The Dangers of Images

“In the face of this perplexity, some would suggest that the second commandment applies only to immoral and degrading representations of God, borrowed from pagan cults, and to nothing more.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Lesson: Images are dangerous because God cannot be represented by anything in worship for He is Spirit and His Son already made Him visible.

  1. It is not a matter of personal taste.
  2. It is not about helping them to focus their thoughts on Christ when they pray.
  3. It is not about making worship more freely and easily in churches with images.

The Wording of the 2nd Commandment

You shall not make for yourself a carved 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. 

According to the Textual Notes of NET Study Bible on Exodus 20:4, The word תְּמוּנָה (témunah) refers to the mental pattern from which the פֶּסֶל (pesel) is constructed; it is a real or imagined resemblance. If this is to stand as a second object to the verb, then the verb itself takes a slightly different nuance here. It would convey “you shall not make an image, neither shall you conceive a form” for worship (B. Jacob, Exodus, 547).”

The 2nd commandment categorically forbids anything (statues, pictures, paintings, etc.) that represents God in worship (private & public). It is not ruling out only certain kinds of objects. It is not ruling out only objects depicting God as an animal. But it is ruling out pictures and statues depicting God even as the highest of created things—a human.

According to A.W. Pink, “This commandment strikes against a desire… which is deeply rooted in the human heart, namely, to bring in some aids to the worship of God, beyond those which He has appointed. To represent Him as of a material and limited form is a falsehood and insult to His majesty.” ~ A.W. Pink “The Ten Commandments” p. 11-12

The Clarity of the 2nd Commandment

The second commandment makes two prohibitions (Kevin De Young, The 10 Commandments):

  1. We are not to make images to represent God in any form.
    • Publicly and privately
    • All pictures and statues of Christ,
  2. We are not to worship images of any kind.

He further states, “God is not against beauty. What he prohibits is infusing any object with spiritual efficacy, as if man-made artifacts can bring us closer to God, represent God, or establish communion with God.”

The Seriousness of the 2nd Commandment

Again, Kevin De Young gives five reasons God forbids images and anything else to represent him in worship. We categorize it into two:

  1. God’s character: God is free. We undermine His Freedom. God is Jealous. We dishonor His Glory.
  2. God’s provision: God has spoken. Believing sight comes by sound. God provides His own mediators (prophets, priests, and kings, ultimately, Jesus Christ.) God has created His images. Idolatry diminishes God and diminishes us.

This is the problem with sinners and idolators, Kevin DeYoung points out, “In one case, we are looking for God’s image where it doesn’t exist (idolatry), and in the other case, we are ignoring God’s image where it does exist (sins against our neighbors). We are God’s statues in the world, marking out the planet as his and his alone. He does not need our help in making more images; he asks for our witness.”

From this, we can say that images are not only not helpful but also dangerous because of the sanctions given upon the breach of it. Namely, judgment from a jealous God, and severe consequences for disobedience. In the next lessons, we will learn that it is also dangerous because of the truth that the Scripture teaches concerning images. Namely, they dishonor God and misrepresent God.

Questions for meditation:

  • What harm is there in the worshiper’s surrounding himself with statues and pictures, if they help him to lift his heart to God?
  • Why can’t God be represented by images?

Note: This is from our Youth Bible Study. Citations are from Packer, J. I. (1993). Knowing God. Intervarsity Press.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

2 thoughts on “The Dangers of Images

  1. Amen Brother. Praise God.

    According to JMac, Christians were accused of being atheists because unlike all pagans who worship many gods and godesses and even, Rome’s worship of Caesar, Christians of the early church were worshipping an invisible God.

    This false accusation has led to the church’s persecution even Polycarp’s.

    On the flipside, LGBTQxyz++ (never ends) as well as pro-choice folks are actually waging war against the one true living and Holy God of the Scriptures because they are distorting men and killing babies… every single one bearing of these no less than the image of God Himself.

    Liked by 1 person

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