The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods before Me” (v. 3).

- Exodus 20:1-3

The preface to the Ten Commandments reads, “And God spoke all these words, saying …” The clear message is that the law is of God’s making. He alone establishes the only standard of righteousness and holiness. This must remain ever before us: When we question the legitimacy of the law, we are questioning God Himself. The law is His eternal standard of right and wrong. It is inextricably bound to Him and cannot be separated from Him anymore than His righteousness can be stripped from Him.

He begins by saying, “I am the Lord your God.” God asserts His own authority to enact this law in general. He proposes Himself as the sole object of that religious worship which is enjoined in the first four commandments. Because God is the Lord—Jehovah, self-existent, independent, eternal, and the fountain of all being and power—He has an incontestable right to command us. He that gives being may give the law, and He is therefore able to expect our obedience and punish our disobedience.

The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our duty to God. It is reasonable that these should go first because we cannot be true to our brother if we cannot be true to God. And the first concern we have regarding God is to worship Him alone, to give to Him the glory due His name, the inward worship of our affections, the outward worship of solemn address and attendance, and the faithful worship to His prescribed commands.

The object of our worship is Jehovah and Him only. The Gentiles in that day worshiped many gods, but Israel was to worship only one. As God’s children, we are to cleave to Him in heart, soul, and mind. We are to worship Him as He commands, for, as Calvin wrote, “Since God has prescribed to us how He would be worshiped by us, whenever we turn away in the very smallest degree from this rule, we make to ourselves other gods, and degrade Him from His right place.”

The first commandment teaches us that the main principle of piety is to give to God what is His own. This precept is the foundation for the whole law: that we adore God alone, serve Him alone, and set our affections entirely upon Him. God will not share His glory with another. He expects our total devotion and our complete submission.

Coram Deo

As we go through the Ten Commandments, take time to examine yourself, to see how you are breaking each command. Then take the opportunity to confess your sin and ask forgiveness in Christ. Remember that when you sin, Jesus is willing and able to forgive. How do you break the first commandment? Confess it today.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 4:1–14; 5:1–7; 6:13–16; 10:20
Matthew 22:37

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