First Commandment

By: jdcharles63
Date: 21/03/2021

When I heard our recent sermon on why are there so many denominations, I was reminded of how it is a miracle that we have been given the bible — that people were led by God to largely agree on the set of books and source documents, because any man-made construction from the bible seems to lead to division.

For example, you would think the numbering of the ten commandments would be a simple matter, but the Catholic, Lutheran and other protestant churches each have slightly different numbering.

And a more interesting difference occurs with the Jewish approach.  While we take the first command as being Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me”, they take the first command as verse 2, which we take as a preamble.
It reads, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”.

Now, how can such a statement of fact be viewed as a command?  Well, when we accept this statement, it changes our focus away from our actions, and away from the temptation of wanting to achieve things for ourselves (like Adam), to one of humility, of recognizing our complete dependence upon God.
And our natural response to this would be as described in Deuteronomy 6:5, to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”.

So, this statement in verse 2 implies a command to a relationship with God — of dependence, love and complete trust, or faith.
And that relationship naturally flows into extending God’s love to others, to “love your neighbour as yourself” (from Leviticus 19:18).

So, the detailed actions in each of our ten commandments are the natural result of being in this right relationship with God.

Paul states the counterpart to this in Romans 14:23, that “Everything that does not come from faith is sin”.

But the Old Testament, and our history, shows how people cannot, in their own strength, keep even this command from verse 2.  It is only by the power of God, through Jesus, that we are freed from sin to be in the right relationship with God, and that is what we now celebrate at the Lord’s Table.

Our separation from God ended on the cross, where Jesus suffered the punishment of death due to each one of us, and our sinful nature was put to death.
Jesus has made us righteous in God’s sight, and He has broken the hold of Satan and sin in our lives, so we can be in that right relationship with God, through faith in Jesus and all he has done for us.

And when we are at peace with God, we also find peace with other people.
And the actions required in those ten commandments are no longer a burden, but a natural outflow of God’s love.


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