From the Pastor – May 2022 Newsletter Article

“No Images? A Closer Examination – Part One”

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in
time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these
last days spoken to us by His Son, Hebrews 1:1-2a

There are two common objections among Protestants to the use of images, whether in Church or at all.
We will discuss the first this month and the second next.
The first of these stems from the commandment given by the LORD at Mount Sinai: “You shall not
make for yourself a carved 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.” (Ex. 20:4)
At first glance, this seems to settle it, especially because of the warning which the LORD gives
immediately after this command: “For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the
fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me…” (Ex. 20:5) In other
words, make images as the LORD forbids, and you invite Him to visit such iniquity. And lest we think that
such a visitation would be pleasant, a short survey of Israel’s failures with regard to this commandment will
dispel that thought.
But let us look further as to why the LORD gives this command. We find the reason in Deuteronomy 4.
Remember, the book of Deuteronomy is Greek for “second Law,” because the whole book is about Moses
reciting the Law given by the LORD initially at Mount Sinai, to the second generation of Israelites right
before they enter the Promised Land. So in other words, it is the same Law, just repeated.
Deuteronomy 4:15-18 reads: “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the
day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb (Mt. Sinai) out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act
corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness                                                                                     of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.”
The reason why they are not to make any carved image is because they “saw no form…”
In other words, they don’t know what the LORD looks like, so they shouldn’t even take a guess.
They will fail miserably. The Israelites tried that at the foot of Sinai, making an image of an ox
and it didn’t turn out too well (Ex. 32).
But our circumstances as Christians are different. For “whoever sees Me,” says Jesus, “sees
the Father” (Jn. 14:9). Because the Triune God has revealed Himself in sending His Son to become
Man, we can portray His Son as such – a Man. The reason the Israelites were not allowed to do this was
because “they saw no form [of the LORD when He spoke to them].”
But when God has spoken to us in these last days, He has done so in His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). His Son
who was born of a woman in Galilee and actually had flesh and bone as we have. In a similar way, the
Christian Church has also portrayed the Holy Spirit in the image of a dove, since He has appeared in Holy
Scripture in that form (see Mat. 3:13-17).
This false teaching – that, images are all idolatrous – is nothing new under the sun. There was a
group in the 8th century, known as the Iconoclasts (literally one who destroys images), who made the
same argument based off this command of the LORD. This teaching of the Iconoclasts was recognized
as false and thus dangerous, and so condemned at the seventh Ecumenical Council of the Christian
Church. The reason? Chiefly what I just showed (granted they were more erudite and elaborate).
This is the first of the most common arguments against the use of any images in churches or homes.
Next month we will consider another common argument.
But until then, consider this: What is an image but a visible word? An image tells a story (words) to the
eyes. It is simply another way of getting messages across. In our case as Christians, the message is the
Gospel, the message of Christ’s Incarnation, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection for us and our salvation.
So if it is permissible to speak of these things, what is the difference in having them painted or plastered in our sanctuary or homes?                                            Some food for thought.