In the first chapter we said that the purpose of the 10 commandments was to expose sin and its consequences (Romans 3:19-20). Their relevance to us as Christians is that they guide us in the process of eliminating sin from our lives and this process is called sanctification. And so, non-Christians need the commandments to convince them of sin so they may find Christ; and Christians need the commandments to guide them towards spiritual maturity. In this chapter we begin the actual study of the commandments themselves.
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
- Exodus 20:1-3
The Jews are in the desert after having left Egypt and God calls both Moses and his brother Aaron to come up the mountain to hear what God had prepared for them.
vs. 1 - Note that the Bible takes care to say that God Himself is speaking. These commands are not man's invention or ideas. They are a report of what God has spoken directly to man.
vs. 2 - God first declares who He is and the power that He has, and where it has been demonstrated. He reveals His name, Jehovah the self-existent, eternal one. The Jews had so much respect for God's name that they did not pronounce it. The Jews were moved to believe who God said He was --The Lord (Jehovah/self existent and eternal/Thy God Elohim the Supreme God) because of what God did to the Egyptians.
- Turn a river to blood.
- Destroy every fist born in the land on a given night.
- Separate the sea.
The power He demonstrated gave Him credibility, His credibility gave Him the authority to establish and make laws as well as demand that they be kept or face punishment. This is the sequence:
Power → Credibility → Authority → Sovereignty
vs. 3 - Based on this premise, the first command demands that people have only Him as God. He does not want to be first among many but rather the only one worshiped as God. The Jews had many different gods and this command is a demand to abandon all other gods and worship and obey only the God who gives these commandments; only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Why this is a commandment
What is the reason for this commandment, why would worshiping other gods be harmful?
1. Worshiping other gods offends God. To recognize something or someone else as the source of life and the world is offensive to the one who gives life. It also robs a person of the opportunity to build a relationship with God, the true God.
2. Worshiping other gods is dangerous. When people worship something other than God, they are in effect, relying on something that has no power to save them or help them. Sincere and zealous worship of an idol or an idea of god that is false can never replace worship of the true God. Because He is good, God sustains and blesses such people for a time on this earth, but eventually they lose the greater blessing of heaven.
If you do not worship the true God on earth, you will not worship Him in heaven either.
How do people today break this commandment?
1. Non-Christians - Those who do not worship God through His Son Jesus Christ break the 1st commandment.9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
- Philippians 2:9-10
The way to glorify the Father is through the Son. Note that Jesus has been given the Name of God therefore anyone who doesn't worship Christ as God has broken the 1st commandment. Some honor Christ, but not as God like the Muslims for instance.
2. Christians - Those who are devoted to or controlled by someone/something else other than Christ break the 1st commandment. For example:
- Matthew 27:1-10 - Judas loved money more than he loved the cross and Jesus.
- Acts 5:1-11 - Ananias and Sapphira loved the approval of others and prestige more than they loved the service to Christ.
- Colossians 4:14 and II Timothy 4:9-10 - Demas loved the activity and pleasures offered by this world more than he loved the body of Jesus which is the church.
Each one of these began well as Christians but like the parable of the seed teaches, things got in the way of following Christ. Sometimes it is the fear of persecution or lack of faith that causes the fall - like Judas. Sometimes it is our own pride that will not allow us to humble ourselves and submit to Christ and His teachings that lead us away from Him - like Ananias and Sapphira. Most of the time it is the allure of the world - its pleasurable activities, the drawing power of sin or the never ending demands it makes on our time that slowly draw us away from following Jesus.
The reason we encourage brothers and sisters to make the church and service to it such a high priority is because God has made Jesus the head of the body, which is the church. Much of our interaction with Christ is exercised and experienced through our relationship with the church. If we are faithful and serving the body, then we are faithful and serving the head of the body which is Christ - who is God - the only and true God to be worshiped and served.
How do we avoid breaking the 1st commandment?
1. For a non-believer it is the belief and obedience to the gospel of Christ that brings one into the first stage of compliance. This is why we confess our faith when baptized. We are saying that we believe that Jesus is not only God but that He is the only true God and that there are no others. Our worship of God begins with our faith in Christ.
2. For Christians our compliance to this commandment grows and increases as we submit to the Lordship of Christ in every area of our lives. When Christ grows in His sovereignty over my financial and business decisions as well as my family matters and worship life, I am more deeply worshiping the only true God.
44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."
- John 12:44-50
We can know how to make Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives because His word guides us and will judge us as well.