The Why and How of the 2nd Commandment

Where the first commandment tells us the proper object of our worship (God alone) the second commandment tells us the proper manner of worship. In this article I want to finish thoughts on the Second Commandment and how it deals with our proper worship of God, highlighting some (but not all) of the thoughts listed in DeYoung’s book The 10 Commandments. First we will consider reasons why God forbids the use of images in worship and then how to honor the commandment.

God forbids images to represent him in worship because:

First. God doesn’t have a body or form. Recall what John says

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

God is spirit and doesn’t have a body, therefore if we make something that represents God for worship it is a misrepresentation of his true form because God is spirit.

Secondly, God says in Deuteronomy 4, they are not to have images of God because they heard and didn’t see (12).

15 …Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves…

They believed by hearing. God’s people is a Word-centered culture. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). God reveals himself with words, thus Christian worship is often “wordy”.

How are we to keep the second commandment?

First we must “guard against images of God that are external and imagined”. As mentioned above, God disapproves of images because they are not the form of his self-revelation. Therefore we shouldn’t let images be a way to focus ourselves in prayer. Can we use them without worshipping them? The Reformers would say, “look at what they do, not at what they say.” (47) Use an image or statue to be closer to God results in pushing ourselves away from God not closer.

Secondly, consider the wisdom of the regulative principle. Stated simply, it says, “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will.” (48) In other words, our corporate worship is to contain only that which has Biblical warrant. The regulative principle guards and protects our freedoms in worship. Novelties in our worship service impose upon our freedoms and we are left guessing if this worship pleases God.

Some tried to argue for the necessity of images because people couldn’t read. The Reformers remedied this problem with sound teaching. Wisdom was found in doing what God commanded and not taking liberties. Or the question is often raised, “Can’t an image of Jesus be a visible reminder of God’s love for us as he has taken on flesh? Where is our comfort of the Incarnation?” The Lord’s Table is the ordained visible reminder of the Incarnation, the suffering, death and resurrection. That is the ordained visible sign God has given to us to remember his love for us. The comfort of the second commandment is that God knows our proclivities and predispositions and helps us in our weakness.

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