Calvary Road Baptist Church


Exodus 20.3

Last Sunday morning I brought a message on the subject of antinomianism, which is an anti law philosophy and approach to Christianity which disavows any moral obligation or spiritual imperative to the moral aspects of God’s Laws. To state it another way, antinomians deny that they have any obligation whatsoever to adhere to the moral guidelines of God’s Law. This stance is exhibited (usually unknowingly) by those who believe that it is possible to live the life of a harlot or a whore monger for years and years, all the while being a genuinely born again Christian. Let me be more specific and recount the experience claimed by a pastor in Georgia. Is it possible to trust Christ at the age of 16, join the Navy and serve or 6 years after graduation from high school, give yourself over completely to drunkenness and consorting with prostitutes throughout your enlistment, and then rededicate your life after your enlistment is up and enter the gospel ministry as a now-spiritual pastor?

If you believe that it is possible for such a thing as this to happen then you believe there is no imperative to keep the moral aspects of God’s Law, then you believe there is no necessary connection between behavior and belief, then you ignore Paul’s conclusions from First Corinthians 6.9 and Galatians 5.21 that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and you believe that a Christian can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God for long periods of time without affecting that Christian in any discernible way. My friend, you and I completely disagree. However, that is okay. You do not have to agree with me, and I certainly do not have to agree with you. The problem is your disagreement with God. The grace of God such as a person experiences when he is saved does not work disobedience to God’s moral Law, but obedience. Neither does it work a spirit of rebellion, but instead a spirit of humility and submission. By the way, not only will a Christian not habitually violate God’s moral Law by being unfaithful to husband or wife, but a Christian will also be faithful to God by regularly assembling with the saints.[1] I have observed a great many more antinomians come out of the woodwork on the church attendance issue than about any other thing. To make sure our church recognizes the difference between liberty and license, between liberty and lawlessness, and between liberty and antinomianism, I am going to preach a series of messages through the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Therefore, turn in your Bible to Exodus chapter 20.

As you are finding Exodus chapter 20, let me read from A Catechism With Proofs, the catechism written by Charles H. Spurgeon that we use in our Christian school. “40. Q. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience? A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law, which is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments. 1. Deuteronomy 10:4, ‘He wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments.’ Matthew 19:17, ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.’”[2] Those brief comments are found in Spurgeon’s A Catechism With Proofs.

Have you found Exodus chapter 20? Please stand as we read from verse 1:

1      And God spake all these words, saying,

2     I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3     Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

To this point Israel has seen miracles almost too numerous to recount. God afflicted the Egyptians with ten plagues, culminating in the deaths of Egypt’s firstborn men and beasts, while the death angel passed over the houses of the Jews. That same night began their Exodus from four centuries of Egyptian slavery.[3] Then God parted the waters of the Red Sea.[4] Afterwards, in the desert, He turned the bitter waters of Marah sweet so they could satisfy their thirst, and began feeding them with manna from heaven.[5] As they traveled, they thirsted again, so Moses was instructed to strike a rock and water gushed forth for them to drink.[6] Then they fought a victory over the Amalekites, and arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai.[7] They would camp beneath Mount Sinai long enough to celebrate the Passover, commemorating the Exodus that had occurred one year before. It was during this time beneath Sinai that Moses was summoned to the top of the mountain and there was given the two tablets of stone upon which were engraved ten commands. This morning I will focus on the first of those commands.

Verse 1 reads, “And God spake all these words, saying” God spoke to Moses and to the people, spoke so loud that all below heard Him. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on this verse reads, “The Divine Being Himself was the speaker (De 5:12, 32, 33), in tones so loud as to be heard--so distinct as to be intelligible by the whole multitude standing in the valleys below, amid the most appalling phenomena of agitated nature. Had He been simply addressing rational and intelligent creatures, He would have spoken with the still small voice of persuasion and love. But He was speaking to those who were at the same time fallen and sinful creatures, and a corresponding change was required in the manner of God’s procedure, in order to give a suitable impression of the character and sanctions of the law revealed from heaven (Ro 11:5-9).”[8]

In verse 2 we read, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” This is literally rendered, “I am Jehovah thy God.” As He rehearsed His name to Moses in Exodus 3.15, so He does here again to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, perhaps to remind the people who had for centuries lived in the midst of Egyptian idolatry that He and only He was their Benefactor, was their God.

In verse 3 we read, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Let me read from some commentators. As was the case last Sunday night, my purpose in reading from commentators is to firmly establish in your mind that what I am showing you is centuries old, mainline Christian orthodoxy. I am not showing you anything that is weird or peculiar, or anything that is seen only by the superior discernment of the Baptists.

From Spurgeon’s Catechism again: “42. Q. Which is the first commandment? A. The first commandment is, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). 43. Q. What is required in the first commandment? A. The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify Him accordingly. 1. 1 Chronicles 28:9, ‘Thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father.’ 2. Deuteronomy 26:17, ‘Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice.’ 3. Matthew 4:10, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’”[9]

Keil and Delitzsch have this to say about the first command: “Let there not be to thee (thou shalt have no) other gods ynip; lo,” lit., beyond Me (lo as in Genesis 48:22; Psalm 16:2), or in addition to Me (lo as in Genesis 31:50; Deuteronomy 19:9), equivalent to plhn emou (LXX), ‘by the side of Me’ (Luther). . . The sentence is quite a general one, and not only prohibits polytheism and idolatry, the worship of idols in thought, word, and deed (cf. Deuteronomy 8:11,17,19), but also commands the fear, love, and worship of God the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5,13,17; 10:12,20). Nearly all the commandments are couched in the negative form of prohibition, because they presuppose the existence of sin and evil desires in the human heart.”[10]

Albert Barnes, the author of Barnes’ Notes, has this to say: “Exodus 20:3. Before me Literally, ‘before my face.’ The meaning is that no god should be worshipped in addition to Yahweh. Compare Exodus 20:23. The polytheism which was the besetting sin of the Israelites did not in later times exclude Yahweh, but associated Him with false deities. (Compare the original of 1 Samuel 2:25.)”[11]

James M. Gray, former president of the Moody Bible Institute, wrote these words: “‘None other gods before Me’ means as adversaries in My eyes, as casting a shade over My eternal being and incommunicable glory in the eye of the worshipper. The primary reference is to the idols the heathen worshipped, not that they really worshipped the idols, but the gods supposedly represented by them. Nor yet are we to imagine these were real gods, for there is none other God save One, but rather demons (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:19-20). How awful to think that even now, professing Christians worship demons through Spiritism, clairvoyance, palmistry and related occultisms (Deuteronomy 18:9-22)! Moreover, in the application of this and all the commandments, we should remember that they lay their prohibitions not on the outer conduct merely but the inner actings of the spirit. See Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20-48) and Paul (Romans 7:7-11). Hence there may be idolatry without idols in the vulgar sense and also without worshipping demons in any form: ‘Whosoever seeks happiness in the creature instead of the Creator, violates this commandment.’”[12]

Our old friend Matthew Henry wrote these words: “1. The first commandment concerns the object of our worship, Jehovah, and him only (v. 3): Thou shalt have no other gods before me. The Egyptians, and other neighbouring nations, had many gods, the creatures of their own fancy, strange gods, new gods; this law was prefixed because of that transgression, and, Jehovah being the God of Israel, they must entirely cleave to him, and not be for any other, either of their own invention or borrowed from their neighbours. This was the sin they were most in danger of now that the world was so overspread with polytheism, which yet could not be rooted out effectually but by the gospel of Christ. The sin against this commandment which we are most in danger of is giving the glory and honour to any creature that are due to God only. Pride makes a god of self, covetousness makes a god of money, sensuality makes a god of the belly; whatever is esteemed or loved, feared or served, delighted in or depended on, more than God, that (whatever it is) we do in effect make a god of. This prohibition includes a precept which is the foundation of the whole law, that we take the Lord for our God, acknowledge that he is God, accept him for ours, adore him with admiration and humble reverence, and set our affections entirely upon him. In the last words, before me, it is intimated, (1.) That we cannot have any other God but he will certainly know it. There is none besides him but what is before him. Idolaters covet secresy; but shall not God search this out? (2.) That it is very provoking to him; it is a sin that dares him to his face, which he cannot, which he will not, overlook, nor connive at. See Psalm 44:20, 21.”

Allow me to distill down to its essence what your mind and heart need to grasp and cling to from this exposition time comments I have read. God, Who created the heavens and the earth, Who spoke the universe into existence, and Who sprinkled the stars into the midnight sky, heard the cries of affliction of His chosen people. They were enslaved and He heard them. He delivered them with a strong right arm and He fed and watered them. Now, at the foot of the mountain He has brought them to, the mountain where He had earlier appeared to Moses in a burning bush, He speaks to His people. Hear what He says to them. Hear what He says to you: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

“Pastor, the ten commandments are Old Testament, not New Testament.” When the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament to young Timothy “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” Second Timothy 3.16, the scripture he was referring to was the Old Testament Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him. “But pastor, the Law is of no real benefit to us now.” Yet Paul told the Romans “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3.20, and in Romans 7.7 he acknowledged, “I had not known sin, but by the law.” He also wrote, “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” in Galatians 3.24. God’s Law is important for you, and God’s Law should be important to you, because, in Romans 7.12 we read, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”

This being true, there are three observations about God’s Law and this first command God gave to Moses and the children of Israel that we need to specifically apply to our own lives:


Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Please note the words at each extreme of the command. There is the word “thou” and the word “me.” This is “you” and “me.” These words cannot be rightly stated except as communication from one person to another person. Yes, it is true that God was speaking to Moses and at the same time to several million Israelites. However, He did not speak as an individual would address a mass of people, as from “me” to “you all,” as from “me” singular to “you” plural. No. What we have here is millions being spoken to as to each man and woman and child, using the second person singular “thou.”

It is a very common mistake, therefore, made frequently by sinners, to think of God as impersonal, to think of God as something other than a conscious, intelligent, informed and interested Being. This is a terrible mistake. This is a tragic mistake. This is a damning mistake. Your dealings with God, you see, are not between you and some thing, some inanimate, some impersonal, some disinterested, some preoccupied, some far away Person. God is the everywhere present One, the omnipresent One, the One Who is always and forever here, Who is always and forever there. Therefore, there is absolutely no way anything occurs behind His back, removed from His observation, or distant from His thoughts and concerns.

This command is an intensely personal command, from God to you, from God to me. Therefore, it is not possible for this command to be considered or ignored except in front of Him, assured of His observation, with the promise of His scrutiny. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”


By prohibitive, what is meant is that which is prohibited, that which is forbidden. This speaks of that for which permission is never given and for which permission is expressly and preemptively denied. This He will never grant someone permission to do. Before it ever entered into their thoughts, prior to the genesis of any imagination in that direction, God prohibited to Adam and Eve the eating of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and so it is here. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Not that there actually are other gods. “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one,” First Corinthians 8.4. In First Timothy 2.5, Paul writes, “For there is one God.”

Therefore, though there are not actually other gods, men imagine other gods, and even when there is no imaginary god, some men lift up other things to positions of importance over God. To some children are more important than God, or career, or a spouse, or money, or leisure, or prestige, or self. It is no matter what that object of affection is. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” From one person to another, from God to you, you are prohibited from considering, from believing, from treating anything or anyone, any cause or any issue, any agenda or any asset, as being more important than the LORD your God. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”


Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Would I be out of turn to remind you at this point of God’s dealings with the Philistines and their god Dagon? When the Philistines had possession of the Ark of the Covenant and placed it in the house of their false god Dagon, again and again those of Ashdod woke up to find Dagon fallen on his face before the Ark.[13] My friend, consider the danger to someone or to something you value as precious if you esteem that person or that thing more highly than God. You do not want God to show you His jealousy by bringing down your god to show you His rightful place in your life. What if you disobey this prohibition? What if you fail? What if you do what you are told not to do? To disobey is to sin. To fail to obey is to sin, and sin is punishable. It may not be immediately punishable, as when Adam and Eve sinned and immediately experienced spiritual death, or as when Nadab and Abihu presumed to offer strange fire to God and were immediately killed. However, the eventual punishment of sin is inevitable.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezekiel 18.4. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezekiel 18.20. “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” James 1.15. However, do not think that the death that results from disobeying God’s first commandment to Moses is physical death. Oh, no. It is spiritual death that is referred to, and eventual punishment. Neither should you think of punishment for violating this command as something that just happens, as if by an impersonal and unfeeling cause, like gravity. No. What happens when this command is violated is death at the hand of another. You sin against God and He punishes you. That is the deal. Have any other gods before Him and He will punish you, He will kill you, and you will die.

And what is death? Since mankind is spiritually already dead from when Adam and Eve sinned, what awaits sinners now is the second death, which is not physical death. The second death is when death and Hell are cast into the lake of fire, Revelation 20.14.

Thus, we see that God’s Law, specifically the first command, is personal, is prohibitive, is punishable. It is a command from the personal God to the personal you. It forbids you from allowing any thing or any one to occupy a place of importance in your life higher than He occupies, and the punishment for violating this sacred command, this heavenly edict, this holy obligation, is death. Not death as in getting old and expiring or as in vehicular manslaughter. Death as in the torment of the lake of fire forever and ever.

It is only to be asked if you obey this Law or if you disobey this Law. Is God first in your life, now and always? Have you at all times in your life reverenced Him, feared Him, and treated Him more honorably and respectfully than you have anyone or anything else? Do you now and have you always honored Him with the first fruits of your increase, which is to say does God get ten percent of your income? The answer, of course, is “No.” “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”[14]

Since you do not now and have not always obeyed this command you have sinned against God, you have personally offended Him, you have outraged His holy person. He has forbidden that. He told you not to. Yet you did anyway. For that you will die. The punishment that the Law threatens against transgressors is the curse of the Law.[15] However, Christ redeems from the curse of the Law, Galatians 3.13. That is why you need Christ as your Savior. You have sinned against God. He will punish you in eternity for your transgression, and only Jesus can save you.

[1] Hebrews 10.25

[2]Charles H. Spurgeon, A Catechism With Proofs, (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library)

[3] Exodus 12

[4] Exodus 14

[5] Exodus 15-16

[6] Exodus 17.1-7

[7] Exodus 17.8-16

[8]Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2000),

[9]Charles H. Spurgeon, A Catechism With Proofs, (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library)

[10]C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol I, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 395.

[11]Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2000),

[12]James M. Gray, The Concise Bible Commentary, (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2000)

[13] 1 Samuel 5.1-5

[14] Romans 3.23

[15]Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2000),

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