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Bible Study Fifteen: The First Commandment

The lawyer asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus made it very clear that to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself is the moral purpose in keeping the Ten Commandments. Does this mean that if I had a better understanding of the Ten Commandments that I could become more loving? I think it does.

Can you think of a more important reason to study the Ten Commandments than to learn to love God and your fellowman with your whole heart? Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

1. How is God’s last day church described? Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14

It is interesting to note that God’s last day church is described as keeping His commandments:

“And the dragon [Satan] was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:1

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

Why is it that God’s last day church is described as keeping the commandments? Is it because there will be a people in the last days that will love Jesus so much that they will obey His every word? The answer is “Yes.” The Bible says, “These are they which were not defiled with women [they are not defiled by false church teachings and practices]; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:4, 5

This is beautiful. God will have a people in the end of time who will follow Jesus as their example in everything. They will be keeping His moral Ten Commandments as an expression of their great love for Him.

2. Is there a lot to learn from the Ten Commandments? Psalm 119:96

We are told that the commandments are “exceeding broad.” Psalm 119:96. The good news is that I can become more loving by obtaining a broader understanding of each commandment.

In this little study, we will consider the first table of the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone. The first table, the first four commandments, had to do with man’s relationship with God. The second table, the last six commandments, had to do with man’s relationship with his fellowman.

Introduction to the First Commandment: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

3. Who is this great Lawgiver that brought His people out of Egypt? 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea: and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

Jesus is the One who led the Hebrews throughout their wilderness journey. It was He who was in the cloud, the pillar of fire, and the burning bush. It was Jesus that was the Deliverer of God’s people.

4. What else do we know about the great Lawgiver? Exodus 20:8-11

The prophet Isaiah teaches us that “our Lawgiver” is also the One who will “judge” us, serve as “our King, and who will “save us” from our sins.

“For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us.” Isaiah 33:22.

Who is the Judge? Jesus said, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” John 5:22. We know that the Lawgiver is the Judge, and that the Judge is Jesus.

Jesus is also our King. In Revelation 19:16 we find this reference to Jesus, saying, “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Our Lawgiver is our Judge and King.

Isaiah pointed out that our Lawgiver will also save us. Who is the Savior of mankind? It is Jesus. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Jesus our Lawgiver is our Judge, our King, and our Savior.

5. What other title does Jesus our Lawgiver hold? John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:16, 17

John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . And the Word was mad flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-3, 14

Our Lawgiver Jesus is our Judge, King, Savior, and Creator. And what does our loving Creator and Lawgiver ask us to do? Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11. More on this later.

Now that we have identified the Lawgiver as Jesus, let us now consider His opening words to the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:2

I am the LORD thy God.

What does this mean to you? When I think of these opening words, Jesus is saying that He has authority over all created things. As our Creator, Lawgiver, Deliverer, and Savior, He has the right to command. This makes the commandments and all the words of Jesus paramount. If we reject His words, then we reject His authority. This makes the keeping of the Ten Commandments a matter of recognizing the authority of Jesus in our life. The beloved John wrote, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:2, 3

“I am the LORD thy God.”

He is the LORD over each one of us. We all have an individual responsibility to Jesus. We will all stand in the judgment alone. Therefore, we must give our full allegiance to Him alone. Think of the importance of personal accountability as we consider these words from the book of Revelation:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

It is Jesus that stands at the door of our heart and knocks. He will not force Himself in, yet He has the right to rule over us. We have the power of choice to let Him in or not. If we let Him in then we are recognizing His authority over us. In so doing, we are acknowledging that His law is the rule of our life.

6. Do we need laws? Psalms 19:7

As we gaze into the nightly sky we see that the entire universe is under the domain of law. In our little world we see the laws of nature at work. Moral laws are no less necessary. There is nothing arbitrary about the Ten Commandments. The Bible says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalms 19:7

At times we see a change in the laws of the land, but God’s law will never change? It is written, “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” Psalms 111:7, 8

Solomon wrote, “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14

7. What does God law direct us to do? Galatians 3:24

We know that sin is the transgression of God’s law. The Bible says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” See 1 John 3:4.

By the law is the knowledge of sin. See Romans 3:19, 20. It convinces of sin. See Romans 4:15. We are told that the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The Bible says, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24.

The law convinces me of my need of a Savior. It is important to understand this very important point, Christ came to take away our sin, He did not come to take away the law. “And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.” 1 John 3:5.

Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17, 18

As mentioned earlier, the law has a deeper meaning than many suppose. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Psalm 119:96. The commandments have a breadth of meaning that we have only begun to scratch. Rightly understood the commandments would lead us to love God with all our heart and our fellowman as our self. Matthew 22:36-40. If we do not love God and our fellowman, then we really do not understand the true meaning behind God’s Ten Commandments.

Therefore, let us now look at the essence of the first commandment.
First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He alone is self-existent. There is none like Him, therefore He alone is worthy of our worship and adoration. When we place any person or things before God, we break this commandment. When we do things that lessen our love for God, we have violated the first commandment. Everything begins with our relationship with God. The Bible opens with these words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The gospel of John rightly begins, saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. Jesus is known as the “first,” the “Alpha,” and the “beginning.” We worship God and Him alone because He is before all things and created all things.

Therefore, we should begin each day with our thoughts directed heavenward to give God honor and praise. It is important that we begin each day seeing the face of God before we see the face of man.

When we are tempted to sin, what should we do? We should put God first. James wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. When we are tempted with a sinful thought, we should place ourselves on God’s side by turn the mind to His Word. In doing so, God honors our choice to replace the evil thought with His holy Word. As such, then God makes the devil flee.

So often we dwell upon the evil thought or try to overcome by our own power. But we are not able to make the devil flee. We are no match for Satan. But Satan is no match for God. Therefore, when we are tempted, we are to turn to God for help.

If we truly kept the first commandment, if we always put God first, then we would be able to keep the whole law. As the law is the miniature of the entire Bible, so is the first commandment the summary of the whole law. If we could only grasp the broad meaning, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” how different our lives would truly be.

If God were always first and best in our life, then we would receive the righteousness that He offers us in His dear Son. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:33, 34.

True success in the Christian life is to place God first in all things. Whatsoever you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. The great commandment teaches us, saying, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

How can I love God with all my heart, if I put others before God in my life? The answer is, “I cannot.” John wrote, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11. God is worthy to have first place in our life. After all, He gave us life and promises us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

What is eternal life? Eternal life is to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. If we place others before God, then we will never come to know the only true God. On the other hand, imagine getting to know Him who created all things, sustains all things, knows all things, and is all-loving.