You shall have no other gods before me. (Exod. 20:3; Deut. 5:7)
Both in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5 we are given a set of laws which have come to be known as the Ten Commandments. The Bible itself does not refer to these sets of commandments this way but the subtitles in our English Bibles often titled them the “Ten Commandments.” Most theologians refer to them as the decalogue (literally, the ten words) and understand them to be the basis of all Old Testament law. Sadly, however, many Christians wrongly believe these commandments only apply if you are Jewish or that God merely uses the decalogue to convict unbelievers of sin and drive them to Christ. This is evident by the fact that I have met very few Christians who have memorized the Ten Commandments, somehow believing that to do so is some form of legalism. We don’t need the law; we need grace, so then why memorize the Ten Commandments? Because, as Paul says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). God is not opposed to our memorizing the law nor is he opposed to us trying to keep the law; he simply does not want us to use the law as a means of salvation. Salvation is by grace alone and not through law keeping. Nevertheless, the law is “holy and righteous and good.” Thus, for the first ten days of the new year, I plan to discuss one of the Ten Commandments each day to help us get the year started off right.
The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). Often when Christians here this commandment they immediately begin to think about bowing down to a statue or some object and kissing it or worshipping it. But the commandment to not have any other gods before the one true God is not just a prohibition against engaging in false worship or false religion, it is a prohibition against placing anyone or anything in a position of greater value than God. That is, any time we treat someone or something else as being more important than God, we are violating the first commandment. We are placing other gods above the one true God. When we choose to look at internet pornography in disobedience to God (Matt 5:27-28), lust becomes our god. When we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us (Matt 6:14-15), we are placing anger and bitterness above God. When we choose to take our children to sporting events on Sunday rather than attend church in disobedience to God’s word (Heb 10:25), our children become our god. God commands, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Nothing and no one should ever take priority over God.
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