How is God’s name kept holy? In the previous column, we saw that we keep God’s name holy on our lips when we keep the 2nd Commandment. Yet also, “God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!” (SC, The First Petition).
Therefore, we should always concern ourselves with preaching and teaching orthodoxy (right teaching). As Luther continues in the Large Catechism, “In the first place, God’s name is profaned when people preach, teach, and say in God’s name what is false and misleading. They use His name like an ornament and attract a market for falsehood” (LC III, 41). How do we know we have the right doctrine? Compare it to the Scriptures, even the historical witness of the Church. Talk to your pastor. How do you know what your pastor preaches and teaches is right doctrine? Again, go to the Scriptures (which he should be preaching from anyway) and observe the historical testimony of the Church. Where do you receive right doctrine? In the Divine Service and Bible study. Therefore, as you are diligent in the Word at home, be sure also to attend Divine Service every week and any Bible study your schedule allows, lest you begin to believe falsehoods about God.
Correct preaching and teaching is only one way in which we keep God’s name hallowed on our lips. “In the second place, God’s name is profaned by an openly wicked life and works, when those who are called Christians and God’s people are adulterers, drunkards, misers, enviers, and slanderers [1 Corinthians 5:11]” (LC III, 43). Thus, you also profane God’s name in openly sinful and wicked actions. This is why the unbelievers are quick to point out our hypocrisy. It is not that Christians can ever be perfect in speech and action (therefore, we are forgiven hypocrites), but we do drag God’s name through the mud when our actions constantly do not match what we confess. For example, when a person makes a vow before God and many witnesses to remain faithful to his or her spouse but is having an affair, or a person who confesses with Scripture to remain sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8-9) but gets drunk often, they do not hallow God’s name on their lips, for they confess one thing about Him but do another. For how can one resist the devil when they are too drunk to do so? If you are too intoxicated to speak well, how can you escape the jaws of that vile dragon?
Nevertheless, we trust always in that Word of God that speaks the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins to us. Even though we drag His name through the mud at times, He is still our refuge, just as we sing, “How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, / Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! / What more can He say than to you He has said / Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?” (LSB #728 How Firm a Foundation, stz. 1).