Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 18, April 29 to May 5, 2007

The Truth About Images of Jesus
and the Second Commandment

A Study
for the Everyday Christian




Part 3 of 5

By Justin Griffin BSW, MAgth



"The Truth About Images of Jesus and the Second Commandment" by Justin Griffin BSW, MAgth

Copyright © 2006 by Justin Griffin. All rights reserved.

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The Examination of the Second Commandment

The examination of the facts is essential in any study. Sometimes what appears to be insignificant at the moment may provide the clues that contribute to the final solution. Therefore, before entering any further into the examination of whether or not images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment, it is important to define certain words more clearly. These definitions will help avoid semantic problems and keep all the facts within our scrutiny. The words and a simple definition follow. For extensive meanings of the Hebrew words, see Appendix C. 1

The art of studying is a skill that requires one to analyze and narrow down the particulars until what remains clarifies what is true. In studying whether or not images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment, John Calvin helps narrow our focus with the following:

In the First Commandment, after He had taught who was the true God, He commanded that He alone should be worshipped; and now He defines what is His LEGITIMATE WORSHIP [sic]. Now, since these are two distinct things, we conclude that the commandments are also distinct, in which different things are treated of. The former indeed proceeds in order, viz., that believers are to be contented with one God; but it would not be sufficient for us to be instructed to worship Him alone, unless we also knew the manner in which He would be worshipped. The sum is that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His nature. For although Moses only speaks of idolatry, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the Law, he condemns all fictitious services, which men in their ingenuity have invented. 2

The examination must make this distinction between the First and Second Commandments so that it does not confuse which commandment most directly applies. Furthermore, we must stay within the context of the legitimate application of the Second Commandment. To either address this issue out of the context of the Second Commandment or to include in its context practices to which it does not apply, will ultimately obscure and confuse the legitimate understanding of what the Commandment forbids and what the Commandment allows.

The First Commandment teaches who the only true God is. However, it does not explain whether or not images may represent God or give instructions on how His children are to worship Him. So God gives the Second Commandment to begin to teach that images can't represent Him and how His worshipped can not be ascribed to anything else. 3

The Second Commandment says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." (Exodus 20:4-5). The whole of the Second Commandment is about God: what God does not want to depict Him and God does not want the honor, reverence and service rightly due Him, ascribed else ware.

In understanding how images are treated in the Second Commandment, it is important to note that the Commandment has two parts. John Calvin again helps narrow our focus even more by stating: "Now we must remark, that there are two parts in the Commandment—the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows." 4 According to Chip McDaniel, former Old Testament professor at Columbia International University, this distinction of parts, or clauses, as they will be called, comprises the whole of the Commandment. They can best be identified in the Hebrew by the use of the word lo, which is an absolute prohibition. 5 The English rendering can be identified by the word, Not.

To further investigate this prohibition, we will compare Biblical translations of Exodus 20:4-5. In comparing the different translations, the focus is to identify whether or not the absolute prohibition, "lo—not" are used consistently with the same understanding.

The English Translation: Exodus 20:4-5

4. You shall not make for yourself an image of any likeness (of that) which is in the heavens above or which is in the earth beneath or which is in the waters under the earth.
5. You shall not bow down to them and you shall not serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the sons, on the grandsons, and on the great grandsons to those who hate Me. 6

Exodus 20:4-5 (KJV)

4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 20:4-5 (NASB)

4. You shall not make for yourself an idol [graven image], or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
5. You shall not worship [bow down - honor, reverence] them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

In comparing the different Biblical translations of Exodus 20:4-5, the focus was to determine whether or not the absolute prohibition, lo—not was translated consistently with the same understanding. A weighty review and comparison of these translations revealed that the words lo—not are similarly translated with the same understanding, and there are no significant differences between these Bible translations. 7 This helps validate that the Second Commandment's translation is uniform. In other words, there are no varying interpretations. There are no odd sentence structures, no Hebrew poetry, and no apocalyptic figures of speech that could obscure its meaning. Therefore, what God has written stands confirmed for what God has written. In the first clause, God in essence prohibits people-made images of God. The essence of the second clause forbids serving or ascribing reverence or honor to anything but God.

The Two Clauses

Studying requires a respect for the details. In putting together a puzzle, it is necessary not just to look at the big picture, but also to scrutinize each piece in order to clearly establish its proper place. In studying the Second Commandment, it is important not just to look at the Commandment as a whole, but also to inspect each clause individually to understand its proper place. By presenting each clause with its specific Hebrew words defined and then asking the questions, "What is prohibited?" and "What is acceptable?" 8 the legitimate understanding of the Second Commandment is more clearly understood.

The First Clause

This is the first clause of the Second Commandment with specific Hebrew words defined. The subject of the clause is God. "You shall not [absolutely prohibited] make for yourself an idol/graven image [an object cut, hewn, hewn into shape] or any [all] likeness [of created beings or objects] which is in the heavens above or which is in the earth beneath or which is in the waters under the earth." (Exodus 20:4).

What is prohibited?

This clause of the Commandment prohibits God's children from setting up anything to depict or represent God. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing…" (Exodus 20:4). The Second Commandment is about what God wants and does not want as it pertains to Himself. Exodus 20:4 indicates that people-made images of God do not represent Him and thus can never honor Him reverence Him, nor serve Him.

By giving this law, God restrains any attempt His elect might make to represent Him by a visible image. Then He lists some ways pagans had attempted to turn His truth that there is only one God and one true religion into a lie that there is more than one God and more than one way to heaven.

The Egyptians and some primitive cult religions tried to represent God using animal figures. The Greeks and Romans, fraudulently believing themselves to be much more enlightened, fancied trying to depict and worship God in human forms like Apollo or Orpheus. However, in giving the first clause of the Second Commandment, God demonstrates that He has no desire for any people-made images of Him. He does not view one kind as more fitting in depicting Him than another. Without exception, God rejects all images by which either His own children or the pagans imagine they can try to depict and thereby reach Him.

At this point in the study someone might ask, "How are pagan images an attempt at trying to depict and reach God?" Since there is no other god than God, 9 any other god that people proclaim to be real is simply mankind's attempt at creating something to emulate or counterfeit the true God. So when they counterfeit the true God, their depictions are an attempt at creating God as they want, and those false gods become their sinful conduits to try and reach God in their own ways.

Consider the above examples—were any of the Egyptian gods real? No, they were merely people's sinful attempts at depicting and trying to reach the only true God. Consider the Roman gods like Apollo and Orpheus—were these gods real? No, again they were people's sinful attempt at trying to depict and reach the only true God. Consequently, since there are no other gods than God, then all false gods are simply people's sinful attempts at trying to depict and reach God. Therefore, any depictions of pagan deities are a violation of the first clause of the Second Commandment because, in essence, they are an attempt to depict the only true God.

Finally, the word "any" is an important qualifier in this clause because "any" means "every, all, the entire." If phrases like "only some," "a few," "many," "most," or "almost all" were used instead, then images of God could be acceptable and immune to objections. That is, they could not be considered as violations of the Second Commandment. Why? A paraphrasing of Exodus 20:4, with the word "any" changed, will help point out why. "Thou shalt not make unto thee some graven image, of most of the likeness of some of the things that …" Altering the word "any" nullifies the commandment. The word "any" means exactly what it declares: you shall not make yourself any likeness of anything to depict God.

What is acceptable?

In the setting up of images to represent God, this clause teaches that nothing is acceptable. No people-made image of God is acceptable to depict God.

The Second Clause

The second clause of the Second Commandment reads as follows with specific Hebrew words defined: "You shall not [absolutely prohibited] bow down [show honor or reverence] to them and you shall not serve [do work for] them, for I the LORD thy God ..." (Exodus 20:5). 10

What is prohibited?

This clause prohibits the worshiping, that is, giving honor or reverence to anything other than God. In addition, believers cannot serve or be devoted to anything more than God. According to this clause, the understanding of worship and serving are united. Consequently, whatever someone worships, they are serving, and whatever someone serves, they are worshiping. As a result, to worship means to honor, reverence, and serve. Therefore, believers can engage in false worship when they are not worshiping, honoring, reverencing, or serving God as God has commanded.

There are several forms of false worship. One form of false worship is to ascribe reverence, honor, or service to false gods. While the First Commandment identifies that there is only one God, the second clause of the Second Commandment reinforces this understanding by forbidding believers to worship anything other than the one true God.

While nonexistent or false gods cannot desire worship, Satan, the master behind all the false gods, wants the worship rightly due God, "… the devil … saith unto him, all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:8-10).

Another way to engage in false worship is to value anything more than God. This is false worship because nothing is equal to or greater in importance than God. For that which someone values the highest, they will serve, work for, or give all their attention to, and that which they serve, they worship. For example, when one has an addiction, that person serves that addiction. They will work for, give attention to, and prioritize their life around that addiction. Consequently, that addiction becomes their god because they serve it instead of God. In essence, they are worshiping that addiction because they are giving reverence, honor, and service to that addiction.

The final form of false worship that we will address here is that of attempting to participate in God's true religion while one's heart values anything equal to or more than God. This is false worship because believers are going through the motions of devotion, but their hearts are far from God. 11

Because there is nothing equal to or more important than God, to go through the motions of giving honor, reverence, or service to God while one's heart values another is spiritual adultery or false worship. In comparison, consider going through the motions of being married while one's heart is loving another with the affections that are rightly due one's spouse. In marriage, this is the sin of adultery. To value anything equal to or more than God and go through the motions of worship is spiritual adultery or false worship.

What is acceptable?

Scripture clarifies what is acceptable when Jesus defines true worship by declaring, "But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship [God] in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). John Calvin profiles this understanding in this way, "The sum is that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His [God's] nature." 12 True believers are to worship God—that is, to give honor, reverence, and service to God, in spirit and in truth. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God. 13 It is glorifying to God to honor, reverence, and serve God with all of one's heart, spirit, mind and strength, as God desires honor, reverence, and service.

Consequently, the Second Commandment sets forth the understanding that it is acceptable to worship God in only those ways that God has declared acceptable. These acceptable ways God has made known through His Holy Word, so God's children do not have to flounder around to try and figure out how God wants to be honored, reverenced and served. Thus, worshiping God is not a process of trial and error. Nor are God's children supposed to create what they think is worshipful to God.

God has given by both specific commandment and good and necessary inference throughout scripture how He wants His children to worship Him. A simpler way of saying this is, "God's children need to have clear, Biblical support for everything they do in worship." CLEAR Biblical support does not mean, "Hey, I found the word run in the Bible, therefore everyone is to run around the sanctuary during worship." Clear Biblical support means that either God specifically set down in Scripture what His children are to do in worship or it can be rightly understood from scriptural context.

God is not always pleased when His children attempt to present their worship to Him. Some of His children might be tempted to trust that God is thankful for any attention they give Him, and as far as worship is concerned, they may unconsciously believe that God is pleased if his children do it at all. However, God is not pleased with just anything His children choose to do in His presence and call it worship. God is pleased when His children do what He wants them to do, and God wants—insists—that worship be governed by His Word. Following is a Biblical list of elements for worship:

Thus it is acceptable to worship God in only those ways that God has clearly declared to be acceptable. These acceptable ways God has made known through His Holy Word, and God's children must have clear, Biblical support for all they do in worship. 14

However, if one assumes that people may worship God other than as He has prescribed, then this assumption would have profound implications on the authority needed to prescribe what is worshipful to God.

The Question -- What kind of authority is required to prescribe what is worshipful to God?

1. No authority - If no authority is required, then anyone can prescribe what is worshipful to God. 15 If anyone can prescribe what is worshipful to God, then God was wrong for rejecting Nadab's and Abihu's worship in Leviticus 10:1-2.

2. Worldly authority - If worldly authority is required, then Kings could prescribe what is worshipful to God. 16 If Kings can prescribe what is worshipful to God, then God was wrong for rejecting Saul's offering in 1 Samuel 13:9 - 14.

3. Godly authority - If Godly authority is required, then only God can prescribe what is worshipful to God. If only God can prescribe what is worshipful to God, then there should be evidence in God's Word that identifies God as the authority who prescribes the kind of worship He wants.

God's introduction to the Ten Commandments identifies the authority behind the Commandments. His Word declares, "And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God…" (Exodus 20:1). Thus, by God's proclamation, the authority behind the Second Commandment, the Commandment which begins to identify what is worshipful to God, is God's authority.

The Answer -- Since God rejects "No Authority" and "Worldly Authority" and His Word confirms the requirement of "Godly Authority" to prescribe what is worshipful to God, then it stands that the authority required to prescribe what is worshipful to God is Godly authority. The only one who holds that authority is God.

At this point in the study someone might ask, "If the Bible does not forbid something, then couldn't it be used in worship?" At first glance this might seem to be a viable option. It might seem to be a viable option since it does not appear to depend on either "No Authority" or "Worldly Authority" and merely suggests that God did not include in Scripture everything that could be used in worshiping Him. However, the belief, "If the Bible does not forbid something, then it is allowable" is actually a form of the "No Authority" view.

For example, if people assume that whatever the Bible does not forbid is allowed in worship, then their assumptions make them the authority that adds to Scripture what they feel should be worshipful to God. People then become the authority that prescribes what is worshipful to God, and God is not the authority that determines what is worshipful to God.

However, the belief that "If the Bible does not forbid something, then it is allowable" is a fraudulent belief. It is a fraudulent belief because it depends on "No Authority," that is, people, to prescribe what is worshipful to God. If one operates on the belief that what the Bible does not forbid is allowable in worship, then any kind of foolishness, silliness, chaos or confusion can be incorporated into worship as long as the person believes the Bible does not forbid it. Some illogical extremes to make this point would be the use of jet engines, scuba gear, a live whale or tennis rackets in worship since the Bible does not specifically forbid the use of these things in worship. In continuing to follow this flawed logic, a more realistic example would be the use of the teachings from the book of Mormon, Buddhist Proverbs or instructions from the Koran in worship since the Bible does not specifically forbid them.

Ultimately, God is the only authority who can prescribe what is worshipful to God. People do not have this Godly authority. If people had the authority to prescribe what is worshipful to God, then God should not have rejected Saul's, Nadab's, and Abihu's worship.

The only one who can prescribe what is worshipful to God is God. God has specifically set forth in Scripture what is worshipful to Him. In other words, God's children are to worship God as God has decreed, and they are not to add to or take away from what God has decreed. vThe only acceptable worship of God should be in the forms which God alone has either specifically prescribed or that can be rightly understood from Scriptural context. In other words, God's children need to have clear scriptural foundations for all they do in worship.

The Westminster Confession of Faith's Larger Catechism, questions 108 and 109 concisely reflects the full teaching of the Second Commandment:

Question 108: What are the duties required in the Second Commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the Second Commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the Second Commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; 17 sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

As an accurate reflection of God's Word, these doctrinal statements clarify the teaching of the Second Commandment. That is, worship of God is divine because God is its beginning and its end. Worship is strictly speaking of God and through God and unto God. One must honor, reverence and serve God alone to worship God in the forms which He has prescribed. Thus, one should worship God only in those acceptable forms that are pleasing to Him as He has set forth in the Scripture.

Additionally, this doctrine asserts that any people-made images of God are displeasing to God. The images do not honor, reverence, or serve God and should be done away with.

Context is Key

When studying a difficult issue, it is important to examine those elements that most directly relate to that issue. However, occasionally it is not overtly apparent how issues are directly related. For instance, in studying how to clean a wound of gangrene, most people would not automatically think about using flies as a primary tool to clean the wound. However, during the American Civil War, maggots were the principal medical means for treating gangrene.

There are certain passages of Scripture that may at first seem not to relate directly to the Second Commandment but that actually lead to a deeper comprehension of it. Exodus 32:5-8, Deuteronomy 4:12-16 and Romans 1:23, 25 provide additional clarity to the examination of the Second Commandment.

In Exodus 20, for example, God gives His divine law. In verse one of Exodus 20, God Himself speaks the Ten Commandments from the mountain. He then orders Moses up into the mountain (Exodus 24:12-13) where he stays with God for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18). While Moses is with God, the Israelites request a golden calf to symbolize God for them and represent them as they enter the Promised Land (Nehemiah 9:18). 18 Aaron forms the golden calf as their symbol of God, and then the people pronounce it to be God and make sacrifices to it (Exodus 32:4-7). Here emerges the importance of the concept that context is key.

God says to Moses, "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it" (Exodus 32:8). With this statement, God indicates that the people violated each clause of the Second Commandment. In parsing this verse, it is evident that in the first part God declares that the people had sinned, and in the second part, He identifies those sins.

The second part of this verse reveals the sins the people had committed when they, "turned quickly aside out of the way."

Sin 1. They made a golden calf to represent God after God had forbidden them to make an image of Him in Exodus 20:4.

Sin 2. They honored the image which God had commanded them not to worship in Exodus 20:5.

If, however, the Second Commandment consisted of one clause instead of two, then it would have been a mistake in Exodus 32:8 for God to have condemned the Israelites for making and worshiping the golden calf. God would have made a mistake because, if the Second Commandment had only one clause, then making a golden calf to represent God did not violate the Commandment. Only worshiping something other than God would have violated the Commandment.

A flawed paraphrase of the Second Commandment will help clarify why God would've been mistaken in Exodus 32:8 when He called making the golden calf a sin. A flawed paraphrase of the Second Commandment would read, "You shall not make yourself any graven image to worship." Making images to represent God or false gods is not forbidden in this flawed interpretation. The flawed Commandment is only violated when someone actually worships an image. 19

However, the Second Commandment has two clauses, not one. God was not mistaken; rather, God was consistent. What God called sins in Exodus 20:4-5, God continued to identify as a sin in Exodus 32:8.

Undoubtedly, the people that manufactured the golden calf planned to honor God with what they thought would be a fitting symbol of God's great power and might. They chose the most precious metals they had, and they used the strongest animal image they could think of to depict God. For all practical purposes, their intentions seem to have been good. However, it is not hard to determine from God's reaction that, in fact, such a symbol insulted God. For what idea of God's eternal and perfect character, God's holiness, righteousness, greatness, perfection, justness, goodness, and divine essence could any human being gather from gazing upon anything created out of corrupt earthen elements by limited, sinful people? Accordingly, then, the Second Commandment forbids both the having an image to depict God and the bestowing of honor, reverence, and service upon any people-made objects. 20

Deuteronomy 4:12-16 further explains why the golden calf was offensive to God. Deuteronomy 4:12 declares, "Take you therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD Spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure …" Moses charges them to guard against the sin of breaking the Second Commandment because it is a sin they would be tempted to engage in because of the customs of the pagan nations around them. The pagans depicted and worshipped their gods using images. To attempt to represent God by images, as the pagans did, would be the greatest insult placed upon God and the greatest lie inflicted upon themselves and their children. Moses reminds them that when God identified Himself to them at Horeb, He used a voice. They saw no likeness of God but only fire and smoke, nothing they could use to make an image to represent God.

Because they did not see God, their image of God had to be based on pagan models. A bull or golden calf was something that pagan nations like Egypt used to depict some of their gods. Using pagan models to depict God in essence falsely put God Almighty on an equal footing with nonexistent gods.

Finally, the golden calf incident reflected paganism in a subtle yet deeply perverse manner. Pagan gods only had meaning because people supplied it, not because the gods existed. Their importance was derived from people. Images of God also reflect this pagan-supplied meaning concept. Images of God do not derive their meaning from God because God forbids images of God and the use of images of God in Exodus 20:4-5. Rather, the images have meaning because people supply those images with meaning. The golden calf had meaning for the Israelite people, not because God gave the golden calf meaning, but because, like the pagans, they supplied the image with meaning. By creating an image of God, people were attempting to place God on a manageable level. By attempting to create an image of God, people could supply that image with whatever power, ability, or ideas they wanted. Thus God had no desire to be treated like a pagan god and declared people-made images of Him to be a sin in Exodus 20: 4.

The New Testament rounds out our contextual understanding of the Second Commandment. Romans 1:23 says, "And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." This passage demonstrates that it was wrong even in the New Testament era to try to represent God. To try to embody God in images like a mortal man, a bird like a dove, or a four footed creature like a golden calf, did not glorify Him as God. When people attempt to make images of God by the use of their vain imaginations, they ascribe God no honor or reverence. Nor do they ascribe those perfections to Him that make God, God. What human image can appropriately represent the Triune God, and what bird or four footed creature can accurately represent the Trinity?

To try and transform the glory of God into corruptible, people-made objects, is to mock, belittle, disrespect, and dishonor God. Their devotion to God seems so weak that, believing themselves to be wise, they did that which was foolish. Like their Jewish counterparts with the golden calf, they didn't just violate the first clause of the Second Commandment. They also violated the second clause of the Second Commandment when they "… changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator ..." (Romans 1:25).

The truth about God is that He is invisible, eternal, uncorruptible, and unchangeable. In contrast, a graven image of God is visible, limited, corruptible, and susceptible to change. Therefore using an image to depict God will always skew the reverence, honor, and service due God, since the image being created in one's mind by a false image is not God. Moreover, the condemnation of people-made images of God was not just an Old Testament doctrine; they were condemned in the New Testament era as well.

Summary

The Second Commandment deals not just with who is worshipped, but with the manner of that worship. It tells us that nothing can depict the God we worship. It also tells us that one should honor, reverence, and serve God in worship as God has prescribed throughout Scripture. In other words, we are to worship in spirit and in truth. People-made images of God do not convey Godly truth. No portion of God's true Word approves having or using them. The Westminster Confession of Faith, section 21.1, puts it this way:

"The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture."

Review Questions

1. Why is a distinction made between the First and Second Commandment?

2. What does the whole of the Second Commandment pertain to?

3. How many parts does the Second Commandment have?

4. In clause one, "What is prohibited, and what is acceptable"?

5. In clause two, "What is prohibited, and what is acceptable"?

6. What does your church do in its worship service, and what are the scriptural foundations for what they do?

7. Are there any scriptural foundations for having images of Jesus?

8. How do Exodus 32:5-8, Deuteronomy 4:12-16 and Romans 1:23, 25 clarify the Second Commandment?

Notes:

1. All Hebrew definitions are supplied by BDB (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, [ed. Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906].) unless otherwise specified.

2. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, Arranged in the Form of a Harmony. (4 Vols. trans. Charles William Bingham; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 2: 106-7.

3. In light of this supposition that the First Commandment is distinct from the Second Commandment, this study will strictly focus on images of Christ as they relate to the Second Commandment.

4. Ibid. 108.

5. Dr. Chip McDaniel (Old Testament professor, Columbia Biblical Seminary), interview by author, 7 April 2003.

6. Translation by Andrew Morrison, M.A. student (Old Testament), Columbia Biblical Seminary.

7. While the different Bible versions use similar words e.g., "idol or graven Image" for pesel and "worship," or "bow down" for tishtachveh, in what appears to be an attempt to translate the Hebrew words into common English), the use of these equivalent English words do not alter or amend the meaning of Exodus 20:4-5 at all.

8. For a more detailed understanding of the Second Commandment's two clauses, see appendix A.

9. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 45:5

10. The pronoun "them" in this clause is not referring to random objects, but to false gods, human-made images of God, or anything that supposedly represents the true God.

11. Isaiah 1:11 - 14, 22:15; Jeremiah 6:20; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6

12. Calvin, 107.

13. Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 1. 1 Corinthian 10:31; Romans 11:36; Psalms 73:25-28.

14. There are no scriptural foundations for having and using images of Jesus Christ. Nowhere in the Old and New Testament does God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit command, sanction, approve or declare images of Jesus Christ to be acceptable to have.

15. Everyone who has ever existed or ever will exist could qualify as "No Authority."

16. A king, president, dictator, pope or other such ruler could qualify as a "Worldly Authority" since they are considered to have the highest worldly power and control.

17. It refers to the crime of buying or selling religious benefits, offices, or church positions.

18. Nehemiah 9:18 "Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;" The God who brought them up out of Egypt was "God Almighty" and no other.

19. Following the logic that the Second Commandment consisted of one clause instead of two, the Israelite people could have become the god factory for all the pagan nations around them since making images of false gods would not have been a violation of the Second Commandment. However, the context of the Israelite history throughout the Old Testament demonstrates that God condemned having and/or making images of false gods.

20. The difference that two clauses make is located in Appendix A of this study.



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