the right time.

Scripture gives us numerous examples of foolishness or rashness in our words and swearing. We do well to build on that foundation in our lives. The example of Jephthah has to be the very worst of them. In Judges 11, this man, though mentioned in Hebrews 11 as an example of an empowered one, sacrificed his own daughter after victory in battle. This story is difficult to say the least. It is not at all in Scripture as an example of what to do. It doesn’t appear that he entered into such a thing willingly, but his words got him there still. Now, God did not command this of him, but neither did he stop it. Jephthah was sad about how it came to pass, but this man still accomplished his words. It is a slight chance that he simply committed her to virginity in the text, but I do not believe such an interpretation likely. Jephthah made a vow he should not have. If you’re going to war, don’t swear for victory to offer the first thing that comes out of your house if you win. Lesson learned.

Be cautious with your words. If you’re going to bring God into a situation by evoking his name in some specific way, please know that he does not take that lightly in the least.

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