Tuesday, March 22, 2011

John Lightfoot's Concise Exposition of Romans 1:23-32

It is observable, what Paul saith; that because the heathen had brutish conceptions concerning God, abasing him, he gave them over to brutish abasing their own bodies by bestiality,—or, indeed, by what was above bestial. And so he shows plainly, that God's giving up men to such filthiness, especially sodomy, was a direct plague for their idolatrous conceptions of God, and their idolatry. And to this purpose, it may be observed, that, when the Holy Ghost hath given the story of the world's becoming heathenish at Babel, for and by idolatry; he is not long before he brings in mention of this sin among the heathen, and fearful vengeance upon it. Apply this matter to the case of Rome, and it may be of good information.
—John Lightfoot

Friday, March 18, 2011

C.H. Spurgeon, The Second Commandment, Graven Images, & Idolatry

Read C. H. Spurgeon's "Idolatry Condemned" here. Also, read Spurgeon's "Idols Abolished" here.

Iconoclast Sermon #960 Volume 16

THE First Commandment instructs us that there is but one God, who alone is to be worshipped. And the Second Commandment teaches that no attempt is to be made to represent the Lord, neither are we to bow down before any form of sacred similitude.

The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Sermon #1653
The Resurrection of Christ is vital, because first it tells us that the Gospel is the Gospel of a living Savior. We have not to send poor penitents to the crucifix, the dead image of a dead man. We say not, “These be thy gods, O Israel!” We have not to send you to a little baby Christ nursed by a woman. Nothing of the sort. Behold the Lord that lives and was dead and is alive for evermore, and hath the keys of hell and of death! Behold in him a living and accessible Savior who out of the glory still cries with loving accents, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.” I say we have a living Savior, and is not this a glorious feature of the gospel?
From Spurgeon's Puritan Catechism:
46 Q What is forbidden in the second commandment?A The second commandment
forbids the worshipping of God by images (De 4:15,16). or any other way not
appointed in his Word (Col 2:18).
From Spurgeon's Exposition of Exodus 32 (link, Spurgeon's exposition at the end):
Verse 1. And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wet not what is become of him.
What a terrible speech to be made by the people whom God had chosen to be his own! "Make us gods. Make our Creator." How could that be?
2. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
Poor Aaron! He never had the backbone of his brother Moses. He was a better speaker; but oh, the poverty of his heart! He yields to the will of these idolatrous people, and bows to their wicked behests at once.
3. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
Idolaters spare no expense; there is many a worshipper of a god of wood or mud who gives more to that idol than professing Christians give to the cause of the one living and true God. It is sad that it should be so.
4. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
This was an Egyptian idolatry, the worship of God under the fashion of an ox, the emblem of strength; but God is not to be worshipped under emblems at all. What a poor representation of God any emblem must be!
5. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
They were going to worship Jehovah under the emblem of an ox. This is what you will hear idolaters say; they do not worship the image, they say, but the true God under that image. Yet that is expressly forbidden under the second commandment.
6. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people eat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
Lascivious games were sure to accompany idolatrous worship, for idolatry always leads to filthiness in some form or other, as if it were inevitable.
Here is a section from Spurgeon's exposition of Isaiah 44. and 55; and 2 Samuel 23:1-5 (the text can be found here at The Spurgeon Archives; however, please note that I do not approve of the blatant popish idolatry used on the banner at the bottom of the website; I hope they consider Spurgeon's words):
20, 21. A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: You who fear God, remember these things, and keep clear of idolatry,—the setting up of crucifixes, the hanging up of crosses or any kind of symbol whatever. Even though it be merely the simple triangle, or the sacred Alpha and Omega, away with it, for the people of God must be clear from even the slightest traces of idolatry. See how many so-called Christian churches are nothing better than congregations of idolaters, such as the Church of Rome, and even the Greek Church the one with her images and her relics, and the other with her pictures and her icons. We must have none of these things, for the command still stands, "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." In days like these in which we live, the people of God should be more particular than ever not to countenance any form of idolatry lest, by slow degrees, we come back to the old abominations which God abhors.
The following quote is from the sermon "A Jealous God" (No. 502). Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon, on Sunday Morning, March 29th, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington (the full text can be read here (Bible Bulletin Board); note: The sermon is, for the most part, a good sermon; however, I abhor Spurgeon's idea of asking the question: "Can you put yourselves in God's place for a moment?" Although I understand his use of it, the answer is no, because that is what an idolater does. Idolaters change "God" into what they think He should be; idolaters attempt to make God a creation of man -- they attempt to put themselves into the place of the eternal uncreated Creator.):
Our text is coupled with the command—"Thou shalt worship no other God." When the law was thundered from Sinai, the second commandment received force from the divine jealousy—"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." Since he is the only God, the Creator of heaven and earth, he cannot endure that any creature of his own hands, or fiction of a creature's imagination should be thrust into his throne, and be made to wear his crown. In Ezekiel we find the false god described as "the image of jealousy which provoketh to jealousy," and the doom on Jerusalem for thus turning from Jehovah runs thus, "Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head." False gods patiently endure the existence of other false gods. Dagon can stand with Bel, and Bel with Ashtaroth; how should stone, and wood, and silver, be moved to indignation; but because God is the only living and true God, Dagon must fall before his ark; Bel must be broken, and Ashtaroth must be consumed with fire. Thus saith the Lord, "Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves;" the idols he shall utterly abolish. My brethren, do you marvel at this? I felt in my own soul while meditating upon this matter an intense sympathy with God. Can you put yourselves in God's place for a moment? Suppose that you had made the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures that inhabit this round globe; how would you feel if those creatures should set up an image of wood, or brass, or gold, and cry, "These are the gods that made us; these things give us life." What—a dead piece of earth set up in rivalry with real Deity! What must be the Lord's indignation against infatuated rebels when they so far despise him as to set up a leek, or an onion, or a beetle, or a frog, preferring to worship the fruit of their own gardens, or the vermin of their muddy rivers, rather than acknowledge the God in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways! Oh! it is a marvel that God hath not dashed the world to pieces with thunderbolts, when we recollect that even to this day milhons of men have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. With what unutterable contempt must the living God look down upon those idols which are the work of man's hands—"They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat." God hath longsuffering toward men, and he patiently endureth this madness of rebelhon; but, oh! what patience must it be which can restrain the fury of his jealousy, for he is a jealous God, and brooks no rival. It was divine jealousy which moved the Lord to bring all his plagues on Egypt. Careful reading will show you that those wonders were all aimed at the gods of Egypt. The people were tormented by the very things which they had made to be their deities, or else, as in the case of the murrain, their sacred animals were themselves smitten, even as the Lord had threatened—"Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Jehovah." Was it not the same with ancient Israel? Why were they routed before their enemies? Why was their land so often invaded? Why did famine follow pestilence, and war succeed to famine? Only because "they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was Froth, and greatly abhorred Israel." (Psalm 78:58-59.) How was it that at the last the Lord gave up Jerusalem to the flames, and bade the Chaldeans carry into captivity the remnant of his people? How was it that he abhorred his heritage, and gave up Mount Zion to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles? Did not Jeremiah tell them plainly that because they had walked after other gods and forsaken Jehovah, therefore he would cast them out into a land which they knew not?
Brethren, the whole history of the human race is a record of the wars of the Lord against idolatry. The right hand of the Lord hath dashed in pieces the enemy and cast the ancient idols to the ground. Behold the heaps of Nineveh! Search for the desolations of Babylon! Look upon the broken temples of Greece! See the ruins of Pagan Rome! Journey where you will, you behold the dilapidated temples of the gods and the ruined empires of their foolish votaries. The moles and the bats have covered with forgetfulness the once famous deities of Chaldea and Assyria. The Lord hath made bare his arm and eased him of his adversaries, for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
With what indignation, then, must the Lord look down upon that apostate harlot, called the Romish Church, when, in all her sanctuaries, there are pictures and images, relics and slivines, and poor infatuated beings are even taught to bow before a piece of bread. In this country, Popish idolatry is not so barefaced and naked as it is in other lands; but I have seen it, and my soul has been moved with indignation like that of Paul on Mars' Hill, when he saw the city wholly to idolatry; I have seen thousands adore the wafer, hundreds bow before the image of the Virgin, scores at prayer before a crucifix, and companies of men and women adoring a rotten bone or a rusty nail, because said to be the relic of a saint. It is vain for the Romanist to assert that he worships not the things themselves, but only the Lord through them, for this the second commandment expressly forbids, and it is upon this point that the Lord calls himself a jealous God. How full is that cup which Babylon must drink; the day is hastening when the Lord shall avenge himself upon her, because her iniquities have reached unto heaven, and she hath blasphemously exalted her Pope into the throne of the Host High, and thrust her priests into the office of the Lamb. Purge yourselves, purge yourselves of this leaven. I charge you before God, the Judge of quick and dead, if ye would not be partakers of her plagues, come out from her more and more, and let your protest be increasingly vehement against this which exalteth itself above all that is called God. Let our Protestant Churches, which have too great a savoar of Popery in them, cleanse themselves of her fornications, lest the Lord visit them with fire and pour the plagues of Babylon upon them. Renounce, my brethren, every ceremony which has not Scripture for its warrant, and every doctrine which is not established by the plain testimony of the Word of God. Let us, above all, never by any sign, or word, or deed, have any complicity with this communion of devils, this gathering together of the sons of Behal: and since our God is a jealous God, let us not provoke him by any affinity, gentleness, fellowship, or amity with this Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth.
With what jealousy must the Lord regard the great mass of the people of this country, who have another God beside himself! With what indignation doth he look upon many of you who are subject to the prince of the power of the air, the god of this world! To you Jehovah is nothing. God is not in all your thoughts; you have no fear of Him before your eyes. Like the men of Israel, you have set up your idols in your heart. Your god is custom, fashion, business, pleasure, ambition, honor. You have made unto yourselves gods of these things; you have said, "These be thy gods, O Israel." Ye follow after the things which perish, the things of this world, which are vanity. O ye sons of men, think not that God is blind. He can perceive the idols in your hearts; he understandeth what be the secret things that your souls lust after; he searcheth your heart, he trieth your reins; beware lest he find you sacrificing to strange gods, for his anger will smoke against you, and his jealousy will be stirred. O ye that worship not God, the God of Israel, who give him not dominion over your whole soul, and live not to his honor, repent ye of your idolatry, seek mercy through the blood of Jesus, and provoke not the Lord to jealousy any more.
Read Spurgeon's sermon "The Ascension of Christ" (delivered March 26, 1871) here (I do not endorse the banner graphics). From the sermon:
Our Lord Jesus Christ has gone from us. We return again to the thought. We cannot speak into his ear and hear his voice reply in those dear accents with which he spoke to Thomas and to Philip. He no longer sits at feasts of love with favored friends, such as Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He has departed out of this world unto the Father, and what then? Why he has taught us by this the more distinctly, that we must henceforth walk by faith and not by sight. The presence of Jesus Christ on earth would have been, to a great extent, a perpetual embargo upon the life of faith. We should all have desired to see the Redeemer; but since, as man, he could not have been omnipresent, but could only have been in one spot at one time, we should have made it the business of our lives to provide the means for journey to the place where he might be seen; or if he himself condescended to journey through all lands, we should have fought our way into the throng to feast our eyes upon him, and we should have envied each other when the turn came for any to speak familiarly with him. Thank God we have no cause for clamor or strife or struggle about the mere sight of Jesus after the flesh; for though once he was seen corporeally by his disciples, yet now after the flesh know we even him no more. Jesus is no more seen of human eyes; and it is well, for faith's sight is saving, instructing, transforming, and mere natural sight is not so. Had he been here we should have regarded much more the things which are visible, but now our hearts are taken up with the things which are not seen, but which are eternal. This day we have no priest for eyes to gaze upon, no material altar, no temple made with hands, no solemn rites to satisfy the senses; we have done with the outward and are rejoicing in the inward. Neither in this mountain nor in that do we worship the Father, but we worship God, who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth. We now endure as seeing him who is invisible; whom, having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In the same fashion as we walk towards our Lord, so walk we towards all that he reveals; we walk by faith, not by sight. Israel, in the wilderness, instructed by types and shadows, was ever prone to idolatry; the more there is of the visible in religion, the more is there of difficulty in the attainment of spirituality. Even baptism and the Lord's Supper, were they not ordained by the Lord himself, might be well given up, since the flesh makes a snare of them, and superstition engrafts on them baptismal regeneration and sacramental efficacy. Our Lord's presence might thus have become a difficulty to faith, though a pleasure to sense. His going away leaves a clear field for faith; it throws us necessarily upon a spiritual life, since he who is the head, the soul, the center of our faith, hope, and love is no more within the range of our bodily organs. It is poor believing which needs to put its finger into the nail-prints; but blessed is he that hath not seen and yet hath believed. In an unseen Savior we fix our trust, from an unseen Savior we derive our joy. Our faith is now the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
    Let us learn this lesson well, and let it never be said to us, "Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Let us never attempt to live by feeling and evidence. Let us banish from our soul all dreams of finding perfection in the flesh, and equally let us discard all cravings for signs and wonders. Let us not be like the children of Israel, who only believed while they saw the works of the Lord. If our Beloved has hidden himself from our sight, let him even hide everything else, if so it pleases him. If he only reveals himself to our faith, the eye which is good enough to see him with is good enough to see everything else with, and we will be content to see his covenant blessings, and all else with that one eye of faith, and no other, till the time shall come when he shall change our faith to sight.

A section from "Scala Santa" by C. H. Spurgeon from the January 1874 Sword and Trowel (emphasis mine; note: Isaiah 42:8 and Isaiah 48:11):
Our abhorrence of Popery and everything verging upon it rose to a white heat as we saw how it can lower an intelligent nation to the level of fetish worship, and associate the name of the ever-blessed Jesus with a groveling idolatry. If our mild milk-and-water Protestants could see Popery with their own eyes, they might have less to say against Orange bigotry; and if those who play at ornate worship could see whither their symbolism tends, they would start back aghast, and adhere henceforth to the severest simplicity. Perhaps Luther would never have become a Reformer had it not been for his visit to Rome and his ascent of these very stairs. In the city where he expected to find the church of God in all its holiness, he found sin rampant beyond all precedent. "It is almost incredible," says he, "what infamous actions are committed at Rome; one would require to see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins proceed." Nor did he speak as an exaggerating enthusiast, for Machiavelli's witness was that the nearer you came to the capital of Christendom the less you found of the Christian spirit. "We Italians," said the great historian, "are chiefly indebted to the church and the priests for our having become a set of profane scoundrels."
Spurgeon's sermon "The Blind Befriended" (delivered on Thursday evening, March 9th, 1876, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington) can be read here (pdf.) and here (pdf.). Here is a quote from the sermon:
But I think I hear you say, "You are telling us rather of a blindness that we used to be afflicted with than of one from which we are now suffering."Well, the figure will not run on all fours. We must use it, however, to set forth the present truth and this is as it ought to be used. Surely, the description "blind" may well be applied to the Christian, for this reason — that now he does not expect to see that upon which he builds his hope. All that he sees is nothing to him. That which is to him substantial and real is that which he believes. If you ask any believer what he rests his hope upon, he will tell you that it is upon an unseen Christ, "whom having not seen we love." He will tell you that there is a promise, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed;" and he has realised the sweetness of that word. He does not rest his confidence on a crucifix which he can see with his eyes, but on the Savior who is not here, for he is risen and ascended into heaven. He does not rest upon a priest whose voice he can hear — a man like himself; but his confidence is in another priest who has gone within the veil, and entered into the glory. He depends no longer now upon his own doings. These he can see, but what he sees of them makes him despond. He dares not rest in his own works, but he rests in the works of another who has gone up to the throne of God, and carried a matchless righteousness into Jehovah's presence. He will tell you that he does not even depend upon his own feelings; he is very conscious that they are fickle — they change like the weather. As one day we have a little bright sunshine, and perhaps in an hour we have a hailstorm, and by-and-by are brought back to the very cold of winter, so is it with our feelings. Our experience is always varying, and the man that knows himself aright dares not trust in his feelings, nor rely upon his experience. No, he rests in the feelings of him who sweat great drops of blood in the garden. His confidence is in the anguish of one who was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and not in his own anguish. He rests in the death and resurrection — in the wounds and in the triumphs — not of himself, in any respect, but of Christ whom, having not seen, he nevertheless trusts and relies upon. Oh, it is a blessed thing to be thus blind, so that you cannot see any good in yourself, cannot see any good upon which you could rest; cannot discover, even in God's work, apart from Christ, any foundation on which to build; cannot find in heaven or earth any prop and pillar for the soul, save Jesus crucified. Ransack the universe, and where others can see grounds of confidence these truly blind men are unable to see anything, and only say, "These we count dross and dung that we may win Christ and be found in him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith." Oh, blessed blindness, never more to be able to see a solitary ray of hope except in Christ — never more to be able to find any confidence anywhere but in him whom God the Father hath set forth to be a propitiation for sin, through faith in his precious blood!
From Spurgeon's sermon " The Anchor" DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, MAY 21, 1876:

Where is your hope, Brothers and Sisters? Do you believe because you can see? That is not believing at all! Do you believe because you can feel? That is feeling, it is not believing! But “blessed is he that has not seen and yet has believed.” Blessed is he who believes against his feelings, yes, and hopes against hope! That is a strange thing to do, hoping against hope, believing things impossible and seeing things invisible. He who can do that has learned the art of faith! Our hope is not seen, it lies in the waves, or, as the text says, “within the veil.” I am not going to run the figure too closely, but a mariner might say that his anchor is within the watery veil, for a veil of water is between him and it and so it is concealed. Such is the confidence which we have in God, whom having not seen we love—
“Let the winds blow, and billows roll,
Hope is the anchor of my soul.
But can I by so slight a tie,
An unseen hope, on God rely?
Steadfast and sure, it cannot fail,
It enters deep within the veil,
It fastens on a land unknown,
And moors me to my Father’s Throne.”
Although our anchor is gone out of sight, yet, thank God it has taken a very firm grip and “entered into that which is within the veil.” What hold can be equal to that which a man has upon his God when he can cry, “You have promised, therefore do as You have said”?
What grasp is firmer than this, “Lord, You have sworn it, You can not run back. You have said that he that believes in You is justified from all sin. Lord, I believe You, therefore be pleased to do as You have said. I know You cannot lie and You have sworn that Christ is a Priest forever. I am resting in Him as my Priest who has made a full atonement for me. I therefore hold You to Your oath—accept me for the sake of Jesus’ sacrifice. Can You reject a soul for whom Your own Son is pleading? He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto You by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for me! My Lord, this is the hold I have upon You! This is the anchor which I have cast into the deep mysterious attributes of Your wondrous Nature! I believe You and You will not make me ashamed of my hope.” Oh, Brothers and Sisters, what a hold you have upon the living God when you rely on His oath and promise! Thus you hold Him as Jacob held the Angel and the blessing you will surely win at His hands!
From Spurgeon's sermon "And Why Not?" DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 12, 1876:
Faith is not born of sight, nor can it be nourished by it.
We ignorantly desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but Divine Providence kindly denies us our wish and tells us plainly, “You shall not see it.” “Ah,” but you have said, “Only to see our blessed Lord once! Just to cast eyes upon His beloved Person for a moment! To hear but once the tones of His heart-moving voice! Oh, if I might but once unloose His sandals or kiss His feet, how would my spirit feel confidence and joy all her days! How would faith grow if she could but have a little actual and intimate communion with the Well-Beloved! I would gladly give all that I have for one glance of His eyes.” I know you have indulged that thought, for I have often had it myself, but dear Brothers and Sisters, if the Lord Jesus were to come upon earth, I am not sure that you could have much of His company, because there are so many of His people—and each one would wish to entertain Him.
He could, as a Man, be but in one place at one time, and you might get to see Him, perhaps, once in the year, but what would you do all the rest of the year, when you might not be able to hear His voice because He would be in America or in Australia? How much better off would you be? Surely none at all! It is far better for you to continue to say, “Whom not having seen we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” The fact is, Brothers and Sisters, the great battle of the Lord has to be fought out upon the lines of faith and, for us to see with our eyes would spoil it all. That sight of the eyes and hearing with the ears which we desire, just to break the monotony of the walk of faith, would, in fact, spoil it all, and amount to a virtual defeat. Our God is saying to us, “My Children, can you trust Me? Can you obtain the blessing of those who have not seen and yet have believed? Abraham trusted Me, but he heard Me speak with an audible voice. Moses trusted Me, but he saw My wonders in Egypt and in the wilderness. Can you trust Me without voice or miracle?” The Lord has spoken to us by His Son, who is better than all voices or wonders! Can we now believe Him? Is the spiritual life within us strong enough to believe the Lord without any further evidence? Can we honor Him by resting upon His sure Word without seeing signs or wonders? We, upon whom the ends of the earth have come, are set to work out the great problem of defeating the powers of darkness and walking throughout an entire life by simple, undiluted faith—can we accomplish it? By the Spirit’s help we can! I beseech you, Brothers and Sisters, say unto the Lord, “Lord, increase our faith, and grant that we may so trust You that from now on we may neither ask for sight nor sound, nor anything else that would prevent our resting on Your bare Word.” You have fallen into that mistaken condition and wished for one of the days of the Son of Man, but you shall not have it, for your heavenly Father has reserved some better thing for you, that you, to the end, with simple, unalloyed faith in Him, should endure and conquer through the blood and the power of your unseen Redeemer, who is really with you, though you see Him not!
Faith is now the watchword and the order of the day. Sight is for unbelievers, but patient trust is for the saints. This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith. This it is which glorifies God and overthrows the powers of evil! Believe, and so shall you wax valiant in fight and put to flight the armies of the aliens. Believe, and so shall you be established. Ask not to see, for sight is wisely denied you. Heaven will be the brighter and eternity the more glorious because we hope for what we see not, and do with patience wait for it.

From Spurgeon's sermon "Jesus Christ Himself":
It is not passing through baptism, nor bearing the name of Christ, it is having Jesus himself in our hearts that makes us Christians, and in proportion as he is formed in us and the new life grows we become more and more like him. And this is our prospect for eternity, that we are to be with im and like him, for "when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Think of him, you that mourn your imperfectness to-day—think of Jesus Christ himself, and then be assured that you are to be like him. What a picture! Come, artist, bring your best skill here. What can you do? All pencils fail to depict him. It needs a poets eye as well as an artist's hand to picture the Lovely One. But what can the poet do? Ah, you also fail; you cannot sing him any more than your friend can paint him. Fruitful conception and soaring imagination may come to your aid, but they cannot prevent your failure. He is too beautiful to be described—he must be seen. Yet here comes the marvel—"We shall be like him"-like Jesus Christ himself. O saint, when thou art risen from the dead how lovely thou wilt be! Wilt thou know thyself?

From Spurgeon's sermon Mourning for Christ DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, JULY 1, 1877:
Alas, my Lord, why are You thus blasphemed by the worldly wise? Why is Your Truth despised among the learned and ridiculed by the scribes? I do not know when my grief has been more stirred for my Lord and Master than when brought actually to see the superstition by which our holy faith is impregnated and His blessed name blasphemed!Turning from skepticism, where He is wounded in the house of His enemies, you come to superstition, where He is wounded in the house of His professed friends—and what wounds they are! I have felt, sometimes as if I could tear down the baby image held in the Virgin’s hands when I have seen men and women prostrate before it!

What? O you sons of Antichrist, could you not make an idol, like the Egyptians, out of your cats and dogs, or find your gods in your gardens? Could you not make a golden calf, as Israel did in the wilderness, or borrow the fantastic shapes of India’s deities? Could nothing content you till the image of the holy Child Jesus should be made into an idol and Christ upon the Cross uplifted should be set up as an image for men to bow before? The idolatry which worships the image of the devil is less blasphemous than that which worships the image of Christ! It is an awful sacrilege to make the holy Jesus appear to be an accomplice in the violation of the Divine Commandment—yes, and to turn that blessed memorial of death into an idolatrous rite in which Divine honors are given to a piece of bread!

Was there ever sin like unto this sin? O You, innocent Savior, it is grief, indeed, to think that You should be set up in the idol temple, among “saints,” and that men should think that they are honoring Your Father by breaking His First and Second commandments! This must be to our Lord the most loathsome of all things under Heaven! How does He, in patience, bear it? Let not His people behold it without a mourning like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon, because our blessed Christ is so blasphemed by Antichrist that the image of the Incarnate Son of God is set up as an object of idolatrous worship it its churches!
Below is a quote from Spurgeon's Lectures to my Students (downloadable here). Please note that an image made to represent God is forbidden whether or not it keeps us from God; however, it is an important point that such pictures don't bring people to Christ, rather they are 'teachers of lies' (ref. Habakkuk) and 'the stock is a doctrine of vanities' (ref. Jeremiah 10:8). Indeed, such images beget a false concept of God. We are to know God through His Word. Here is the quote:
"[...]the image with the Roman Catholic is intended to make him think of Christ, and in effect keeps him from Christ[...]"
Read Spurgeon's commentary on Psalm 78 (especially verses 58-59). Spurgeon's commentary is from his work called The Treasury of David. From the work:


“For they provoked him to anger with their high places.” This was their first error - will worship, or the worship of God, otherwise than according to his command. Many think lightly of this, but indeed it is no mean sin; and its tendencies to further offence are very powerful. The Lord would have his holy place remain as the only spot for sacrifice; and Israel, in wilful rebellion, (no doubt glossed over by the plea of great devotion,) determined to have many altars upon many hills. If they might have but one God, they insisted upon it that they would not be restricted to one sacred place of sacrifice. How much of the worship of the present day is neither more nor less than sheer will-worship! Nobody dare plead a divine appointment for a tithe of the offices, festivals, ceremonies, and observances of certain churches. Doubtless God, so far from being honoured by worship which he has not commanded, is greatly angered at it. “And moved him to jealousy with their graven images.” This was but one more step; they manufactured symbols of the invisible God, for they lusted after something tangible and visible to which they could shew reverence. This also is the crying sin of modern times. Do we not hear and see superstition abounding. Images, pictures, crucifixes, and a host of visible things are had in religious honour, and worst of all men now-a-days worship what they eat, and call that a God which passes into their belly, and thence into baser places still. Surely the Lord is very patient, or he would visit the earth for this worst and basest of idolatry. He is a jealous God, and abhors to see himself dishonoured by any form of representation which can come from man's hands.


“When God heard this, he was wroth.” The mere report of it filled him with indignation; he could not bear it, he was incensed to the uttermost, and most justly so. “And greatly abhorred Israel.” He cast his idolatrous people from his favour, and left them to themselves, and their own devices. How could he have fellowship with idols? What concord hath Christ with Belial? Sin is in itself so offensive that it makes the sinner offensive too. Idols of any sort are highly abhorrent to God, and we must see to it that we keep ourselves from them through divine grace, for rest assured idolatry is not consistent with true grace in the heart. If Dagon sit aloft in any soul, the ark of God is not there. Where the Lord dwells no image of jealousy will be tolerated. A visible church will soon become a visible curse if idols be set up in it, and then the pruning knife will remove it as a dead branch from the vine.
Note that God did not utterly cast away his people Israel even when he greatly abhorred them, for he returned in mercy to them, so the subsequent verses tell us: so now the seed of Abraham, though for awhile under a heavy cloud, will be gathered yet again, for the covenant of salt shall not be broken. As for the spiritual seed, the Lord hath not despised nor abhorred them; they are his peculiar treasure and lie for ever near his heart.
Also, read Spurgeon's commentary on Psalm 106 (especially verses 19-22). From the work:

“They made a calf in Horeb.” In the very place where they had solemnly pledged themselves to obey the Lord they broke the second, if not the first, of his commandments, and set up the Egyptian symbol of the ox, and bowed before it. The ox image is here sarcastically called “a calf”; idols are worthy of no respect, scorn is never more legitimately used than when it is poured upon all attempts to set forth the Invisible God. The Israelites were foolish indeed when they thought they saw the slightest divine glory in a bull, nay, in the mere image of a bull. To believe that the image of a bull could be the image of God must need great credulity. “And worshipped the molten image.” Before it they paid divine honours, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” This was sheer madness. After the same fashion the Ritualists must needs set up their symbols and multiply them exceedingly. Spiritual worship they seem unable to apprehend; their worship is sensuous to the highest degree, and appeals to eye, and ear, and nose. O the folly of men to block up their own way to acceptable worship, and to make the path of spiritual religion, which is hard to our nature, harder still through the stumbling-blocks which they east into it. We have heard the richness of Popish paraphernalia much extolled, but an idolatrous image when made of gold is not one jot the less abominable than it would have been had it been made of dross and dung: the beauty of art cannot conceal the deformity of sin. We are told also of the suggestiveness of their symbols, but what of that, when God forbids the use of them? Vain also is it to plead that such worship is hearty. So much the worse. Heartiness in forbidden actions is only an increase of transgression.


“Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.” They said that they only meant to worship the one God under a fitting and suggestive similitude by which his great power would be set forth to the multitude; they pleaded the great Catholic revival which followed upon this return to a more ornate ceremonial, for the people thronged around Aaron, and danced before the calf with all their might. But in very deed they had given up the true God, whom it had been their glory to adore, and had set up a rival to him, not a representation of him; for how should he be likened to a bullock? The Psalmist is very contemptuous, and justly so: irreverence towards idols is an indirect reverence to God. False gods, attempts to represent the true God, and indeed, all material things which are worshipped are so much filth upon the face of the earth, whether they be crosses, crucifixes, virgins, wafers, relics, or even the Pope himself. We are by far too mealy-mouthed about these infamous abominations: God abhors them, and so should we. To renounce the glory of spiritual worship for outward pomp and show is the height of folly, and deserves to be treated as such.

Psa_106:21, Psa_106:22

“They forgat God their Saviour.” Remembering the calf involved forgetting God. He had commanded them to make no image, and in daring to disobey they forgot his commands. Moreover, it is clear that they must altogether have forgotten the nature and character of Jehovah, or they could never have likened him to a grass-eating animal. Some men hope to keep their sins and their God too - the fact being that he who, sins is already so far departed from the Lord that he has 'actually forgotten him. “Which had done great things in Egypt.” God in Egypt had overcome all the idols, and yet they so far forgot him as to liken him to them. Could an ox work miracles? Could a golden calf cast plagues upon Israel's enemies? They were brutish to set up such a wretched mockery of deity, after having seen what the true God could really achieve. “Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.” They saw several ranges of miracles, the Lord did not stint them as to the evidences of his eternal power and godhead, and yet they could not rest content with worshipping him in his own appointed way, but must needs have a Directory of their own invention, an elaborate ritual after the old Egyptian fashion, and a manifest object of worship to assist them in adoring Jehovah. This was enough to provoke the Lord, and it did so; how much he is angered every day in our own land no tongue can tell.
The Treasury of David on Psalm 135:18,

The idol-worshippers are as bad as the idol-makers;

I. First, let us enquire, WHAT IS THIS CROSS OF CHRIST to which some men are sadly said to be enemies?

Of course, it is not the material cross. It is not anything made in the shape of the cross. There are some who can fall down and adore a cross of wood, or stone, or gold, but I cannot conceive of a greater wounding of the heart of Christ than to pay reverence to anything in the shape of a cross, or to bow before a crucifix! I think the Savior must say, “What? What? Am I the Son of God and do they make even Me into an idol? I who have died to redeem men from their idolatries, am I, Myself, taken and carved, and chiseled, and molten, and set up as an image to be worshipped by the sons of men?” When God says, “You shall not make unto you any graven 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: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them,” it is a strange fantasy of human guilt that men should say, “We will even take the image of the Son of God, or some ghastly counterfeit that purports to be His image, and will bow down and worship it, as if to make the Christ of God an accomplice in an act of rebellion against the commandment of the holy Law.” No, it is not the material cross to which Paul alludes—we have nothing to do with those outward symbols! We might have used them much more, but they have been so perverted to idolatry that some of us almost shudder at the very sight of them!
Below is a section from "A Portrait No Artist Can Paint" (No. 2498), intended for reading on Lord's-day, January 3, 1897. Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon,at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newignton,on Lord's-day evening, April 26, 1885 (the full text can be read here at Spurgeon Gems or heard here at SermonAudio.com; note: Christ is the image of the invisible God (ref. Col. 1:15 & Heb. 1:3); Spurgeon isn't saying that Christ shouldn't be worshipped). Here a section from the sermon :
I believe that this difficulty of giving a truthful representation of the Lord Jesus Christ is according to the Divine purpose. Nothing, it seems to me, can be more detestable to the Lord's heart and mind than the worship of His image in any shape or form. If any are determined to break the Law of God about making graven images and bowing down before them, then let the idol be the image of something that is beneath the earth, or in the water under the earth, but, O, you idolaters, pray do not, as it were, make the Lord Jesus Christ accessory to your idolatry! That, He never really can be, for He abhors it! "Get you behind Me, Satan," would be His answer to every proposal that His image should be worshipped, for He could not endure it! It is a dreadful thing that men should ever dare attempt to make any likeness of the Son of God, Himself, to be the occasion of sin. If you must make an image, make it, if you will, of a serpent, or of an ox, but not of the Son of God who came on purpose to redeem us from this, among other sins! Let us not degrade His sacred Personage by making even it to be an image before which we prostrate ourselves!
I know it is said that idolaters do not worship the image and that they worship God through the image, but that is expressly forbidden. The First Commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Then the Second Commandment forbids the worshipping of God by or through any symbol or image whatever—"You shall not make unto you any graven 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: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them." The worship of the image of Christ appears to me to be not the more excusable form of idolatry, if there is any that is less evil than others, but it seems to me to be the more intensely wicked form of it since it is making even the glorious Personage of the Lord Jesus subsidiary to an act of transgression against the Commandments of His Father. If we cannot say concerning the Divine and human Personage of our Lord, "You saw no similitude," yet we can say, "You saw no similitude such as can be engraved in any way whatever."
Being God's Friend by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), pp. 113-115. Whitaker House, 1997:
The Savior, who is wise, knows what is in men, and He also knows what is the surest test of true love for Himself: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." This is a much more difficult thing than to follow out the dictates of a crazy mind.

Why does the Savior give us this as a test? I think that one reason is because it proves whether you love Christ in His true position or whether your love is for a christ of your own making and your own placing. It is easy to want a half-christ and to refuse a whole Christ. It is also easy to follow a christ of your own making, who is merely an antichrist. The real Christ is so great and glorious that He has a right to give commandments. Moses never used an expression such as our Savior employs here. Moses might have said, "Keep God's commandments," but he never would have said, "Keep my commandments." That dear and divine person whom we call Master and Lord says here, "Keep my commandments." What a commanding person He must be! What lordship He has over His people! How great He is among His saints! If you keep His commandments, you are putting Him into the position that He claims. By your obedience you confess His sovereignty and divinity, and you say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).

I am afraid that a great many people know a christ who is meek and lowly, their servant and savior, but they do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Alas! My friends, such people set up a false christ. We do not love Jesus at all if He is not our Lord and God. It is all whining pretension and hypocrisy, this love for Christ that robs Him of His deity. I abhor that love for Christ that does not make Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Love Him, yet belittle Him? It is absurd. Follow your own will in preference to His will, and then talk of love for Him? Ridiculous! This is only the devil's counterfeit of love. It is a contradiction of all true love. Love is loyal and crowns its Lord with obedience. If you love Jesus properly, you view His every precept as a divine commandment. You love the true Christ if you love a commanding Christ as well as a saving Christ, and if you look to Him to guide your life as well as to pardon your sin.

This test, again, is very judicious, because it proves the living presence of the object of your love. Love always desires to have its object near, and it has an ability to bring it object near. If you love someone, that person may be far away and yet, to your thought, he is close at hand. Love brings the beloved one so near that the thought of this beloved one exerts influence over a person's life.

R.A. Torrey on 1 Peter 1:8 and the Unseen Saviour

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
—1 Peter 1:8

In what he rejoices:
(1) in the salvation prepared to be revealed in the last time, 1:6.
(2) Because of his faith in the unseen Jesus Christ, 1:8.
(3) In fellowship in Christ's sufferings, 4:13.
—R.A. Torrey, How to study the Bible for the greatest profit

This text informs us (and many of us do not need to be informed of it, for we know it by blessed experience) that one who really believes on Jesus Christ, our unseen, but ever living Lord and Savior, rejoices with "inexpressible and glorious joy."
II. How to Get This Inexpressible and Glorious Joy

Now arises the question, "What must anyone here tonight who does not have this inexpressible and glorious joy do to get it?" I have really answered that question several times in what I have already said, but to be sure that we all really understand it, let me answer it again, or rather let my text answer it, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." The text tells us that the way to obtain this "inexpressible and glorious joy," the way to be inexpressibly happy at all times and under all circumstances, is just by believing on the unseen Christ Jesus. What does it mean to believe on Jesus Christ? There is no mystery at all about that. It simply means to put confidence in Jesus Christ to be what He claims to be and what He offers Himself to be to us, to put confidence in Him as the One who died in our place, the One who bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and to trust God to forgive us all our sins because Jesus Christ died in our place; to put confidence in Him as the One who was raised from the dead and who now has "all power in heaven and on earth," and therefore is able to keep us day by day, and give us victory over sin, and to trust this risen Christ to give us victory over sin day by day; and to put confidence in Him as our absolute Lord and Master, and therefore to surrender our thoughts and wills and lives entirely to His control, believing everything He says, even though every scholar on earth denies it, obeying everything He commands, whatever it may cost; and to put confidence in Him as our Divine Lord, and confess Him as Lord before the world, and worship and adore Him. It is wonderful the joy that comes to him who thus believes on Jesus Christ. But one must really believe on Jesus Christ to have this joy.

Merely being a member of a church is not enough. Merely being baptized is not enough. Merely reading your Bible is not enough. Merely praying is not enough. Merely going to church is not enough. Merely going to the Lord's table and partaking of the Lord's Supper is not enough. But if you are a real believer on Jesus Christ, if you have put all your trust in the Lord Jesus as your atoning Savior and your risen Savior, and your risen Lord and Master, and surrendered your thoughts and life to Him utterly as your Lord and Master, and are confessing Him as such before the world, if you have thrown your heart's door wide open for the Lord Jesus to come in, and live, and rule, and reign there, you will have "inexpressible and glorious joy" at all times and under all circumstances.

All anyone has to do, then, to be inexpressibly happy at all times and under all circumstances, is to believe on Jesus Christ. It does not make any difference what his circumstances may be: he may be rich or he may be poor; he may be highly educated, or he may be ignorant; he may be in good health or he may be a hopeless invalid; he may have been a moral, clean, upright man, or he may have been the vilest of sinners, it matters not. Everyone who believes on the unseen but living Christ will find "inexpressible and glorious joy."
—R. A. Torrey, How to Be Inexpressibly Happy, How to be saved, and how to be lost: the way of salvation and the way of condemnation made as plain as day

Monday, March 14, 2011

Michael S. Horton on the Second Commandment

Not only the worship but even the making of images is strictly forbidden in the Decalogue. The "god" who is made present for the human gaze and manipulation is never the true God, Yahweh. Hence, the close connection between the first and second commandments: worshiping the right God (i.e. Yahweh) is dependent on worshiping God in the right manner (i.e., giving ear to his word). In fashioning images, the worshiper is the judge; as a hearer of God's voice, the worshiper is judged—and in this judgment, is saved by the Good Shepherd. "The sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, ...and the sheep follow him because they know his voice" (John 10:3-4).
Torah smashes idols. "A theology of Name is opposed to any hierophany of an idol. Hearing the word has taken the place of a vision of signs." [Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred, 56.] The idol, as the prophets routinely point out, is the expression of the inner self's felt needs. Idols do not come to us from the outside and address us; rather, they come into existence from our own experience, longings, representations, and delusions.
Barth expresses well part of the rationale for the Reformed rejection of all visible representations of deity: "It is almost inevitable that such static works should constantly attract the eye and therefore the conscious or unconscious attention of the listening community, fixing them upon the particular conception of Jesus Christ entertained in all good faith no doubt by the artist." This draws attention away from the proclamation of Christ, directing our gaze to the artist's conception of Christ rather than to "the ongoing proclamation of His history as His history with us, so that it moves from one provisional Amen to another, in the wake of His living self-attestation pressing on from insight to insight."
Supremely, however, even the most excellent of plastic arts does not have means to display Jesus Christ in His truth, i.e., in His unity as the true Son of God and Son of Man. There will necessarily be either on the one side, as in the great Italians, an abstract and docetic over-emphasis on His deity, or on the other, as in Rembrandt, an equally abstract, ebionite over-emphasis on His humanity, so that even with the best of intentions error will be promoted. [Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2:868.]
It is significant that pictures and images of Christ were not permitted in the church until the sixth century. [Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 2, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 99-133; Ernst Kitzinger, The cult of Images in the Age before Iconoclasm, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 7 (Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC: Trustees for Harvard University, 1954), 85-150; Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity AD 200-1000 (Oxford: Blackwell; 1997), chap. 14.] They arose as part of a general trajectory of looking away from the historical Jesus, as detailed in chapter 1 (above), precisely as the church increasingly lost its sense of precariousness in being lodged between the two ages.

Idols of vision certainly do not have to be material artifacts; they can be intellectual concepts. Edward T. Oakes notes concerning Balthasar's view that "the subordination of sight to hearing automatically closes off certain avenues to human speculation (and how telling is that word: speculation!)." [Edward T. Oakes, SJ, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthsasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 140.] Preaching not only subverts idols of the outer eye, but also idols of the inner eye of speculation, forbidding us from domesticating or mastering the Stranger who has met and claimed us along the way.
—Michael Horton, People and place: a covenant ecclesiology

God had barely finished inscribing the Ten Commandments on the tablets before the children of Israel were dancing around a golden calf. Israel had become impatient with Moses, and therefore, with God. Why was he loitering on top of the mountain for so many days?

We must remember that God's infant nation was only recently liberated from slavery in Egypt, where the worship of foreign gods was omnipresent. And, even while the second commandment was being entrusted to Moses, the people below were breaking it. As R. Alan Coe put it, "As later Israel wanted a human king, not the invisible divine king (1 In actual fact, they were Sam. 8: 4-8), so now they want a god 'with a face,' like everybody else. The last thing that they want is to be different, by their new relationship to God: yet this is God's aim (Ex. 19:5, 6)."

In actual fact, they were not worshipping a false god (a violation of the first commandment); rather, they were worshipping Yahweh falsely. Those who suggest that it does not matter how we worship God, just so long as we worship the correct God, seem to forget the second commandment: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below" (Ex. 20:4).
—Michael Horton, In the Face of God

The Image of God

I am convinced that the principal reason for the second commandment- that is, the prohibition of any physical representation of God-is because only Christ is "the image [icon] of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). Just as the Israelites were bored by "dead orthodoxy," while Moses was having all the fun being in the presence of God, we are often bored without immediate encounters and experiences with God in his glory. So, like the Israelites, we create a physical representation of God. Out of our imaginations, we mold golden calves.

Through mysticism, speculative ideas, and the works of our own hands, we carve idols of the true God so that we can experience him here and now. But when God became physical, he was not a golden calf. He was not like the idols of the nations. He was so fully human, in fact, that his own brothers by blood, raised together in the same family, did not believe in him until he was well into his ministry-at least thirty years of age (John 7:5).
He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
—John 1:12-13

Just as Moses asked to see God's glory and Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, we seek to experience God directly. And we need a mediator just as surely as did Israel. God gave us the only mediator who could redeem sinners from the curse of the law by his own obedience and sinless sacrifice. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1:18) To know God is to know Christ. But to know God outside of Christ is to know him as a judge and destroyer.

—Michael Horton, In the Face of God

The most obvious violation of the second commandment since its institution is the practice of establishing physical representations of the eternal God. When God commanded the construction of the temple, He insisted that there be no physical representations of deity. There was much use of color and shapes and images from the natural world (fruit, trees, flowers, land, water), but there were no images of God Himself (1 Kings 6:16-18).

As we saw in the last chapter, the essence of paganism was (and is) a plurality of gods. The God of Israel is what we mean when we say we believe in "God." It is not enough to simply be a theist; one must believe in the one true God. But here we see that another aspect of paganism is the commitment to physical representations of deity as points of contact between the heavenly and earthly realm. Through this pole or that totem, this bronze statue or that gold figure, the gods carry on a relationship with the people. Whoever controls the point of contact controls the deity. The idol becomes a means of manipulating the gods into service. In paganism, the worshipers insist on having a direct relationship with their deities, experiencing them through powerful display of blessing and cursing. The idol becomes the object through which this direct, sensual encounter can take place.

The religion of Israel was committed, however, to a mediated relationship with God. Individual Jews had a relationship with God only because they were part of a community of faith. This community was represented by mediators: prophets, priests, and kings. In the New Testament, the final prophet, priest, and king-mediator appears. Jesus Christ is the point of contact between God and humanity. Because God is holy and worshipers sinful, the only way worshipers can stand in God's presence is through the intercession of a mediator. Idolatry, on the other hand, promises a direct encounter with deity. But ultimately more is desired. People insist on having power over the idol so that they can control their own destinies. In most ancient pagan religions, for example, the name of the god itself was said to have magical powers. To know the name of a particular spirit was to have control over that being and manipulate it for one's own ends.


At least one purpose in forbidding the use of images is the fact that any representation of God other than Christ is not only false but an insult to His exclusive claim that "he who has seen Me has seen the Father"; "I and My Father are one" (John 14:9 NKJV; 10:30 NKJV)."

Jesus Christ is called "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). The Greek word used for image in the passage is eikon, from which we get the word icon. Jesus Christ is the only exact icon or physical representation of the invisible and unrepresentable deity. "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). This is what paganism attempts with its idols-having a point of contact with God. By being close to the idol, the worshiper hopes to be close to God, for to his mind the idol possesses some degree of deity in itself. But just as God ridiculed the pagan idols as being blind, deaf, and dumb, so surely did Jesus Christ not only possess sight, hearing, and speech, but give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the dumb. He was God in the flesh, walking among us, talking to us, eating with us, weeping with us.

For us to set up our own images after Christ has come is even more of an affront to God than it was for the ancient pagans.
—Michael Horton, The Law of Perfect Freedom