This guide is not meant to give an exhaustive review of the question, but rather give pointers from the Bible. To that end we have inserted a few comments and Bible verses that are relevant to the discussion – this may help get the discussion started. For a more comprehensive study of this topic see the related online resources at the end of this guide.
Should you drink beer at the party or stick with soft drinks? Should you look at the test answers on the teacher’s desk while she is out of the room if you have the opportunity or focus your attention elsewhere? Should you take, as your own, the Walkman that another student left in the auditorium or should you return it to its owner? Should you have sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend or should you wait until marriage? Should you play basketball for the school team on Friday evening or observe the Sabbath? These are just a few of the challenges a young person may face during his or her teen years. Each situation forces a person to make a choice.
Comment: Ask questions about “situation ethics” compared to the moral standards and absolutes of God’s Word.
Is there a right choice? If so, what is the right choice? If there is there is a right choice, why is it the right choice? There are right answers to each of the questions above and the reason that they are the right answers is related to the first commandment. This commandment is found in Exodus 20:3 Exodus 20:3You shall have no other gods before me.
American King James Version×and reads “You shall have no other gods before me.”
In this study, we will seek to better understand the first commandment because it is crucial to our choices and the entire course of our lives.
Who Should Be God?
EXODUS 20:1 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. This verse immediately precedes the Ten Commandments.
· Genesis 1:27 Genesis 1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×– God created man, you and me, in His likeness.
· John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×– We are mortal; however, He is Spirit.
· What other Bible verses describe God’s appearance?
What are His attributes?
· Job 9:8-9 Job 9:8-9 8 Which alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.
9 Which makes Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
American King James Version×, Psalms 33:6 Psalms 33:6By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
American King James Version×, Acts 17:24 Acts 17:24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands;
American King James Version×– God possesses all creative power (Omnificent).
· I Peter 3:22, I Corinthians 15:27, Mark 14:62 Mark 14:62And Jesus said, I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
American King James Version×. He is Omnipotent. God possesses all power and authority.
· Psalms 139:7 Psalms 139:7Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence?
American King James Version×, Isaiah 57:15 Isaiah 57:15For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
American King James Version×. He is Omnipresent. God created time and space and cannot be limited by them.
· Joel 2:13 Joel 2:13And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil.
American King James Version×– God is patient and merciful
Do you think He is qualified to give mankind commands and instructions?
· Daniel 9:14 Daniel 9:14Therefore has the LORD watched on the evil, and brought it on us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he does: for we obeyed not his voice.
American King James Version×– God is righteous in His acts
· Malachi 3:16 Malachi 3:16Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought on his name.
American King James Version×– God doesn’t change
· Titus 1:2 Titus 1:2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
American King James Version×– God cannot lie
· Does one who creates something have the right to decide how it should be used? What is the root word of the word authority?
· Matthew 23:37 Matthew 23:37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×(also Luke 13:34 Luke 13:34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kill the prophets, and stone them that are sent to you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×) – Christ would have gathered His people to protect them if they would have listened.
· Matthew 7:11 Matthew 7:11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
American King James Version×– God as a “good parent.”
· Who but the One that created man is more qualified to instruct us, to give us command in showing love for our well being? God commands show us how to live and what to live for. His first command shows how to love Him who is our loving Parent.
2. What kind of relationship does He want with you and all people?
· Deuteronomy 10:12-13 Deuteronomy 10:12-13 12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?
American King James Version×, 30:6 – God wants us to love and obey Him with our whole being.
· 2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×– He wants us to see Him as our Father.
· How do loving parents emulate what God does for us?
EXODUS 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
3. In this modern age, what gods do people worship?
· Acts 19:27-35 Acts 19:27-35 27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nothing; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships.
28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
30 And when Paul would have entered in to the people, the disciples suffered him not.
31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent to him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused: and the more part knew not why they were come together.
33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defense to the people.
34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
35 And when the town cleark had appeased the people, he said, You men of Ephesus, what man is there that knows not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?
American King James Version×– gods of myth, folklore or other professed deities.
· G ods of accumulating stuff or physical wealth.
· G ods of wrong self-gratifying pleasure.
· Anything we choose to serve other than our true Creator is not in keeping with His first commandment.
· What other things do people “worship” in terms of time, money or effort that supersedes putting God first in their lives?
4. How could other gods come before the true God?
· I Samuel 8:7, Matthew 21:42 Matthew 21:42Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
American King James Version× – worship of other gods in outward rejection of the true God.
· Romans 1:21-22 Romans 1:21-22 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
American King James Version× – They do not glorify God because they do not know Him and professing to be wise, they become fools.
5. How might people profess to worship God and yet have other gods?
· John 4:22 John 4:22You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
American King James Version×– Some worship what they believe is the true God, but worship in the vanity of their understandings.
· Can people worship God completely if they have an incomplete understanding of Him and His way of life?
6. What would it mean to love the world? Consider I JOHN 2:15-16 and then reply.
· John 4:13-14 John 4:13-14 13 Jesus answered and said to her, Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
American King James Version×, Matthew 6:19-21 Matthew 6:19-21 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
American King James Version×– to love this temporary world more than the eternal life that God seeks to give us.
· Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×– to love the world is to conform to it rather than God’s way of life.
7. Why would friends of the world be enemies of God? Read JAMES 4:4.
· Romans 8:1-7 Romans 8:1-7 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×– a mind that rejects God is a mind that sets itself to be mindful of what it chooses.
· What defines a friend? What defines an enemy?
8. Why can’t a man serve two masters? Read MATTHEW 6:24 and comment.
· Deuteronomy 30:15-19 Deuteronomy 30:15-19 15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil;
16 In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it.
17 But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
18 I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×– Differing expectations, standards, etc.
· What examples do you have of being obligated to two contradicting people or situations at the same time – how did that work out?
COMMENT: These last three questions and verses show it is impossible for man to serve both God and other gods. A person caught in this situation will inevitably come to hate one and love the other.
9. Why did God command that man have no other gods before Him?
· Deuteronomy5:8-10 – God is jealous for us to live a righteous life in His love.
· John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
American King James Version×– Only through the worship of God can we have life as God intended for us.
· What other verses show that God wants a relationship with us that we accept – not a relationship forced upon us?
What negative outcomes might there be to not keeping this commandment? Consider Psalms 106:36-39 Psalms 106:36-39 36 And they served their idols: which were a snare to them.
37 Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils,
38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.
American King James Version×and Romans 1:20-25 Romans 1:20-25 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Why God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×.
· If we continue in following unholy practices (becoming defiled), we cut ourselves off from the true source of spiritual life, the only true God.
· We unknowingly reject the sacrifice of Christ and bring upon us a fearful judgment where the gods that are worshipped cannot remove the penalty demanded for our transgressions.
· What verses back up these points, and similar others?
10. An atheist is also confronted with choices. How would he or she determine what is the right or wrong choice?
· Relying on self to govern what is right and wrong – God’s commands and instruction are of no value.
· Situation ethics
· Moral relativism
· What other choices?
How could such an individual be certain that he or she made the right choice?
· Waiting for time to pass to judge the value of the choice.
· Waiting to see the fruit of the choice.
· Might not ever know.
· How do you know in your own life?
COMMENT: The atheist would have to rely completely upon himself or herself. The Bible addresses the atheistic point of view which implies a total reliance upon one’s self.
Why would it be foolish to live as if there is no God? Psalms 53:1 Psalms 53:1The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that does good.
American King James Version×
· Jeremiah 18:11-12 Jeremiah 18:11-12 11 Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus said the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return you now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
12 And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.
American King James Version×– there is no hope in a life lived apart from God.
· Do you have personal examples of choices gone wrong made without God’s input?
Why can’t man direct his own steps? Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×
· 1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×– man judges by outward appearances, God looks on the heart.
· Luke 18:19 Luke 18:19And Jesus said to him, Why call you me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
American King James Version×– There is none good, except God. Though man may strive to do good, he is limited in his ability to discern his own heart and mind.
· What verses show mankind cannot discern good of himself?
· What verses show God alone directs our steps?
Where do evil ideas and actions come from? Mark 7:21-23 Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
American King James Version×
· Matthew 12:34-35 Matthew 12:34-35 34 O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
American King James Version×– from our heart (the figurative seat of our thoughts and desires) precede evil ideas.
· Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×– Satan has great influence in this world, especially in those who have turned from God.
· What other verses show Satan’s influence over this present world?
· Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
American King James Version×– having to trust in our own strength.
· What other verses verify these points?
Putting First Things First
1. Why do you think God began the Ten Commandments by saying, “You shall have no other God’s before me?”
· Focusing first on God (Mark 12:29 Mark 12:29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
American King James Version×) gives us the correct source of information to start.
· Can the rest of the Commandments be kept properly without keeping the first Commandment properly?
Could it be a matter of putting first things first?
· Mark 12:32 Mark 12:32And the scribe said to him, Well, Master, you have said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
American King James Version×- We are to love God first and foremost and then our neighbor as ourselves.
What does it mean to put first things first?
· “ First things first” refers to an order of priority. Place the highest priority on the items that are to be placed first. Learn to think of God as your highest priority on the “first things” list as first to accomplish in your life.
COMMENT: Consider this: many teens today are extremely busy. They have school, extracurricular activities, teams, clubs, student government, athletics, part-time jobs, plus helping with chores at home. At times, it seems young people can be pulled in every possible direction.
How do you juggle tests in algebra and biology on Tuesday with an away baseball game tonight that will get you home late accompanied by the pressure of finishing up your term paper on Friday? To get everything done on time with the best performance possible, it is important to put first things first. As you prioritize your time, activities, and projects you can get more done and do it well. As you analyze what must be done, you must choose where to begin. God did the same thing as He revealed His most basic instructions for mankind’s conduct. He asked, “Where do we begin?” He then instructs us that our top priority is to place God first.
PROVERBS 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
PROVERBS 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
2. Why is “the fear of the Lord” the beginning of knowledge and wisdom?
· We understand, and intimately know God who commands respect. Following His instruction is the basis of all Godly understanding.
· We accept God as our Creator, the One who knows our thoughts and intent of our heart.
· In respect, we desire instruction and seek a deeper relationship with our Creator.
· What other points of scripture back these thoughts up?
COMMENT: Acknowledging God is wise means that we turn to Him for guidance in the everyday decisions we make at home, in school, and as we have fun with our friends.
3. How would placing God first in our lives, which is the essence of the First Commandment, relate to the other nine commandments?
By placing God, who is love, first in our lives we show Him that He is priority in our lives. With the priority set, we can now go on to a deeper understanding on how that is achieved with the other remaining commandments.
If we had other gods would we keep the commandments? Why or why not?
All 10 commandments show us how to properly love God and neighbor. Having other gods before the true God shows that we do not understand the true God. How then can we understand and keep the other commandments?
1. Does our society believe and teach the importance of the First Commandment?
· No. Antinomianism (against the law) pervades our modern society. Many teach God’s way of life is valueless in a modern world, or that His law has been done away.
· Psalms 14:1 Psalms 14:1The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.
American King James Version×– too many say there is no God.
2. What are the benefits of accepting and living by the First Commandment?
· Deuteronomy 30:6 Deuteronomy 30:6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.
American King James Version×– life.
· It is the necessary step to developing a meaningful relationship with our Creator.
3. What are the curses of failing to live by the First Commandment?
· Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×– death.
· Unable to develop a proper Godly relationship with our Creator.
· Unhappiness and guilt for disobedience to His command.
COMMENT: The First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” is the beginning point from which everything else flows.
It establishes that there is a God in heaven who created all and rules over all. It is to Him and Him alone that we should bow in worship. It is to Him that we can come and seek answers to life’s difficult questions and challenges.
What decision should we make in a particular situation? As we acknowledge God, we can know the right decision and be assured that the result of our choice will be positive. As we acknowledge God as first in our lives, we can be assured that he will direct our paths and provide us those things that we need.
We began this study with decisions that can confront us. The question now is how we will respond to the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”