Heidelcast 80: God’s Holy Law (4)—The Second Commandment

All the commandments are challenging to us sinners. In the first commandment we saw that God will not share his glory with another. In the 2nd commandment we read and hear that we must worship the true God truly. We do not get to decide how we will approach God in public worship. Our public worship is regulated by God’s law in a way that the rest of our life is not. If we fail to make this distinction we risk, on the one hand, antinomianism and on the other we risk legalism. The second seems to be a particularly difficult commandment because we seem to be surrounded by violations of one sort or another and their prevalence seems to make our confession of God’s Word implausible. There are good reasons, however, why we should stand fast and recover the biblical teaching and practice. This is the fourth installment in this series that began with Heidelcast episode 77.

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    Do you know the background on why some theological traditions combine the 1st and 2nd commandments? I am curious because I was discussing this with a Lutheran friend recently.

    • Troy,

      There’s a brief discussion of the different ways the commandments are ordered in part 2 or 3 of this series,

      I don’t think that the reason for the different orders is theological. I think it was a matter of practice and tradition. The LCMS itself takes this position. They say:

      Q: Why do Lutherans not number the commandments like the other Protestants?

      A: The differing enumerations of the Ten Commandments among various religious traditions is not generally regarded as a doctrinal matter dividing the churches. The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford, 1993) is correct when it states: “The contents of the Ten Commandments are . . . the same for all of the religious communities, despite the differences in their enumeration.”

      The Lutheran Cyclopedia notes in its article on the “Decalogue” that the Bible neither numbers the commandments nor determines their respective position, and for this reason divergent enumeration has occurred. The Jews make Exodus 20:2 the 1st Commandment, Exodus 20:3-6 the 2nd, and Exodus 20:17 the 10th. The Eastern Orthodox and the Reformed churches make Exodus 20:2-3 the 1st, Exodus 20:4-6 the 2nd, and Exodus 20:17 the 10th. The Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches regard Exodus 20:4 as a part of (or commentary on) the 1st Commandment (Exodus 20:3). They then draw the 2nd from Exodus 20:7, the 3rd from Exodus 20:8-11, and make Exodus 17a the 9th and Exodus 17b the 10th. The Jews divide the Ten Commandments into 2 groups of 5 each. Lutheran and Roman Catholics assign 3 commandments to the 1st table and 7 to the 2nd. Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches assign 4 to the 1st table and 6 to the 2nd.

  2. Combining the 1st and 2nd commandment at least lends itself to failing to distinguish between who we are to worship and how we are to worship, i.e. the RPW. After all, the RPW is one of the watershed differences between the Lutherans and the Reformed.
    That said, I would have thought the EO divided the commandments like Rome. But even if they don’t, they still agree in principle on worship.

  3. I don’t know where else to ask this: If you could recommend one audio resource on the Heidelberg Catechism what would it be? I see Christ URC began it but it doesn’t look like they finished…

  4. Very thought provoking. Thank you Dr. Clark. I have a few artist friends that find this topic (depicting Christ’s incarnation) very interesting. I have recommended this podcast to them for their help. I’m curious/assuming depictions of the theophanies including the smoking fire pot and the burning bush are forbidden. Would you agree?

    • Hi Luke,

      Good question! I can see how one might argue for a distinction between the dove and the typological theophanies but it might be the better part of wisdom to abstain from depiction of the typological theophanies too. We’re they given for us to depict? No. Are they a guess? Yes. To the best of my knowledge, the earliest post-apostolic church did not depict them.

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