What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?
First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.
Remember that God commands us to worship him in spirit and in truth. So how does one do this? The first three commandments teach us.
“First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God.” – The first commandment sets the stage for all obedience. We are called to know and trust God as the only true and living God. He is the object of our trust. If we do not get the first commandment right we cannot obey the rest of the commandments. We must have the God of scripture as our God and no other beside him. (Exodus 20:1-3)
“Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly.” – The second commandment is all about how we obey the first. God has not just ordained the ends (worshiping Him) but also the means to doing so (worshiping Him in the manner he has prescribed and none other). All else is idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:26) The second commandment is where we get the regulative principle of worship: We are to worship the one true God in a true manner. God’s word reveals to us how God is to be worshiped, so we must obey his word.
“Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.” – The third commandment is about our disposition toward the things of God. Treating his name with fear and reverence doesn’t just mean avoiding saying “Oh my God!” flippantly (though certainly it means this), but also treating all his commands and works with respect. God isn’t a laughingstock. He is not the butt of any joke. His worship is to be taken seriously, as are all the means he has commanded us. When we flippantly attach God’s name to things which are not of him, we break the third commandment. When we lie about God, we break the third commandment. When we lie about the works of God, we break the third commandment. When we are irreverent towards him, we break the third commandment. Therefore, we are commanded to speak of God, his Word and works, truthfully and sincerely always. (Acts 17:23)