The First Commandment
James J. Barker

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20:3

Text: EXODUS 20:1-21; 34:28b



1.    Weeks ago I was driving down to NC with Bro. Edgard and we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Pennsylvania to eat.  I picked up a local newspaper and read an article about the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. 

2.    The article was about a brochure that the state of Pennsylvania has put out that deliberately distorts a huge display of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall.  Apparently they do not want people to know that the Ten Commandments are prominently displayed on the walls of the courthouse.

3.    A spokesman was interviewed by the newspaper and he admitted that the Ten Commandments were deliberately blurred because the state is afraid of a lawsuit.

4.    This is how bad things have gotten today!  States are afraid of the ACLU and other godless trouble-makers.  They do not want to be dragged into court and so they hide the Ten Commandments or in some cases even remove them altogether from courthouses, schools, and other public buildings.

5.    God forbid some wicked sinner might see the Ten Commandments and get offended!

6.    Personally, I believe the Ten Commandments should be on the wall of every courtroom in America! 

7.    And not just every courtroom - but every schoolroom, every hospital room, every post office, every town hall, every police station, every fire house, and even every pool hall!

8.    "Man needs God's moral law stated in short, summarized form.  The Ten Commandments furnish such a summary, giving us condensed statements on how to live successfully.  The conciseness of their _expression, plus the vast scope of their implications, exhibit their divine origin.  Only God could have reduced the whole ethical obligation of man to so small a space.  These ten rules cover the entire range of manís duty and forbid every type of wrong-doing.  The rest of the Bible is, among other things, a commentary on these ten rules, amplifying, interpreting, warning against their violation, as well as giving historical examples of those who have kept or broken them" - Leslie B. Flynn, (Now a Word From Our Creator, p. 17).

9.    This morning I am going to start a series on the Ten Commandments and we will start off today with the first commandment (Exodus 20:3).



1.    The first commandment leaves no doubt as to the position God demands in our lives.  There is no room for any other gods.

2.    Over 100 years ago, the great evangelist, D.L. Moody, made this statement: "You don't have to go to heathen lands today to find false gods.  America is full of them."  What would this great preacher think if he were alive today?

3.    According to the Bible, there is only one true God and all other gods (whether they are called Buddha or Allah or whatever) are demons and devils (cf. Deut. 32:17, 18).

4.    Interestingly, the RC Douay-Rheims Version has omitted the word "Rock" in Deut. 32:18, 30, 31, 37; Psalm 106:37; and I Cor. 10:19, 20).

5.    And when the RCC lists the Ten Commandments, they omit the second commandment (Exodus 20:4).  In order to keep Ten Commandments, they split the tenth commandment in two.

6.    "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (their 9th commandment).

7.    "You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor" (their 10th, cf. Exodus 20:16, 17).

8.    Worshipping idols and devils is not the only way people violate the first commandment - Seeking happiness without God is a horrible sin and is very prevalent today in our pleasure-crazy society.

9.    The apostle Paul speaks of those who are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" (II Tim. 3:4).

10. The god of pleasure thrives when material prosperity rises and moral standards decline.

11. Most people today are engrossed in self-indulgence, sensual gratification, eating and drinking, movies and television, shopping, vacations, and worldly pleasures.  They are nothing but slaves to their sensual appetites.  Rom. 16:18 says, "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly." 

12. And then in Philippians 3:19, Paul condemns those "whose God is their belly."

13. For many people today, sports is their religion, and the various athletes are their gods.  How sad when you consider that most of these athletes are lost souls, immoral men and women who have denied God, who play their games on the Lord's Day, insuring that multitudes of people will not go to church and will not hear the Gospel.  In other words, these rich, selfish athletes are leading millions of lost souls down the road to hell. 

14. Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player but when he got saved he quit baseball and devoted his life to preaching the Gospel.

15. Eric Liddell was known as the "Flying Scotsman."  His parents were Scottish missionaries to China and Eric was born in China.  In 1924 the Olympics were held in Paris and Eric Liddell refused to run on Sunday.

16. However he ran in two other races which were held on other days.  Eventually Eric Liddell returned to China as a missionary and was captured by the Japanese during WWII.  He died in 1945 in a Japaneses prison camp.

17. The world cannot understand men like Billy Sunday and Eric Liddell.  Their reward is in heaven.  They put God first (Ex. 20:3).

18. Another false god that people put in front of the true God is fame and popularity.  There are some big-name preachers today who have denied and disobeyed the Bible in order to get big crowds.

19. A famous religious villain immortalized by William Shakespeare is Cardinal Wolsey, the crafty priest who dominated the English government during the reign of King Henry VIII. Shakespeare has him crying out at the end of his miserable life, "Oh, Cromwell, Cromwell, had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king He would not in mine old age have left me naked to mine enemies!"

20. Which brings me to my next point.



1.    A story in one of McGuffey's Readers tells of a miser who had under his basement a secret sub-basement that no one else knew about.  Down there he hoarded large sums of silver and gold.  Every day he would go down there secretly and count his money and stack it in piles.  He loved to run his fingers through the coins and listen to the sound it made.  He would even sing love songs to the money: "O my Beauties, O my Beauties!" he would sing sweetly to the coins.  One day while he sat worshipping his money, a strong wind blew the door of the sub-basement shut.  A spring lock that could only be turned from the outside locked him in.  Years later the old house was being torn down and some of the workmen found his skeleton stretched out over the pile of gold and silver.  He was destroyed by his false god!

2.    Again, let me quote the apostle Paul: "The love of money is the root of all evil" (I Tim. 6:10).  Why is there such a problem today with gambling? -- the love of money!

3.    Why is there such a problem with people working on the Lordís Day (and I will say a lot more about this when we get to the 4th commandment)? -- the love of money!   Pastors cannot find good ladies to teach Sunday School because so many of them are working on the Lord's Day.  It is hard to find good men to teach Sunday School or work as ushers, etc. - because so many would rather work on Sunday to make money than be in the house of God.

4.    America has become a very materialistic country and God will judge us for it.  As I go out knocking on doors I often meet people from other countries who tell me that they went to church faithfully back home but since they moved here all they do is make money and buy things.

5.    A man was trying to teach a boy a lesson when he saw him walking home with a loaf of bread.

          "What have you there?"
                   "A loaf of bread."

          "And where did it come from?"
                   "From the baker."

          "And where did the baker get it?"
                   "He made it."

          "Of what did he make it?"

          "Where did he get the flour?"
                   "From the miller."

          "And where did he get it?"
                   "From the farmer."

          "And where did the farmer get it?"    

     Then the boy finally got the point.  The truth dawned upon his mind and he replied:
          "From God."

7.    But notice that God was only acknowledged at the last resort. That's the way it is for so many - when all else fails, I will remember God.  I often hear people say, "I work hard to support my family."  No, what they should realize is that God supports them and their family.

8.    God says: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).  Not money, not a job, not worldly pleasures, not a boat, not a house, not even a husband or wife or children.

9.    The hymn-writer put it this way,

"The dearest idol I have known,

What e'er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from Thy throne

And worship only Thee."


1.    The God of the Bible is not the god of Islam or one of the gods of Hinduism.  In the UN there is a "Meditation Room" with a big stone in the middle of the room.  I have seen photographs of this room and it looks very strange and spooky.

2.    Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary-General (1953-1961), wrote   the dedication for this "Meditation Room." He said it, "is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms." 

3.    This is contrary to the Bible (cf. John 14:6).  If you study the first commandment, you will see that God is condemning polytheism.

4.    Study this commandment and the other nine as well and you will notice that there is no commandment against atheism.  The Bible assumes that man knows there is a God (cf. Genesis 1:1).

5.    The problem is man needs to be taught who this God is.

6.    Atheism is not a big problem.  Anthropologists and historians as well as Christian missionaries tell us that even among the most primitive tribes way out in the deepest jungles there is a yearning and reaching out for God.

7.    The problem is that mankind is born with a fallen, sinful nature and does not know the true God of the Bible.  Again, please allow me to quote D.L. Moody: "Man does not need to be commanded to worship, as there is not a race so high or so low in the scale of civilization but has some kind of god.  What he needs is to be directed aright."

8.    I have known many missionaries, who have served all over the world.  None of them has ever reported a problem with atheists.  No, what they encounter is people brainwashed and deceived by false religions (Ex. 20:3).



1.    The Ten Commandments were given by God 3,500 years ago and are just as indispensable now as they were then.

2.    God's commandments are a

  • Resume of morality
  • Restraint on evil
  • Revealer of sin
  • Regulator of Christian behaviour
  • Road map to true happiness.

3.    A preacher (Alan Cairns) put forth this simple syllogism.  His major premise was the first commandment (Ex. 20:3).  Worship belongs exclusively to Jehovah God, the only true God.

4.    His minor premise was that in the NT, we are instructed to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, his conclusion: Jesus Christ is the true God and worthy of all our worship (cf. Rev. 5:12-14).

5.    The ten commandments are to be read and studied in the light of the Gospel (Ex. 20:3; John 14:1, 6).


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