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The Godly Oath

December 14, 2019
By Martin Luther

At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, "God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me." . . . And Abraham said, "I will swear."

GENESIS 21:22-24

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The Godly Oath

Abraham does not refuse to take the oath, and by his action he teaches that these moral and civil matters should neither be looked down upon nor neglected by the saints under the pretense of their religion. . .. But so far as Christ's command is concerned—"Do not swear at all" (Matthew 5:34)—the reply to this question is very easy if one takes into consideration the causes which Moses points out well in this account. One can truthfully give the simple answer that a righteous man does not sin even when he swears, but that he is rendering a service that is pleasing to God and men. But it is easier to explain the causes. The efficient cause is that Abraham is not swearing thoughtlessly, but because the king ordered him to do so. . . Therefore an oath which is imposed by the government is in agreement with the command of God, who has commanded us to obey the government. The other, final cause is also indicated here, namely, that in this way peace is established between the domestics of the king and those of Abraham. For Holy Scripture says (Hebrews 6:16): "An oath is the end of all controversies"; that is, it puts an end to controversies and quarrels. Who would deny that this is a holy and good work?

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