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Religious Images, Icons, and Likenesses

“What profit is the pictured image to its maker? And as for the metal image, the false teacher, why does its maker put his faith in it, making false gods without a voice?” (Habakkuk 2:18 Bible in Basic English)

“Every man is brutish in knowledge; every refiner is put to shame by idols. For his molded image is a lie, and no breath is in them” (Jeremiah 51:17).

Let us ask a simple question: Why do you want images and likenesses? See what your answer is, and see if it is justified according to all the wording of the second commandment as stated in a non-Catholic Bible?

It is an amazing thing how the carnal man will justify what God prohibits, even, and particularly, using His Name to do so. Neither is there any sense of shame on the part of many religious offenders when such a brazen sin as the making of images is brought to light. Instead there is outrage at those who speak according to the Law of God. These idolaters further demonstrate their contradiction as they kill (whether physically or metaphorically), in the Name of God, His servants, the brethren of the Lord Jesus Christ who shine the light on their sins. The Lord told us this would happen.

“They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor” (John 16:2 The Message).

For this writing I have collected portions from various letters that Victor and I have written to people about God’s prohibition of religious images. Today, thousands of years after the second commandment was given at Mount Sinai, these images are common, even ubiquitous. Despite, or because of, all the rationales that are given for having and using religious images, there remains much confusion on this matter about what God meant by His commandment, how it is to be applied, and what is the right, prosperous, and only way to life. Herein you will find instruction in the Way, which is Christ.

A letter to Margaret, who had images of Christ on her website:

Yes, I was speaking of pictures of Jesus on your web site regarding the commandment not to make images. A Scripture for this:

“You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them. For I Jehovah your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate Me” (Exodus 20:4-5).

People will say that they do not bow down to the images, as a way to justify having them, but in effect they are bowing down to them. You are making an image of God from your own conception of Him, which is not Him. So you fall short of Him, which is unacceptable to Him. While it is acceptable to men, God’s calling requires more. Here is something Victor wrote about the face of Jesus Christ as he saw Him in a dream from God:

“His face was distinctly Jewish, yes, Jewish, yet it was universal. Seeing His face, I could readily understand the meaning, value and importance of the second commandment, which says, ‘You shall not make to yourselves any graven image or likeness of anything….’ I perceived that any picture or statue man might make to portray the face of the Lord Jesus Christ would not only misrepresent Him or fall short of the true, it would be blasphemous. It would be a product of the flesh, which is, as the Bible declares, at enmity with God. Any pictures I have seen of the Lord Jesus in homes or churches or anywhere, no matter how skilled the artists, are abominable compared to the Reality. They are a lie.”

What it comes down to, in effect, is that we cannot make God in our image; we must be remade into His. When you shed the images you conceive, you can begin to receive Him as He is in truth, by His grace. We are always the losers when we go against His commandments. We are ever the winners when we agree with His judgments, and do them, though we must lose our lives to do so. He supplies the grace.

The cross too, is a man-made image used to depict, or provoke contemplation of, the heavenly. For this reason, it too is not right. Why would the Lord want us to be carrying around a reminder of His physical means of death, anyway? What He desires is that we take up our spiritual crosses, which He gives us to do, and arranges for us to do, so that we might die to ourselves and enter into life. There is no other way. That is what He wants for us.

Margaret responded by saying she had thought images referred to in Scripture were three dimensional, like statues, to which Paul replied:

Victor wrote the following regarding your letter and question:

“Paul, what comes to me immediately for her concerning images is very simple and straightforward. All she needs to do is go to Exodus 20 and read the commandment. It speaks not only of graven images but also of ‘any likeness.’ Did or would God say: ‘Two dimensional is fine; three dimensional is going too far’?

Here is the passage:

‘You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth’ (Exodus 20:4).”

Yes, it is all there, is it not?

If you read the next verses you will see that this commandment is talking about images in the context of worship. It is not an injunction against all art, but those things made to represent that which we worship.

I also wanted to tell you that complete understanding comes with obedience, not before. That is not to say that there is not conviction of truth, and faith. Without those, there can be no true obedience. But we do not truly understand everything until we step out and enter into obedience with God. We must be where He is to see what He sees.

Margaret’s reply:

I know that this is truth. Now I have to act on it in obedience. This I will do. My websites are not something that He told me to do. It was me, wanting to honor Him. But I realize that I am not honoring Him and am actually dishonoring Him. I sorrow for this and am repentant. I have no choice except turn from this immediately.

Paul’s reply:

Margaret, I can tell you that there is nothing like seeing one obey the Lord with dispatch to cheer and encourage the hearts of the saints. Truly there is great joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. Much better things, life itself, lies ahead of you, if you continue on to follow after the Lord. Blessed be His Name!

What happened to Sara when she began to believe:

I don’t think I had red anything on Victor’s site regarding images, but one day I got home from work, and felt disgusted with the fish decal (a sticker depicting the “Christian” sign of the fish) I had put on my car, and with all the pictures I had in my room, and with the small cross that I wore around my neck. I saw all of that belonging to a superficial and false religion, and I no longer wanted any part of it. I ripped the decal off of my car, broke the necklace around my neck, and took a big trash bag into my room to purge it of my pictures and “nativity scene.” (I had kept the nativity scene year-round in my room, as I saw the birth of Christ applying every day, and I did not want to only think of Him one time during the year.) I threw all of it in the trash.

That night at dinner, my dad was fuming. “So Sara,” he said, “I noticed that you took the decal off your car.”

I was somewhat surprised, because he had never liked me as a religious person. Now he liked me even less (in fact I was unbearable to him) as a person walking in obedience to the Lord.

We answer a Catholic:

You say, “We have pictures and statutes in the Church and our homes to remind us and help us to center on God.

That is precisely why God commands that you do not use images. You do it for the very reason He condemns. You must have the Reality and not your concocted "reminder." Images are an interference, an interception, a short-circuiting of true worship. It amazes me how you and others can condemn yourselves out of your own mouths and not know it, but I once did it too. The Catholic Church has perverted the record from Scripture of the Ten Commandments, omitting the second one, which forbids images. It then divides the tenth commandment into two to make up for the omitted one. Why does it do so? It does so to justify the pagan “sacred tradition” of images that it cherishes so much. Why does it cherish it? It does so because it is carnal, sensuous, and devilish. It is the false, harlot church.

Why do you need a reminder? That is because you don’t have Him within. Your mind, in spite of all the pagan partaking of “His flesh and blood” every Sunday, does you no good whatsoever. You still need a reminder, contrary to the unequivocal command of God. I can guarantee you that it is not pictures or statues that keep our minds on Him. It is He Who keeps us, and not vile and false representations of the works of our hands that do so! Pictures and images are the stuff of pagans and idolaters. No wonder you need reminders! Yet you receive nothing.

Reply to a Catholic who claims the Lord told her to hang up a picture of Him:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was resurrected from the dead, and is God Himself, did not ask you to hang up a picture of Him. How could He? God would not ask you to do that which He has forbidden. Besides, you do not have a picture of Him. What you have is a likeness made by men.

As the picture is a fake, so is the spirit from which you are hearing. It is a lying devil that guides you, or your own vain imagination. Only such a spirit would ask you to participate in deception, which is in direct disobedience to the commandment of God, Whose second commandment is that you have or make no images or likenesses of things in heaven or anywhere else. Why are you subject to such deception? Because you have given yourself over to the works of men, the paths of the destroyer (Psalm 17:4).

Have you not heard that Satan comes as an angel of light? Satan does not come saying, “Hey you, come do some drugs,” or, “Come join my satanic cult,” or anything like that. He comes as a very religious and pious person, seducing you to disobey God, and to trust in your own righteousness, which causes you to justify your error and remain in your sin. You are caught in his snare.

You can be sure that if you are being told to do that which God expressly forbids, that it is not God telling you. There are exceptions, like Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac, but we can assure you that this is not such a case. What you are being led to do here is like being told to put up a picture of a used tampon as a depiction of your husband, by a man on the phone impersonating your husband. Do you think your husband would do this, or be honored by it? I do not think so. Nor are others edified. They are taught to disrespect and hate God as do you.

It is revolting to the Spirit of Truth to have such a depiction in your house (and within you) as you have. In his letter to you, Victor has told you what the Lord was like when he saw His face. [The same that is related above, in the letter to Margaret.] The likeness you put up is the insult of insults to Him. It invites the wrath of God on you and your house to do such a thing. We tell you this not to condemn you, but so that you might repent, and learn to know Him as He is in truth, and not as men make Him to be for you, or as you make Him yourself.

Regarding Catholic icons:

The rosary breaks the second commandment in that it is an image. We are not to have any images of any kind in the context of spiritual worship. What is a crucifix, with Jesus on the cross, if not a graven image?

There is no virtue in Jesus on the cross. Consider that many were crucified by the Romans, including the thief that railed on Jesus. What gives the cross of Christ value is the subsequent resurrection from the dead. Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless. A Marilyn Winters once told me, after attending a Catholic charismatic fellowship meeting, that the Lord spoke to her saying, “They have Me on the cross and won’t let Me down from it.” God had borne witness against that same group to us, and this woman was used to confirm our direction of God to us to come away from them.

To one inquiring about images:

Concerning pictures and images, they are not altogether taboo. Your uncle, I gather, makes that argument, but then, what does he do with the second commandment? Was God a fool to speak it? There are all kinds of images and pictures everywhere, but as you have rightly concluded, the Lord forbids those used in a spiritual worship context, because they limit Him. He cannot be contained. That is what He was talking about. Limiting God in any way is idolatry, or making Him in your image.

However, if you read the record of the building of the Temple, you will find that images even in a spiritual worship context can be appropriate. God instructed them to carve and make bells, pomegranates, cherubim, and almond leaves. But that was all done by God’s bidding. We are not to presume to form these things ourselves, as so many churches do. Even the serpent on the pole, which God had commanded Moses to make, had to be destroyed later because people fell to worshipping it.

To the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Lethbridge:

You say you keep all the commandments. How is it you have ignored not only the first but also the second commandment, which says:

“You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything this is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…” ( Exodus 20:4)?

In your organization are found more likenesses of the Lord Jesus Christ than in many. “But” you protest, “we don’t bow down to or worship these images, these likenesses.” No? Do you not presume to worship the One Whom these images portray? Has He not commanded that you should not make any likeness of anything in His Name, in a spiritual worship context? Why toy with the commandment? Why drive near the edge of the cliff? Why play with fire? Do you need those pictures, whether they be on the wall or in a book or on a movie screen? It is blasphemy to portray the Lord Jesus Christ. The finest pictures of Him devised by man are an abomination. And you make a liar of the Lord and lies of His testimony by Isaiah when He says:

“…He has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men…” (Isaiah 53:2-3).

Rarely does one see a homely likeness of Jesus. Rather, He is portrayed as handsome, godly, compassionate, friendly, and lovable. These are all fleshly notions, things which men savor, yes, satanic. He came as He, by Isaiah, said He would and you make a liar of Him, you and your whole organization. Oh yes, you justify yourselves. As Jesus says, “You are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

You may think you do not worship the likeness but in that you make it, you worship it, and you presume to worship the One Whose likeness it is. In vain do you worship Him with your lips.

Conversation with an Adventist:

The opening comments are regarding one of the better-known pictures of Christ, which was rendered by a Seventh Day Adventist:

Paul: The picture shows a man with long hair. The Scriptures say this about a man having long hair:

“Does not even nature itself teach you that if man has long hair, it is a shame to him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14)

But of a woman, it is written:

“But if a woman should have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her in place of a veil” (1 Corinthians 11:15).

The more central issue here is the matter of having an image in the first place, for such (images in the context of worship), whether masculine or feminine, are forbidden by God.

“Therefore take good heed to yourselves, for you saw no kind of likeness on the day Jehovah spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make yourselves a graven image, the likeness of any figure, the likeness of male or female…” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

Chris: I have travelled all over the world, Eastern Europe excluded, and nowhere did I see even one picture of Christ used as an object of worship in the SDA church.

Paul: Because people do not physically bow down in front of a picture does not mean it is not an object of worship. Are not your churches considered places of worship? What is a picture of Christ doing there if not related to worship? He is supposedly the reason you gather there in the first place. What you have there is an image, a man-made representation of God and the One you presume to worship, hanging on the wall! Are you saying that it is not a representation of God the Savior? Who is the picture of, then? You cannot have it both ways. If it is not God, then why have it there? If it is a picture of God the Savior, then you are worshipping what you allege the picture represents. You are snared in your sin.

Besides all this, God commanded to not even make such a thing, whether bowing to it or not. He says that doing such leads to worshipping the creation (v.19), and not the Creator. You practice wickedness just as did the heathen whom God destroyed from off the land that He gave Israel.

Chris: What does the Second Commandment prohibit?

“You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exo 20:4) you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, (Exo 20:5) The 2nd Commandment thus prohibits the making of and worshiping any image. To make just an image is not what is prohibited by the 2nd Commandment.

Paul: You are right inasmuch as God does not expressly forbid the making of an image, in itself. What He is talking about here is not “just an image,” however, like some picture of a mountain landscape, or of a summer garden, hung on a wall in your house. What He is talking about is a likeness of God, the One to Whom all worship is commanded, or of those things pertaining to Him. God has not prohibited any likenesses whatsoever, only those that men conceive in relationship to Him and His work of salvation, which is what you have in your picture of Jesus appearing in a purported place of godly worship.

Chris: The Children of Israel made a bronze snake in the Wilderness, they made a pair of Cherubim for the Ark of the Covenant. They made pomegranites out of of blue purple and scarlet cloth with golden bells all for the hem of the High Priestly garment. So it is clear that a drawing, or painting or sculpture of anything is not prohibited. It is the worship of such images that God prohibits in the 2nd Commandment. And you have the gall to accuse me of twisting the Bible?! Wake up to yourself, man.

Paul: All of the objects you describe are ones that God gave direct commandment and instruction to be made:

“According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments of it, even so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:9).

Did God command you, or any of your people, to make an image of Christ? No. So who is twisting the Bible, and His words?

Victor: You write, deceitfully, “I have travelled all over the world, Eastern Europe excluded, and nowhere did I see even one picture of Christ used as an object of worship in the SDA church.” That is like saying you carry a gun but would never use bullets. Why have the gun? Why have the pictures? When God said, “No graven images,” He meant it. Those are images in the context of spiritual worship. The only reason you have them hanging on your church and home walls is because you presumably revere the One they allegedly depict. It is abomination.

As for the cherubim, bells and pomegranates, those were God’s choice, not man’s, and they, the artisans, only did what they were commanded. When were you told to buy a picture of Jesus and feature it in your places of worship? God can do what He wills, which does not necessarily mean that you can imitate Him or do as you please. He also ordered Moses to form the brazen serpent, which they later destroyed because people fell into idolatry of it. They would have had no business making one in their own initiative, just like you have no business making or using images.

You say you don’t worship them? That is a lie, and you know it, unless you are blind and stupid because deliberately hardened to the truth, which apparently you are. If I were to trample on a picture of Bugs Bunny, you would not have nearly the problem than if I were to trample one of Jesus. I would sooner trample the one of Jesus, and burn it. For that, you would condemn me. The issue is not that you “twist the Bible,” but that you have nothing to do with the Lord, living a lawless life, and therefore you do not understand the Scriptures or their power. Yet indeed, you do twist them. You can do no other in a perverse state. We tell you so, not in accusation, nor with “gall,” neither with vitriol nor insult, but in honesty and truth.

What Ellen G. White, “prophetess” of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had to say about images:

In the “Conflict of the Ages Series,” volume 1, “Patriarchs and Prophets,” White writes:

“The second commandment forbids the worship of the true God by images or similitudes. Many heathen nations claimed that their images were mere figures or symbols by which the Deity was worshiped, but God has declared such worship to be sin. The attempt to represent the Eternal One by material objects would lower man’s conception of God. The mind, turned away from the infinite perfection of Jehovah, would be attracted to the creature rather than to the Creator. And as his conceptions of God were lowered, so would man become degraded.”

This goes to show that false worshipers of God have no use even for their own prophets (or prophetesses), particularly when inconvenient truth is spoken.

Victor replies to one who writes to us about what he perceives to be a need to maintain only “Christian” symbols in North America:

Greetings in Christ Jesus, Michael,

I would like to respond to your appeal to others to maintain only “Christian” symbols in our western culture, in this case, in hospital chapels.

Did it ever occur to you that as true believers, we are not to have any symbols, that setting up symbols breaks the second commandment of God? As it is written:

“You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them. For I Jehovah your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me, and showing mercy to thousands of those that love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

The commandment speaks of images or likenesses within a spiritual or worship context, one in which man relates to God, made by man’s initiative. It does not include those objects which God Himself has commanded to be made and used, as He did in the Old Testament in many things, at many times. It does not include ordinary pictures, sculptures or likenesses having nothing to do with worship of God. However, anything God or man makes can be used in a forbidden worship context, which would preclude using it, no matter what it is. The issue is one of origin and motive.

If you red the full text of the second commandment, you will find that this one has a clause in it unlike the other commandments. Those coming here from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world brought with them religious relics and symbols, thus bringing the wrath of God visited to the third and fourth generations. The commandment stipulates that having these images is an expression of hating God. Surely this is so for at least two reasons:

One, God forbade it, and therefore having these things is rebellion. What is rebellion, if not hate towards the One rebelled against?

Two, it is evident that man is seeking to worship God not as He is, but as man conceives Him in his own mind, thus making God in his image, the reverse of what is, that being God making man in His image. It is impossible for images to not limit or distort the Spiritual Reality of God.

Therefore, not only is a “Christian” symbol every bit as bad as any other, it is worse, for two reasons:

One, the Christian Bible explicitly and implicitly teaches to not have or make these images. Thus, those professing faith in the Christ of the Bible should know better.

Two, others who do not profess Christ are given reason to blaspheme the true God. Muslims, for example, deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, yet there they are standing against religious symbols and objects, which things God hates. Those professing Christ disobey Him, and those denying Him rebuke those who profess faith in Him for disobeying Him. If anything, ought it not to be that those who confess Christ obey Him, and “reprove the works of darkness,” teaching those in darkness the way of truth and piety?

True religion is internal in essence. The true Christian will have no dependence or favor upon a certain kind of clothing, special building, ceremony, ritual, or objects of worship. On the contrary, these things are an abomination to the true believer in Christ, as they are to God.

Most nominal Christians who came to North America brought their abominations with them, in the Name of Christ. Because they insist upon keeping them, we are being taken over by many evils…false religion, crime gangs, drugs, high taxes, medical sorceries, disease, educational confusion, gluttony, drunkenness, debauchery and more.

When those newcomers, for whom you are concerned, come, you need to tell them the truth, and not only newcomers, but everyone. As Gideon tore down his father’s gods, so you ought to be condemning the falsehoods and evils of nominal Christianity, instead of defending them.

“And it happened on that night Jehovah said to him, Take your father’s young bull, even the second bull of seven years, and throw down the altar of Baal which your father has, and cut down the pillar by it. And build an altar to Jehovah your God upon the top of this rock, in an orderly manner, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which you shall cut down. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as Jehovah had said to him. And so it was, because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day. So he did it by night. And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the pillar which was by it was cut down, and the second bull had been offered upon the altar that was built” (Judges 6:25-28).

Victor

Michael follows up by asking:

How about a “Cross”?

Hi, Mike,

If you read my response slowly and carefully, you have your answer. It is really quite simple. A cross is an image. Some took the image of the cross and put Christ on it. Go to almost any Catholic church and you will find it. The people will file past it, kissing the feet or whatever, depending on the height of it. It is all abomination before God. Besides, almost any cross you see is decorative, often gold-plated, if worn on the person. His cross in reality was not decorative at all, no more than was His death, or the body in which He died. Satan seeks not to enlighten, but to impress. That is one of the characteristic features of his work.

If Christ had died in an electric chair, or by a guillotine, or by a firing squad, would we be hanging those around our necks or on the walls? Does it matter if He was crucified, or electrocuted, or shot, or burned at a stake? Yes, the Roman instrument of execution was a terrible one. Perhaps that is why it was chosen by God to sacrifice His Son. However, it is not about the cross, so much as the One we are to worship, not knowing Him after the flesh, or His death after the flesh, but knowing Him after the Spirit. It is all about Jesus Christ, Here and Now, and not the method by which He died. Nevertheless, even if these arguments do not persuade you, I think that the Scriptures are quite clear on the matter.

While you have not said so, some Catholics say they need, or that it is good to have, reminders. If Christ does not live within, I can understand the notion of needing a reminder, not that it does any good. Being reminded suggests a prompt to worship in the flesh, which is not at all what it is about. If Christ does dwell within, there certainly is no reminder needed. To suggest one needs a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice, and of Him, when He dwells within is like saying that we need to be reminded that we have a stomach when we think of eating. An even better illustration would be that it is like saying that we need to be reminded that we have lungs when we wish to breathe. I say that the latter is an even better illustration, though the former will do, because living in Christ is as natural as breathing. As it is written:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

A new creature is one by nature, not by theory, in reality, and not in theology, in actuality, and not in philosophy. Did Noah or his family ever need a reminder that they had crossed the flood? Does Christ need a reminder that He is resurrected from the dead? If these need no reminder, neither do those who have been crucified (executed in whatever form) with Him. The new birth is as real as that. No symbols required, none needed, and therefore the second commandment by grace is fulfilled.

And Mike, why do you capitalize “cross”?

Victor

One writes us:

You criticize churches for displaying the Cross in their house of worship and preaching about it. Well, sir, read 1st Corinthians 1: 18.

The Scripture: “For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Exactly! Those displaying physical crosses think that by talking about it they are preaching it. They are far from it. Rather than preaching the cross, they are substituting an icon and empty talk for obedience in the actual laying down of the life, which is what the true cross is all about. God says to make no images, but you will justify yourself and the wicked in doing your own thing. “To hell with what God actually says!” you declare by your actions. “We will honor Him in the way we choose, displaying the cross and talking about it.” Jesus answered those in His day that likewise thought themselves to be justified in their chosen ways of honoring God with their speech:

“Jesus answered, ‘Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping Me, but they don’t mean it. They just use Me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.’ He went on, ‘Well, good for you. You get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions!'” (Mark 7:6-9 The Message)

Reply to one supporting images and heathen customs:

God strictly forbade believers to participate in heathen customs and practices. He well knew their insidious destructiveness. Christmas is such a custom. He commanded His people not to make images for worship. The embroidered cross is just that. The reason He commanded these things was to teach them right from wrong and good from bad, because He loved them, and wanted them to have the abundant life. Jesus came, and died, to give us the abundant life. For one to say that He would do those things the “Tablecloth” letter suggested or declared would indicate that the author does not know the True God. Worse, suggesting that God would go back on His Word would be, in essence, saying He changes His mind in such matters (in which case He truly cannot be trusted or depended upon), or worse still, it would be tantamount to calling Him a liar. As His friends and ministers, can you really expect us to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to these things, Kate? God does not prostitute Himself by sanctioning false worship and honoring other gods. If we did not care about the lies people thought and spoke of God, and if we kept quiet just to flow with the crowd and “keep the peace,” I think we would be poor friends indeed! How about “traitors,” like Judas?

From The Issues of Life:

A pulpit? Did John the Baptist have one? Did Paul have one? Did Jesus have one? A baptistry? Did they have one of those? An empty cross? You mean “an image” as forbidden by the second commandment? How is it you presume to worship God while disobeying Him? Are not those who have His commandments and keep them the ones that love Him? How about an empty electric chair, or an empty noose, or a smoking gun with an empty chamber? How dependent you are on external religion! How great is your iniquity (lawlessness)! It will not do, Bob, not with God the Creator.

Our pulpit is wherever we speak, even here and now as we write you. And we do not set ourselves up over you in a physical demonstration of authority, as a pulpit signifies, even demanding (as the pulpit does by nature) that you must listen only and not speak. Our authority is the Lord, and the truth that He has given us to speak. We do not build a physical tabernacle for the invisible God. We are His Temple, made without hands. We are His invisible attributes, made flesh. You do not receive Jesus Christ in the flesh; therefore you are none of His.

Our cross is not empty as is yours, because we are crucified with Christ, as Paul confessed he was. The cross is something we take up, not wear or idolize, as you religious do. You do not realize how indicting your statements are, Robert. God commands us to make no images for ourselves in a religious context, but you do not believe or obey Him. You make the sacrifice of King Saul, who kept back that which was to be destroyed, and thought to be accepted with God by his substitution of sacrifice for obedience.

God does not want your crosses, or your baptistries. What good is baptizing people when you deny them the living God, the Baptizer of the Spirit, teaching men’s doctrines in favor of obedience to His commandments? What good are your crosses when you do not take up your own crosses to crucify the flesh and follow Him? He hates your churches and doctrines, passionately so, for precisely these reasons. You all take His Name in vain, and are not held guiltless. Why are so many of you dying from disease and accidents? Why are your families a mess, with your children in open revolt, or becoming twice the children of hell that you are? Because you exalt yourselves and spurn the Lord.

As for the religious mementos and icons, those are indicative of the problem, with which the inner and hidden cross is there to deal. The outward cross and symbols of religion are there as substitution, in lieu of the obedience God requires. He wants reality, not imitation replacement. The former is His doing, which is acceptable; the latter is man’s doing, which is not. It is sin and an offense to Him.

There are two, in particular, of the Ten Commandments, which deal with these matters. One is the injunction against making images of things in Heaven (the cross being a symbol of God’s means to bring Heaven within), and the other is not taking God’s Name in vain. Those who take upon themselves His Name, yet have no use for what He says, and thereby no use for Him, are not held guiltless. They have effectively denied themselves the living God in favor of that which is no god at all.

“The images of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but no voice, they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but no hearing; and there is no breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; and so is everyone who puts his hope in them” (Psalms 135:15-18 Bible in Basic English).

“Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods” (Psalms 97:7).

“All who serve handcrafted gods will be sorry– And they were so proud of their ragamuffin gods! On your knees, all you gods–worship Him!” (Psalms 97:7 The Message)

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