What is the First Commandment?


Introduction

The questions and answers below are copied from different catechisms. Please see the footnote at the end of each question for the reference.


Which is the first commandment?1

The first commandment is, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

What does God forbid in the First Commandment?2

God forbids us to have other gods (idolatry) (Isaiah 42:8 1; Matthew 4:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 John 5:21).

What is idolatry?3

Idolatry is having or inventing something in which to put our trust instead of, or in addition to, the only true God who has revealed himself in his Word (1 Chronicles 16:26; Galatians 4:8, 9; Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19).

When do people have other gods?4

They have other gods

  • When they regard and worship any creature or thing as God (Psalm 115:4; Philippians 3:19; Revelation 9:20).
    • Bible narratives: Israel worshiped the golden calf (Exodus 32). The people worshiped Baal (1 Kings 18:18-29). The Philistines made Dagon their god (Judges 16:23-24).
  • When they believe in a god who is not the triune God (see the Apostles’ Creed) (Matthew 28:19; John 5:23).
    • Bible narrative: The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17).
  • When they fear, love, or trust in any person or thing as they should fear, love, and trust in God alone (Psalm 14:1; Proverbs 11:28; Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 10:37; Ephesians 5:5)
    • Bible narratives: The rich man thought more of costly clothes and good eating than of God (Luke 16:19-31). The people building the Tower of Babel considered their achievement more important than God (Genesis 11:1-9). Goliath trusted in his size and physical strength (1 Samuel 17). Eli honored his sons more than God (1 Samuel 2:12-34). Peter feared punishment more than he loved God (Matthew 26:69-75).
  • When they join in the worship of one who is not the triune God (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

What does God require of us in the First Commandment?5

God requires that we fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.

  • We fear God above all things when we revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him (Genesis 17:1; Psalm 33:8; Psalm 96:4; Proverbs 8:13; Matthew 10:28).
    • Bible narrative: The three men in the fiery furnace feared God more than the king (Daniel 3).
  • B. We love God above all things when we cling to Him alone as our God and gladly devote our lives to His service (Psalm 73:25-26; Matthew 22:37).
    • Bible narrative: Abraham loved God more than his son (Genesis 22). Joseph resisted the temptation of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39).
  • C. We trust in God above all things when we commit our lives completely to His keeping and rely on Him for help in every need (Psalm 118:8; Proverbs 3:5).
    • Bible narrative: David trusted in the Lord when he fought against Goliath (I Samuel 17:37, 46-47). Abram left his country and relatives to go where the Lord sent him, trusting that the Lord would take care of him (Genesis 12:1-9). Daniel committed himself to the Lord keeping (Daniel 6).

What does the Lord require in the first commandment?6

 That for the sake of my very salvation I avoid and flee all idolatry  (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 10:5-14; 1 John 5:21), witchcraft, superstition (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:9-12), and prayer to saints or to other creatures (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9). Further, that I rightly come to know the only true God (John 17:3), trust in him alone (Jeremiah 17:5, 7), submit to him with all humility (1 Peter 5:5, 6) and patience (Romans 5:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14; Colossians 1:11; Hebrews 10:36), expect all good from him only (Psalms 104:27, 28; Isaiah 45:7; James 1:17), and love, (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37), fear (Deuteronomy 6:2; Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 1:17), and honour him (Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 10:20), with all my heart. In short, that I forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against his will (Matthew 5:29, 30; 10:37-39; Acts 5:29).


Footnotes

  1. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 51.
  2. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 20.
  3. Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Question 95.
  4. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 21.
  5. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 22.
  6. Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Question 94.

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