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Bible verses about The First Commandment
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Worldly religion has conditioned us to think of worship as something that we do briefly once a week, and then we are free to do what pleases us. This is woefully inadequate for fulfilling God's purpose of creating us in His image. His purpose involves putting His mind in us that we may imitate Him in every area of life.

In this, the first commandment has very practical ramifications. If another crowds God out of first place in our thinking, affections, and conduct so that we admire, submit to, and imitate him, we will be in another's image, not God's. If we are not in God's image, will He allow us into His Kingdom?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 20:2-3

The first commandment presents God as the sovereign Creator and Ruler of His creation. He will not allow the worship and honor due to Him to be given to others because it would only result in misdirection of life's purpose, frustration, emotional and physical pain, and ultimately death to those who worship any but Him. It therefore deals with what we worship. Most of the time, the "god" who gets between the true God and us is the self. We are to worship the Creator, the Author of a way of life that will produce right relationships. This commandment demands that we make Him the source of our values and practices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Exodus 20:3

The KJV and the NKJV both translate Exodus 20:3 as, "You shall have no other gods before Me." This translation is misleading, though, because it gives us room to think that other gods are permitted as long as the true God is first in importance. God permits no other gods at all!

Other translations more correctly catch the intent. Moffatt says, "You shall have no gods but me." The Knox translation has, "Thou shalt not defy me by making other gods thy own." The Spurrell translation reads, "You shall have no other gods beside Me." Finally, the New English Bible renders it, "You shall have no gods to set against me." These make it very clear God will not share His position, glory, and praise with any competitors (see Isaiah 42:8). It would not be good for His purpose to allow us to divide our loyalties.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 32:1-5

As this episode began, the people were not really asking for a change of gods but rather a new human leader. Moses had borne much of the brunt of Israel's discontent, and now he had disappeared! In their impatience, they wanted to entrust their leadership to one who could make a god. But this highly offended the true God and Moses! To them the golden calf was an attempt to redefine God's nature and control Him according to their desires.

In like manner, the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches say the ornaments, icons, crucifixes, Madonna statues, and Christmas trees are only to keep God in mind. But this is the same principle involved in Exodus 32! It is not long before people associate the image with God.

In the Golden Calf episode, the first and second commandments were directly broken. Aaron proclaimed it "a feast to the LORD." The churches say, "These things are dedicated to worshipping God." The true God says in verses 7-8 that they had "corrupted themselves . . . and worshipped it." This sounds like today's Christmas observance. The people corrupted themselves by redefining God's nature and His way of worship according to their desires and ends.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 32:7-8

Just mere months after God liberated the slave-nation Israel from centuries of bondage to Egypt through awesome and terrifying displays of power, capping their redemption by dividing the Red Sea and drowning their captors in its waters, they reconfigured the nature of Almighty God into the form of a bull! One has to ask, what were they thinking as they cried, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"?

Is this not similar to what one may discover on the world scene today? People have created gods in their own image. They interpret God according to their own cultural biases, as well as what family, educational, and business associations have predisposed them to believe. They then attribute His favor to their political parties, athletic teams, motivations, and prejudices. All this is done with precious little careful study into, meditation upon, and especially wholeheartedly believing of His inspired revelation of Himself in the Bible.

At the worship service held in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a few days following the attack of September 11, clergy from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faiths participated. Which clergyman represented God? Which did God hear? Can they all be His representatives, even though they all believe differently? Do these differences not matter to Him? They must matter to those men; otherwise, they would not advocate their brand of faith. Certainly, God hears just as surely as He sees what is going on. He makes very clear that no one comes to Him except through Jesus Christ, eliminating two of those faiths immediately.

He also makes clear that those who approach Him with favor must be subject to His government. In other words, they must keep His commandments. The remaining two faiths keep none of His Sabbaths, and in fact, they tell people they do not have to keep the commandments—in other words, they need not be subject to His government in daily life—because His law is "done away."

Might God, as an act of mercy, nonetheless hear and respond by delivering us from future destructions planned for us? He might. It has happened before, for instance, when God mercifully forgave Nineveh after it repented at the preaching of Jonah, and He delivered Israel a number of times. Yet when that happened, it was accompanied by a wholehearted repentance that God was willing to accept. Have we as a nation repented? How deep must the repentance be? How many must repent before it tips the balance of God's judgment so that He moves in our behalf? In Genesis 18:32, God tells Abraham He will spare Sodom if He finds ten righteous people in it. Is God using the same standard of measurement for America today?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Leviticus 19:2-3

Notice how powerfully God backs up the fifth commandment with the civil laws contained in Leviticus 19. In this context God names the fifth and fourth commandments in the same breath while implying the first.

The first thing required in this context is reverence (not honor) toward parents and Sabbath observance. These two are major pillars of good government and social well-being. Reverence is a profound, adoring, and awed respect—more than mere honor. It actually indicates "to tremble before," arising from our awareness of our weaknesses in the presence of the one we revere.

The Sabbath commandment influences social well-being in two ways. It first commands us to work six days. It takes work to make a community safe, clean, orderly, strong, peaceful, and prosperous. The other part of the commandment implies spiritual, moral, and ethical instruction, fellowshipping with others of like spiritual and moral mindset, and service to the community. That part of the commandment adds edifying qualities available nowhere else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 5:7

In the first commandment (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7), God tells us, "You shall have no other gods before Me." I used to think that this meant simply that I was to make sure God was my first priority. Put God first, then family, job, etc. I have come to see, however, that God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and that what He means, I believe, is that nothing—absolutely nothing—can be worshipped in our lives except Him. God will not abide us placing family, work, or possessions in competition with Him.

The Amplified Bible words verse 7, "You shall have no other gods before or besides Me." In my opinion, the Moffatt translation has it best: "You shall have no gods but Me." How clear that is! None, nada, zip, zilch! One God and one God only. Anything that we put ahead of God is "another god." Anything that competes with God for the time that belongs to Him is "another god."

It is imperative that we examine our lives and rid ourselves of any other gods. This does not mean we should leave our families and renounce all material possessions, but we should determine if anything competes with God in our minds and begin to make the changes that will bring matters back into balance. God has a plan for each of us, and for that plan to come to fruition in our lives, He must be first. His overall plan will be completed with or without us. Our continued participation in it is due to His mercy and grace and our humble, yielded obedience.

Mike Ford
Abraham's One God


 

1 Kings 11:4-6

Notice that this occurred when he was old and his heart had almost stopped following the Lord. He did go after the Lord, but he did it in a haphazard way. Solomon is perhaps the most vivid example of a Laodicean in the entirety of the Bible (Revelation 3:14-22).

His downfall began with laxity toward being careful about keeping God's commands regarding idolatry. Laxity is the first stage of lawlessness. The more lax he became, the more double-minded he became. A double minded person loses his grip. It is like trying to grasp two different objects in one's hands. If one is not really sure which he wants to hang onto, and his mind is playing back and forth between them, his grip will loosen on one or the other, because he will want to let go of the one in order to secure the other, if he feels he has a better chance with the other.

In Solomon's case, it is his mental, spiritual grip that is suspect. He gradually came to the place where he was not really hanging onto anything but straddling between choices. This made him become increasingly unstable, unsettled, and even deceitful until he became completely reintegrated into the world. He began to be moved almost entirely by human nature once again.

Why is the first commandment listed first? It is the most important of all the commandments. God wants to draw special attention to it because it is the one that is also most easily broken.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Deception, Idolatry and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

Psalm 10:4

This is of major concern because the first commandment is the most important. A proper understanding of—and thus obedience to—the other nine depends largely on this one.

This does not mean "the wicked" never thinks of God. He may even "belong" to a church and attend fairly regularly. He is not an atheist, but he does not fear God. He has no regard for Him and may in fact purposefully avoid Him. This person has conveniently chosen to live without God except to meet society's conventions. He is effectively worshipping himself.

This nation has more and more frequently been led by men and women answering to this description. They have been largely responsible for impressing their concepts upon society, which has been swept along in absorbing their ideas. People may still frequently talk about God, but He is not feared and obeyed. Idolatry is doing its damage, and reaping of the whirlwind is not far off.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Psalm 45:2-7

Psalm 45 is a Messianic prophecy. The word for "God" used once of the Messiah and later for the Messiah's God, is elohim. Paul quotes this psalm in Hebrews 1:8-9 to prove that Jesus ("through whom also He made the worlds," verse 2) is worthy of the worship of angels. To worship anything less than God breaks the first commandment! This shows Jesus to be God before and after His incarnation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Jeremiah 25:5-7

"The works of your hands" indicates something that comes from man's mind, not the Creator's. Their gods were their own creation, even as their standards were their assessment of right and wrong. Regardless of how men approached life, whether religious or irreligious, atheistic or agnostic, their gods and standards came from minds not in contact with the true God.

This has interesting and devastating ramifications. The nature of idolatry is such that its effect is more subtle than with other sins. The trauma it produces is usually obscured by the penalties brought on by other sins that spring from the original idolatry. Sometimes, the penalty comes so much later that it is virtually impossible for the carnal mind to connect it to the idolatry that began the process.

But the effect of breaking commandment number one is to break number two. Once a person is no longer worshipping the Creator, he must put something else in His place. Man will worship something, and as we have seen, what he worships is almost invariably himself! Even when he is worshipping the works of his hands, he is worshipping himself because he created his idol.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Matthew 18:33

In the New Testament, the Greek word eleeo occurs only once (Matthew 18:33, "pity"), and it means "to be kind," "tender." In contrast, self-pity is the opposite—not tenderness to oneself but an abusiveness that causes great stress and harm. It shows faithlessness by breaking the first commandment in placing oneself higher in importance than the Creator God. This obsession with self interferes with God's development of righteous character in us.

In essence, self-pity is excessive love of oneself. Thus, a simple cure for self-pity is caring for someone else's welfare more than self—in a word, selflessness. Outgoing concern, love toward others is outlined by the Ten Commandments, for they show love toward God and love toward neighbor. The saints who overcome Satan and the world are known by the trait that "they did not love their lives to the death." They are willing to lay down their lives for their friends (John 15:13).

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 10): Self-Pity


 

Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus Christ's response to the Pharisee's question shows that He divided the Ten Commandments into two sections or tables. He covers the first four by saying, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment" (verses 37-38). This supersedes all other commandments; none is greater. The second, covering the last six, is similar to it. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (verse 39).

God also arranged each section to begin with the most important command. He placed first the commandment, which, if kept, will ensure the greatest benefit to our lives, both physically and spiritually. On the other hand, if we break this commandment, it will cause the most damage to our worship of God or to the community by virtually ensuring that we will break others. In the first table of the law, this commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2). In the second, it is the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (verse 12).

Just as the first commandment governs our relationship with God, the fifth commandment is first among those that govern our relationships with men. When we keep it or break it, it affects those relationships. Not only is it chief in this section, it also acts as a bridge between the two tables of the law. When we keep the fifth commandment properly, it leads us to revere and obey God Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Matthew 22:37

Jesus expands the first commandment in what is called the great commandment of the law. Among all the things in our lives that we are to devote to God, this leaves very little out! It impacts on every facet of our lives. What can we do that does not involve our very life, emotions, and intellect?

This commandment, therefore, involves the fear, service, obedience, and worship of the great God who is the Creator. The dictionary definition of worship says it involves intense admiration, adoration, honor, and devotion to someone or something. Practically, worship is our response to our god.

If we respect someone greatly, does not our respect cause us to behave differently because of him? If we know he will be in our area, do we not try to spend some time with him or at least see him? Maybe we plan to give him a gift. If we know his habits, do we not try to emulate him, such as copying his manner of dress or his speech? When we are in his company and he suggests we do something, are we not moved to comply?

In Western civilization, people and institutions reach heights of admiration that drive some to do all sorts of unusual things. Teens, mothers, and even grandmothers will swoon over a crooning singer. Fans will practically tear the clothing from a rock star. Boys and men idolize athletic heroes. At political conventions, grown adults will act like mindless fools in behalf of their candidate.

It is this principle that is involved in keeping the first commandment. The respect and response we give to men, things, or the self should be given to God. Do we devote as much time, concern, or effort in admiring God's great abilities as Creator as we do some human performer? God created the potential for the abilities and beauty we may admire in humans. His abilities are far greater!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:18-20

Our knowledge of God is certainly partial at best, but we cannot plead complete ignorance. Paul says His creation reveals enough of Him to make a major difference in our lives. Failure to keep the first commandment is the major reason why this world is in its current condition. Had mankind kept it, the natural, spiritual progression would have led him to keep the rest because he would then, at the very least, have had the correct Source of law and morality. Without keeping this commandment, the best that man can do in establishing standards is by his own experience, and that leads him directly to Satan!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:24-25

In examining the central issue in each of the first several commandments, we find that the first concerns what we worship. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what he regards most highly. As these verses show, we can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. Additionally, the tenth commandment says covetousness is idolatry too (Colossians 3:5), clearly amplifying that we can give our devotion to things other than the true God.

How good can it be to exchange the truth for the lie? In this context "the lie" is that one can profitably worship someone or something other than the true God. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them the devotion that rightly belongs to the Creator.

John 4:24 proclaims that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth. The worship of God involves the totality of our life, and therefore it cannot be confined to a particular location or a mere hour or two on a given day. Our worship must be guided, motivated, and empowered by His Spirit. Further, it cannot merely be sincere, but it must also be true. Attitude is extremely important, but it alone does not replace truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Romans 1:24-25

The first commandment concerns itself with what a person worships. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what one regards above all, and what one regards above all is that person's God. The first commandment says what we are to worship, the Creator God. Nothing else is to be given that kind of devotion.

As this verse shows, one can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. The people Paul is speaking of turned their attention from the Creator and to the created. It is possible to worship the wrong thing. In Colossians 3:5 Paul writes that covetousness is idolatry too, clearly meaning that our devotion can be given to things other than the true God.

There is a common argument in the world that "all religions are good," that is, none of them teach you bad things. But, as these verses prove, that simply is not true.

Paul argues that God gave these people up—literally, that God abandoned them to uncleanness. Therefore, any religion other than the one true one is a curse! It is a kind of punishment. These people that Paul describes exchanged the truth for the lie. How can that be good?

Here, the lie is that someone or something other than the true God can be properly worshipped and be effective for the person's salvation. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and the direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects that individuals give all of their time, attention, and devotion to may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them that devotion because it is "missing the mark," which is sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 10:12-14

This passage appears in the midst of an epistle detailing the problems of a tumultuous congregation. Paul draws on the experiences of Israel in the wilderness as examples to us. He concludes by telling them, despite what manner of sin each individual was involved in, to turn their attention to overcoming idolatry. In others words, idolatry sat at the foundation and was ultimately the cause of whatever their sin happened to be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

 




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