Please join us this Lord’s Day for the worship of the living God. We meet at 10:00 am for our morning study and at 4:30 pm for our worship service. Both the study and the worship service will be held in the Willow East Room of the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College.
Our responsive reading of God’s law this week is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&As 45-48.
Which is the first commandment?
The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
What is required in the first commandment?
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.
What is forbidden in the first commandment?
The first commandment forbids the denying, or not worshiping 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.
What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
These words before me in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god.
The questions and answers on the law in the catechism are arranged generally in this way: first it asks what we are required to do, then asks what we are forbidden to do. Some of you may be familiar with the distinction between sins of commission and sins of omission. The first describes sinning by doing something, like telling a lie. The second describes sinning by failing to do something that we should. For example, we hear a lie told about someone else but we do not defend their honor. The first commandment requires us “to acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.” It also forbids “the denying, or not worshiping 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.” These are the sins of commission and omission with respect to the first commandment.
The law is generally divided into two tables. Commandments 1-4 are what we owe God, and 5-10 what we owe our neighbor. Again, when we hear these words calling us to a standard of righteousness that is very high we will be undone if we do not retreat to Christ Jesus. In him alone all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Cor. 1.20). Throughout the Old Testament as the covenant of works is explained again and again to lawbreakers and to the faithful alike, there are attached a number of promises as reward for keeping the law perfectly, long life, material prosperity, and things of that nature. Some of these rewards were types and symbols – like wealth – for an under age church (WCF 19.3), that symbolized to them the full and heavenly reward for perfect law keeping. But of course they and we are lawbreakers, and quite good at it. We are expert at doing what we ought not, and very inexperienced, actually utterly incapable apart from Christ, in doing what we should. This is what leads Paul in Romans 7 to express something like despair if he were not in Christ. And even in Christ we must always rely upon his sustaining grace to enable us both to will and to act according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).
But to us lawbreakers, the promises of God are in Christ not “no, you are a failure and cannot receive eternal life”. In Christ the promises of God are “yes and amen”. They have been fulfilled on our behalf by his substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection, so that now we who hope in Christ are joined to him. We have died and been raised in Christ (Col. 3), and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
And we hear the law explained here, we remember and confess that we are lawbreakers, born in sin and adding to our condemnation by our free choices. And we receive also after confession the sweet words of comfort that God “for our sake…made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5.21)
Please join us tomorrow for covenant worship, as we give praise to God for his gift of alien, imputed righteousness.