Not in God’s name!

[notice]Should Christians lighten up about the”humourous” use of God’s name in advertisements such as the recent controversial Red Bull TV ad? Pastor Afrika Mhlophe writes about the weightiness of the name that is above every other name.[/notice]

On mount Sinai God gave the patriarch Moses commandments that were meant to govern the relation between God and His people. These were timeless and literally cast in stone instructions that allowed no grounds for deviation. There was no ambiguity from God regarding what He expected and wanted from His people. Exegesis upon exegesis has been done on the 10 Commandments and there is a general consensus that they deal with our relationship with God and also our fellow man. Commentators have noted that the first four cover our relationship with God and the last six our relationship with each other. Since it was God who proposed a relationship with us it was also His prerogative to determine how that relationship should be constructed.

“…taking God’s name in vain is literally taking Him in vain”

God knows what will constitute a healthy and an unhealthy relationship with Him. It is similar to you and me. When we enter into a relationship we tell our prospective partner who we are and what we like or don’t like. It is clear then that anyone who disregards our expressed values and principles cannot at the same time expect to have a close relationship with us. Why then should we expect any less of God? The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself because He knew that we have no innate ability to know Him unless He does what theologians call a “self-disclosure.” We did not discover Him as it were but He discovered us and revealed Himself to us. We have now learnt that there is a certain nature and attributes that are associated with God.

God is holy, He is just, unchanging, and so on. Now you cannot separate what He says from who He is. He is bound by what He says because of the nature of the being He is. This is something that is difficult for us to understand because of the nature of beings we are. The third commandment says we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. What is in a name, someone may ask? In the Hebraic mindset, naming and being are linked together to form a unity. For us names are just identifiers of persons, things and places but for Jews names have a symbolic and prophetic significance. They pointed to that person’s purpose and destiny. This is why God changed Abram’s name to Abraham to indicate his change in destiny.

There are well over 200 different names for God that are revealed in the Scriptures. Each name reveals a specific aspect and attribute of God towards His people. So there is a lot behind each of God’s names. As I have mentioned before Jews do not use names as some arbitrary identifiers. A Rabbinical interpretation of Deuteronomy 12:3 led to a conclusion that it is inappropriate to write God’s name in any material wherein it could be later erased, defaced or destroyed. Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not even pronounce God’s sacred name unless in prayer or religious study. This sacred name, Y-H-V-H is mentioned over 6000 times in the Bible and is also known as God’s personal name. It is often transliterated in our Bibles as Yahweh or Jehovah.

Instead of pronouncing God’s name Orthodox Jews would refer to Him as “Hashem” which means the name. As much as there are many names for God revealed in the Scriptures yet they are all come from a few constructs. For instance from “El” which means God you will get names like; El-shaddai, El-Elyon, Elohim, and words like Bethel, etc. God is a self-sufficient and great God and nothing could be done to make Him greater. His concern is that we don’t do anything to dilute or undermine His greatness. He is a transcendent God and all living things owe their being to Him. His is the source and the cause of everything that there is.

God’s name was to be used within the parameters of a covenant. It is within the confines of that covenant that you use and benefit from that which derived from that name. His name is our strong tower. We have our healing and salvation in His name. In fact His name is a difference between life and death. The devil recognises and responds to the authority that is found in God’s name. We should be thoughtful and tactful then how we use such a powerful name we have available at our disposal. We should be name-dropping and invoking this name when we are looking for spiritual acceleration.

As you can see, taking God’s name in vain is literally taking Him in vain. We live in a world that promotes vanity and demotes that which is valuable. God and everything connected to Him is valuable but we have put our own value above that of God’s. Can you imagine if someone were to besmirch and blacken a name like that of Nelson Mandela. There would be a huge outcry both in South Africa and abroad. Well, God’s name is above all other names. It behoves that we reverence His holy name. His name is not a swear word and there is nothing funny about using it in jest. I know that there is a section in the Christian community that wants us to lighten up and see the funny side of irreverent adverts like that of Red Bull.

This section which is made up of liberal Christians does not know what a conviction of the Holy Spirit feels like. They are quick to use terms like “fundamentalists” to denigrate those who are convicted of God. It is God who said He won’t tolerate blasphemy against His name and all we are doing is pointing this truth to those who are blind to it. Have you noticed that names of other deities are not subject to the same vitriol that our God is. This is not about freedom of speech folks but it is the warfare between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. In G-d’s name we will win this.


  1. Colleen Oranmore-Brown

    When they say ‘lighten up’ they mean ‘compromise’. Never must we compromise our faith. We hold to the Truth of the Word of God!
    Colleen Oranmore-Brown.

  2. Thank you Colleen,

    You are spot on there.

    Shalom to you too,

  3. Agree absolutely. Good word Pastor Mhlope

  4. good one Pastor Africa

  5. Pastor Mhlope & others are missing the real point of the ‘liberal Christians’ criticism of a fundamentalist Christian reaction to the Red Bull ad. I, for one, am not saying lol, lighten up and see the humour. I am deeply cognisant and respectful of the Holy Name. What I, and some others, are saying is that there is a great danger in a knee-jerk, self-righteous reaction to this ad. Non-believers do not have the Holy Spirit; they are darkened in their understanding & have no real knowledge of the holiness of God or even of His existence. The New Testament instructs us over and over to be gentle as doves, wise, kind, faithful etc. Our character and the way we react to the world is paramount. Yes, we must stand for the Holy Name of God, but in good, gentle character. This will make more of an impression with unbelievers than our high-handed reactions.

    • But it seems to me that it is you who has a high-handed reaction Zita. I have not personally reacted to the Red Bull add but are using this platform to gently inform believers about the preeminance of God and His name. Jesus is the one who taught us to be humble but in the same breath He also told us to be wise. What wisdom is there if we make unbelievers think it is funny to blaspheme God’s name. I am also for a good gently character but there were times when Jesus was firm. He was firm with the Pharisees and they also did not have the Holy Spirit. Was His sharp rebuke of their hypocritical actions a knee-jerk, self-righteous reaction? It is hypocritical for Red Bull and them to denigrate Jesus’ name and do not attempt the same with other religious leaders and figures.
      I am sorry but we have been laughing for far too long and things are getting worse as a result. Where do we draw the line to this humuor? I am fundamentalist because I believe in the fundamental truths of the Scriptures and I am convicted not to laugh at something God wouldn’t laugh at. Thank you for your contribution.

  6. I agree with Zita. Unbelievers do NOT have the Godly attributes (fruit and gifts of the Spirit) to be able to honour God. I consider myself a fundamentalist too, but your article is of particular import to Christians, not pagans. And as I stated in my article ‘What would Jesus say to the Red Bull team’, we need to use this to engage the lost and as per Romans 8, make the good come out of this

    • Hi Darryl,

      I am glad when you say we need to engage the lost because some Christians prefare a position of indifference and passivity. They wait until someone does something and then they critize that person as being overhanded or unloving, etc.
      Otherwise they themselves did not plan to do anything besides perhaps saying a silent prayer of moaning privately. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing and we as Christians have been doing nothing. This is why in 1996 the termination of pregnancy bill was passed and most of us were not even moved at all.
      Thank you

  7. I think we should share the love of God with the world, but we shouldn’t try to make Him “popular”or easier to like. God is God. We are not His Public Relations officials, if He doesn’t want His name used in vain, then that should be it.

    Thank you Pastor Afrika for sharing and explaining this Truth with us :-)

    • Thank you Asanda. Indeed one cannot presume to speak on God’s behalf and present Him in ways contrary to His real self. That would be misrepresentation. I cannot imagine a spokesperson to a government minister articulating a position that is not tandem with that of the minister. They will fire him/her immediately. I hope none of today’s ministers gets fired from their ministry post by the Almighty (Matthew 7:22-23).