As a young boy, I remember learning to say “I swear to God!” I don’t remember where I got it but it was going around among a lot of the kids in the north Omaha neighborhood where I grew up. I would say it so often that eventually my parents told me to stop saying it and even began to punish me when I did. I learned that to use this phrase loosely like I did, was to violate the commandment “do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” I would add it to the end of a fishing story to convince my friends of its truth. I’d add it to my claim to have done my homework to my parents. This might have been what got me in trouble. My friends would use it all the time in making promises to each other. It was supposed to settle the matter. We understood the idea of swearing by something greater than ourselves in order to arouse confidence from others. We still use the phrase “so help me God” in wedding ceremonies and in swearing-in rituals. People will often put their hands on a Bible and swear to the truth of the testimony they are about to give.  To lie under oath is a felony! This is what Hebrews 6:16 is all about. It says, “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.”

It’s interesting to me that these words are no longer used in the United States Congress. The New York Times reports, “The witness rose from her seat, raised her right hand and swore to tell the truth before Congress. But four words were missing: ‘So help me God.’ In the House of Representatives, to the winner go the spoils, and Democrats, the new decision makers, control everything, including what legislation gets a vote and the minutiae of procedural choices, such as whether witnesses must utter the traditional plea for divine aid. Democratic chairmen and chairwomen of several key committees have deemed no such entreaty is necessary.” [1]

Fruchtenbaum explains the importance of this verse in his commentary. He writes, “It is the nature of swearing to appeal to a higher authority. God is the highest authority, so His Word settles and confirms. God made the same affirmation men make. Yet, God could not appeal to a higher authority; there is nothing higher or greater than God Himself. He is the greatest authority, and His Word confirms all. There is no argument against His Word.”[2] It’s important to note that Jesus is “The Word of God.” He is the embodiment of God’s message to man. That message involves God’s love for all mankind (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). God took an oath on Himself to impress upon us the validity of His love for us. Jeremiah 31:3, God said, “I love you with an everlasting love.” In Christ that oath was consummated in blood.


[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 93.