Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Leviticus 19:12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 24:15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.

16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Matthew 5:33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Titus 2:6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

MEMORY VERSE: Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. —James 3:10

CENTRAL THOUGHT: Scripture clearly teaches the reverence, truthfulness, kindness and purity of the speech of God’s holy people, who are to be a pattern of good works before a world filled with ungodly speech—swearing, profanity, foolishness, impurity and hatred.


Exodus 20:7 “In vain”: falsely; to no good purpose; worthlessly. “The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour, or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Matthew Henry Commentary).

Leviticus 19:12 “Profane”: from a word which means to pierce, bore, or wound; (A form of this word is in Isaiah 53:5, “He was wounded for our transgressions”); desecrate; violate; pollute.

Leviticus 24:15 “Curse”: to be light; swift; trifling; to make despicable; to make light; to bring contempt or dishonor.

Leviticus 24:16 “Blaspheme”: to pierce or bore through; designate; puncture with holes; to prick, taunt or curse.

Matthew 5:33 “Forswear”: swear falsely; commit perjury.

Matthew 5:34 “Swear”: take oath.

Matthew 5:37 “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay”: “That is, a positive affirmation, or negation, according to your knowledge of the matter concerning which you are called to testify. Do not equivocate; mean what you assert, and adhere to your
assertion” (Clarke’s Commentary).

Ephesians 4:29 “Corrupt”: rotten; putrid. “Speech offensive to the hearers, or calculated to infect them with sin; and is in direct opposition to that which is seasoned with salt, and is recommended (Colossians 4:6) as tending to preserve persons from
corruption” (Benson Commentary).

Ephesians 5:4 “Filthiness”: obscene; indecent; base. “Foolish talking”: “buffoonery, ridicule, or what tends to expose another to contempt” (Clarke’s Commentary). “Vain speech, unprofitable to the hearers” (Matthew Poole’s Commentary). “Jesting”: from a word meaning to turn; versatile, easily turned, nimble-witted; witty; sharp. In a bad sense, low humor; coarse jesting. “This would be well understood in sensual, frivolous Ephesus; a light, bantering, jesting kind of talk, seasoned with double entendres [a word or phrase open to two interpretations, one of which is usually risqué or indecent] and obscene allusions, very pernicious in its moral effect. There is no reason to suppose that the apostle meant to condemn all play of humor, which is a Divine gift, and which in moderation has its own useful place as a means of refreshing and invigorating the spirit; it was the jesting associated with ribaldry that drew his reproof” (Pulpit Commentary). “Which are not convenient”: unseemly; not befitting saints. “They do not come up to the proper standard; they are utterly improper in themselves, and highly unbecoming in those who profess Christianity” (Clarke’s Commentary). These three words—filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting—from this verse were only used this one time in the New Testament.

Colossians 4:6 “Seasoned with salt”: grace or wisdom which seasons our words, preventing corruption.

Titus 2:8 “Sound”: wholesome; healthy; pure.


We have cited several Old Testament passages in our lesson for the sake of establishing the fact that God called His people away from the wickedness of the idolatrous world to a higher way of life. These verses give us His mind concerning our speech, and especially the importance He placed on absolute truthfulness, reverence for sacred things, and purity. They present quite a list of prohibitions: taking God’s name in vain, swearing falsely by His name, profaning His name, blaspheming His name, cursing Him.

In the New Testament, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took several “old time” commandments to a deeper level, expanding them not to just outward behavior, but to that which was in the heart of a person. One such example was His command about swearing. The carnal trend among the Jews was to allow or justify falsehood, deceit, or half-truths by citing objects, such as the heavens or the earth, or one’s head, which, they believed, in some way absolved them from their oath and kept them from being charged with perjury. Jesus dealt with this and clearly taught that the issue was unswerving honesty and integrity in all matters.

Historically, Christians who endeavored to live closely by the Apostles’ teachings took Jesus’ prohibition to mean “all” swearing, and therefore would not swear, even in a court of law. Among these were the Waldensians (Vaudois) and Anabaptists of the middle centuries, who even suffered persecution and death at the hands of the Roman Catholic priests and Inquisitors because they would not swear. Since the Church of God Reformation evolved directly from this line of believers, this view has been passed down to our day. I found revisiting this issue and reviewing the scripture passages both thought-provoking and challenging, and certainly worth our time to study and pray over the matter.

It would be impossible to present in one lesson all the scriptures that pertain to the subject of godly speech. They are all over the Bible. My objective was to present enough information from the Old and New Testaments to clearly show the Bible standard God has required of His people throughout the ages. In this lesson are verses from Paul’s epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians and to Titus; all speak directly to how careful, pure and wholesome the speech of saints of God should be. James uses nearly the very words of Jesus in Matthew 5. The writings of the Anabaptists in Martyr’s Mirror often cite James’ letter and the Sermon on the Mount as they encouraged one another to be faithful to the careful, godly way of life taught by the scriptures.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


  1. Name the kinds of speech prohibited by Scripture.
  2. Explain what it means for “yea” to be “yea” and “nay” to be “nay.”
  3. Explain what the scripture means by “salt” seasoning our words.
  4. What Christian groups in church history were martyred for their refusal to swear?
  5. What is the vision of God’s heart for His people that we can see in these scriptures?


We live in a world where not only the ungodly and sinners use language which profanes and misuses God’s holy name, but more and more “Christian” people are treating God’s name and sacred matters carelessly as well. Looking into God’s Word as our guide for conversation and behavior, we can see a pure and holy standard that was lifted up by ancient Bible saints and those in the centuries since then. This is a precious heritage passed down to us by precept and example, and we don’t intend to lose it.

One way people compromise this standard is by justifying themselves that they don’t SAY God’s actual name or use the actual WORD that curses someone. They use substitutions; abbreviations; words that sound almost-like; “mild” profanity that “really doesn’t MEAN any harm;” and disrespectful slang that is often off-color.

We ought to pray earnestly for a vision of the godly conversation God wants His people to employ! What kind of speech would be fitting for the saint who lives a life of faith and earnest prayer; who doesn’t “fit in” with the world, who is zealous for the salvation of souls, meek, loving and peaceable to all people, pure and chaste in mind and body and “salted” with the Spirit and wisdom of God?

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck

Fred Pruitt
October 4, 1881 — June 6, 1963

The fifth son in a family of seven boys and one girl, Fred Pruitt grew up in Southeastern Kansas with very little religious training, finishing school in the eighth grade. He was tenderhearted as a boy, but soon involved himself in the worldly ways of smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing and swearing. At age sixteen he was baptized and joined the Christian church, but realizing he was still no different from the sinners around him, he quit professing Christianity altogether.

God continued to deal with him, even after he married at age twenty-four and moved with his sixteen-year old wife, Mary, to a homestead in New Mexico. After six or seven years of hard work, the loss of two infants, drought, poverty and hardship, he became deathly ill. A Methodist man spoke to him about God, and although he knew very little about prayer, he promised God he would do better if God would get him out of his trouble. The next day the pain in his body began to leave, beginning at his arm and going out of his body through his toes. Weak and crippled, he began to try to carry out his promise to God. He tried to quit smoking, but didn’t have the strength. He tried to figure out which church was right, but became dark and confused. Some years later he heard the song, “He is Just the Same Today,” and still later, heard Bro. George Harmon preach about the church of God. Attending monthly meetings at the school house, Fred tried still harder to quit the sins of which he was convicted. He longed to quit cursing and swearing. He would start to curse, then stop and ask God to forgive him. He wished God would strike him dumb so he would never swear again!

Finally, Fred and Mary confessed their sins, believed in Christ, and received peace with God. God led them by His Spirit to be baptized, and for over two months he rejoiced in the wonderful peace and freedom from sin. He began to realize his need for more power over sin after he yielded one day to the temptation to smoke his pipe again. He prayed constantly. God revealed to him the need for a pure heart and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and as he constantly sought for that experience, God soon gave him a definite answer and a lasting victory over sin.

Bro. Fred was called to preach the gospel, and soon God showed him a vision of the beautiful church of God. He was also called to move to Guthrie Oklahoma, where he began helping with the publishing of a gospel paper. Soon the call from God led him to begin writing articles proclaiming the truths of the gospel. He established the publishing work which printed tracts, books and the paper, Faith and Victory. Bro. Fred continued to preach and publish the gospel, writing his experiences in a book, God’s Gracious Dealings.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck