A homily on the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me…”
We’re continuing to use the Westminster Larger Catechism, which gives a thorough and biblical exposition of each of the Ten Commandments. If you think you’re keeping God’s Law just fine, thank you, you’ve never read the Larger Catechism. I commend it to you. It will instruct you in God’s holy Law – and humble you before it. So let’s continue with the First Commandment. We considered our duties last week. Now, what sins are forbidden in the First Commandment?
“A 105: The sins forbidden in the first commandment, are, atheism, in denying or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshiping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and [confessing] him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of him;…”
And let’s stop there for this week. I think we’ve heard enough. Anytime you are ignorant of God – that is, you don’t really know His character, His attributes, His works – you have broken the First Commandment. Anytime you FORGET God – in some need, you forget to call upon Him, but resort to your own strength & wisdom. Or in some blessing, you forget to give Him all thanks for His undeserved grace and mercy to you. How often does that happen each and every day of our lives? Every time it has, we have broken the First Commandment. Anytime you have a misapprehension or false opinion of God. When you think of God as tolerating sin you deny His holiness. Or when you think of God as too harsh, who is not gracious and merciful to forgive you all of your sin. Whenever you presume upon or despair of His grace, you have broken the First Commandment. Therefore, apart from Christ, we are guilty. We have all transgressed this commandment and so are worthy of God’s eternal condemnation.
So to dispel our ignorance of God, our forgetfulness of God, our misapprehensions and false opinions of God – for the forgiveness of all of these things, we must repent of our countless transgressions of the First Commandment, and look only to Christ by faith. In fact, Jesus says the night before the Cross: “If you had known ME, you would have known My FATHER also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him…. He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” [John 14:7, 9]
What is the Father like? What does the Father think of you? Look to Jesus, living for you the life you fail to live. Keeping the First Commandment perfectly, fulfilling all of its righteousness FOR YOU. As the God-man, Jesus truly and fully knows His Father. Look at Christ crucified, dying for you – bearing the curse you deserve for all your ignorance and false opinions of God. Look at Christ risen for you – that you might receive righteousness, forgiveness, and eternal life as a gift of God’s free grace.
So, Christian: What do you think of God now? Do you not see Him as the God of all grace and mercy to you, a helpless sinner? The God who has so loved you, that He gave His only begotten Son for you, that you would not perish but have eternal life?