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God of First Place - Acts 17, HCLD 34

A service plan focused on the first commandment and God's exclusive claim on our lives as both our creator and our deliverer in a series on the Ten Commandments, as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

This service will center on the first commandment. As both our Creator and Deliverer, God's claim on our lives is exclusive. As the only infinite almighty being, he may claim that there is no other before him.


We suggest a number of resources that will be valuable tools for you in this study of the Ten Commandments.

  • Each week we will provide references for you from the Heidelberg Catechism and both the Larger and the Shorter Westminster Catechism.
  • The website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary also provides sermon ideas for each of these commandments and Lord's Days.
  • Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism, Andrew Kuyvenhoven, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988.
  • Our Only Comfort: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (vol. 2), Fred Klooster, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001.
  • The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, Jochem Douma, tr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996.
  • Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People, Lewis B. Smedes, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983.

Catechism References:

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 34, Q&A 94-95
Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.103-106
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.45-48


Prelude: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty" PH 138, PsH 249, RL 611, RN 204, TH 100, TWC 2, UMH 64 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Response: "Santo, santo, santo, mi corazón / Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart" SNC 19


The Children's Moment [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Call to Confession
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (TWS, 2.7.5, based on Matthew 22:37-40)

Our Prayer of Confession [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Assurance of God's Pardon

The Call to Grateful Living

Song of Response: "The Ten Commandments" PsH 153: 1, 2, 9


The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 34 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Preparation: "I Am the Lord Your God" PsH 199

The Prayer for Illumination

The Old Testament Reading: Exodus 20:1-3
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The New Testament Reading: Acts 17:22-31
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The God of First Place
Shaping Our Gratitude 3
Acts 17:22-31

The Prayer of Application


Anthem: "May I Love You, Lord," Hopp [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Renewed Vows of Obedience [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Hymn of Response: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" PsH 286, RL 68, TWC 565

The Offertory:
The Offering of Music: "Father, We Love You" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Take My Life, and Let It Be"
We offer our gifts for..

The Prayers of the People


*Words of Sending:
Go now in peace.
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind,
for there is no other God before him.

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

* Sung Response: "God Is Here" PH 461:4, PsH 516:4, RN 5:4, UMH 660:4, TWC 701:4
or: "Love God with All Your Soul and Strength" PsH 155, SFL 76
or: "Father, We Love You" PsH 634, RN 37, SFL 77, TWC 10

Postlude: "Prelude in Classic Style," Young [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

Perhaps a helpful entry into the Ten Commandments is to ask the question, "how do we love someone?" There is an emotional side to love's expression because it normally involves certain kinds of feelings. There is also a verbal side to it for it needs verbal expression. But there is also the action side of it for genuine love needs to be expressed in the way we relate to one another. The commandments will focus primarily, though not exclusively, on actions. So in this series there is the assumption that feelings and words are present, but actions are needed via obedience. That is what the commandments are about.

In his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Our Only Comfort, vol.2, p.935), Fred Klooster asks three questions:

  • What is the basic principle or intention of this commandment?
  • In the light of this intention, what does this commandment forbid? What is its negative expression?
  • Also, in the light of this intention, how should we respond? What is its positive expression?

Helpful answers to these questions can be found in the statements from the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Catechisms.

Two visits may help us determine God's intent for the first commandment. The first visit should be to the Hebrews just after their liberation from bondage in Egypt. They are now out of the land, safely across the Red Sea, and on their way to the Promised Land. They saw and heard about many other gods while in Egypt. They will likely encounter many other suggested gods along their journey and in their new land. And so God, who has so graciously delivered them, makes his claim on their exclusive commitment at the very beginning of their journey: "I am the only God; there are no fabrications!"

The second visit is with the Apostle Paul as he enters the city of Athens on his second missionary journey. Here in this prominent, but pagan, city of polytheism, Paul notes they have tried to cover every area of life with their gods. He notes they are very religious people, yet he tells them about the one God they have "overlooked." This God, the creator (Acts 17:24) and source of life (v.25-28), is spiritual and invisible (v.29) and holds all people accountable (v.30-31). In both of these visits we note the radical nature of the Christian faith in the face of a culture that delights in fabricating its own gods and acknowledge that our God is the one and only God to be worshiped and obeyed.

This sermon would not be complete, however, without three more elements within it. (a) an explanation of how we get to know this God, i.e. through his general and special revelation, (b) a proclamation of the gospel that we are adopted by him through the finished work of Jesus Christ, and (c) a call to commitment to him in both faith and obedience.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude and alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

NICAEA ["Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty"]

Callahan, Charles. Partita on Nicaea. MorningStar MSM-10-709 [1996] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. (1995) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000]
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style. H. W. Grey GB632 [1974] (E)
Honoré, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (E-M, could include solo
Jordan, Alice. A Joyful Noise. Broadman 4570-62 [1984] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Lutkin, Peter. Christian Hymn Tune Transcriptions. H. W. Grey [1908] (E-M)
Post, Piet. Fantasie over het lied "Heilig, Heilig, Heilig." Ars Nova nr 493 [1961] (E-M)

David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)
Innes, John. Majesty. Hope 269 [1985] (E-M)

Wagner, Douglas. E. Festival Piece on "Nicaea." Jenson 466-06019 [1983] (3 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz & Helgen, John. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The anthem "May I Love You, Lord" by Roy Hopp is scored for accompanied SATB voices and published by Augsburg 0-8006-7541-X [2002] (E-M).

Suggestions for offertory music are as follows:

GLORIFY THY NAME ["Father, We Love You"]

Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified, vol. 3. Word 301 0084 315 [1995] (M)

HENDON ["Take My Life and Let It Be"]

Jordan, Alice. A Season and A Time. Broadman 4570-37 [1977] (E-M)

Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (M-D)

The organ postlude suggestion "Prelude in Classic Style" by Gordon Young published by SMP NPO [1966] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes

1. Because this service focuses on the first commandment, God's claim in the first commandment should be obvious from beginning to end. You will find it reflected in the Service of Renewal and the Children's Moment, in the commitments made after the sermon, and also in the words of sending at the conclusion of the service.

2. We have placed the Children's Moment before the confession of sins so that we have an opportunity to explain why we will be confessing. If God has given us everything and if there are no other gods, then we must apologize to God for making idols of one kind or another. Helping them understand our need to make confession will also help them understand the importance of the first commandment. This may also be a good time to help the children memorize the first commandment.

3. Each week we focus on an individual commandment we encourage you to craft your words for the prayer of confession in such a way that it clearly references the sins we commit against this particular commandment. For instance, the prayer for this week will need to include confessing the ways in which idolatry enters our lives.

4. We suggest that the words of the Heidelberg Catechism be read responsively with the congregation. Lord's Day 34 includes the entire commandment and the presentation of the first commandment. If the whole law is being used at another place in the service, you probably will want only to use the words about the first commandment in this reading. You may either design this so that the worship leader reads the question and the congregation responds with the answer, or vice versa. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Q. How are these commandments divided?
A. Into two tables.
The first has four commandments,
teaching us what our relation to God should be.
The second has six commandments,
teaching us what we owe our neighbor.

Q. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?
A. That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation,
avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites,
and prayer to saints or to other creatures.
That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God,
trust him alone,
look to him for every good thing
humbly and patiently,
love him, fear him, and honor him
with all my heart.
In short, that I give up anything
rather than go against his will in any way.

Q. What is idolatry?
A. Idolatry is
having or inventing something in which one trusts
in place of or alongside of the only true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word.

5. For each Sunday in this series, the service will include a section after the sermon entitled "We Respond with Our Renewed Commitments." The worshiper should feel led to such a response after the Word has been spoken. The Commandments, in one of its forms, should be the substance of this commitment. There is a variety of resources you may draw from. Section 2.7 of The Worship Sourcebook (pages 127-137) provides a variety of resources for this purpose. The Psalter Hymnal (pages 1013-1018) provides additional responsive readings of the Ten Commandments.
To reprint responsive readings of the Ten Commandments for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

6. The Words of Sending capture God's charge to us as we leave, combining the summary of the Law with the first commandment.