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Sermon on the Mount - Oaths

by Chris Dawson
August 30, 2009
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  1. What is an oath?
    1. A solemn promise or affirmation, often invoking a divine witness, regarding oneʼs future action or behavior
    2. A sworn declaration that one will tell the truth. especially in a court of law
    3. Heb. 6:16 - An oath for confirmation is the end of all dispute
  2. When we were kids we used to take oaths all of the time:
    1. "Pinkie promise"
    2. "Swear on my motherʼs grave"
    3. "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye"
  3. Of course, the oath was rendered null and void if the one taking the oath had crossed his fingers.
  4. But what about more serious oaths?
    1. When the President is sworn into office - "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
    2. When you sit on trial in the court of law - "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?"
  5. Can a person cross his fingers out of these oaths?
  6. Should we even be taking these oaths at all?
  7. We will look at what Jesus taught in Matt. 5:33-37 by asking 4 different questions.
  1. What does the Law of Moses say about oaths?

    1. Old Testament passages from which this teaching was derived:
      1. Ex. 20:7 - You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
      2. Lev. 19:12 - And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
      3. Deut. 23:21 - When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you.
    2. The whole point was to enforce truthfulness
      1. When swearing or testifying under oath a person had to mean what he said.
      2. When vowing or swearing to perform a certain act, he had to be faithful in carrying out the promise.
  2. How was the Law about oaths being interpreted by Jews in Jesusʼ day?

    1. The Greek root word translated "swear falsely"
      1. It is used in 1 Tim. 1:10, "perjurers" (To commit perjury is to lie under oath)
      2. So, to lie under oath was forbidden, but in other circumstances it is okay
    2. Too, only certain oaths were meaningful, others were meaningless
      1. Matt. 5:34-36 - "I swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, my head"
      2. Matt. 23:16-22 - "I swear by the temple, by the alter"
  3. How did Jesus interpret and thereby establish the abiding law concerning oaths?

    1. Remember, Jesus was not "destroying" the law, but bringing out the spirit
    2. The OT Law certainly allowed for oaths, and even commanded them at times
      1. Ex. 22:11 - An oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand to his neighborʼs goods.
      2. Num. 5:19 - The priest put the woman who is suspected of infidelity under oath
    3. The OT tells us about faithful men who took oaths
      1. Gen. 24:2, 3 - Abraham took an oath of Eliezer
      2. Gen. 50:25 - Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel
    4. Jesus was exposing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day
      1. Matt. 23:16-22 - They made unjustified distinctions between the temple and the gold of the temple, and the alter and the gift on the alter, and heaven and God in heaven.
  4. How does this teaching apply to us today?

    1. We are not to attempt to find distinctions in our words when we make a promise
      1. "I promise to pay you back SOON." (25 years later - no payment) "Well, I didnʼt say how soon!"
      2. "Iʼll be there (unless the sun is shinning and I donʼt find anything better to do)."
      3. Ps. 15:4 - God praises one who keeps his promises even when he is hurt by it
    2. We are not to lightly use an oath
      1. To make impressions
      2. To spice daily conversations
      3. Or to even get away with a lie
    3. Though not that all oaths are sinful
      1. Jesus (and James) qualified their statements about oaths
        1. Matt. 5:34-36 - Not to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, my head
        2. Jas. 5:12 - Not to swear by heaven or earth or any other (same kind) oath.
      2. When we compare other passages we find that not all oaths are sinful
        1. Heb. 6:17 - God confirmed His promise to Abraham with an oath
        2. Matt. 26:63, 64 - Jesus testified under oath
        3. 2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20 - Paul made solemn oaths in his epistles
        4. Rev. 10:5-7 - An angel of God made an oath
    4. The exception to not swearing oaths can be:
      1. Solemn oaths made in judicial circumstances
      2. Oaths on occasions of solemn religious importance (as in the case of Paul)
    5. Bottom line is: We need to be true to our word
      1. Today, truth is viewed as relative, or optional at best
      2. Recent poll shows that 91% of Americans lie at work and at home
      3. You may think that no one expects you to be perfectly honest, but God does!
      4. Jesus is calling us to radical honesty