A Short Study of 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.” (James 5:12)
Believers are warned to not swear at all. Jesus first stated this idea in Matthew 5:33-37: “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: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
What kind of judgment or condemnation comes from oaths? Several examples can be cited. One of the classic examples is given in the New Testament in Mark 6:22. King Herod, in a fit of lust for the daughter of his wife Herodias, swore that he would give her whatsoever she wanted up to half of his kingdom. What was the result of this oath? The death of the righteous servant John the Baptist. “…the king was exceedingly sorry: yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison.” There are no doubt countless other examples in the world that have not been notated in scripture, where oaths made by sinful men, have resulted in calamity and disgrace.
Men are not to swear, but God does swear, and thank Him for it! In Acts 2:30-32, Peter states: “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” Since there is nothing that God can swear to that is higher than Him, He swore our redemption by Himself, (Genesis 22:16). “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:13-20)
Interestingly enough, angels (messengers) do swear by the purpose of God (Revelation 10:4-6). Thank God that He swore this oath, otherwise we would all be without hope. We are full of broken promises both to God and men, praise to God that our redemption does not depend on all our broken promises. “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” (Hebrews 7:17-18).
May we as God’s people, be happy that our Lord swore our salvation, and keep ourselves from such things.