While the first commandment emphasizes the fact that there is but one God, in protest against the worship of many gods (Exodus 20:3), the second commandment places emphasis upon His spiritual nature (Exodus 20:4; John 4:24), in disapproval of idolatry and materialism. But the second commandment does not necessarily prohibit the use of images, sculpture, and painting in religion.
The artistry and representation employed in the construction of the sanctuary (Ex. 25:17–22), in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:23–26), and in the “brasen serpent” (Num. 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4) clearly prove that the second commandment does not proscribe religious illustrative material. So, merely having a picture or an image of Jesus at home or in church is not wrong in itself. What is condemned is the reverence and the worship which multitudes in many lands give to religious images and pictures.
The excuse that the idols themselves are not worshiped does not lessen the force of this prohibition. The foolishness of idolatry lies in the fact that idols are merely the product of human skill, and therefore inferior to man and subject to him (Hosea 8:6). Bowing down to idles, praying to them, offering gifts, and giving adoration to images are all heathen practices that are utterly forbidden by God.
Man can truly engage in worship only by directing his thoughts to One greater than himself. Images and sculpture should not be used in worship. God refuses to share His glory with idols (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). He declines the worship and service of a divided heart (Ex. 34:12–15; Deut. 4:23, 24; 6:14, 15; Joshua 24:15, 19, 20). Jesus Himself said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).
Images can never be representation of Jesus because no one really knows what Jesus really looked like. Jesus’ appearance resembled that of a Jewish man. In fact, the Bible says, “There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). His appearance did not attract the attention. Men were not to be attracted to Christ by a display of supernatural glory, but by the beauty of a righteous life and a perfect character. For this same reason none of the writers of the gospels wrote about the Jesus’ physical appearance.
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In His service,
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