7 March 2004
Deuteronomy 4:15 & Acts 17:29
The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in His word.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English:
Q.51. What does the second commandment forbid?
A. The second commandment forbids our worshipping God with images or in any other way not established in His word.
1. What is the great sin forbidden in the second commandment?
The great sin forbidden in the second commandment is idolatry.
2. How does the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment differ from the sin forbidden in the first commandment?
The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment has to do with an object, wherein man worships something else other than the true and living God. The idolatry forbidden in the second commandment has to do with the means of worship, and forbids us to worship God in ways contrary to His will.
3. How is it possible for a person to worship images and thus commit the sin of idolatry?
There are many ways this can be done. Some of them are: (1) By worshipping false gods such as the heathen idolatry in the culture of the Greeks. (2) By worshipping the true God by the use of an image or a representation of Him. (3) By worshipping the true God by creating in one’s minds a false image of Him.
4. Is it permissible for any image or representation to be made of God?
No, it is forbidden because He is infinite, incomprehensible (Isaiah 40:18). Any attempt to represent God necessarily involves limitations which misrepresent Him.
5. Is it lawful for us to have pictures of Jesus Christ?
No, it is not lawful for us to do so. It is true, He was man as well as God, but the Bible teaches us He is even fairer than the children of men (Psalm 45:2). It is impossible for us to know what He was like and therefore, any representation of Him would be a guesswork. If He had wanted us to know He would have made it clear in the Word.
6. Does the second commandment forbid ceremony in our worship?
No, it does not forbid ceremony in our worship, as long as the ceremony is taught in the Word of God. Therefore, the ceremony would have to be “decent and in order” and only what is appointed in the Word of God (Matthew 15:9).