How the First Commandment Shows Us the Gospel of Grace
As with when we went through the commandments last year in the Shorter Catechism, I’ll warn you ahead of time that this process will be somewhat slow and unending. Yet, I will do what I can to try and punch up the blessing that is the law of God, even if at some point it may feel like it is getting not only repetitive, but oppressive. Some have criticized the authors of the Larger Catechism for their so-called navel gazing fastidiousness.
However, I think we will find much meat to fill our souls with grace as we spend time considering what our Lord would have us learn.
There is an idiom below that is worth pulling out for some more examination before we read the Q/A’s themselves and that would be “. . .in the whole man”. It is a curious phrase which means not only in our outward obedience, but in the inward as well we are to apply these commands. It is a part of course of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount that we sin not in deed alone. Our minds and affections are as much affected by the Fall as our physical activities. We sweat when we work, yet the truth is that pricking the finger on a thorn results in all types of inward cursing (or outward for that matter) that testifies to the reality of our transgressions before the Lord. So, as we walk through each of the Ten Words let us keep in mind what God is requiring of us.
We open with the first commandment. It is, as you might expect, the foundation for all the statutes that come after and this is why when we read the duties required in Q.104 we see something of all the rest of the Decalogue listed in some form or fashion. It is helpful to remind ourselves that obedience to God is complete and full.
Here are this week’s Q/A’s:
Q. 103: Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Q. 104: What are the duties required in the first commandment?
A. The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.
A verse that young boys love to read and chuckle about in the Old Testament (among many) is Psalm 14:1, which says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.”. The word “fool” can mean lots of things, but what it means in this context is a person who thinks against the clearest testimony of general (and special) revelation that there is no god. Atheism is foolish. The verse also notes that atheism is not just a philosophical position. It brings moral turpitude with it. It is sin to doubt or outright deny the existence of God. That is the first and primary duty of the first commandment. To not only believe He exists, for even the demons confirm that, but to acknowledge who He is as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all things. True faith has with it both a belief and an assent component, which the catechism question clarifies by naming all the benefits which come with faith in the living God.
No one goes to Heaven merely because they recognize His existence. There must be, alongside this, a worshipping and glorifying of Him accordingly. There is a fruit born out of love that begins with the eyes opened to see the beauty and holiness of Jehovah. To go back to the preface to the Ten Commandments for a second if God is your God and has raised you from the spiritual dead then how can you fail to “. . .trust, hope, delight, rejoice, highly esteem, honor, adore, choose, love, desire, fear, believe, meditating, remember. . .” His glory in grace?
You can’t. These things are so inscrutably linked as to be defined together.
Here is why we say that a person who claims Christ, but is not willing to worship Him can’t be said to be a Christian. It would be like saying you were from West Virginia and refusing to eat pepperoni rolls. The one necessitates the other. Each of the attributes I listed above has as their genesis a response given to someone else, in this case the called-out ones reacting to what the Lord Jesus has done for them in eternal life. This morning I am preaching at the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America’s General Synod and as my text I am taking 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. In the 45th verse it says this, “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” There is probably no better way to describe what we are talking about here than what the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, does for His sheep, and how we are to obey the First Commandment.
Christ having caused us to be born again has, by the Spirit, given us life. Life involves living. How then should we live? Well, the end of Q.104 tells us:
“…yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.”
If we consider first our relationship to God in His Son, the fact of His dying for the ungodly, how can we not respond humbly and with thanksgiving. I think sometimes our obedience lags precisely because we do not meditate enough on the good news of salvation and what it means for us, not just temporally, but eternally, forever and ever, in the praise of His good name.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church