Heidelberg Catechism Q96-97

Q. 96. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

Aš That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word.

Q. 97. May we then not make any image at all?

Aš God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.  Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.


Like the first commandment, the second takes up the issue of complete devotion to God alone.  Where the first commandment tells us to have no other gods, the second instructs us not to make an image of the one God.  There is one God and the Scriptures declare that he is Spirit, not material.  Therefore any representation of God is untrue and incomplete and cannot represent the fullness of His presence.  Read John 4:23-24.


Read Exodus 32:1-35.  While Moses was receiving the commandments, the Israelites performed an awful act.  They knew who God was, they had heard his voice thunder from the mountain, but they asked Aaron to make them an image of this God who had led them from Egypt and they began worshipping the golden calf.  Aaron never claims this to be any God except the God who saved them from slavery.  But this act was judged severely by God as a transgression of his law.  All images are products of creation, but our Lord is the author of creation, that is why he refuses to be identified with it in worship.


The prophets clearly describe the reality of idols.  They are all images and images, whether of stone, wood, or even pictures are deaf and dumb.  They cannot lead and teach, much less give a true picture of the living God who created the heavens and the earth, and so they must not be worshipped.  Read Isaiah 40:18-25 and Habakkuk 2:18-20.


Romans paints a sobering picture about the reality of idol worship.  The scene is one of supposed wisdom but the effects of this wisdom are degenerate behavior, doomed to further deplorable actions.  In short, human wisdom in trying to improve upon God’s plans and decrees for worship will always lead us away from God and into a complete denial of him.  Read Romans 1:18-32.


Why did God spend so much time dictating the way he wanted to be worshipped?  Much of the Old Testament is taken up with instructions about the temple worship service.  There are rules for the sacrifices, the offerings, the priestly clothing, the temple structure, even the furniture inside, as well as the religious holidays, etc.  Each of these rules served to communicate a powerful message about who God is and what he would do for his people.  So, any change in the liturgy actually served to cloud the image of the Messiah.  That is why God demanded that worship be carried out exactly as he prescribed and why he punished its violation severely.  Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Leviticus 10:1-7 and Hebrews 8:5


God clearly instructed his people to do away with all idols and images.  They were to completely destroy them and leave no trace of their presence in the land.  Such must be the case for each and every believer and local church.  Read Exodus 34:13-17 and 2 Kings 18:4-5.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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