A church pledge is a written
agreement, a promise made before God that a certain sum of money
would be donated to the church community. Is such a pledge good in
the context of Scriptures, or is it wrong? Do the illustrations of
New Testament giving match the church pledge, or do they suggest our
ways may be contrary to God will and ways?
The main answer came from the heart
and mouth of Jesus, our Lord. He said,
you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You
shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the
Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by
heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is
His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great
King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make
one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’
and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the
evil one." Matthew 5:33-37
The apostle James gave us a similar
message. In his letter, he encouraged the church to pray, exercise
The emphasis is rightly on trusting and
waiting on God, following His guidelines from moment to moment,
serving each other and meeting needs as they appear. In this context
-- one trusting God and His sufficiency in the midst of struggles
and uncertainties, certain promises or pledge concerning the future
would be both foolish and presumptuous:
"Therefore be patient, brethren,
until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the
precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it
receives the early and latter rain.You also be patient.
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at
hand. Do not grumble against one another.... Indeed we
count them blessed who endure....
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.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is
anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among
you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and
the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he
will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one
another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The
effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
To clarify the meaning of oath
2319 L7~’ (shăba’) swear, adjure.
shăba’ occurs 184 times in the OT. ... It is apparent that shăba’
‘swear” is identical in its consonantal root to the word (shăba’)
ha’ seven.” It is identical, of course, to the feminine form of
seven—the masculine adding a fourth letter, ‘he’ ‘—and it is in the
feminine in which the Hebrew counts his cardinal numbers! [Another
approach is to call shib’á the fern. form though it is used with
masc. nouns, and sheba’ the masc.
form used with fern. nouns. R.L.H.] Not only is the Hebrew verb “to
swear” identical in the ancient unpointed text to the number seven,
but also a relationship is suggested by the 2000 B.C. incident of
Gen 21:22—34. Here Abimelech desires Abraham to swear to deal
uprightly, while Abraham in turn requires Abimelech to swear that
the well of water belongs to him, Abraham. Abraham then seals the
oath by giving exactly seven ewe lambs as a testimonial witness to
Abimelech, and the well is called Beer-sheba, or
Thus BDB has defined shăha’ by the pithy
one-line paraphrase, “to... seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven
things” (p. 989). Gesenius cites
Herodotus iii:8 and the Iliad, xix:243, to give evidence that in the
ancient world it was not uncommon to seal an agreement by the
To swear in the Old Testament was to give one’s sacred unbreakable
word in testimony that the one swearing would faithfully perform
promised deed, or that he would faithfully refrain from some evil
act (Gen 21:23, “swear... that thou will not deal falsely with me”).
one swore that he freely acknowledged a truth and would continue to
acknowledge it in the future. This was the case when Abraham in Gen
21:30,31 caused Abimelech to swear to the truth that he, Abraham,
had dug, and hence owned,
the well called Beer-sheba.
Often one would swear by (h~) another who was tacitly and mutually
assumed to be greater or more precious than the one making the oath
I Kgs 2:8, “I swear to him by the Lord”). Among
Jerusalem’s ancient sins was the fact that some
had “sworn by them that are not gods” (Jer 5:7).
In such cases God, or a false deity, would be
invoked to witness the truth and sincerity of that
which was sworn, and by implication, to judge
the one swearing if he should either be lying or
fail to live up to his pledge in the days and years
God himself, in such passages as Deut 6: 13 and
Isa 19:18, commanded and showed himself fa-
vorable to his name being the name by which his
people should swear. How is this to be reconciled
with Mt 5:33—37? The answer seems to be that
Christ was warning both against casual swearing
which led people into sin and the then prevalent
Pharisaic casuistry. Thus most Christians have
not interpreted this as an absolute prohibition
against swearing in a courtroom situation. In fact
the opposite is the case with the devout seeing
the more prevalent court “affirming” rather than
swearing “so help you God” upon the Bible, to
be a sign of evil days.
Great emphasis is placed upon God’s swearing
to Abraham to bless him and his seed, and to
bless all nations through his seed (Gen 22:16,18:
cf. Gal 3:8,16). Joseph had so great a confidence
that God would perform what he had sworn to
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give their chil-
dren the land forever—that he in turn “took an
oath of the children of Israel” (yashba’, Hiphil:
caused them to swear to him) to bring his bones
with them when they returned someday to that
land (Gen 50:24—25).
In fact, we see God swearing by himself (Gen
22:16), by his holiness (Ps 89:35 [H 36]), by his
right hand (Isa 62:8), and by his great name (Jer
44:26) in order that he might stress the absolute
certainty and immutability of his performing that
which he swore to Abraham, to Israel, and to
David. See Heb 6:13—19!
So holy and sacred was an oath sworn in
Jehovah’s name that the leaders of Israel, after
being intentionally deceived by the nearby con-
demned Gibeonites, declared, “We have sworn
(nishha’nii) unto them by the LORD God of Is-
rael: now therefore we may not touch them”
(Josh 9:19). Thus too the Bible pronounces woes
and judgments upon false swearers (Zech 5:3,4;
Mal 3:5). No wonder Jesus warned the casual or
crafty that it was better simply to say “Yea, yea:
Nay, nay” (Mt 5:37).
shebO~â, shebü~â. Oath. This noun appears
thirty times in the OT, with the KJV translating it as
“oath” twenty-nine times, and as “curse” once
An oath, sh~h1,’â, should be contrasted to a
covenant, h~rIt, in order to better understand
both. An oath in the OT is a solemn verbal state-
ment or pledge that is affirmed, while the coven-
ant is the substance of an agreement itself. In the
Hebrew idiom, one would swear (shăha’) an oath
(sh~ baa), e.g. Gen 26:3, “I [God] will perform
an oath which I swore unto Abraham.” A coven-
ant, however, would be either established (Hiphil
of quim, literally, “caused to stand”) as in Gen
17:19, or it would be cut (karat) as in Jer 31:31,
“I [God] will make (cut) a new covenant with the
House of Israel.”
Oaths were made by Jehovah to show the abso-
lute certainty of his performance of that which he
promised (e.g. to Abraham, Gen 26:3; and Isaac,
Ps 105:9). Since a verbal promise from God is
absolutely certain of fulfillment, we might prop-
erly inquire why God made oaths when he spoke
with the patriarchs and David? It cannot be that
the unchangeable one wished to prevent himself
from later changing his mind. No! The answer
must be that he made the oaths both for the bene-
fit of the patriarchs and those who would follow
them, including us who are alive today. They are
a teaching method of God, a gracious instrument
to help the weak faith of every generation to be-
lieve that God will someday absolutely accom-
plish his promises to his people, despite dis-
couraging external circumstances.
Oaths were made by men or women to attest to
The afterwards of the life of power
Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me
afterwards. John 13:36.
“And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.” Three
years before, Jesus had said—“Follow Me,” and Peter had followed
easily, the fascination of Jesus was upon him, he did not need the
Holy Spirit to help him to do it. Then he came to the place where he
denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit,
and now Jesus says again—“Follow Me.” There is no figure in front
now saving the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” had nothing
mystical in it, it was an external following; now it is a following
in internal martyrdom (cf. John 21: 18).
Between these times Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he
had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency; there
was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in
his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation
from the risen Lord. “He breathed on them, and saith unto them,
Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” No matter what changes God has wrought
in you, never rely upon them, build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus
Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.
All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power
to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in
imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit.
“Receive ye the Holy Ghost”—the idea is that of invasion. There is
only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chambers, O. (1993, c1935). My utmost for his highest : Selections
for the year (January 5
The opened sight
To open their eyes, . . . . that they may receive . . . Acts 26:18.
This verse is the grandest condensation of the propaganda of a
disciple of Jesus Christ in the whole of the New Testament.
The first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words— “that
they may receive remission of sins.” When a man fails in personal
Christian experience, it is nearly always because he has never
received anything. The only sign that a man is saved is that he has
received something from Jesus Christ. Our part as workers for God is
to open men’s eyes that they may turn themselves from darkness to
light; but that is not salvation, that is conversion—the effort of a
roused human being. I do not think it is too sweeping to say that
the majority of nominal Christians are of this order; their eyes are
opened, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not
regeneration. This is one of the neglected factors in our preaching
today. When a man is born again, he knows that it is because he has
received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of
his own decision. People register their vows, and sign their
pledges, and determine to go through, but none of this is salvation.
Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able
to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ,
viz., remission of sins.
Then there follows the second mighty work of grace—“and inheritance
among them which are sanctified.” In sanctification the regenerated
soul deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and
identifies himself entirely with God’s interest in other men.
Chambers, O. (1993, c1935). My utmost for his highest : Selections
for the year (January 10
4008 מִבְטָא [mibta` /mib·taw/] n m. From 981; TWOT 232a; GK 4439;
Two occurrences; AV translates as “uttered” twice. 1 rash utterance,
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing
every word of the test of the common English version of the
canonical books, and every occurence of each word in regular order.
(electronic ed.) (H4008). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
˒iççâr, is-sawr’; from 631; an obligation or vow (of abstinence):—
˒ĕçâr (Chald.), es-sawr’; corresp. to 632 in a legal sense; an
Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and
Greek words (H631). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Insights from Matthew
Henry's commentary on the whole Bible
We have here an exposition of the third
commandment, which we are the more concerned right to
understand, because it is particularly said, that
God will not hold him guiltless,
however he may hold himself, who breaks this commandment, by
taking the name of the Lord in
vain. Now as to this command,
I. It is agreed on all hands that it forbids
perjury, forswearing, and the violation of oaths and vows, v.
33. This was said to them of old time, and is the true intent
and meaning of the third commandment.
Thou shalt not
use, or take up, the name of God
(as we do by an oath) in vain,
or unto vanity,
or a lie.
He hath not lift up his soul unto
vanity, is expounded in the next
words, nor sworn deceitfully,
Ps. 24:4. Perjury is a sin condemned by the light of nature, as
a complication of impiety toward God and injustice toward man,
and as rendering a man highly obnoxious to the divine wrath,
which was always judged to follow so infallibly upon that sin,
that the forms of swearing were commonly turned into execrations
or imprecations; as that, God do so
to me, and more also; and with us,
So help me God;
wishing I may never have any help from God, if I swear falsely.
Thus, by the consent of nations, have men cursed themselves, not
doubting but that God would curse them, if they lied against the
truth then, when they solemnly called God to witness to it.
It is added, from some other scriptures,
but shalt perform unto the Lord
thine oaths (Num. 30:2); which may
be meant, either, 1. Of those promises to which God is a party,
vows made to God; these must be punctually paid (Eccl. 5:4, 5):
or, 2. Of those promises made to our brethren, to which God was
a Witness, he being appealed to concerning our sincerity; these
must be performed to the Lord,
with an eye to him, and for his sake: for to him, by ratifying
the promises with an oath, we have made ourselves debtors; and
if we break a promise so ratified,
we have not lied unto men only,
but unto God.
II. It is here added, that the commandment
does not only forbid false swearing, but all rash, unnecessary
swearing: Swear not at all,
v. 34; Compare Jam. 5:12. Not that all swearing is sinful; so
far from that, if rightly done, it is a part of religious
worship, and we in it give unto God
the glory due to his name. See Deu.
6:13; 10:20; Isa. 45:23; Jer. 4:2. We find Paul confirming what
he said by such solemnities (2 Co. 1:23), when there was a
necessity for it. In swearing, we pawn the truth of something
known, to confirm the truth of something doubtful or unknown; we
appeal to a greater knowledge, to a higher court, and imprecate
the vengeance of a righteous Judge, if we swear deceitfully.
Now the mind of Christ in this matter is,
1. That we must
not swear at all, but when we are
duly called to it, and justice or charity to our brother, or
respect to the commonwealth, make it necessary for
the end of strife
(Heb. 6:16), of which necessity the civil magistrate is
ordinarily to be the judge. We may be sworn, but we must now
swear; we may be adjured, and so obliged to it, but we must not
thrust ourselves upon it for our own worldly advantage.
2. That we must not swear lightly and
irreverently, in common discourse: it is a very great sin to
make a ludicrous appeal to the glorious Majesty of heaven,
which, being a sacred thing, ought always to be very serious: it
is a gross profanation of God’s holy name, and of one of the
holy things which the children of
Israel sanctify to the Lord: it is
a sin that has no cloak, no excuse for it, and therefore a sign
of a graceless heart, in which enmity to God reigns:
Thine enemies take thy name in vain.
3. That we must in a special manner avoid
promissory oaths, of which Christ more particularly speaks here,
for they are oaths that are to be performed. The influence of an
affirmative oath immediately ceases, when we have faithfully
discovered the truth, and the whole truth; but a promissory oath
binds so long, and may be so many ways broken, by the surprise
as well as strength of a temptation, that it is not to be used
but upon great necessity: the frequent requiring and using of
oaths, is a reflection upon Christians, who should be of such
acknowledged fidelity, as that their sober words should be as
sacred as their solemn oaths.
4. That we must not swear by any other
creature. It should seem there were some, who, in civility (as
they thought) to the name of God, would not make use of that in
swearing, but would swear by heaven
or earth, etc. This Christ forbids
here (v. 34) and shows that there is nothing we can swear by,
but it is some way or other related to God, who is the Fountain
of all beings, and therefore that it is as dangerous to swear by
them, as it is to swear by God himself: it is the verity of the
creature that is laid at stake; now that cannot be an instrument
of testimony, but as it has regard to God, who is the
summum verum—the chief Truth.
As for instance,
by the heaven; "As sure as there
is a heaven, this is true;’’ for it
is God’s throne, where he resides,
and in a particular manner manifests his glory, as a Prince upon
his throne: this being the inseparable dignity of the upper
world, you cannot swear by heaven,
but you swear by God himself.
Nor by the
earth, for it is his footstool. He
governs the motions of this lower world; as he rules in heaven,
so he rules over the earth; and though under his feet, yet it is
also under his eye and care, and stands in relation to him as
his, Ps. 24:1. The earth is the
Lord’s; so that in swearing by it,
you swear by its Owner.
Jerusalem, a place for which the
Jews had such a veneration, that they could not speak of any
thing more sacred to swear by;
but beside the common reference Jerusalem has to God, as part of
the earth, it is in special relation to him,
for it is the city of the great King
(Ps. 48:2), the city of God
(Ps. 46:4), he is therefore interested in it, and in every oath
taken by it.
shalt thou swear by the head;
though it be near thee, and an essential part of thee, yet it is
more God’s than thine; for he made it, and formed all the
springs and powers of it; whereas thou thyself canst not, from
any natural intrinsic influence, change the colour of
one hair, so as
to make it white or black;
so that thou canst not swear by thy
head, but thou swearest by him who
is the Life of thy head,
and the Lifter up of it.’’
5. That therefore in all our communications
we must content ourselves with,
Yea, yea, and
nay, nay, v.
37. In ordinary discourse, if we affirm a thing, let us only
it is so; and, if need be, to evidence our assurance of a thing,
we may double it, and say, Yea,
yea, indeed it is so:
was our Saviour’s yea, yea.
So if we deny a thing, let is suffice to say, No; or if it be
requisite, to repeat the denial, and say, No, no; and if our
fidelity be known, that will suffice to gain us credit; and if
it be questioned, to back what we say with swearing and cursing,
is but to render it more suspicious. They who can
profane oath, will not strain at a
lie. It is a pity that this, which Christ puts in the mouths of
all his disciples, should be fastened, as a name of reproach,
upon a sect faulty enough other ways, when (as Dr. Hammond says)
we are not forbidden any more than
nay, but are in
a manner directed to the use of that.
The reason is observable;
For whatsoever is more than these cometh of
evil, though it do not amount to
the iniquity of an oath. It comes
Diabolou; so an ancient copy has
it: it comes from the Devil,
the evil one; it comes from the corruption of men’s nature, from
passion and vehemence; from a reigning vanity in the mind, and a
contempt of sacred things: it comes from that deceitfulness
which is in men, All men are liars;
therefore men use these protestations, because they are
distrustful one of another, and think they cannot be believed
without them. Note, Christians should, for the credit of their
religion, avoid not only that which is in itself evil, but
that which cometh of evil,
and has the appearance of
it. That may be suspected as a bad thing, which comes from a bad
cause. An oath is physic, which supposes a disease.
Henry, M. (1996, c1991).
Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible :
Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mt 5:33).
"And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but
to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter
in because of unbelief."
"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."
"Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked,
saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist
on a platter.”
And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and
because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her."
"As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham."
“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch
David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to
this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God
had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body,
9according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on
his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the
resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor
did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised
up, of which we are all witnesses."
"Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of
promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an
oath, 18 that by two 8immutable things, in which it is
impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation,
who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us."
"For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the
word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has
been perfected forever."
"For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the
word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has
been perfected forever."
"So she said, 'Will you give me a pledge till you send it?'
Then he said, What pledge shall I give you?”
So she said, Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in
your hand. Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she
conceived by him. So she arose and went away, and laid aside
her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood."
"Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge,
One of those who is surety for debts;
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take away your bed from under you?"
"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."
“If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash
utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, 7 and her
husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he
hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she
bound herself shall stand." Nu 30:6-7
"Go immediately to King David and say to him, ‘Did you not, my
lord, O king, swear to your maidservant, saying, 'Assuredly your
son Solomon shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”?
Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 Then, while you are still
talking there with the king, I also will come in after you and
confirm your words.'”
1 Ki 1:13-14
"So Nathan spoke to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, “Have
you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king,
and David our lord does not know it? 12 Come, please, let me now
give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of
your son Solomon. 13 Go immediately to King David and say to him,
‘Did you not, my lord, O king, swear to your maidservant, saying,
'Assuredly your son Solomon shall reign after me, and he shall
sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 Then,
while you are still talking there with the king, I also will come in
after you and confirm your words.”
15 So Bathsheba went into the chamber to the king. (Now the king
was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was serving the king.) 16
And Bathsheba bowed and did homage to the king. Then the king said,
“What is your wish?”
17 Then she said to him, “My lord, you swore by the Lord your
God to your maidservant, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon your son shall
reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 So now, look!
Adonijah has become king; and now, my lord the king, you do not know
about it."1 Ki 1:11
“And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true,
and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. 29 Now
therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant,
that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have
spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be
2 Sa 7:28
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me,
and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat
and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s
house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this
stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and
of all that You give me I will surely give tenth to You.”
The Armor of God
and Our Shepherd