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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 22

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Exodus 20:3

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Pulling It Together

The command to have no other gods is packed with things to consider. Having another god means to own the god, as one could an idol. But we cannot own Yahweh, in that sense, unless we try to make him into an image that we would worship instead of Yahweh himself. Having a god also means the god belongs to you; you possess the god. Instead, we belong to the Lord.

These other gods are not to be kept before the Lord. Literally, they are not to be in his presence. Where could we possibly fly from the presence of God? (Psa 139:7). We cannot keep other gods to a private side of our lives and imagine we have not placed them before— in the presence of—the Lord. The other way to think of “before,” is that we have made other gods more important to us than the Lord; they rank higher; they are above the Lord. This is one reason Luther explains the commandment as he does. “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Still, the best way to think of the commandment is the way we naturally do, and the way Luther’s Catechism states it in a simple way for children—that we simply have no other gods. Besides the Lord, we must have no other gods. He alone is God. How could we have others?

Prayer: Lord, remove the foreign gods from my life. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

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A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is written in easy-to-understand language but is a challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. Click here to see the Table of Contents and a sample session.


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