Sermon:  Swiss Cheese Promises

Summary:  We are instructed not to make oaths.  Scripture demonstrates that oaths are 
not inherently sinful, but that the problem stems from basic human dishonesty, which 
may be especially inherent in unsanctified people.  Making flippant or dishonest oaths 
and breaking them profanes the name of the Lord and leads to condemnation

Know:  Oaths are not inherently sinful, what is sinful is dishonesty, which could 
include looking for loopholes in promises and affirmations made in good faith

Feel:  Honest

Do:  Examine the larger picture of oaths in scripture and the nature of the system of 
oaths used by Jews in the time of Jesus.  Against this background, read the prohibition 
James makes against oaths and determine the root issues with oaths.  Identify ways this 
instruction applies to any affirmation and how this should affect they way you make any 
kind of affirmation

Text:  James 5:12 and other texts

Scripture Reading:  1 Pet 2:21-22

1.  Will talk about something that everyone does
	a.  Probably even did it as a child
	b.  What did you say to convince people you were being truthful/honest?
		- I swear to God (you made some sort of oath)
		- Cross my heart, hope to die, or something like that
	c.  Continue to swear and make oaths even as adults
	d.  And there may be other oaths you can think of
2.  Why make these oaths?
	a.  Why not just say - I promised I'll do it -- or I am telling the truth?
	b.  We make oaths due to basic human dishonesty
		- Humans can't be trusted to keep their word
		- Even "innocent" children also can't be trusted to keep their word
		- So...we make oaths and swear
	c.  Sometimes if a person swears to vehemently, we doubt his credibility
	d.  Why?  Human nature---actually, untransformed, unsanctified human 
		- 1 Jn 5:19 - Whole world in power of evil one
		- Jn 8:44 - He is a liar and the father of all lies
3.  James 5:12
	a.  Greek:  Stop making oaths
	b.  Jews had a complex system of oaths
	c.  Text says to stop that system of oaths
	d.  Yet other parts of scripture clearly condones oaths.  What gives?
4.  We will talk about
	a.  What the Bible says about oaths - will see they not inherently sinful	
	b.  Why certain types of oaths are not condemned
	c.  What is condemned are certain types of oaths

I.  All oaths are not inherently sinful
	A.  Some of us misunderstand and therefore NEVER make oaths/vows
		1.  We might say, I solemnly "affirm" rather than "swear"
		2.  Not sure if this is really any different
			a.  Aren't you making a commitment either way?
			b.  Is it any less wrong if you affirm and break your word 
			     rather than swear and break you word?
		3.  Not swearing at all and replacing it with affirm misses the point
		4.  Bible does not condemn every kind of oath
			a.  It is like, "Thou shall not kill"
				- Some types of killing is condoned or commanded
				- Capital punishment, killing in war
				- Premeditated murder with malice is capital offense 
			b.  Same with vows and oaths
				- Some type of oaths were condoned and even 
				  commanded -- eg: Ex 22:11
				- Only certain types of oaths were condemned
	B.  Look at the Biblical practice of oaths
		1.  Instructions about oaths
			a.  Dt 6:13 - When make oath, it to be in God's name
				- Doesn't say do not make an oath
				- Means oaths are not inherently sinful
			b.  Num 30:2 - If you make a vow to the Lord, KEEP IT
				- When make an oath, you are bound by your word
				- If you don't, you violate 3rd commandment - Not take 
				  name of the Lord in vain
			c.  Lev 5:4 - Forbidden to make rash oaths
				- Oaths were not to be everyday occurrences
				- They were only to be on special, solemn occasions
				- Bible has many examples of rash oaths
					= Jephthah - Jud 11:30f
					= Israel - Jud 21 - None to give daughters to 
					    marry tribe of Benjamin
					= 1 Sam 14:24 - Saul, cursed is man who eats 
					    before taken vengeance on enemies
					= Mt 14:7 - Herod oath to daughter of Herodias
					= Mt 26:72 - Peter's oath he not know Jesus
				- Oaths not to be taken lightly, only solemn occasion 
			d.  Lev 6:3 - Swearing falsely is sin
		2.  There were typical ways people made oaths
			a.   Would use a phrase, such as:
				- "God is witness"
				- "As the Lord Lives"
				- "May the Lord do so to me and more if..."
				- "By the Lord..."
			b.  Also might involve formal covenant ceremony
		3.  Many examples of people making oaths in scripture
			a.  In the Old Testament
				- Gen 24:9 - Abraham's servant, not to get wife for 
				   Isaac from Canaanites or take Issac back to Ur
				- Gen 47:9 - Israel made Joseph swear not to bury 
				   him in Egypt
				- Jud 2:12 - Spies oath to Rahab to deal kindly
				- 1 Sam 20:16-17 - David and Jonathan covenant 
			b.  In the New Testament
				- 2 Cor 1:23 - "I call God as witness against my soul"
				- 1 Thess 2:5 - "God is witness" of upright behavior
			c.  Even God made an oath
				- Gen 22:16-18 - By myself I have sworn
				- God is highest authority, so swears by himself
				- Not because God's word can't be trusted
				- Wanted Abraham to trust his word, so he swore
		4.  Conclusion:
			a.  Oaths are not inherently sinful
			b.  Oaths are not everyday flippant occurrences 
				- Okay to do on special, solemn occasions
				- They are to affirm your truthfulness to others
	C.  ILL:  Many of has have taken various oaths in our lives
		1.  If you have given testimony in court
		2.  Military service, or oath of public office
		3.  If you have gotten married - Marriage vows
		4.  If you have signed a contract on the dotted line
	D.  All oaths are not inherently wrong or sinful
		1.  But certain "kind" of oaths were wrong.  What kind?
		2.  To answer this, remind self why we make oaths in the first place
			a.  Has to do with basic human dishonesty
			b.  Even if we ourselves are honest, others might not be
				-  Need some affirmation, so we make oaths
				- This is one reason why God make an oath
		3.  With this background, let's read James 5:12 again

II.  (Jas 5:12) - Swiss cheese oaths are condemned
	A.  Notice what James does NOT say
		1.  Did not say - "Do not swear in the name of the Lord"
			a.  Remember Bible said when swear, it to be in the name of 
			     the Lord    
			b.  Remember that swearing not inherently sinful
		2.  So what is James prohibiting?
		3.  Let's go back to the source of James' teaching...Jesus himself
	B.  Sermon on the Mount
		1.  Remember that Jesus is teaching the true intent of Torah/law
			a.  Mt 5:17 - Not come to abolish, but fulfill the law
			b.  Mt 5:18- Not even small letter or stroke pass away until 
			     all is accomplished
			c.  Mt 5:20 - If righteousness not surpass scribes and 
			     Pharisees, will not enter the Kingdom
			d.  You have heard it was said...
				- Formula for quoting Rabbinic tradition
				- Jesus is taking on Rabbinic tradition
				- Jesus is not contradicting God's law, but fulfilling it
		2.  (Mt 5:33) - Pay your vows to the Lord - Makes sense
			a.  How does a dishonest heart think?
				- What if I made a vow, but not to the Lord?
				- What if I swore by something other than the Lord?
				- Am I less obligated in these cases?
				- Dishonest mind finds loopholes
			b.  (Mt 23:16-19) - Condemns entire system of loopholes
				- They had complex system of making oaths/swearing
					= If swear by temple, this is nothing
					= But if swear by gold, then you are obligated
					= If swear by altar, that is nothing
					= But if swear by offering, you are obligated
				- (v.20-22) - Jesus dispenses with loopholes
					= You are always obligated.  Why?
					= Everything belongs to God
					= You swear by anything, it belongs to God
			c.  (Mt 5:34-36) - Go back to Mt 5 and keep reading
				- v.34 - Do not swear by Heaven - It is his throne
				- v.35a - Do not swear by the earth - It is his footstool
				- v.35b - Do not swear by Jerusalem - It is his city
				- v.36 - Do not swear by hair on your head
			d.  Thought if swear by God, he part of the transaction
				- If not swear by God, God have nothing to do with it
				- Jesus says God always part in any oath
				- Do not swear by Heaven is saying - Don't swear by 
				  anything else and think it not matter
		3.  Root problem - The way they used oaths, they designed to lie
			a.  Found loopholes, ways to not be obligated
			b.  These are "swiss cheese oaths" - Full of holes
		4.  Against this background, James says, "Stop making oaths"
			a.  Don't swear by Heaven, or by earth - Rid of whole system
			b.  For sanctified, redeemed people, oaths should be overkill
			c.  Let your yes be yes, your no be no
			d.  Be truthful, keep your word
	C.  ILL: Anything else is "false advertising" -Do you hate false advertising?
		1.  We hear them all the time:  (May be misleading, but not illegal)
			a.  Lose weight while you sleep
			b.  Wear this around your waist, will build muscle
			c.  Family eats free (but you have to pay for parking)
			d.  Something is free, but there are hidden fees
		2.  Some have been sued for false advertising
			a.  Sometimes it gets nowhere
			b.  Lawyers find legal loopholes and they get out of it
		3.  When make swiss cheese oaths, evasive oaths, it is like that
	D.  You see, the problem is not oaths in themselves
		1.  On solemn and special occasions, they are appropriate
			a.  Marriage vows, swear into public office, etc.
			b.  Or when you sign on the dotted line
		2.  The problem is swiss cheese oaths
			a.  Using system of oaths to find loopholes is wrong
			b.  Don't ever say, "I didn't swear by God & am not obligated
			c.  Make any promise and you are obligated
		3.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no
			a.  Be a person of integrity and truth -- be godly
			b.  Sometimes, oaths are only use oaths as 
			      God did
				- Not because you not have to keep word if not swear
				- You always keep word whether swear or not
				- But to gain the confidence of the other person
			c.  What is best is when people know you, not require oath
				- They know you are a godly Christian
				- They know you do not lie and can be trusted
				- They know you will keep your word
		4.  Do this, so that you will not fall under condemnation...

III.  Swiss Cheese oaths result in condemnation
	A.  Read James 5:12 one more time
	B.  Why condemnation?  Swiss cheese oaths break several commands
		1.  It breaks the third commandment - Take name of Lord in vain
			a.  Num 30:2 - Pay your vows to the Lord
			b.  If you break your vow, you have profaned name of Lord
			c.  Your dishonesty cause his name to be blasphemed 
			d.  Remember that swearing by anything involves God
		2.  (Rev 21:8) - Those in lake of fire include liars
			a.  Evasive oaths are lying
			b.  This is serious business
		3.  (Eph 4:25) - Do not lie to each other, speak truth
			a.  Why?  (v.22-25) - Dishonesty is part of old nature
			b.  You are a new person, transform into image of God
			c.  God is a God of truth, we are to be as well
	C.  So, even if you are not under oath, you still keep your word
	D.  Let your yes be yes, not no, not maybe, but yes
		1.  Anything beyond this is sin
		2.  We need to be people of integrity, not full of swiss cheese holes

1.  Summarize:
	a.  All Oaths are not inherently sinful
	b.  Swiss cheese oaths are condemned, and result on condemnation
	c.  We need to be trustworthy, truthful people, like our Lord
2.  God made promise, and he keeps his word - Would provided redemption (inv)
3.  If you have already done this, you have put of the old nature with its lying and 
deceit.  Satan liar and the Father of lies, but we no longer serve him, but the God of truth.


Small Groups Notes:  Swiss Cheese Promises

Summary:  We are instructed not to make oaths.  Scripture demonstrates that oaths are not 
inherently sinful, but that the problem stems from basic human dishonesty, which may be 
especially inherent in unsanctified people.  Making flippant or dishonest oaths and breaking 
them profanes the name of the Lord and leads to condemnation

- When have you made a vow/oath or have seen one made?


1.  What were the instructions concerning oaths in the Old Testament?  (See Dt 6:13; Num 30:2; 
Lev 5:4; Lev 6:3; Ex 22:11)

2.  Describe what appears to be the function of an oath according to Gen 22:16.  
(Also read Heb 6:16-18).  If God both instituted oaths and made an oath himself, what does this 
say about God and oaths?

3.  If Jesus is not abolishing the law according to Mt 5:17-20, then what is he doing/teaching 
concerning oaths in Mt 5:33-37?  Are oaths inherently sinful?  If not, then what is Jesus condemning?  

4.  In Mt 23:16-22, what is the problem Jesus has with oaths in this situation?  How does this 
illuminate James 5:12?  

5.  How does Ephesians 4:22-25 fit in with this discussion on oaths?


6.  Summarize the biblical teaching on oaths, making agreements, promises, affirmations, etc.

7.  What are some means and methods people use to get out of an agreement or promise?  What are 
some ways people try to make their word look credible and trustworthy?  What insights does this 
lesson give for these sort of situations?

8.  What guidance does this lesson give to you?

9.  What would oaths, promises, and affirmations be appropriate in your life?  When would they not be?