Q45: Which is the first commandment?
A: The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Q46: What is required in the first commandment?
A: The first commandment requireth us to know (1 Chron. 28:9) and acknowledge God to be the only true God (Deut. 26:17), and to worship and glorify him accordingly (Matt. 4:10).
Q47: What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A: The first commandment forbiddeth the denying (Ps. 14:1), or not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God (Rom. 1:20), and our God (Ps. 81:11); and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone (Rom. 1:25).
Q48: What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A: These words before me in the first commandment teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God (Ps. 44:20).
I. The first commandment (Ex. 20:3) is concerned with the object of true worship.
A. Since there are many “gods” (1 Cor. 8:5-6), it is crucial to acknowledge the true God as God.
1. Context, Egyptian polytheism: gods of fields, rivers, light, darkness, sun, storm; gods and goddesses of love and war; idols in forms of men and beasts.
a. Israel fell into such worship (Ezek. 20:7-8; cf. 32:7-8).
b. False gods have enslaving power as demonic forces use such to gain mastery (1 Cor. 10:20;
B. God is essentially saying: “I am the one and only God; hence I refuse to share my worship with anyone or anything else.”
1. Thus the Decalogue begins by asserting the great principle soli Deo gloria.
positive part of this commandment requires that “God shall be had as God,” since the negative part is to “have no other….” Three chief duties in the commandment: knowing, acknowledging, worshipping and glorifying God.
A. Knowing God (1 Chron. 28:9): His existence (Heb. 11:6), nature (Jn. 17:3), unity of essence (Deut. 6:4), and trinity of persons (Matt. 28:18-20); though not comprehensively (Job 11:7).
B. Acknowledge Him as God (Deut. 26:17), presupposes believing what God has revealed of Himself in the Word (Heb. 11:6), a choosing of Himself as our portion above all (Ps. 16:2, 5), and faithfully
covenanting with Him (Josh. 24:14-15).
C. Worshipping and glorifying God (Rom. 1:21), as His due if we claim Him as such (Mal. 1:6), both
internally and externally: the mind, will, affections, conscience, memory, totality of faculties.
1. Mind: thinking on Him (Mal. 3:16), as what we love most gets most of our thoughts; meditating on Him (Ps. 63:6); esteeming Him above all (Ps. 73:25).
2. Will: choosing Him perpetually (Josh. 24:15, 22; Ps. 16:2); making Him the great end and scope of our life (Rom. 14:8), denying self (Matt. 16:24), and resigning our wills to His (Acts 9:6; Rom.
6:17); being patient under crosses and afflictions as we never suffer as we deserve (Ezra 9:13; Job 11:6).
3. Affections: love of God as chief good (Deut. 6:5); desiring after Him (Ps. 73:25); delighting in Him (Ps. 37:4); fearing Him above all (Isa. 8:13); hoping in Him above all (Ps. 80:7); trusting in Him (Isa. 26:4).
4. Conscience: subject to God alone (Prov. 20:27); yet not excused if not rightly and fully informed (Rom. 2:15; cf. Isa. 5:20).
5. Memory: to remember God (Ps. 63:6), His Word (Jn. 2:17), His works (Job 36:24), and not forget Him (Jude 17).
6. Whole soul: prayer (Phil. 4:6); praise and thanksgiving (Ps. 145:1); giving all obedience (Jer. 7:23).
negative part of this commandment contains three things chiefly forbidden: atheism, profaneness, idolatry.
A. Atheism: speculative, when men do not believe there is a God (Ps. 14:1), or that He has manifested Himself in His triune nature (1 Jn. 2:23); practical, when man denies Him by his works (Tit. 1:16).
B. Profaneness: not worshiping and glorifying God, and thereby acting against His honor. What is
forbidden here refers back to the duties of worship: mind, will, affections, conscience, memory.
1. Mind: ignorance of divine things (Hos. 4:1, 6; Isa. 27:11), whether through laziness or carelessness (Job 21:14), or misapprehensions (Acts 17:28-29); unworthy thoughts of God (Isa. 53:3).
2. Will: not covenanting with God as our God (Isa. 44:3, 5; Eph. 2:12); if God is chief end we are not to please man (Ga. 1:10) or self (Rom. 15:1).
3. Affections: lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16); hardness of heart (Rom. 2:5); hiding sin (Prov. 28:13); irreverence in His service (Ps. 89:7).
4. Conscience: making man lord of conscience (Matt. 23:9; 2 Cor. 1:24); blindness (Isa. 5:20).
5. Memory: forgetting God (Jer. 2:32). If we forget God His mercies do not engage us, nor will His
judgments frighten us.
a. Remembering what we should forget (1 Cor. 13:5).
C. Idolatry: rendering worship and glory to any other but God (Isa. 48:11).
D. Example of first commandment being broken: Solomon possessed true spiritual wisdom at beginning of reign.
1. Most blessed man ever duly warned (1 Ki. 9:4-7).
2. God told him he could ask for whatever he desired (1 Ki. 3:5). His answer revealed his God: not wealth, power, or pleasure, but wisdom to serve God.
a. Solomon sadly ended up serving the various gods he’d rejected.
(1). Wealth: seven years building temple (1 Ki. 6:38); 13 years his house (7:1).
(2). Power: Israelite kings forbidden to build cavalry (Deut. 17:16), yet Solomon amassed an army of horses and chariots (1 Ki. 10:26-29).
(3). Pleasure: king’s forbidden polygamy (Deut. 17:17), yet Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines (1 Ki. 11:1-3).
b. Solomon finally suffered ultimate spiritual degradation, he bowed down to blocks of wood and stone (1 Ki. 11:5), and was condemned for specifically failing to keep the first commandment (vv. 9-11).
IV. The words “before me”
This is not referring to rank, as if one can worship other gods as long as God is put first. There are two allowable senses of “before me.”
A. “In front of me,” meaning anywhere since God is omnipresent
B. Two things “in opposition to one another,” i.e., not having any gods against Him.
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. Breaking first commandment produces emptiness. Solomon reflects upon what he had done (Ecc. 2:1a), describes his projects (vv. 4-8), and sums it all up (v. 10); but found out it wasn’t worth it (vv. 11, 17a). Such happens to all who follow after other gods: judgment will come, but long before there is emptiness and despair.
B. Use, of testing.
1. Identify private idolatries: two tests.
a. Love test. What do we love? Origen: “What each one honors before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is God.”
b. Trust test. Martin Luther: “Whatever thy heart clings to and relies upon, that is properly thy God”; Thomas Watson: “To trust in anything more than God, is to make it a god.”
(1). Scripture proofs for trust test (Job 31:24, 28; Phil. 3:19).
2. Do we violate the first commandment by acting as if heretics practice legitimate worship, or even by worshipping with them a “god who has no son” (cf. 2 Jn. 9; 1 Jn. 5:12).
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. All idolaters will be punished (Rev. 21:8). See the exceeding breadth of the commandment (Ps. 119:96), recognize impossibility of salvation by deeds (Ga. 2:16), and see your need for a foreign righteousness.
2. Saints. Be humbled over a sense of your sin (Ps. 19:12), and see your infinite obligation to Christ who propitiated and fulfilled perfectly the law’s penalty and requirements.