The First Commandment

Moses Receives the Tables of the Law

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household

The First Commandment You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The First Commandment is the sum of all ten commandments. If we were able to keep the first of the commandments perfectly, everything else would fall into place. If we truly had no other gods and the one true God was the one and only, we wouldn’t misuse the name of the Lord our God, we would remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, honor our father and mother, not murder, etc. To further understand this commandment, we’ll need to ask a few more questions.

The first question that comes up is, “What is a god?” Luther summarized the answer by saying, “Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.” So what is it that you trust in most? Where do you look for all good and where do you turn in times of trouble? What can you not live without? That, is your god. Whether it be someone you love, or your job, or that sporty new car that you got, whatever it is that you look to for comfort when troubled, relief when you are overwhelmed, protection when you are in danger, that is your god.

What if you find that your god is not the true God? Well, first off, you’re not alone. In fact we all have our little (or big) gods that we love to pull out. From Adam and Eve wanting to be like god, we’ve all received that same trait. So when you find yourself with other gods, repent. Remember, that’s what one of the purposes of the commandments are, to show us our sin so that we may repent of them. Then turn to the One true God and receive the gift of forgiveness that he wants to give you.

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The Ten Commandments Introduction

Moses Receives the Ten Commandments from God

Luther’s Small Catechism is divided up into Six Chief Parts, The Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and The Sacrament of the Altar (also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist among others). The next few posts will be discussing the first of these, The Ten Commandments.

Where Did the Ten Commandments Come From?

The Ten Commandments came from God Himself. They are His Laws and are not man made. They can be found in Holy Scripture in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 as well as Exodus 20:1-17. Here’s what they say from Deuteronomy:

“ ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “ ‘You shall have no other gods before me. “ ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “ ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. “ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “ ‘You shall not murder. “ ‘And you shall not commit adultery. “ ‘And you shall not steal. “ ‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “ ‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

The first thing that you may notice is that God did not number the Ten Commandments. The numbering of the commandments is man made, but not the laws themselves. As I go through the commandments, you may notice that the numbering I use is different than the way that you learned them. UPDATE–For more information on this, check out a brief explanation here.

What’s the Purpose of the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are the Law of God. They are to be kept completely and perfectly. That’s something that you and I simply have failed, and continue to fail to do. God’s Word says, “For there is no distinction: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). We simply cannot keep these commandments perfectly and as a result we are condemned.

So the purpose of the Ten Commandments is not to make ourselves more worthy to God. We can’t possibly do it. They are not to be used as Ten Steps to a Successful Life. Again, we will fail, and success will end in disaster. They are not the guidelines for WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), for He has done all things perfectly, again, something we can’t do.

Are you beginning to see a trend? The Ten Commandments cannot save you. They will only condemn you. The Law of God is meant to kill, and it does a great job at it. The Law points at you and all your shortcomings and things that you have done wrong or failed to do right. It breaks you down so that you have no where to turn. It does this so that you do not rely on yourself for your salvation.

The purpose of the Ten commandments is to show you your sin. So as I go through the commandments, think about how you fail to keep these commandments. Not as a way to do better and earn your way to salvation, but in order to confess your sin. Then look to Jesus Christ, who has kept the Law perfectly for you. Look to His cross, where He suffered and died for your failures, paying the price that you deserve for your disobedience. In His resurrection, you have the assurance that His sacrifice on your behalf has been accepted by the Father. Through the faith that He gives, you have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

What is a Catechism?

This is how Wikipedia defines the term Catechism:

A catechism (pronounced /ˈkætəkɪzəm/; Ancient Greek: κατηχισμός from kata = “down” + echein = “to sound”, literally “to sound down” (into the ears), i.e. to indoctrinate) is a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well.

The Lutheran church uses Luther’s Small Catechism as the basis for its instruction of both children and adults. It contains questions and answers that are meant to give the student (catechumen) answers about what it is that we believe, teach and confess. Its teachings (as are all of the Lutheran Confessions) are drawn from Holy Scripture. In short, the catechism is a book with questions and answers that proclaim the truths of Scripture that brings salvation. In that spirit, this series of posts will be posed as questions with answers.

If you have any questions, just ask. I will reply personally to you and may even post as a separate blog post in the future.

Reviewing the Catechism

Today I will be beginning a new series that will review what we believe, teach and confess based on Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. I will try and keep this pretty regular, but you may see bursts of posts and then nothing for a while.

As I said previously, this will be based on Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (1991 edition), but I will also be bringing in content from other sources such as Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or email me at pastor@shlcfayettemo.com.