"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"
The Swearing Of Oaths (Mt 5:33-37)
1. Are you a man or woman of your word?
a. When you say "yes" or "no", do people take it as "gospel"
b. Are you someone whose word is questioned, unless confirmed with
2. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus dealt with the issue of swearing
a. In which He set a high standard for His disciples to follow
b. A standard that exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, and
exceeds the standard followed by many people today
3. In this lesson, "The Swearing Of Oaths", we shall consider what
Jesus taught from the viewpoint of four questions:
a. What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing
b. How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees,
traditionally interpreted and applied the Law?
c. What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the Law
d. Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court?
[To answer the first question, "What did the Law of Moses actually
teach concerning the swearing of oaths?", let’s take a moment to
I. THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE SWEARING OF OATHS
A. THREE PASSAGES MAKE VERY CLEAR THE TEACHING OF THE LAW…
1. "And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you
profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." – Lev 19:12
2. "If a man vows 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."
– Num 30:2
3. "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." – Deu 23:21
B. THE EMPHASIS WAS ON TRUTHFULNESS AND FAITHFULNESS…
1. A person must be truthful when he swears an oath; he must
truly mean it
2. He must also be faithful in keeping the oath; he must carry
out his word
C. THIS EMPHASIS ON TRUTHFULNESS "IN THE HEART" WAS STRESSED BY THE
PSALMS AND PROPHETS AS WELL…
1. In the Psalms – Psa 15:1-2; Psa 24:3-4
2. The Prophets often bemoaned the lack of truth in the heart
– Jer 5:1-2; Hos 4:1-2
[So the teaching of the Law was clear: Vows to the Lord should be kept,
and truthfulness in all things was expected.
This leads to our second question: "How had the Jews, and in particular
the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the
II. THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION
A. IT APPEARS THE EMPHASIS HAD SHIFTED…
1. FROM truthfulness in all things
2. TO honoring only those vows sworn "to the Lord"
— As implied by Jesus comments in Mt 5:34-36
B. IN APPLICATION, ONLY VOWS "TO THE LORD" WERE BINDING…
1. That the Jews had made such arbitrary distinctions between
their vows is seen in Mt 23:16-19
2. Because of this distinction, daily conversations were often
spiced with meaningless oaths to make impressions; e.g.,:
a. "I swear by heaven"
b. "I swear by the throne of God"
c. "I swear…by the earth…by Jerusalem…by the altar…by
the temple…by my head…"
[By shifting the emphasis from truthfulness to honoring only those vows
made to the Lord, the Pharisees in their application of the Law
justified the use of meaningless vows.
Now to our third question: "What did Jesus teach in response to this
abuse of the Law concerning oaths?"]
III. THE TEACHING OF JESUS
A. HE EXPOSED THE HYPOCRISY IN SUCH ARBITRARY DISTINCTIONS…
1. Mt 23:20-22 clearly shows that when one swears by…
a. "the temple"
b. "the throne of God"
…he is swearing by the LORD also!
2. Mt 5:34-36 likewise teaches that one cannot swear by these
things without involving God
a. Heaven is the throne of God
b. Earth is His footstool
c. Only God can change our hair color (without the use of
— Therefore, any oath is an oath "to the Lord"!
B. HE ENJOINED "TRUTHFULNESS IN THE HEART"…
1. Let your "yes" mean "yes"
2. Let your "no" mean "no"
— Any more than this is evil, and would be contrary to speaking
"truth in his heart" (Psa 15:1-2)
[In exposing the hypocritical distinctions made by the scribes and
Pharisees in their oaths, and in commanding us to speak simply and
truthfully, the words of Jesus have led many to ask our fourth and
final question: "Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court?"]
IV. MAKING OATHS IN JUDICIAL MATTERS
A. ARGUMENTS AGAINST SWEARING JUDICIAL OATHS…
1. Both Jesus and James established the New Testament criteria
for telling the truth under all circumstanaces
a. Mt 5:34 ff – "swear not at all" leaves no doubt
as to the importance of not qualifying your statements
b. Ja 5:12 – the command "do not swear"
again limits qualification of an honest man’s answer
2. Also, consider the following points:
a. By swearing that "this statement" is true you are
implying that other statements you make may not be true.
b. To "swear" would thus taint the honest Christian’s reputation
c. Paul made reference to God observing our statements –
2 Cor 1:23; Ga 1:20
d. Liars are among the ungodly – 1 Tim 1:10; Rev 21:8
e. The devil is the father of all lies – Jn 8:44
C. WE TAKE GIVING OUR WORD "SERIOUSLY" …
1. In other words, to "swear not at all" but,
2. To tell the truth under all circumstances
2. Fortunately, in this country we are allowed the option to
"confidently affirm" our statements in the courts
1. The righteousness of the kingdom is to exceed that of the scribes
a. They would often spice their statements with vows and oaths in
order to be believed…
b. Christians are to be so truthful, their "yes" means "yes" and
their "no" means "no"
— So truthful and trustworthy are the disciples of Christ to be, it
would not be necessary for them to swear oaths or have to say "I
promise" in order to be trusted
2. Can this be said of us, when people know that we are Christians?
a. Can others "bank" on our words?
b. When we say we will do something, is it as good as done?
May the words of our Lord remind us that even our speech reflects
either honor or dishonor upon the God we serve!