The First Commandment

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Last year I wrote a blog on the seventh commandment that listed out its meaning as well as some applications that followed. Within this blog, I want to do something similar with the first commandment. Let’s begin looking at this famous commandment.

The Importance of this Commandment

The importance of this commandment cannot be overstated. Our God is an orderly God and, in his infinite wisdom, He placed this commandment at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. This led J.I. Packer to say that the first commandment is, “the fundamental commandment, first in importance as well as in order, and basic to every other. . . .true religion starts with accepting it as one’s rule of life.” And Packer is simply drawing from Thomas Watson who, when looking at the first commandment said, “This may well lead the van, and be set in the front of all the commandments, because it is the foundation of all true religion.”

In essence, Packer and Watson are saying that the essence of true religion is placing the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, as the exclusive object of our worship. If we make the God of the Bible anything less than the exclusive object of our worship, then we have swerved into a false religion.

These truths lead me to say this: in order for us to be obedient to any other commandment, we must be obedient to this commandment. Every other commandment must be obeyed because we have the God of the Bible as the sole object of our worship. To attempt to obey every other commandment without obeying the first commandment is considered sin, and is worthy of eternal condemnation. This is why this commandment is so very important.

The Uniqueness of this Commandment

As one looks at the gods of the ancient world, it is evident that none of them make the kind of assertion that our God makes in the first commandment. The God of the Bible is saying that you must worship Him and only Him. None of the other religions said anything like this. The cult of Baal, Asherah, and Molech never made such statements.

So when God said, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He was saying something quite unique. Ryken makes this even clearer when he says, “This command was without precedent. None of the other nations in the ancient world prohibited the worship of other gods. The God of Israel refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any ofter God.” As you can tell, the God of the Bible is not a man pleaser! He will have you worship Him and Him alone because all the gods of the nations are false and illegitimate; completely unworthy of the worship of men and women made in he image of the one true God.

The Commandment in Light of the Trinity

We have briefly covered the importance and the uniqueness of the first commandment. Let’s now look at this commandment in light of the Trinity. This will be important when we start addressing what this commandment is requiring of us.

God has revealed Himself as the triune God. The One true God that gave us the first commandment eternally exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person within the Trinity is fully God and is worthy of our worship, allegiance, and trust.

So, the Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father (Jn 5:23). The Spirit is worthy of the same honor as the Son. All three distinct persons of the Trinity, since they have the same essence, are worthy of the allegiance that the first commandment requires. And it is when our lives are dominated by our relationship with the one true triune God, that we are walking in faithfulness to the first commandment.

Now that we have a general overview of this commandment, let’s try to understand what the first commandment is forbidding us from doing, as well as what the first commandment is commanding us to do. In order to do this, we will use the two-sided rule.

The Two-Sided Rule

This is one of the interpretive methods we use in studying the Ten Commandments. This rule teaches that, when something is forbidden, the opposite is also commanded. It also teaches that, when something is commanded, the opposite is forbidden. In essence, there are always two sides to each commandment; a negative side and a positive side. We will begin with the negative side of this commandment.

The Negative Side

First, this commandment is forbidding us from worshipping any other so called “god.” When the Lord says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He is forbidding us from worshipping any and all false gods. With that said, false gods come in many different shapes and sizes.

-Obvious False “Gods”

This is important to understand because some people merely think of false gods as statues of certain gods and goddesses, or they think about all the gods of other religions. Though the worship of these statues and gods of other religions is clearly forbidden by the first commandment, there are other false gods out there that are a little more subtle.

-Subtle False “Gods”

False gods that are a little more subtle are ones that have Christian terminology attached to them. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the Apostle Paul talks about Satan’s craftiness in deceiving people. One way he deceives people is by placing a different Jesus out there than the Jesus the apostles were preaching about.

Also, in Galatians 1:7, Paul admonished the Galatians for turning to a different gospel than the one he originally preached to them. These false teachers in the region of Galatia are using Christian terminology, but they are preaching and teaching about a different gospel than the one handed down by the apostles. And the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping these different “Jesuses” and different “gospels.”

This means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Jehovah witnesses. They do not believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God, or that Jesus resurrected bodily from the grave. They preach a distorted gospel with a distorted Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Mormons. They believe that god used to be a man and that, after obedience to the law, was eventually elevated to a god. They believe that god had sex with his goddess wife and they produced offspring (Jesus and Lucifer). Jesus obeyed god’s laws and became a god himself. This is also a distorted gospel with a different Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel preaches that the Abrahamic covenant brings material wealth, that prayer forces God’s hand, that faith is not a gift from God, and that Jesus’ atonement brings physical healing and financial prosperity. As Jones states, “In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because its faulty view of the relationship of God and man.” The Jesus of the prosperity gospel is different than the one recorded in the gospels and preached by the apostles.

And lastly, for subtle false gods, the first commandment is also forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of theological liberalism. The Jesus of theological liberalism is not God over all, a being most glorious and worthy of our exclusive allegiance. Rather, he is merely a moral example; a paragon of virtue. His death was not substitutionary. It did not accomplish anything. It merely teaches and models what it means to be sacrificial and to look after the interests of others. Simply put, the god of theological liberalism is not the God of the Bible.

-The “God” of the Muslims or Jews

I would also say that worshipping the god of the Muslims or the Jews is a breaking of the first commandment. Sure, both Muslims and Jews say that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but as Christians we must reiterate that they are worshipping a god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When you look at the Bible, it is clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has revealed Himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus clearly teaches that to dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father (Jn 5:23). Therefore, both Muslims and Jews are worshipping a false god, and not the God of the Bible. They are worshipping a god that is other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-“God” Substitutes

The last category that I want to hone in on when it comes to things forbidden by the first commandment is god substitutes. God substitutes do not present themselves as gods, but we end up relying, trusting, and worshipping them as though they were gods. At the outset, let me just say that these are the predominant idols that gain our allegiance and affection in the west.

A god substitute can be strength (Hab 1:11), money (Job 31:24; Dan 5:23; Mt 6:24), possessions (Lk 12:16-21), pleasure (1 Tim 3:4), or entertainment. The scripture clearly teaches that our sin nature delights in elevating these things to unhealthy places in our heart. When we do this, we then trust and rely on these god substitutes as though they were the one true God. When we do this, we are breaking the first commandment.

The Positive Side

Now that we are done with the negative side of this commandment (looking at what this commandment is forbidding us from doing), let’s look at the positive side (what this commandment is positively commanding us to do). This will be much shorter so bear with me!

The first commandment is positively commanding us to place our allegiance, affections, and love on God and God alone. God is to be the chief object of our love. Our loyalty is to be to Him and Him alone. I love how one author put it when he said, “The commandment calls for a style of life dominated by a relationship with God….the relationship to one God must dominate every sphere of life, whether the life of action, of thought, or of emotion.” So the first commandment is commanding us to have a life that is dominated by our relationship with the triune God of the Bible.

This means that our entire lives are to be consecrated to the Lord; completely set apart for the purposes of glorifying and magnifying Him. Like Jesus, we should seek to be obedient to the Lord in every sphere of life: thoughts, actions, motives, and words. When we eat and drink, we are to do so to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). When we work, we are to work heartily as for the Lord (Col 3:23). While we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Our entire life is to be dominated by our relationship with the one true God that has eternally existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is when we are doing this that we are walking in obedience to the first commandment.

Gospel Hope

With that said, it is evident that there is no commandment that we break more often than the first commandment. As a matter of fact, anytime we break any other God given commandment, the root of our sinful disobedience can ultimately be found in a breach of the first commandment. It is when God is not the supreme object of our affections that we dishonor our parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet our neighbor’s wife and possessions. So, though this commandment comes first and is of utmost importance, there is no commandment that we have violated more frequently than this one.

And the Bible teaches that only a curse awaits those who violate God’s law. When we commit cosmic treason by elevating other gods and god substitutes to the place of Almighty God, we deserve everlasting torment in the lake of fire. However, the good news of the gospel is that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

After Christ faithfully obeyed the first commandment throughout his life, he hung on a tree; bearing our violations of the first commandment and suffering under the lawbreakers curse. God the Father willed for Jesus, his beloved Son, to die this way so that violators of the first commandment might be redeemed and restored to a proper relationship with Him. This is the hope of the Gospel, and this ought to lead us to praise and glorify our Savior, who loved us and gave himself for us! Indeed, this ought to lead us to joyfully and wholeheartedly live a life that is dominated by our relationship with the God that saved us by His grace.

 

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

The Seventh Commandment

Over the summer, I walked through the Ten Commandments with the college students at FBC Durham. This proved to be a helpful series that was filled with application. For the purposes of this blog, I just want to mention some applications that I gave in light of the seventh commandment which states: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). But before we get to the applications, let’s briefly look at the meaning of the seventh commandment.

The Narrow & Broad Meaning

The seventh commandment contains far more meaning than we think (this is the case with each commandment). Because of this, I am not going to spend a ton of time extracting all the meaning that’s within the seventh commandment. That would make this blog entirely too long. All I want to do is mention the narrow meaning and the broad meaning of the seventh commandment.

  • The narrow meaning of this commandment is that you should not have sex with another person’s spouse, and that you should not have sex with anybody other than your spouse.
  • The broad meaning of this commandment is best stated by Luther: “This commandment applies to every form of unchastity, however it is called. Not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means. Your heart, your lips, and your whole body are to be chaste and to afford no occasion, aid, or encouragement to unchastity.”

As you can see, the narrow meaning of this commandment focuses on the actual external act being mentioned (adultery), and the broad meaning of this commandment focuses more on the sinful inclinations of the human heart. Nobody comes out unscathed when examining themselves with both the narrow meaning and the broad meaning of this commandment. Some have broken this commandment as it is espoused in its narrow meaning. All have broken this commandment as it is espoused in its broad meaning. What I am saying is this; we have all broken the seventh commandment in some way.

Now, at this point, it is important to mention that much more could be said about this commandment. For example, we could talk more about all the sexual sins that this commandment forbids (homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, adultery, sexual immorality, sensuality, premarital sex, pornography, lusting after somebody with our heart, crude joking, etc.). We could talk about the purpose of this commandment (to protect the marital union). But I do not want to spend my time on all of this.

Rather, I want to give Christians some applications that will help them flee from sexual sin and to pursue purity. For, when there is a, “You shall not,” there is by implication a, “You shall.” What this means is that this commandment is not only forbidding sexual sins, it is also commanding us to pursue purity with utmost diligence. Here are some applications that might help us in this God glorifying endeavor.

Applications that Follow

First, we must have the Spirit of God if we want to obey this commandment.

You see, the Old Covenant gave you a law to obey without giving you a heart to obey. This means that the Old Covenant says, “You shall not commit adultery,” but it does not give you a heart that is able to put sexual sin to death and to pursue purity. This is the terrible plight of those who are apart from Christ and under the law.

However, the blessing of the New Covenant is that it comes with a heart to obey. If you believe in Christ, then the Lord has given you a new heart that enables you to obey the commands of God. This means that, when an individual is born again, the Spirit of God gives them a new heart that allows them to put sexual sin to death and to pursue sexual purity in every area of life. Thus, if you want to be obedient to this commandment in faith, the Spirit of God must do heart surgery on you; He must take out your rebellious heart and give you a new one. Attempts to obey this commandment apart from this are futile.

Second, we must remember our positional status before God.

Who can honestly say that they haven’t sinfully desired that which is contrary to God’s will for sex? Who can honestly say that they have done all that they can to pursue purity of heart, mind, words, and actions? Is it no evident that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God here? Of course it is.

This is why, if we are to actually make progress in putting sexual sin to death and in pursuing purity, we must remember our positional status before God. Before our coversion, we were sinners before God. We were people who had either committed the actual act of adultery or who had committed adultery of the heart. This is who we were positionally: lawless adulterers deserving of the full wrath of a holy God.

However, through faith in Christ, this is no longer our position. We now have a different positional status before God. In Christ, we are now righteous, holy, and pure. Our sins, yes, even sexual sins, have been cleansed. They have been forgiven. We are seen as positionally righteous before the God of all creation. And if you want to fight sexual sin, you must always remember your positional status before God because of the finished work of Christ.

Third, we must study sexual sin.

In Hebrews 3:13, we read that sin is very deceitful. This is the case with sexual sin as well. So think about sexual sin like this: it is your enemy, it is seeking to rob you of your joy in Christ, it is seeking to strip you of your assurance of salvation, it is seeking to keep you from using your spiritual gifts to serve Christ, it is seeking to keep you inactive and unproductive in the faith, and ultimately, it is seeking to kill you.

Therefore, study up on this enemy. Learn about it and how to fight it! You can do this by memorizing Scriptures that are directly related to the topics of sexual sin and purity. You can do this by reading good books about how to kill sin. You can do this by talking to other people who have, by the power of the Spirit, put this particular sin to death.

Fourth, we must be mindful of our eyes.

Job 31:1 says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” As you can see, Job had made a covenant with God that he would not gaze or lust after a woman. Job intentionally sought to be mindful of where he would and would not place his eyes. We would do well to do the same.

Also, as Solomon gives counsel to his son about the adulterous woman, he says, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes” (Proverbs 6:25). As you can see, the beginning stage of adultery is desiring the beauty of another woman in your heart. Therefore, we must be mindful of our eyes. We must make sure that we are not desiring sexual things that are contrary to God’s moral law in our heart. This will help us in the pursuit of purity.

Fifth, we must be mindful of God’s eyes.

When the Scripture teaches about the dangers of sexual sin it says, “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21). Here, Solomon is teaching his son that the all seeing eye of God is upon him. God is pondering all his ways. He is enthroned in the heavens and sees every inclination of our heart and every action that we take.

This kind of teaching is important because sin usually comes with a deceptive voice saying, “Nobody will see. Nobody will notice. This will be easy to cover up!” And we must remember that this is sin’s deception. It is not reality. The reality is that God, who sits enthroned in the heavens and is incomprehensibly pure, sees all the ways of man. He sees our hearts desires. He sees us at the computer. He sees us on our phone. He sees us as we watch T.V. And he sees us when we are with our boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, boss, co-worker, etc. A robust understanding of the all seeing eye of our heavenly Father will help us to be children without the stain of sexual sin.

Sixth, we must be aware of who we are dating or considering dating.

If the person you are dating wants to enjoy sex with you without the covenantal promise that goes with it, then you have a huge problem. I mean, you must understand that God is protecting you when he commands you to only have sex within the marital union.

It really is a beautiful thing for God to reveal to you that your body is so incredibly valuable that the only person that has the right to it must look you in the eyes and vow to be your spouse for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, till death separates you. Is that not beautiful? The only guy or girl that has the right to your body is the one that promises to be with you as long as you both are still breathing!

With this in mind, find somebody that is willing to marry you; to vow before God to never leave you. Then, after they make that vow to you, gladly and joyfully give your body to them. But, and this is a serious matter, be wary of an individual that wants the right to your body without making vows before God. They are not looking out for your good. They are only seeking to experience the fleeting pleasures of sexual gratification, and they are willing to use your valuable body in order to experience them.

Seventh, you must take delight in heavenly things.

God has given you innumerable blessings that will satisfy your soul. He has given you a buffet of soul satisfying blessings. He has given you Christ whom you can feast on by faith. He has given you His word which is like honey from the honeycomb. He has given you prayer which is direct access to the King of the cosmos! So why in the world seek to be satisfied with sexual sin? Why go to the broken cistern of sexual sin seeking refreshment? We have an infinite stream of eternal blessings flowing from our heavenly Father that will satisfy us greatly!

Eighth, you must be aware of entertainment.

Make sure that the books you are reading, the shows you are watching, the social media you are consuming, and the company you are keeping aren’t polluting your mind and tempting you to lust in your heart. If you can’t thank God for the book, show, movie, social media account, or the conversations that you are having with your friends, then you need to rid yourself of them. Seek to only do that which makes you love Christ more zealously! Do what keeps your love for Christ hot and vibrant. Refrain from doing what makes your love for Christ grow cold. It is when your love for Christ is cold that you turn to sexual sin.

Conclusion

There is much more than could be said. There is more that could be said about the seventh commandment in general, and there is more that could be said regarding applications. This is simply written to remind Christians of the importance of putting sexual sin to death, and to help people think about how they can practically put sexual sin to death. I do hope and pray that God will enable you to put sexual sin to death and to pursue purity by the power of the Spirit, for the sake of Christ, and to the glory of God.