On this week’s episode of Theology Gals, Coleen and Ashley discuss the second commandment and images of Jesus.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, 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 them or serve them; for, 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, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Catechism & Confession
What does God require
in the second commandment?
We are not to make an image of God in any way, 1
nor to worship him in any other manner
than he has commanded in his Word. 2
1.Deut 4:15-19; Is 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:23.
2.Lev 10:1-7; Deut 12:30; 1 Sam 15:22, 23; Mt 15:9; Jn 4:23, 24.
May we then not make
any image at all?
God cannot and may not
be visibly portrayed in any way.
Creatures may be portrayed,
but God forbids us
to make or have any images of them
in order to worship them
or to serve God through them. 1
1.Ex 34:13, 14, 17; Num 33:52; 2 Kings 18:4, 5; Is 40:25.
But may images not be tolerated
in the churches
as “books for the laity”?
No, for we should not be wiser than God.
He wants his people to be taught
not by means of dumb images 1
but by the living preaching of his Word. 2
1.Jer 10:8; Hab 2:18-20.
2.Rom 10:14, 15, 17; 2 Tim 3:16, 17; 2 Pet 1:19.
Westminster Confession of Faith
Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day
1. The light of nature showeth 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 worshiped 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.
Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 107. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, 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. 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; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath 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.
Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; 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; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.
Q. 110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, 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; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 49. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, 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: 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; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Q. 50. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.
Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
Second Helvetic Confession
“Since God as Spirit is in essence invisible and immense, he cannot really be expressed by any art or image. For this reason we have no fear pronouncing with Scripture that images of God are mere lies. Therefore we reject not only the idols of the Gentiles, but also the images of Christians. Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters. Images are forbidden by the law and the prophets (Deut. 4:15; Isa. 44:9).” –
Calvin on Images
“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.” – John Calvin
“The setting up of images in churches, is a defiling . . . By and by, folk go and kneel down to it. . . . The Papists . . . paint and portray ‘Jesus Christ’ – Who (as we know) is not only man but also God manifested in the flesh. He is God’s eternal Son, in Whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells – yes, even substantially . . . Should we have portraitures and images, whereby only the flesh may be represented? Is it not a wiping away of that which is chiefest in our Lord Jesus Christ – that is, to wit, of His Divine Majesty? Yes!
And therefore, whensoever a crucifix stands moping and mowing in the church – it is all one as if the Devil had defaced the Son of God. You see, then, that the Papists are destitute of all excuse . . . They abuse their puppets and pictures, after that fashion.”
John Calvin – “There were many unbelievers who, at that time, beheld Christ with the eyes of flesh, and yet were not more blessed on that account; but we, who have never beheld Christ with the eyes, enjoy that blessedness of which Christ speaks with commendation. Hence it follows, that he calls those eyes blessed which spiritually behold in him what is heavenly and divine; for we now behold Christ in the Gospel in the same manner as if he visibly stood before us. In this sense Paul says to the Galatians, (Galatians 3:1,) that Christ was crucified before their eyes; and, therefore, if we desire to see in Christ what may render us happy and blessed, let us learn to believe, when we do not see. To these words of Christ corresponds what is stated in another passage, in which the Apostle commends believers, who love Christ whom they have not seen, and rejoice with unspeakable joy, though they do not behold him.”
(1 Peter 1:8.)
Calvin – “Leave to Christ the true nature of flesh, and do not, by a mistaken apprehension, extend his body over heaven and earth: do not divide him into different parts by thy fancies, and do not adore him in this place and that, according to thy carnal apprehension. Allow him to remain in his heavenly glory, and aspire thou thither, that he may thence communicate himself to thee. These few things will satisfy those that are sound and modest.”
Calvin – “Εἰδος) I have here rendered aspectum, (sight,) because few understood the meaning of the word species, (appearance). He states the reason, why it is that we are now absent from the Lord – because we do not as yet see him face to face. (1Corinthians 13:12.) The manner of that absence is this – that God is not openly beheld by us. The reason why he is not seen by us is, that we walk by faith Now it is on good grounds that faith is opposed to sight, because it, perceives those things that are hid from the view of men – because it reaches forth to future things, which do not as yet appear. For such is the condition of believers, that they resemble the dead rather than the living – that they often seem as if they were forsaken by God – that they always have the elements of death shut up within them. Hence they must necessarily hope against hope. (Romans 4:18.) Now the things that are hoped for are hid, as we read in Romans 8:24, and faith is the manifestation of things which do not appear.
It is not to be wondered, then, if the apostle says, that we have not as yet the privilege of sight, so long as we walk by faith. For we see, indeed, but it is through a glass, darkly; (1Corinthians 13:12,) that is, in place of the reality we rest upon the word
Other Quotes Mentioned:
“… the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.” The Regulative Principle of Worship by Derek Thomas “
“The Second Commandment teaches us how we are to worship. We are to worship God only as He had commanded us to worship him. Anything that man devises, invents, or imagines corrupts the true reverence and worship of God. This commandment is frequently violated when Christians have pictures of Jesus. When it is said that they are legitimate because they are not used in worship, we reply that they are not legitimate because one cannot have a proper thought of feeling with respect to Christ other than that of reverenced and worship”. – G.I. Williamson
“The second commandment is broken when men attempt to make a graven image or a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that there is one God. It teaches us to worship the three persons, the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. But Paul tells us that we “ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29).” – G.I. Williamson
“God has already given us one visual means by which we both remember and participate in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. Scripture calls this the “Lord’s Supper”” Brian Crosby Christward Collective
“Pictures of Christ are in principle a violation of the second commandment. A picture of Christ, if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful. We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship. But since the materials for this medium of worship are not derived from the only revelation we possess respecting Jesus, namely, Scripture, the worship is constrained by a creation of the human mind that has no revelatory warrant . This is will-worship. For the principle of the second commandment is that we are to worship God only in ways prescribed and authorized by him. It is a grievous sin to have worship constrained by a human figment, and that is what a picture of the Saviour involves.” – John Murray
For Further Study:
The Second Commandment and images in worship – Christ the Center
God’s Holy Law, The Second Commandment Heidelcast Podcast
Why Did John Calvin and the Reformers Forbid All Images of the Divine Persons? Joe Vusich
The Second Commandment, Westminster and Images of Christ Brian Crosby
The Real Question is Whether There is An Objective Definition of Reformed by R. Scott Clark
In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace by Daniel R. Hyde
The Second Commandment and Images in Worship Christ the Center Podcast
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