We must be very careful that the visual never eclipse the verbal. We must be very careful not to allow things of visual beauty to become the objects of our worship, because they lie. They lie, because they cannot represent the infinite beauty of God. We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is a lie and, as a lie, it robs Him of His Glory. The worship of icons -- just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. It is not true that the means of connecting with God is through the mediation on the visual. It simply is not true. But it is true that even as we are to avoid icons, we do have an icon. It is true that there is one icon that is the object and focus of our worship — the means of our worship, indeed, and that is the icon that is Jesus Christ. "He[...]", as we read from Colossians Chapter one, is "[...]is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him" And thus Christ is in the Second Commandment; and thus Christ fulfills the Second Commandment, because He, the image of the invisible God, is the icon whom we ponder. But even as that icon, He is not a visual image for us. He is so much more than that. And thus this commandment is also for us; lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry, we preach Christ crucified, we point to Christ in His glory, we preach the cross, we teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ, and we use words. Paul says that these things, including all the Law, the Torah, all the writings of the Old Testament are given to us for our good, so that by reading them we may be instructed and encouraged.These notes on Mohler's sermon on the Third Commandment are also helpful (note: Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 42:8 and Isaiah 48:11): http://fillup.wordpress.com/2006/09/15/dr-albert-mohler-the-third-commandment/.
Also, read Mohler's article "You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears:" Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age, Part 3", which points out why Christian apologetic confronts error concerning idolatry. From the article:
Sixth, a Christian apologetic confronts error. [Acts 17:29] In this sense, the apologetic task and the polemical task are related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: “We ought not to think” false thoughts about God.
False theologies abound in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God–the so-called Gaia Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment.
The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice, and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”
Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.
*Update 10/12/09: Jason Smathers provided a selection from Mohler's new book here. Thankfully, Mohler reiterates his stance against purported images of Christ! I'm very thankful for Mohler's comments in his book; he is very clear that he is against purported images of Christ. Below is the selection provided by Smathers:
The following is an except from the end of chapter two which sums up Dr. Mohler's conclusion.We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is an invention, and as an invention, it robs Him of His glory. The worship of icons is just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. God does not command or authorize the use of images in order to understand and worship Him. As a matter of fact, God condemns images and leaves no doubt concerning the matter.Jesus Christ is not a visual image for us---He is so much more than that. And thus this commandment is also for us lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry. We preach Christ crucified. We point to Christ in His glory. We preach the cross. We teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ. And we use words.The second commandment is a clear condemnation of idols and images. We are not to use our creativity in order to fabricate an idol or to worship an image.