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In Vain

In Vain

     We understand the word “vain”, by definition is: 1) having or showing an excessively high opinion of one's appearance, abilities, or worth. 2) producing no result; useless. This first definition falls more in line with the concept of vanity, and carries with it the synonyms – conceit, arrogance, or narcissism. This is certainly a problem as no one is the center of all things, regardless of what they may think.   The second definition is the focus of this article.  
     The first occurrence of the word “vain” in the Bible is in Exodus 5:9 and is uttered by the Pharoah regarding the “types of words” to which the Israelites might be tempted to listen.   Just as defined, these words would be useless and, at the same time, were also contrary to the command of Pharoah that the Israelites make more bricks for his building projects.
     The third of the Ten Commandments, given to Israel in Exodus 20:3, not long after the children of God were released from Egyptian bondage also employs this word. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.   True to its definition, this Commandment was they were to NOT use the Lord’s name in a useless manner.   Unfortunately, some in that day and many in this day do that very thing.  
     But the use of words is not the only way in which one can be vain. We can find the second occurrence of “vain” in the Gospels in Matthew 15:9.   This is the first record of the Lord’s use of this word.   But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. It is obvious that the Lord was teaching that the doctrines and commandments of men (those which originate with man) are useless (vain) in regard to the worship of God. This was prophesied by Isaiah as provided by the Spirit.   Jesus repeated this and in so doing was showing the hypocrisy of these Pharisees as well as the vanity of their minds.  
      1Corinthians 15:1-2 supports the idea that one can also “believe” in vain. The Spirit had Paul write to remind these brethren of the gospel which he had faithfully preached to them.   Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. Then we see in verses 3-4 what Paul, by the direction of the Spirit, had proclaimed to them. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: If one does not believe in Christ and that He was raised from the dead, their belief is in vain.  
        If one’s belief is vain or useless, their efforts are useless as well. The Spirit had Paul remind the brethren in Ephesians 5:6-7 of the fallacy of being led away by belief in the vain words of others.   Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.   There is also the admonition of Colossians 2:8 to warn the brethren there.   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. We also know from Romans 1:21-22, that those who once “knew God” and failed to believe in Him and glorify Him are recognized as unthankful, fools, dark-hearted and vain in their imaginations. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, The verses that follow this clearly show the despicable activities in which these participated.  
       Those whose efforts to be righteous by the Law of Moses after that Law had been “nailed to the cross”, were also in vain.   The Spirit had Paul teach the churches in Galatia this very thing in Galatians 2:21.   I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.   Christ, in His death on the cross fulfilled that Law and “took it out of the way. Then in Galatians 3:1-2 these brethren were challenged to answer who it was that had “tricked” them. How was it they knew of Christ, the Spirit and the promise of life except by the Word of God (hearing of faith)?   O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
      It is equally vain to deny that God is.   Psalm 14:1 is where the Spirit had the psalmist write this.   The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  If God is not (does not exist), then life itself is vain and any and all efforts in life are vain as well.   In Deuteronomy 10:17 Israel was reminded of God and why they should serve Him. For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: Don’t deny God or serve Him in vain. Seek Him in His Word. Then serve Him in accordance to it as John 4:24 directs. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ


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