‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’
When believers express viewpoints arrived at by studying the Scriptures they may not always align with the viewpoints of other believers, but at the same time they subscribe to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore it is not uncommon for Christians to worship within denominations that are sympathetic to their own viewpoints.
So, if what I am about to present is different to how you view it, I ask you to bear with me (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13); for I do it in love, and in what I believe to be the truth. Love and truth are inextricably bound together (Ephesians 4:15), just as all believers are bound together in the love of Jesus. We are united in Him, and in His love for us (John 13:34, 35). Christ loves us, and we love Him.
I’m a subscriber to Twitter where I delight in sharing with other Christians. We praise God, love Him and adore Him, but do we honour Him when we post pictorial images that are meant to represent His Son? The motivations behind our postings are noble, because we want to give Him the glory and honour (1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 1:7).
From a biblical perspective, the second commandment states: ‘You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).’
There is no ambiguity to the commandment. We are not to make ‘any likeness of anything,’ and we are not to ‘bow down to them nor serve them.’ In the broadest sense, we are not to worship idols, and categorically we are not to make them!
Images Beyond Twitter
Sadly, many who say they are Christians blatantly disobey God’s commandment. In the buildings where they assemble for worshipping God they proudly exhibit paintings, mosaics, stained glass images and sculptures that are meant to represent biblical characters, even those purporting to portray a semblance of Jesus. Some will try to justify their disobedience to the commandment by claiming the artistic representations of God’s Son reveal characteristics of His earthly or heavenly nature.
Astonishingly, there are people who revere these images and pray to them, believing that they will be blessed or healed as a result. There are some who believe by kissing an image they will have a better chance of receiving God’s blessing! It is no wonder that the Apostle John ended his first epistle with these words: ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’
The recipients of John’s epistle were not guilty of misrepresenting Jesus by making images of Him, but John wanted them to be aware of the wiles of ‘the wicked one (V. 19),’ who would have them worship idols. They were to keep themselves separated from the wicked one, and to remain in Jesus, who ‘is true (V. 20).’
Biblical verbal representations of Christ express truths of His nature. They do not portray His literal appearance in terms of height, colour of His skin, facial characteristics, stature etc.. Take for example, John the Apostle’s description of Christ in the first chapter of Revelation. In verse 12, John turns around to ‘see’ the voice that spoke to him. It was the voice of: ‘One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (V.V. 12-14) ….. ‘He had in His right hand seven stars, out of HIs mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (V. 16).’
These are figurative, verbal descriptions of the *omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Jesus who holds the churches in His hand (V. 20).
John’s words do not describe the physical appearance of the risen Jesus. Their purpose is to impart knowledge as to the ‘nature’ of the Son of God. On grasping and taking in this glorious knowledge, you may be moved to bow down before Him. God forbid that you would bow down before a manmade image of Him, and yet some bow before images of the virgin Mary! No knowledgeable, believing Christian would ever bow in reverence before images of the Lord Jesus Christ or of His mother. It would be idolatry.
So it is my appeal for all to take heed to the second Commandment and to obey it. On account of this commandment there should be no making of idols, nor should they be worshipped. To my mind there is no place for pictorial representations of Jesus on Twitter, or similar social media outlets. All such representations of Jesus are untrue.
Artists sometimes depict Him as if a glowing light emanates from Him, and they may adorn Him with a halo, but the Scriptures never describe Him as having these characteristics. The nearest inference to them can be found in the account of His transfiguration when He appeared to three of His disciples and, ‘His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1, 2).’ [See also Mark 9:2-3 and Luke 9:28-31.] These verbal descriptions are totally true, but any artistic representations of them would be erroneous.
Question: Do we feed our children with untruthful images of our Lord, the sort that are often found in so-called children’s Bibles? Such images are false. They demean and diminish His glory.
Remember our Lord’s words, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve (Matthew 4:10b).’”’
*The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God
Recommended for reading: ‘Seeing Jesus’ The Case Against Pictures of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Peter Barnes. It was published by The Banner of Truth Trust in 1990. ISBN 085151 580 0. Cost to buy at the time was 50p.
However, a version of this booklet can be purchased today from Amazon Co UK for £25.69, which is absolutely ridiculous!