n this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and then began to reflect on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
Another sin the first commandment forbids is trusting in unlawful means–that is, using what God forbids for our benefit.
God uses many means to help us. When we are born, we are usually surrounded by people to help us and give us food for nourishment. These are lawful and helpful means from God for our benefit. But as we get older, we start to think that we can benefit if we break God’s law too. We think that if lying can save our skin, it’s certainly permitted. If murdering my Dad brings peace to the home, pass me the poison. If stealing from the rich benefits the poor, pass me the crowbar.
It may even be that we trust those we shouldn’t in order to help us in our times of trouble. Isaiah warns Israel of such misplaced trust. Assyria was threatening to annihilate Judah, and so the Jews were looking to Egypt to save them from the ensuing war. Isaiah rebuked them with these words: ‘“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace”’ (Isaiah 30:1-5). God redeemed Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. But here Israel is seeking to put themselves back under the care of the Egyptians. And they primarily trust their old enemies as they no longer trust the Lord to save them – demonstrating disobedience to the first commandment. God is not their God.
Some even suggest that we give God more honour by breaking his commands, as when he forgives us, his grace is magnified. Paul says about such a thought: ‘But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say-as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say-“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved’ (Romans 3:5-8).
So, if we deliberately break God’s law for our own benefit, we show that we have abandoned worship of God. If God is truly our God, we would trust him for what we need. We would know that he is perfectly capable of looking after his children with lawful means.
Have you broken the first commandment by using unlawful means for your benefit? I encourage you to repent and start to live according to lawful means. Joel Radford.