Oaths, Vows and Promises-Matthew 5:33-37

Oaths, Vows and Promises-Matthew 5:33-37

     Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He came “not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law” (complete their understanding). Matthew 5:33-37 refers to the 3rd and the 9th commandment concerning perjury. Usually people think of this only as taking the Lord’s name in vain but the words of Jesus go a lot farther than just swearing. The text uses three different words to illustrate the message of the 3rd and 9th commandments.

     Oaths are common is every culture. The marriage ceremony is an oath and courts require you to give an oath. Why are oaths necessary? Because people do not tell the truth. The Law is written in a negative style because the nature of man is damaged because of sin. They are not written, “Use the name of the Lord correctly” or “Tell the truth when you speak.


     180 times in the OT, oaths are mostly referred to as God’s oath to His people. It basically means a promise.  Examples are found in Gen 22:16-17 (Abraham and Issac) and Amos 4:2 (God takes an oath by His holiness).


     The word “vow”  is mentioned 91 times (noun and verb) referring to both vows to the Lord and relationships. It is used frequently to connect the idea of giving a gift. Num 30:2-3 deals with the law concerning vows. The vow has two basic forms, the unconditional and the conditional. Conditional vows usually occurred in serious situations.  Example: “If you help me Lord, then I will… do this.” First, a “vow” is always made to God. Second, a “vow” is made voluntarily. Third, once a “vow” is made, it must be kept.  Eccl. 5:5 gives good advice about taking a vow.

I.    The Abuse of the Law

Jesus quotes from the tradition or oral law. What is Jesus trying to point out to them?

   1.  The Pharisees interpretation was missing the intent of the law. It was OK to break your word as long as you didn’t use the name of the Lord in your words. In other words, you could swear an oath on anything else and not break your word. Taking the Lord’s name in vain was binding but a lesser name or thing was not binding-there was no sin. The Pharisees basically limited the command to profanity and neglected to deal with the idea of perjury.

   2.  The Pharisees chose what was binding and what wasn’t. It all depended on the word or words used. Remember Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matt. 23:16. The very reason we have legal documents today is for clarification and really it is to keep people honest. Have you ever heard a politician say something a little dishonest? Notice all levels of the vows are rejected. Not heaven-throne, not earth-Jerusalem, nor man-no power.

II.  The Adjustment of the Law (correction) 

Jesus says:

   1. All of your oaths and vows need to be serious and binding.

   2. The real root of escaping the truth is a sin issue. 

III.  The Application of the Law 

OT-God made an oath (promise) to His people many times. Jesus took oaths. 

1.  Jesus emphasizes the importance of being true to your word-v. 33

     Peter denied knowing Jesus and cursed. The truth is that all the disciples left Jesus.

2.  Jesus emphasizes the spirit of the 3rd and 9th commandment-v. 34-36

     Matt. 7:29 “he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

  1. Jesus emphasizes the simplicity of the Law-v. 37

Let your yes be yes and your no be no!

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