Saturday, February 12, 2022

The Sins of Impiety and Idolatry

Q. 47: What is forbidden in the first commandment?
Answer: 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.

Q. 48: What are we specially taught by these words, 'before me', in the first commandment?
Answer: 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. (WSC)

As we saw in question 46 of the catechism, the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” implies a positive duty to know, acknowledge, and worship God as the only true God and our God. Question 47 explains what the commandment forbids.

The first commandment forbids the denying of the true God. Some deny that the God of the Bible is the true God. Others deny the existence of any god. Others deny the relevance of God - perhaps he exists, but he doesn’t interact with his creation. Some people openly confess this denial of his relevance, such as deists and agnostics. Others hide this in their heart and disregard God in the life they live. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). All of these forms of denying God are forbidden, as they do not give God due recognition.

The first commandment forbids not worshipping and glorifying him as the true God, and our God. As Paul says in Romans 1:18-21, God is known to all through his creation, but many refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him. This impiety provokes the wrath of God. All men everywhere are commanded to turn to him (Acts 17:30), and God’s covenant people in particular must not omit the worship and submission that is due him as their God (Ps. 81:10-11, Deut. 32:15, 18).

The first commandment also forbids giving the worship and glory which is due to God to any other. One must not give a creature the worship and service that is due the Creator (Rom. 1:25). His covenant people in particular are bound to worship him alone. For us to worship another god is treachery, spiritual adultery (Jer. 2-3, Hosea 1-3). The fifth commandment will deal with the honor and reverence due to other creatures (Rom. 13:7), but religious worship is to be given to God alone (Matt. 4:10). No created or imagined person or thing should be treated as God. “No one can serve two masters ... You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).

The words “before me” remind us that we live in God’s presence and that he notices and is very displeased with spiritual treachery. He does not tolerate rivals. He is not like any other. He alone is God. He is the source of every blessing and our salvation. May we therefore worship and follow him as the only true God and our only God.

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