“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3
Last week we began a study of the Ten Commandments and how they impact our marriages. We introduced the Commandments and their overall importance. This week we will begin to discuss each one of them specifically, and observe how God wants them to speak to our marriages.
We will begin where God does, as He gives the Commandments to His people.
The first commandment is found in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
God begins where we must begin if we want the marriage He intends for us. God must be first, foremost, and everything to us and our marriage.
Not only does this first commandment say this, but the first four commandments all make this clear. Commandments two through four expand on the first commandment, and tell us how we are to honor God above all else.
Jesus affirms the prominence and importance of these commandments. He was asked by the Pharisees to name the greatest of the Commandments. In Matthew 22:37-38, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Jesus actually quotes what Moses says in Deuteronomy to God’s people, summarizing the Ten Commandments as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. We read Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
This is because all of the commandments–and following all of God’s teaching–is based on loving God with all we are.
Jesus made this clear when He said in John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.” He also says in John 14:21: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
If we are to have the type of selfless love for each other in marriage that allows us to enjoy the relationship God desires for us and that we also desire, it must begin with loving God above all else.
We read in 1 John 4:7-8: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
So we can only love each other fully as a couple when we first love God fully. We love God fully when we do not allow anything or anyone else be more important to us than God.
The first commandment in Exodus 20:3 states that we “shall have no other gods before” Him.
Jesus follows this teaching with the following statement in Matthew 22:38: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” So Jesus’ order is to first love God, then we can love others, including our spouses.
There is no call to love ourselves. That is because Jesus knows us. He knows we already love ourselves too much. It is why He taught us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (bold mine). If we even love others as much as we love ourselves we will do better than we usually do when we love only ourselves.
Even from creation we see the consequences of self-love and not loving God first.
God placed Adam and Eve in a perfect world with everything they would ever need. They had a perfect relationship with Him and each other.
Yet they listened to someone else and disobeyed God’s truths.
God had told them everything was for them except the fruit of one tree. We read what happened in Genesis 3:13: “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”
But Eve was not the only one to disobey God’s truth. Adam’s sin is revealed to us in God’s words to him in Genesis 3:17: “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it.”’” Both Adam and Eve committed the sin of loving themselves more than God.
This couple had been created to work together to accomplish God’s purpose in Eden. But Adam and Eve did not put God first. They put themselves first. And the consequence was devastating to their marriage.
We read the consequence of their choosing to listen to another voice rather than God’s. Genesis 3:16 says: “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’” (bold mine).
Men seeking to dominate instead of love their wives with God’s selfless love is a consequence of our sinful nature. A sin nature that humans have had to deal with since the sin of Adam and Eve. David writes about it in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
This is why we read in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (bold mine). It is why Jesus came to free us from slavery to sin through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection. And Romans 8:24 says: “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
We also read about it in Romans 5:12 and 15: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned … 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are set free from slavery to sin. We are then able to follow God’s commands. We receive the Holy Spirit to help us do that (see John 14:15-18; 16:12-15). (See Meet Jesus to know more about Jesus and what He did to save you.)
We are then free to have the marriage God intended when He created Adam and Eve.
We are free as husbands not to treat our wives like possessions and servants. We can and must do as we are taught in Ephesians 5:25-26: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”
Wives, you are free so that you do not have to be ruled over by your husband. Instead you can willingly follow God’s instructions to you that we find in Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
We are free to have marriages that will show everyone how much God loves all of us. And in this freedom, we will have a marriage that serves God and others.
But it all begins with truly making God the Lord of our lives. We must love Him with all our hearts, minds, and bodies, as we place Him above everyone and everything else.
Next week we will look at the next commandments. We will see God’s direction on how we can follow His command to keep Him first in our lives and marriage.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss how God has spoken to you. Discuss ways you can put into practice what He has taught you.
♦ Is God truly Lord of your life and of your marriage? Is He truly first above anyone else, even your husband or wife? If He is, you will not love your spouse less, but will actually love him or her more. Because then you will understand what real, selfless love is. God will empower you to love each other in a way that you cannot love each other without His help.
♦ Next week we will discuss specific ways to put God first in our lives and marriages. Begin right now to talk about ways you can think of to do this. Commit to help each other do at least one of those things this week.
♦ Making God first in our lives is not easy. We will battle against the selfishness of our old sin nature. We will battle against the tools of our enemy–Satan. Pray together asking God to help you in this fight. Be confident that if you ask Him, He will help you.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the GUIDING YOUR MARRIAGE WITH THE TEN COMMANDMENTS series:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 3: Worship and Honor
Part 4: A Sabbath Day
Part 5: Honoring Your Parents
Part 6: Don’t Kill Each Other
Part 7: On Adultery and Stealing
Part 8: Being Honest
Part 9: Being Content
Part 10: Love and Devotion
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Header photo by Sabra Penley.
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