The Shorter Catechism, 15
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Q45: Which is the first commandment?
A: The first commandment is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
See for this first commandment Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". The same you read in Deut. 6:14, "Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you". In another place, you read, "There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god." Psalms 81:9. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:22. "And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt." Jeremiah 25:6. And John says, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." 1 John 5:21. We see then that the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me", is repeated throughout the Scriptures.
Q46: What is required in the first commandment?
A: The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
The first commandment was: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." You read "no other gods", so, God is the only true God. There is none besides Him. Every other thing, that is called god, is a false god. You also read "thou shalt have", so, you shall have no other gods, because the true God is your God. He is called your God, because He has accepted you as His people.
When we profess that God is God, then He also is God. And we should worship and glorify Him as God. That is, with reverence. We donít carelessly speak of God, but we worship Him with reverence. We honour Him because He is God and not a man. He is infinite; He is the King of kings; He is the Creator of heaven and earth; in short, He is God. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve", Matt. 4:10.
Q47: What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A: The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
Denying God, that is forbidden by this commandment. And denying God, that is a real foolish work. For there is written: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God", Psalm 14:1. Only fools say in their heart that there is no God. But while the fools deny God, the wicked make it worse. They knew that there is one God, but yet they donít worship or glorify Him. Being assured that there is a God, they forsake His service. How foolish; no, how wicked. They refuse to honour Him as God. This refusal also is forbidden in the first commandment. Paul also wrote of this. "So that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God." Rom. 1:20,21. He spoke of people that knew God, but didnít glorify Him accordingly. Their knowledge of God was pure rational; it was not such a living knowledge that would cause them to worship Him. Thousands rationally philosophise about God with a very cold knowledge. These are the wicked, that refuse to worship Him, yet having some knowledge of Him.
In the history of Israel, God repeatedly has declared that He is Israelís God. "I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt", Psalm 81:10. But they were so obstinate, that they refused to obey His voice. He said "I am the LORD thy God", but "my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me", Psalm 81:11. Such kind of people are also we, when we daily hear Godís voice calling us, but yet refuse to listen to Him.
There are also people that always speak of the nature and of the creatures. "Look how well the Creator has creates all these", they say. They give all their time to those creatures; but in doing so, they forget God, the Creator, in Whom they boast with the tongue, but Whom they deny with their hands. All their time and labour is spent in the creatures, and they forget God, the Maker of all. These are the people, "who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever", Romans 1:25. In fact, these people give their worship and glory to the creatures; the worship that is due to God alone. Their hearts are so full of the creatures, that they always and ever speak of them. And they forget God. And even if they did not forget God, but kept Him in their minds in some degree, even then they were erring. Because they still serve the creatures more then the Creator. And they forget that God must be the First and the Last in our lives, and that He alone should be worshipped and glorified.
Q48: What are we specially taught by these words "before me" in the first commandment?
A: These words "before me" in the first commandment teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.
God says: You shall have no other god "before Me". That is, you shall have no other god before the true God. When you have another God, then that is an idol, put before the true God. God sees all things, also this. And not only does He see it, but He also takes notice of that. Yes, He is much displeased with any idol, which we put before Him and in His stead. "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god. Shall not God search this out?" Psalm 44:20,21.