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The First Commandment

February 15, 2018 13 Comments

The First Commandment

The 10 Commandments have been an important part of the Christian church since Moses came down the mountain with the stone tablets carved by God. Since that day, we have studied them, memorized them, used them as a guide for the faith of the church. In this series on the 10 Commandments, we will examine each one and reflect on its application to our lives.

Interpreting the 10 Commandments

Before we get to the first commandment, we should discuss how this series will approach the commandments. If you haven’t, you should read an earlier post in the series, The Most Important Passage in the 10 Commandments , before continuing. It helps set the stage for this.

The 10 Commandments are designed to guide Christians in faithful living. Jesus summarizes the 10 Commandments in this way, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30-31).  

It might be easy to see the 10 Commandments as a boundary inside which you can do whatever you want. As long as you follow the letter of the law, you’re good. But Jesus’ summary, “Love,” orients us toward positive action rather than a negative prohibition. It is not enough to refrain from breaking the commandment. We must also fulfill it, too. Therefore, each of the commandments has both a positive and negative aspect to it. A “Do” and a “do not.”

The First Commandment

We begin this series with the first of the commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The simple meaning is that we should refrain from worshipping false gods, a difficult commandment for the people to whom it was first given. Their friends, peers, and neighbors were all polytheistic. They worshiped Egyptian gods, Canaanite gods, and the gods of any people they thought might help them out.

Worship, for these polytheistic pagans, was a way to get a god to like you. If you do the right ceremony, offer the right sacrifice, and a god would grant you a blessing. The people who worshipped Ba’al expected They thought he would water the ground and cause seeds to sprout to provide food for their families. A sacrifice to a different god might produce a different effect. Ba’al worship was particularly tempting to God’s people for another reason: His rituals involved ritual prostitution.

The first commandments, then, prohibits worshipping any god other than the one true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That includes any of the popular false gods of our day. We don’t worship Hindu gods, Shinto spirits, or the Greek deities. We don’t give offerings to the spirit of the sun or moon or forests. We only worship the true God.

Beyond the Simple Meaning

Martin Luther explains the first commandment like this, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” We create a god whenever we fear, love or trust in something more than the one, true God.

Martin Luther isn’t the only one to see this commandment this way. Martin Luther King, Jr. also describes a number of false gods in his sermon, False Gods We Worship . He lists ideas such as science, nationalism, and money. These might not be statues with ritual worship, but they can be gods nonetheless. When we put our trust, our hopes, or our love in something more than God, it is an idol.

What is it that you fear, love, or trust more than God? What are the things or ideas from which you expect all good to come? Many of these are the same generation after generation. Jesus mentions the struggle we have with worshipping money in Matthew 6, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The desire to retain power turned King Herod into a murderer when he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill the boys who were two-years-old or younger. Power was his god.

Money and power aren’t evil, though. When used properly, they can be very good. Money can be used to serve the people around you. Power can be used to give justice and peace, and powerful people can do a lot of good for others. Our nature, however, takes theses good gifts from God and corrupts them by loving them more than god.

How does that happen now? We still turn the good gifts of God into idols. The better the gift, the more pernicious the idol. Many parents have turned their children into idols. Everything in their lives succumbs to their children’s schedules. They sign up for sports leagues, art classes, drama clubs, and afterschool tutoring to help ensure that their child has the best chance of success. Busy schedules crowd out Sunday worship and chess club preempts teaching the children about God.

Politics can become a god, too. When Christians act as if the present political situation is so dire that we are just one election away from collapse, politics has become an idol. When Christians act as if a politician will be able to solve our problems or save us from societal collapse, the politician has become an idol. When we believe that laws will make a country become Christian, politics can become an idol.

In fact, any time we sin, we make an idol. If we trust in God above all things, we believe he will always provide for us. We wouldn’t feel the need to cheat on our taxes or steal from the store. If we love God above all things, we will race to worship every Sunday morning, banging on the doors like it’s Black Friday. If we fear God above all things, we will obey his will in everything.

How To Fear, Love, and Trust in God

While we can never truly fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we do have someone who did it for us, Jesus. He showed his perfect fear, love, and trust with every step of his ministry. When he was sleeping in the back of the storm-whipped boat, he knew that the Father would keep him safe. When the people in his hometown wanted to throw him off the top of a hill, he knew that there was nothing to fear. When Satan offered him the whole world, Jesus knew that only God could provide. When he was arrested, beaten, and hung on a cross, Jesus still trusted. And his trust was proven right when he rose from the dead.

Jesus’ perfect obedience is ours by God’s grace, which means we can be forgiven every time we fail. Confession and forgiveness is the beginning of turning away from false idols and staying with the true God. The Holy Spirit takes away our sin and sets us back on the right path.

When we repent and turn to his grace, we practice relying on God, alone. We throw our broken idols on the ground and turn to the only one who can give forgiveness. We rely solely on God’s grace to take away our sin. This constant discipline is the heart of the Christian life, turning from sin, repenting, and receiving forgiveness.

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13 Responses

Bonnie M Russell
Bonnie M Russell

November 26, 2018

In ancient Jewish tradition, Gentiles are given 7 Noahide Commandments said to be given to Noah when the great flood receded. They are: Don’t worship idols, Don’t curse God, Refrain from sexual immorality, Don’t commit murder, Don’t steal, Maintain courts of justice, and Don’t eat the flesh from living animals (in some studies, this is thought to mean slaughter animals in the Kosher manner, draining the blood – the ‘life’ – from the body) To abide by, and live within, these Noahic Laws as commandments from God renders a Gentile righteous. To follow them only because they are laws (to follow only the letter of the law) does one no good, spiritually.

richard Shull
richard Shull

October 20, 2018

Can I ask forgiveness of my sins from God, or do I have to go thru a priest. Other christian religions do not go thru a pastor or priest. King David and St Clare went thru God. There is nothing in the bible that says apostles foegave sins. I am a catholic by choice, not by birth and I wrestle with this a lot. I cannot afford to be wrong on this. Rick

mjl
mjl

October 20, 2018

It is interesting how we in the church often discard what Jesus actually said was the first commandment. It is found in Mark 12:29. This is how the Jews reckon the first commandment, and upon re-examination, I have to say Jesus would agree. The first commandment is to sh’ma (hear/listen and obey) the Lord (supreme authority) our God (divine magistrate) is ONE Lord (supreme authority). If you do not at first obey this, the FIRST commandment, and recognize Him as the One and Only God to Whom you owe obedience, the rest will be null and void. We seem to not like the word or the idea of obedience being part of our salvation relationship, yet faith and obedience are married. James has much to say about it.

Marsha. Page
Marsha. Page

April 01, 2018

I know that God’s law is imprinted in our hearts,but i think
the only difference between the
10 commandments and the law
is, one is printed in the Bible and
the other is, as a Christian the
Commandments are printed on
my heart.This is how i feel.

Kssunny
Kssunny

February 22, 2018

Warren, Paul would cringe in Heaven at your comments….you cannot rewrite what God the Father wrote with His own hand…that is blasphemy. “Paul’s rewrite” you are taking out of context…this Chapter 13 was a discussion of Obedience with civil law. You need further study of this before pulling verses out of context to support your seemingly disdain( based on your comment) for the old testament. Both old and new testaments are to teach us not only history and foundation of the World through God’s perspective and His true nature and Character(OLD) but give us a guide(NEW) when the world had been so corrupt we needed a Savior. Jesus, taught us how to walk forward in an evil and corrupt world in Grace and most importantly LOVE. There are NO rewrites of HIS Father’s hand…

KIM
KIM

February 20, 2018

Just because we are under a new covenant doesn’t mean the 10 commandments are not relevant. 2 Timothy 3:16. A very good article!

Dorothy Anderson
Dorothy Anderson

February 19, 2018

Very informative explanations of the love and faith we should follow as Christians looking forward to future articles

Ricci
Ricci

February 19, 2018

It will be interesting to see how you handle the fourth commandment the only commandment telling us to Remember, wonder why it’s not sateted as “Thou shalt keep the Sabbath”?

Mary Christensen
Mary Christensen

February 17, 2018

This was truly a Great & Enlightening Blog post! I sometimes think I put shopping & money before God, & that can surely become an Idol! I don’t want to have any gods before The Only One True God!

Marcia Mildenburger
Marcia Mildenburger

February 17, 2018

Important message. It’s easy to say we don’t worship other gods until you look at just what that really means….whatever is more important or “ sneaks” in ahead of God causes us to be worshipping another god. I particularly agree with your statement about activities and busy schedules taking God’s place.

Lydia Veracruz
Lydia Veracruz

February 17, 2018

Im very sincere about our
TEN COMMITMENTS..

Joyce Stuart
Joyce Stuart

February 17, 2018

I really enjoyed reading about the First Commandment.was very uplifting.

WARREN  BENSON
WARREN BENSON

February 17, 2018

We are one. Paul is our teacher. Rom 11:13
Pure doctrine from God Paul teaches. Col 2:22, 2Tim 2:7
Paul rewrites the commandments. Rom 13:9 cause we are subject to them not the old testament.
Love!

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