The difference between the 1st and 2nd commandments

(Excerpt from Sunday’s message on the Second Commandment.)

The first two commandments are closely related. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol … You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:3-5) They are similar, but there is an important difference (as pointed out by Puritan preacher and writer Thomas Watson).

The first commandment forbids worshiping a false god. The second commandment forbids worshiping the true God in a false manner. The first commandment has to do with whom you will worship. The second commandment has to do with how you worship. The first commandment already prohibited worshiping the false gods and idols of other nations. The second commandment prohibits the use of idols in worshiping the one true God.

Aaron broke the second commandment when he presented the golden calf to the people and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt,” and then built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” (Exodus 32:4-5) Moses later instructed the people, “You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

The first commandment prohibits worshiping a false god or any image of a false god. The second commandment prohibits making or worshiping an image of the true God.


  1. Lenson Mkandawire says:

    Very glad with an explanation. I have been enlightened.

  2. Shaye Hobby says:

    1. Yeah the first Commandment says not to put any gods and I would include the god of this world satan as well. Basically not putting them first before the One and true living God. See we need to see that the first commandment speaks of no worship only the second does.

    2. He says not to make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. He says not to worship them or serve them. There are a lot of so called professing christian’s who think that they can do what they wont to do and live in sin and claim they know God. They are makin’ an idol, image of God. in their mind and of course a likeness of Him who is in Heaven. We know that if your not a doer of His word then you are idolizing Him and therefore fail the 2nd commandment b/c you must obey Him and His word.

  3. Shaye Hobby says:

    Of course we can’t forget that the 2nd commandment also goes for idol worship of any god who is not the God of the bible. But there are so many people who claim to be christian and know God but they don’t b/c there is no evidence of good fruit showing and coming from them and they idolize Him with likeness from heaven justifying themselves sayin’ “well I believe I’m a christian b/c…” When they don’t know Him from the word and not bein’ a doer of His word.

  4. Shaye Hobby says:

    I’ll take that back the 1st one is about worship to and putting a false god first before the one and only true God.

  5. rahma says:

    You say one true God, yet Christians have taken Jesus(pbuh) to be God or as thy justify themselves that Jesus is a part of God… it leaves me wondering which bible do you read.. no where in the bible did Jesus(pbuh) say He is God and He should be worshipped.. Go to the part where Jesus said tht He is a prophet approved by God through wonders and miracles..

  6. Barb says:

    Reply to rahma: obviously you are not a student oh the Bible and know the original languages. Otherwise you would know that Christ claimed to be God many times in Scripture.. For example He said in John 10:30: “I and the Father are One”. So I suggest that you look at the original language to see the Truth that Jesus is God.

  7. Love this content Ray, very well-written!
    “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
    or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,
    or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
    Exodus 20: 4
    You may also check my blog about The Second Commandment
    Hope this will also help. Thank you.

  8. Daniel Ramirez says:

    Awesome explanation, simple and concise. God bless you and your ministry

  9. Jim says:

    Reply to Rahma: Jesus did claim to be God, he even said the father and I are one John 10:30, in John 1:18 and there are more verses. Please stop spreading your lies when scripture and Jesus clearly state who he is.

  10. Pay attention Rahma!

    When discussing if Jesus said He was God, why does everyone leave out the most obvious scripture verse???

    When Jesus was giving John His revelation He said to him, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

    These words are in RED in your King James Bible, meaning they are spoken directly by Jesus Christ.

    They are NOT spoken by the Father nor by the Holy Spirit because He clearly said, I am He who is, and was, and is to come, this clearly identifies the Speaker as Jesus Christ.

    If this wasn’t good enough, in Hebrews 1:8 God the Father calls Jesus, God when He said “Thy throne oh God is forever.”

    God the Father is speaking to God the Son and calls Him, “GOD” capital G.O.D.

    So, in Revelation 1:8 Jesus said He was God Almighty and in Hebrews 1:8 The Father confirms that Jesus is God Almighty.

    What more proof do you need???

  11. Elena says:

    The revelation that God gave me today on this subject is this: The fist commandment as God showed me is about internal idols in our hearts because God wants to be our priority, the first on our list. He doesnt want us to have other internal gods only the one true God. And the second deals with our external part, not to make any physical idols. I think that this sort of continues to build on what you said.

  12. Sharon Stoia says:

    When we deny what the Bible says, we have essentially ranked ourself higher than God and that would be worshipping ourself instead of God.

    Self examination for anything we rank higher than God and for any idols we have made or revere is so important.

    These days it seems like too many of us are quick to see the fault in others while we ignore our own shortcomings and sin.

    This post is as much for me as anyone else. That is for sure. It is not unusual for me to ask God to reboot my attitude. I am not perfect but a work in progress. I am just grateful for the progress.

Leave a Reply