Sunday, February 11, 2007

False Vows

Good Evening. A Puritan’s Mind brings you the old time radio program The Wild Boar News Podcast from Sunny South Florida. Welcome, I’m Dr. Matthew McMahon.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647 (the version that should be used) states in chapter 22, section 1, “A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.”

Vows or oaths are small covenants in this regard. They are pacts or agreements between parties. Christ asserts that one ought not to make an oath that he cannot keep, or that he swears falsely by, as did the Pharisees. In such cases, it would be better to simply say “yes” or “no.” In that case, it is still much the same outcome – your yes should be yes, and your no should be no. But the Scriptures consistently teach that lawful oaths that are made in the name of God are not only acceptable, but part of religious worship itself.

A vow or oath ought to be made with religious care, and it should be performed faithful to one it is made. (Isa 19:21; Psa 61:8; 66:13-14; Eccl 5:4-6.) In this way vows or oaths are not to be made to any creature, but to God alone (Psa 76:11; Jer 44:25-26; Gen 28:20-22; Deut 23:21, 23; 1 Sam 1:11; Psa 50:14; 66:13-14; 132:2-5).

When you make a lawful vow, you should never vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty which is commanded in the word of God. Also, you should never vow or make an oath on something that is not in your power to keep. Such unbiblical vows are in respect to things like the Roman Catholic Church vows - monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection. These types of vows are superstitious vows and sinful snares, in which no Christian should become entangled (Num 30:5, 8, 12-13; Mark 6:26; Acts 23:12, 14. Mat 19:11-12; 1 Cor 7:2, 9, 23; Eph 4:28; 1 Pet 4:2).

Christians, however, make lawful vows when they join a church, or vow to uphold certain doctrines in their life and faith. When those vows are broken, those Christians sin against the one whom those vows were made – which is God most High.

Many in the American Church make convenient vows. These vows are akin to the Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes who vowed when it was convenient for them, or when they gained the respect or admiration of men around them, instead of being in the good graces of God. What happens here is that a professing church member makes a membership vow to a local church that he finds inviting and up to his own standards. They vow to uphold the doctrine of the church, the discipline of the church, and the order of the church. They do this in a solemn assembly where witnesses in the church are present, who have also vowed in like manner. They, in turn, have things in common, or as the biblical idea mandates, fellowship with one another. In being like minded, they rest confident in their vow and oath, for a time, and continue in that church.

Then, something dreadful happens. They decide they don’t want to uphold their vow to the church, to its doctrine, to its discipline, because they found some inconvenience that, in their mind, would cancel out their vows that they previously made before God. This is often the case when a church member leaves one church for another on matters that do not surround essential doctrine of the Christian faith and practice. They seem to think that God, then, does not hold them accountable to their vows, and that they can, simply go to another church and make another vow there.

This is the scene of American Church hopping. It is the plague of all ecclesiology and order, and it is an affront to the God who disdains the breaking of vows. Even though these people are not serious about the things of God, and even though they treat lightly the things of God, and even though they abuse the church and its fellowship in this way, God does not.

God does not take lightly the oath or the vow. God does not, and will not tolerate the breaking of covenant, and the frivolity in which the American church treats church membership in general.
God is serious about His church, and holds those who make vows to the letter of them, if they are lawfully invoked. God was serious when He said in Deuteronomy 23:23, “That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.” God was serious when He said in Numbers 30:2, “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” God is serious. Many in the American Church today are not. God says that people in His church that forget their vows, or do not uphold them are fools. He says in Ecclesiastes 5:4, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools.”

James reminds us in James 5:12, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.” He reminds us that heaven and earth, men and other things are not to be sworn to. Rather, that because we swear to God Himself, our vow should stand. Our “yes” to an oath should be “yes”, and our no, should be no. Anything else is from the evil one, and you will be found a fool before God’s eyes.

This is Dr. Matthew McMahon signing off.

Keep checking back at A Puritan’s Mind – currently in the works is an MP3 series on the Covenant of Grace, and another MP3 series on Election and Predestination. For more on Reformed and Puritan Theology, visit