“I Swear!”



From Matthew 5:33-37

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

Bible Text: ”33 “ Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 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

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I SWEAR!”. Often, those 3 little words are followed by a very much expletive NOT deleted. How do you respond? We who love the Lord Jesus as Savior should be interested in how – or even WHY – the Savior takes the time to deal with this subject!

FIRST, we must ask the question, BY WHAT STANDARD?

(With apologies to Brother Rushdoony – I’m not stealing his title! Nor apparently the title used in the 1980’s by our Southern Baptist brethren as they entered the fray for the sanctity of the authority of the Scriptures!).

The time of our Savior was filled with the words and “authority” of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. They were considered the religious leaders of the day. Their word – and interpretations of their word – were the supposed governor of all religious thought, teaching, and direction of both church and spiritual society. They had the self-imposed authority to enforce the Scriptures ALONG WITH the 613 laws that they added to the Bible. And yes, often those added laws carried more weight than the Scriptures themselves.

So what was God’s true standard of which Jesus reminded His hearers?

First, Deuteronomy 6:13: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.”

And, Leviticus 19:1, 2, 12: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”

And what about OUR day? There is an international church which says, concerning marriage: “Marriage is God’s standard. We are against divorce. BUT if conditions warrant, we simply annul a marriage and say IT NEVER EXISTED.”

What did Jesus say? Later in Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 23:1-4, He addressed His attention directly to the scribes and the Pharisees:

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

And hence came the popular phrase, “DO AS THEY SAY, NOT AS THEY DO.”

Second, we must ask, BY WHAT SERIOUSNESS?

In verse 34, our Savior says “Swear not at all.” What is He NOT saying? Our Quaker friends refuse in court to “swear to tell the truth.” That becomes as legalistic as the Pharisees! Does it not create a form of “legislated holiness”? Why, can you not hear the old timers say, “Do not go to movies and you will be holy”?

Why, several Old Testament saints DID take oaths, and the Bible acknowledges those oaths as most honorable! Remember Jacob? He received an oath from Joseph that he was NOT to be buried in Egypt. By faith, Jacob trusted that God would one day honor His Word and the Israelites would go home to Israel. Jacob’s bones were to go with them!

Furthermore, remember David and Jonathan? They took an oath of each other, that the one of the two who survived would care for each others’ descendants. In truth, after Jonathan died, David would take care of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth! IF you are ever looking for an unusual name to name your son, there you go! In fact, Mephibosheth would not only sit at David’s dinner table. He would also possess all the lands that King Saul once owned. All because of the honoring of an oath.

So what DOES Jesus mean here? He is saying: “DO NOT base your truth, your position, on the greatness of anything!” Rather, recognize the consequences. Legislated holiness is of the evil one, of the world system, which is in active opposition to that which is GOOD!

Our third question is, BY WHAT SANCTITY?

The Lord Jesus said that our conversation – our “communication” rather than our “manner of life” – should be “yes” or “no”. Clear as mud, right? That is, our communication should be truth from the heart because of our living and active relationship with the living God. We need to swear by an Object of divine significance!

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not GRIEVE the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Note how the Apostle Paul introduced his section on Romans dealing specifically with the future of the nation of Israel:

“I tell the truth in Christ, I AM NOT LYING, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 9:1)

Check out the Apostle James’ instruction, in James 3:14:

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, DO NOT boast and LIE AGAINST THE TRUTH.”

(For further examples, see also: 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; Col. 3:9; and2 Tim. 2:7).

TO CONCLUDE: “How do we point others to Christ?” could be the question that our Savior is asking in this passage. And He answers it in a way that is highly applicable to today! Do we win people to the Savior by showing them the rituals of our faith? OR to we win people to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus by showing them a changed life as a result of our relationship with the Savior?

Do we point people to rituals, or do we point people to the cross of Calvary?

What is your STANDARD?

What is your SERIOUSNESS?

What is your SANCTITY?



Jesus said, “Come unto ME, all who are weary and heavy burdened,

And I WILL give you REST.” (Matthew 11:28)