The Swearing Of Oaths

(Matthew 5:33-37)


A. Are you a man or woman of your word?

1. When you say “yes” or “no” to something, do people take
it as “gospel” (i.e., truth)?

2. Are you someone whose word is questioned, unless
confirmed with an oath?

B. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus dealt with the issue of
swearing oaths…

1. In which He set a high standard for His disciples to follow

2. A standard that exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees,
and exceeds the standard followed by many people

C. In this lesson, “The Swearing Of Oaths”, we shall
consider what Jesus taught from the viewpoint of four

1. What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning
the swearing of oaths?

2. How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and
Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the

3. What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the
Law concerning oaths?

4. Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court?

D. Question 1: What did the Law of Moses actually teach
concerning the swearing of oaths?



1. Three passages make very clear the teaching of the

a. Leviticus 19:12

b. Numbers 30:2

c. Deuteronomy 23:21

2. The emphasis was on truthfulness and faithfulness

a. A person must be truthful when he swears an oath; he
must truly mean it

b. He must also be faithful in keeping the oath; he must
carry out his word

3. This emphasis on truthfulness “in the heart” was stressed
by the Psalms and the Prophets as well

a. In the Psalms

1) Psalm 15:1-2

2) Psalm 24:3-4

b. The Prophets often bemoaned the lack of truth in the

1) Jeremiah 5:1-2

2) Hosea 4:1-2

4. So the teaching of the Law was clear: Vows to the Lord
should be kept, and truthfulness in all things was

5. Question 2: How had the Jews, and in particular the
Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied
the Law?


1. It appears the emphasis had shifted from truthfulness
in all things to honoring only those vows sworn “to the

a. As implied by Jesus comments…

b.  Matthew 5:34-36

2. In application, the Pharisees taught that only vows made
“to the Lord” were binding

a. That the Jews had made such arbitrary distinctions
between their vows is seen in Matthew 23:16-19

b. Because of this distinction, daily conversations were
often spiced with meaningless oaths to make
impressions; for example:

1) “I swear by heaven”

2) “I swear by the throne of God”

3) “I swear…by the earth…by Jerusalem…by the altar…by
the temple…by my head…”

3. By shifting the emphasis from truthfulness to honoring
only those vows made to the Lord, the Pharisees in
their application of the Law justified the use of
meaningless vows.

4. Now to our third question: “What did Jesus teach in
response to this abuse of the Law concerning oaths?”


1. He exposed the hypocrisy in such arbitrary

a. Matthew 23:20-22 … clearly shows that when one
swears by “the temple” or “the throne of God” – he is
swearing by the LORD also!

b. Matthew 5:34-36 _ these verses likewise teach that
one cannot swear by these things without involving God

1) Heaven is the throne of God

2) Earth is His footstool

3) Only God can change our hair color (without the use
of dyes)

c. Therefore, any oath is an oath “to the Lord”!

2. He enjoined “truthfulness” in the heart

a. Let your “yes” mean “yes”

b. Let your “no” mean “no”

c. Any more than this is evil, and would be contrary to
speaking “truth in his heart”

3. In exposing the hypocritical distinctions made by the
scribes and Pharisees in their oaths, and in commanding us
to speak simply and truthfully, the words of Jesus have led
many to ask our fourth and final question: “Did Jesus
forbid even those oaths made in court?”


1. Arguments in support of swearing judicial oaths

a. Both Jesus and James qualified their statements
concerning oaths

1) Matthew 5:34-37 – “swear not at all” is immediately
qualified by Jesus to refer to flippant and hypocritical
oaths commonly voiced by the people

2) James 5:12 – the command “do not swear” is also
qualified by James to refer to the same kind of
meaningless oaths

b. Also, consider the following points:

1) God has sworn an oath to us … Hebrews 6:16-18

2) Jesus was willing to answer under oath before the
Sanhedrin court … Matthew 26:63-64

3) Paul made solemn oaths in his epistles …
2 Corinthians 1:23

2. In light of these verses…

a. Jesus and James condemns only the flippant, profane
and hypocritical oaths…

1) Used to make impressions

2) Used to spice daily conversations …but were never
intended to be kept

b. Therefore the EXCEPTION to not swearing oaths

1) Solemn oaths made in judicial circumstances

2) Those oaths on occasions of solemn religious
importance (as in the case of Paul)


A. The righteousness of the kingdom is to exceed that of the
scribes and Pharisees…

1. They would often spice their statements with vows and
oaths in order to be believed…

2. Christians are to be so truthful, their “yes” means
“yes” and their “no” means “no”

3. So truthful and trustworthy are the disciples of Christ to
be, it would not be necessary for them to swear oaths or
have  to say “I promise” in order to be trusted

B. Can this be said of us, when people know that we are

1. Can others “bank” on our words?

2. When we say we will do something, is it as good as done?

3. May the words of our Lord remind us that even our
speech reflects either honor or dishonor upon the God
we serve!


About from the Preachers PC

Gospel Preacher for the Park Heights church of Christ in Hamilton, TX. I stand for and defend the truth of God's word. All other degrees and diplomas mean very little in comparison.
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