Champagne Towers & Loving Others

If you’ve ever been to a wedding or party with a champagne tower, it was probably an elegant and expensive affair. You were probably wearing a nice dress or suit. Maybe Versace. Maybe Armani. There was probably really good food. I wasn’t invited to that party. Actually, you don’t need a lavish party for a champagne tower. You could buy a cheap bottle of champagne for $7 and use plastic glasses from Party City. You can get a 32 count for $8. Not as extravagant, but frugal. I recommend you just look it up on Youtube.

Some champagne towers are massive, but the basic idea is to arrange 16 glasses in a four by four square making sure the edges of the glasses touch. On top of those glasses, place nine glasses in a three by three square – edges touching! Then two by two. Lastly, one glass on top. The idea is to pour champagne in the top glass which overflows and fills the other glasses below it.

Will the top glass be filled if you start by pouring champagne in the bottom glasses? Of course not. You start with the top glass. The Ten Commandments are similar. Aside from the preface attached to the First Commandment, the Ten can be divided into two parts: the first table which includes the first four commandments and the second table which includes the last six commandments. And staying with my champagne metaphor, the first table of the law is the top glass. It is what gets the show started. If someone doesn’t begin with the first four commandments, he or she will not actually do the last six either. In other words, if a person does not have genuine love for God in their hearts, they most certainly will not have genuine love for others in their hearts either. The ability to love others as God defines love is to have a heart filled with love for God and a lifestyle filled with loving God according to how He wants to be loved.

Zacharias Ursinus said the following about the two tables of God’s law:

The obedience of the first table is chief, and supreme: the obedience of the second falls beneath that of the first, and is depending upon it. Nay it is only because we love God, that we love our neighbor. Obedience to the first table is the cause of obedience to the second. Love to our neighbor grounds itself in love to God; but not contrariwise. [1]

Ursinus is spot on. The first table of the law is the top glass. Loving others the way God desires is entirely dependent upon loving God the way He desires. First, we do not determine how God wants to be loved. He explains it in the first table of the Ten and more widely in Scripture. So our opinion or preference of how God should be worshiped is of little consequence. God’s opinion is top glass. Second, God also defines how His people are to love others. He does this in the second table of the Ten and more widely in Scripture. Again, we do not define love, God does. Ursinus’ point is that the cause of our true love for others is our true love for God. Before we can be confident that we are loving others according to God’s will, we must be confident that we are loving God according to His will. And we know what love looks like because God’s defines it in His law.

Here is where many professing Christians make monumental mistakes today. Some hear only don’t in the commands and fail to realize there are also dos to every don’t. Some scorn God’s law as if it is bad or repressive. Some argue Christians no longer need to do the Ten Commandments. Some bypass the first four commandments while trying to love others without realizing that bypassing the first four will incapacitate them from loving others. These mistakes and more lead many Christians to classify love according to their own opinions and preferences, and not according to God’s law, and so they make a royal mess of love.

Brothers and sisters, let’s be clear on this – love for other people grows out of love for God. If love for God is not in your heart, your empty heart cannot love other people, at least in a way pleasing to God. But, if love for God is in your heart, if God is pouring His love into you, He will overflow your heart with love for others. We need to start at the top glass.

So then, faithfully attending weekly worship with the saints out of love and reverence for God informs and fuels our love for others. Receiving the Word and sacraments ministry of our local church with delight as a gracious gift from our Father informs and fuels our love for others. Communing with God in prayer informs and fuels our love for others. Worshipping God in the way He directs in Scripture and not according to our imagination, continually repenting from idolatry, getting rid of false images of God including Jesus, avoiding using God’s name flippantly or vulgarly and instead praising God’s name, using the Lord’s Day for worship, rest, and true fellowship, repenting of wrong thoughts about God and allowing God’s Word to reform your theology, are all primary ways to deepen our love of God from which the love of others flows.

Fill the top glass. Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Because this is so, His love for us fills us which overflows our hearts with love for others. It’s not that you should ignore or diminish the second table. Quite the opposite. However, make the first table of God’s precious law your chief focus, your top glass, and you will find yourself energized to truly love others in ways that please your heavenly Father. The bottom glasses are being filled when the top one is overflowing.

[1] Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, Trans. Rev. G. W. Williard, A. M. Electronic version Ed. Eric D. Bristley, TH.M. (2004), 894.

About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

View all posts