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Trevor

Should a Christian ever take an oath?

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Hi everyone,

 

I was reading James 5 today and came across this verse:

Quote

"Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned." James 5:12

and the Bible I was reading referenced

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 "But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." Matthew 5:37

 

 

Thinking about a personal application for these verses, it sounds like Christians should never make promises, swear, or take an oath in any form because it would be more than "Yes" or "No". What do others think?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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21 minutes ago, Trevor said:

Hi everyone,

 

I was reading James 5 today and came across this verse:

and the Bible I was reading referenced

 

Thinking about a personal application for these verses, it sounds like Christians should never make promises, swear, or take an oath in any form because it would be more than "Yes" or "No". What do others think?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

Hello Trevor!

 

Paul took a vow during his ministry Acts 18:18, and John records his vision of an angel who swore an oath Revelation 10:5-6.

 

Curious, have you thought about them and considered their application in relation to what James is saying? I believe James is reiterating a commandment, "You shall not take the Lord's name in vain". That is, superfluously or lightly. Oaths and vows may have life long implications.

 

Any further thoughts?

 

God bless,

William

 

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Hi William and Faber,

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I had never noticed in Acts 18:18 where it mentions Paul had taken a “vow” to get his hair cut off,  in Revelation 10:5-6 where the angel "swore" that God would fulfill his promises to the prophets, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 where Paul puts what seems to be some kind of "obligation" on others in the church to read his letter. 

 

I don’t think many would argue that Paul was perfect (Romans 7:19) and the scriptures are full of examples where people were disobedient. So this could be a case where Paul was disobedient or maybe it was an oath that he had taken before he realized the teaching to not take oaths and he just wanted to stay faithful to what he had previously agreed to.

 

In the Revelation passage, it seems the angel did swear that God would be faithful to the promises He made to the prophets Revelation 10:7. 

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5, the ESV uses the word "oath", but most other translations do not use that word and just seems like "obligation" may be a more appropriate term because Paul was just trying to put an emphasis on the people in the church to read his letter. Though, I don't feel strongly that I haven't missed something in my assessment above.

 

In any case though, the main thought I can’t get over is neither Paul nor an angel from heaven should be my example (1 Timothy 2:5; Galatians 1:8). And I am concerned I have been confirming more than “yes” and “no” for most of my life which would fall under the category that both Jesus and James were warning against. I don’t want to be deliberately choosing to disobey something that sounds really serious. 

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

Edited by Trevor
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30 minutes ago, Trevor said:

Hi William and Faber,

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I had never noticed in Acts 18:18 where it mentions Paul had taken a “vow” to get his hair cut off,  in Revelation 10:5-6 where the angel "swore" that God would fulfill his promises to the prophets, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 where Paul puts what seems to be some kind of "obligation" on others in the church to read his letter. 

 

I don’t think many would argue that Paul was perfect (Romans 7:19) and the scriptures are full of examples where people were disobedient. So this could be a case where Paul was disobedient or maybe it was an oath that he had taken before he realized the teaching to not take oaths and he just wanted to stay faithful to what he had previously agreed to.

 

In the Revelation passage, it seems the angel did swear that God would be faithful to the promises He made to the prophets Revelation 10:7

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5, the ESV uses the word "oath", but most other translations do not use that word and just seems like "obligation" may be a more appropriate term because Paul was just trying to put an emphasis on the people in the church to read his letter. Though, I don't feel strongly that I haven't missed something in my assessment above.

 

In any case though, the main thought I can’t get over is neither Paul nor an angel from heaven should be my example (1 Timothy 2:5; Galatians 1:8). And I am concerned I have been confirming more than “yes” and “no” for most of my life which would fall under the category that both Jesus and James were warning against. I don’t want to be deliberately choosing to disobey something that sounds really serious. 

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

How sure are you that you rightly understand the verse from James? Care to swear on it (j/king)? You're absolutely right in that Scripture is sometimes descriptive rather than prescriptive. Sometimes Scripture records horrible examples.

 

Are you capable of being completely truthful, Trevor? I mean ever? It seems that one may want to avoid taking an oath because they know that they are incapable of not deviating from the truth. Perhaps they even glean a bit of honesty in this as you are demonstrating that we may be truthful when selectively convenient. Will you never vow before your spouse under God in a marriage covenant? There's also one thing I like about the traditional oath one takes in a court of law. Ya' know the one, do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth "so help me God".

 

You also mentioned Matthew 5:37 so it should be addressed too.

 

Look forward to reading from others, I'll chime in sometime later or tomorrow. I'm breaking from the board for the night, so I'll leave on this note, taking an oath and/or vow as seriously as you're demonstrating Trevor I think is the intent of the Scriptures you're addressing.

 

God bless,

William

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Hi William,

 

Thanks for your response. 

 

Yeah, I could be wrong. If I was to be as honest with myself and God, I would hope my biggest concern would not be that I am wrong, but what God wants from me.

 

Also, sure, I would be interested in looking at James 5:12 more in-depth and what Jesus said in Matthew 5:37.

 

1 hour ago, William said:

Are you capable of being completely truthful, Trevor? I mean ever?

Hmmm…I hope so, I mean I want to be, but I probably cannot answer that question fully because I am dishonest with myself and even God (shamefully). But even because I am, it isn't an excuse for me to not try to be more honest.

 

I look forward to hearing your response, I am signing off for the night as well.

 

God bless you too,

Trevor

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12 hours ago, Trevor said:

In any case though, the main thought I can’t get over is neither Paul nor an angel from heaven should be my example (1 Timothy 2:5; Galatians 1:8).

 Hello Trevor,

 

 Although he wasn't perfect, we are to follow Paul (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17).

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I am not going to claim that I am an expert on this topic, but what I have seen in the past is that Christians should not make an oath, or take a vow, to hold anything with more importance than God.  One example of this is the debate about whether or not Christians should join organizations like the Freemasons who hold their membership in higher authority than God.

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30 minutes ago, Knotical said:

I am not going to claim that I am an expert on this topic, but what I have seen in the past is that Christians should not make an oath, or take a vow, to hold anything with more importance than God.  One example of this is the debate about whether or not Christians should join organizations like the Freemasons who hold their membership in higher authority than God.

I like what you shared Knotical. I was hoping you'd word your thoughts in such a way as to account for the vow both you and I made before the church to be held accountable and subject to discipline should our life and doctrine at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church be found delinquent.

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4 hours ago, Faber said:

Although he wasn't perfect, we are to follow Paul

Hi Faber,

 

From the conclusion you shared, it seems like you are saying, God wants us to imitate imperfection through following Paul. Am I correct in thinking you are concluding that?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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2 hours ago, William said:

I like what you shared Knotical. I was hoping you'd word your thoughts in such a way as to account for the vow both you and I made before the church to be held accountable and subject to discipline should our life and doctrine at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church be found delinquent.

If only I was so eloquent, much less remember the specifics of our membership oath to the OPC.  Though, now I am no longer a member of that denomination, as we joined a PCA church when we moved to Texas.  (only reformed church in close proximity)

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3 minutes ago, Knotical said:

If only I was so eloquent, much less remember the specifics of our membership oath to the OPC.  Though, now I am no longer a member of that denomination, as we joined a PCA church when we moved to Texas.  (only reformed church in close proximity)

I'll be going through the same process soon. I found the United Reformed Church in Idaho, and will once there request a letter from the OPC of good standing as my wife and I depart.

 

I'm greatly saddened, but like every beloved chapter in the bible, a new chapter leads to another in life.

 

URCNAMPA.ORG

A Reformed church near Boise in Nampa, Idaho

 

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5 hours ago, Trevor said:

Hi Faber,

 

From the conclusion you shared, it seems like you are saying, God wants us to imitate imperfection through following Paul. Am I correct in thinking you are concluding that?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

Hello Trevor,

 

 In the OT people were commanded to follow Moses and those who refused to do so were punished (quite a few examples of this), but that doesn't mean Moses was perfect.

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Hi Faber,

 

It does sound like you are making a case that God wants us to imitate imperfection.

 

If that is the case (and please forgive me, if it is not), then do you think Paul would agree with you?

 

With regard to Moses, I believe it was Paul who said, the OT was a "shadow of the things to come; but the reality, however, is found in Christ". (Colossians 2:17)

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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Hi Faber,

 

Yes, the Israelites were told to obey the words spoken by Moses, but did they have someone as perfect as Jesus back then?

 

Please understand, I am not making the point that Paul was bad or even following him "as he follows Christ" is bad (1 Corinthians 11:1). But if there is a change in anything that he said from what Christ said, Paul himself, says to go back to Christ (Galatians 1:8; Ephesians 2:20). That is why I asked you, if Paul would agree with your assessment and why I asked you to clarify if today, now that we have Jesus, if God wants us to imitate someone in their imperfections?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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The Israelites didn't have someone as perfect as Jesus.

 

 My original response to you from this thread is what you wrote as found here:

"In any case though, the main thought I can’t get over is neither Paul nor an angel from heaven should be my example (1 Timothy 2:5; Galatians 1:8)."

 

 I think Paul is an example. Forgive me if I misunderstood but when I read the above it just appeared to me that you were not taking seriously Paul's claim to being an apostle.

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Hi Faber,

 

No worries, my friend. I am glad we got that cleared up. Just to be clear, I think Paul is an example too and as he so rightly said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1.

 

Do you have any further thoughts on if Christians should be taking oaths issue?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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Hello Trevor. Let me make this more interesting or maybe muddy up the waters a bit. I do NOT swear in taking an oath, I do "affirm" that what I say is the truth". However I changed to this in  affirming when I was 40, I became convicted swearing in an oath was not what I felt was good. Using the Bible to say an oath has some serious questions for me as well .

 

I imagine this will bring some questions and I will do my best to answer them id they come.

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Hi Just Mike,

 

After thinking about your statement below for a while, I personally don't think that “affirming” is going past the line that Jesus seemed to set in Matthew 5:37 and James reiterated in James 5:12 (i.e. "let your 'yes' be 'yes' and 'no' be 'no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one"), whereas, “swearing”, “promising”, taking a “vow” or “oath” seem to be crossing over it. 

6 hours ago, Just Mike said:

I do NOT swear in taking an oath, I do "affirm" that what I say is the truth"

 
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They were helpful.

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

 

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Hi Faber,

 

True, God did swear by Himself. But to the best of my understanding, God (i.e. Jesus) told us humans not to say anything more than “‘yes’ and ‘no’” (Matthew 5:37), and James reiterated the same thing to the church (James 5:12). I don’t think any human has the ability to hold to their word as God does, so the fact God swore by Himself, seems irrelevant to the issue of what God wants from us humans.

 

Do you have a reason for not taking what Jesus and James said at face value that directly addresses that issue?

 

In peace and Christian love,

Trevor

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Hello Trevor,

 

 Do you agree that all of the following took oaths?

 

 God (Hebrews 6:13)

 An angel (Revelation 10:5-7)

 Abraham (Genesis 24:3)

 Moses (Deuteronomy 4:26)

 Jesus (Matthew 26:63-64)

 Paul (2 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:27)

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20 hours ago, Just Mike said:

Hello Trevor. Let me make this more interesting or maybe muddy up the waters a bit. I do NOT swear in taking an oath, I do "affirm" that what I say is the truth". However I changed to this in  affirming when I was 40, I became convicted swearing in an oath was not what I felt was good. Using the Bible to say an oath has some serious questions for me as well .

 

I imagine this will bring some questions and I will do my best to answer them id they come.

In a court situation you either swear of affirm, that is what is offered. I wonder if affirming and doing so over a Bible does cross the line? Sometimes we are faced with situations in which we are left with few if any choices. I believe we soon will find being a Christian is costly, our words are being watched and stored like what I am doing writing now. These stored words just might be used against us sometime in the not to distance future. As I once read or heard, will our words and actions be enough to convict us of being a Christ Follower?

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1 hour ago, Just Mike said:

I wonder if affirming and doing so over a Bible does cross the line?

In the traditional sense, taking an oath on the bible simply acknowledges the source of our truth. "So help me God" appeals to God for help in our depravity. 

 

As to crossing the line, without stating a standard of truth what is to oppose relativism? That is, where the truth is relative to an individual? The bible states a false witness should have the penalty as the one being condemned by a false testimony. The relatavist may not think so, perhaps lying is beneficial to his or her political agenda, and/or personal gain etc. Swearing in on the bible therefore imposes another moral standard.

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