Icons and Statues
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6/ second commandment).
As the first commandment emphasizes the fact that there is but one God (Exodus 20:3) in protest against the worship of many gods, the second commandment places emphasis upon His spiritual nature (John 4:24), in disapproval of idolatry and materialism. This clearly speaks against the outward honor and adoration given to icons and statues.
However, the second commandment does not necessarily prohibit the use of sculpture and painting in religion. The artistry and symbolism used in the construction of the sanctuary (Exodus 25:17–22), in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:23–26), and in the “brasen serpent” (Numbers 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4) clearly show that the second commandment does not prohibit religious illustrative material.
What is condemned is the veneration, adoration, and worship which people give to religious icons and statues. People pray, bow down, kneel, adore, and worship idols. They also offer offerings and sacrifices (candles, flowers, money…etc.) which are all considered part of adoration and worship. They view icons and statues not just as emblems, but as real and actual embodiments of deity.
The excuse that the statues themselves are not worshiped does not lessen the prohibition of the second commandment. Idols are not only not to be worshiped, they are not even to be made because they are merely the product of human labor, and therefore much lower than man and subject to him (Hosea 8:6). People can truly worship only by focusing their thoughts to One greater than themselves.
The scriptures teach that God refuses to share His glory with idols (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). He rejects the worship and service of a divided heart (Exodus 34:12–15; Deuteronomy 4:23, 24; 6:14, 15; Joshua 24:15, 19, 20). Jesus Himself said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
To cover for their breaking of the second commandment, the Roman Catholic “Catechism” removed the second commandment from God’s law and then split the tenth commandment in two to make up for the gap they created. In doing so they made “the word of God of none effect” through” their “tradition” (Mark 7:13).
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In His service,