If our faith is to be genuine Christian faith, it must be more than faith in faith. The most important aspect of our faith is not how hard we believe, but in whom we believe. There is certainly a subjective element to faith—since we do want to be sincere and single-minded in our devotion—but to have a sincerely misguided belief in the wrong thing or in the wrong person is not saving faith at all. It’s possible to be full of sincere worship and worship the wrong God. That’s the reason for the first commandment.
The God of the Bible is not simply interested in being recognized as a strong and mighty deity. That would not have been a controversial claim in the ancient world. Lots of peoples had lots of impressive gods and goddesses. What was controversial, and what set the Israelites apart from the other nations, was that their God demanded to be worshiped alone, as the only God, to the exclusion of all others.
There’s a reason that the first commandment is the first commandment. It’s not that this one is better than all the others, but it is foundational for all the others. Because there is only one God, who is God over all and has divine rights over all, we can have the subsequent nine commandments—an objective moral code that isn’t just true for some people, in some places, depending upon their circumstances, but is true for all people everywhere.
Can a truly authoritative moral law exist without the existence of a divine lawgiver? The obvious answer, according to the Bible, is that it cannot. If our moral obligations are to have any force or binding obligation behind them, they must rest on something more than majority opinion, our own internal sense of right and wrong, or (heaven forbid) an Internet poll. Remember what the ten noncommandments had for the ninth commandment: “There is no one right way to live.” That one commandment eliminates the force of the other nine. The noncommandment commandments, because they have no place for God, end up having all the force of internally contradictory suggestions.
Kevin DeYoung, The 10 Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 27–28.
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