by Theodore Wright
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in 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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)
According to the commandment of God, we are not only told not to make any graven image, we are not to make any likeness either, of anything that exists anywhere. We are told this because we are not to use such for our worship of God. We also are not to set this up for worship of anything or anyone else. Twenty-first century technology and love of its use has facilitated a new form of worship by reviving an old one, namely, icon worship. These people who are modern advocates for use of icons in worship, referred to as iconadules, are present now in Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic, Pentecostal, non-denominational and in other churches. Display of icons by means of Powerpoint slides and video during church worship services is growing more and more popular. The intent is said to be to enhance and add to the worship experience. However, icons do not add to worship of the Lord. It is a sensual form of worship and not one that brings us closer to God. Israel, during its times of loyalty to God, destroyed such images knowing that it is worthless worship. Those who were icon busters in New Testament times came to be known as the iconoclasts.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. – John 4:24 (KJV)
Worshiping before fleshly pictures of Christ is the same sin as worshiping before statues whether of Jesus or other things or people. In addition, pictures of nature may result in a false worship of nature. This problem was symptomatic of the Israel and Judah in ancient days during times of its apostasy. Ezekiel 8:7-18 (KJV):
7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. 10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.
Above we see Israel worship before images of creatures in nature and animals.
11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.
Yes, the Lord sees and is disturbed by what people do from the imagination of their heart to worship before images.
13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
We also see here imitation of pagan practices of worship. This was done in the temple. God’s people worshiping other gods made Him angry but mixing worship of other gods with the worship of Him made him furious, calling it an abomination.
15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
This is worship of and before the sun. If Christians worship before mere pictures of the sun instead, does it make it right?
17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.
While we do not see spiritual problems about use of multimedia in a church service during announcements or sermon, it has no place for use in worship. Some Christians who advocate use of icons in worship may say that they do not worship the images nor what they represent if they are not God or Christ. However, this type of thinking did not justify the children of Israel.
Romans 11:3-5 (KJV): Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Apparently a majority of followers of the Lord participated in worship services of Baal and bowed their knee, not because they desired to worship Baal, but only to suffice the king’s command. However, 7000 remained loyal to God and would not do such motions to imitate this. These 7000 were those who God reserved for Himself. God did not count those who followed the crowd to bow their knee to Baal despite what necessity or motivation they had or did not have.
Exodus 32:1-4 (KJV): 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 wot not what is become of him. 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. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 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.
Aaron thus claimed that these images he built were the God (Hebrew: Elohim) that brought the Israelites out of Egypt. Did God accept participating in this form of worship? No. All those who participated were held guilty of idolotry. It does not matter whether images are two-dimensional or three-dimensional. It is still idolatry. Likewise, we also cannot know Christ by fleshly pictures.
2 Corinthians 5:16 (KJV): Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
When did such inventions worship enter into the mind of God for His people to do this? The command of God says not to make any graven image nor any likeness. Therefore, we know that the use of icons in worship is sin. So, stay loyal to God and do not worship before iconic images of God, Christ, or anything else for any reason. Simply believing God sees your heart as pure is a deception when you willfully disobey Him. The presence of symbols are not idolatrous of themselves but could be. A cross is a symbol and a reminder, not a fleshly image. However, if there is an idol of Christ on such a cross, that would be idolatrous. The golden calves were made to be symbols of God but this God rejected.
Do not be mislead into a false worship. If you have been guilty of setting a stumbling block for others by using iconic pictures in worship of the Lord in your church, or been guilty of participating in such worship, then repent. Set the example of faith loyalty to the Lord. Make the stand. Resist icon worship. If the church you attend uses icons during worship, tell them the sin of this. If they will not change, leave that church and find one that is faithful to God.
1 Corinthians 10:14 (KJV): Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.