The first commandment is established and recorded in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me."
One of the most incredible Bible Studies that I have ever done was No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. In the study, Kelly addresses a vital concept to our faith in Christ that is easily overlooked if incorrectly defined. An idol is not just a statue or a figure, but anything in our lives that we put in first place above God. Kelly says, “Too often we profess God but look to everything else to function as him. Even perfectly good things. Things that in and of themselves are pure and right and gifts from God but have become a problem simply because of the placement they have in our lives.” Today we are going to address what is the significance of the first commandment.
What Does the First Commandment Mean?
Exodus 20:1-3 says, “And God spoke all these words: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”
It is important for us to know that God spoke the ten commandments to Moses. He began by reminding Moses that He is I Am, the Lord. It was not too long ago before when Moses met with God in the form of a burning bush and He told Moses that He was I Am. (Exodus 3:14) The title “I Am Who I Am” or in Hebrew, “’Eh·yeh Asher ’Eh·yeh,” is the essence of God. He is, He was, and He is to come. (Revelation 4)
Revelation 1:8 says it this way, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
God is the only one true God. He has existed always and never sinned. He is perfect, He is the Creator of all things. He is the only one worthy of our praise. Before I Am gives any further instructions to the people of God on how to live a holy life, He starts with a most important statement, “You shall have no other gods before me.” If the Lord is number one in our lives and hearts, all of the other commandments will follow.
Recently, I heard that before the ten commandments, people still recognized sin in their lives and right from wrong. For example, Cain still knew that murdering his brother was bad without knowing the ten commandments. (Genesis 4) Recognizing I Am, reminds us that we are imperfect and reveals areas of sin in our own lives.
The First Commandment Is Achievable because Jesus Fulfilled the Law
The New Testament makes it clear that the Law is perfect. God created the Law and gave it to us so graciously in order that we would know how to live for Him. However, we did not meet the standard of perfection, so Jesus came to us and lived the perfect life for us. He died and rose so that we could be redeemed.
Anyone who separates the Old from the New Testament is missing the intention of the Lord. He gave us both and they are equally valuable to us because Jesus is God, He is I Am. He and the Father, and the Holy Spirit have always been and will always be. You might think, “Does this mean Jesus was a part of the ten commandments, I thought Jesus was more loving than the God of the Old Testament?” Yes, the Trinity has always existed together as Three in One. They are in total agreement over the ten commandments, and in total agreement that we as humans cannot live up to the standard and needed a Savior. As we study the Law, remember that the Lord knew we failed the Law and Him, and yet He graciously gave us the Law so that people before Jesus especially, would know how to model lives after Him and enjoy the blessings He originally intended. The Law set the people of God free from not knowing what was sin. Jesus set us from all of our sins.
Jesus said Himself in Matthew 5:17-20, “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
You might be thinking, “Well this is a problem, I am too far gone to be considered righteous.” This is the point. Jesus is saying that He is the One who has fulfilled the Law and it would be by His blood and sacrifice that we would have His righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
We can celebrate that the ten commandments no longer have to be a reminder of our sin but instead are now a reminder to us that the Jesus fulfilled them and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can obey Him and reap the benefits of following God.
The First Commandment Keeps Us In Check
The thing that I love about the first commandment is that it keeps our hearts in check. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” When we read, “You shall have no other gods before me,” we ask ourselves the question, “Am I putting anyone or anything above God today?” We remind our hearts that He is overall and in charge of our lives and that is a safe and blessed place to be.
As we look at the commandments below, consider the fact that the first four commands are about loving God and the last six are about loving others. This is broken down by Jesus in Matthew 5:37-40:
“Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love the Lord your God
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Love your neighbor as yourself
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
How are you keeping God first in your life? Who or what are you making into an idol that you need to confess to the Lord? What is an area of temptation? How can you find freedom in knowing that Jesus fulfilled the Law for you? When we love the Lord with all of our beings, we can live out the ten commandments, but it all starts with the first commandment - to have no other gods before the one, true God.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/allanswart
Emma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and they have been married for over a year. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She has the joy of being the host of Her Many Hats podcast where she explores the many roles that women play while serving One God.
Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first published book on singleness. Emma also had the privilege of being a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com