The regulative principleIdol Worship by Scott Bushey
Idol worship by Scott Bushey
March is my favorite time of year; It is March Madness! Brackets, pools, late night games!!! It gets pretty weird when we get down to the final four; especially if my team is in there. Men get a bit weird when it comes to sports. Florida State Seminoles, Kentucky Wildcats, Miami Dolphin fever. It’s crazy stuff. I once saw a home here in Margate where the owner painted his house Dolphin colors. This brings us to this weeks study of Idol worship. So much can be said of this topic. It is rooted in the Regulative Principle of Worship. God is to be worshipped only in how He has prescribed; if we don’t know for sure, since we hate sin and avoid it at all costs, we lean into what we do know and we adopt prudence. Wouldn’t you want to be safe, than sorry? We all nod yes, but I wonder.
Even though Israel thought that their intentions were right in cloaking and veiling pagan ritual in holiness, look what God thinks of it:
Ex. 32:1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us 1a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “aTear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “1This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
Ex. 32:7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go 1down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. aThey have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘1cThis is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” 9 aThe LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are 1ban obstinate people. 10 “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and bI will make of you a great nation.”
Are you following this? Aaron cloaks the idolatry in, ‘Tomorrow, we party unto the Lord with this calf!’. Israel reverted back to the day; idol worship was rampant in the day and they show their true colors. Fortunately, God relented on Moses behalf and spared the Israelites.
1Cor. 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
You might respond, ‘C’mon Scott; Whats wrong with a few easter eggs and chocolate bunnies?
1Cor. 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Even though God corrected His people, they hardened their hearts and became stiff-necked:
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” – Jeremiah 6:16
Last week we had a mental exercise in that I asked, “If I gave you a picture of a man with long hair, 33 years old, and said that it was a picture of Jesus, and asked us to all take one of the pictures and rip it up, could you do it?” If your conscience was pricked to the degree that you could not tear the photo up, it is quite possible that you have broken the second commandment, not to mention the Regulative Principle.
How would you define an idol?
5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.
The Reverend Joe Vusich had an interesting article this week in the Aquila Report; it read:“Historically, Reformed and Calvinist churches have taught that all images/statues/paintings of Jesus Christ (and of the Father and the Holy Spirit) are violations of the 2nd Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5a).Thus Calvin: “God is opposed to idols, that all may know He is the only fit witness to Himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent Him by a bodily shape . . . We must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:11). See also Heidelberg Catechism Questions 96-98; Westminster Larger Catechism Question 109; and 2nd Helvetic Confession Chapter IV.”
Most believers do not consider the subject of idol worship; Yes we have read the commandments, we are familiar with the entry, yet, none of us are really searching out idols to crush. This is problematic as we almost always relate it to statues primarily and possibly images, secondarily. Think about it; when was the last time you even considered the idea?
The 2nd Commandment: Exod 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
There are two ways of interpreting this passage; one way is reading it from verse 4 directly though to the end of verse 6. It makes a difference. The other way is reading verse 4 and then stopping. Some theologians believe that this passage is broken down into two separate doctrines; manufacturing an image and then bowing down to them.
Here’s another consideration:
If you have amplified a particular day, outside of the sabbath day to a place where the bible does not, i.e. the birth of Christ, Easter, Palm Sunday, etc., you are possibly involved in a level of idol worship and surely breaking the Regulative Principle of Worship. Think about that for a minute; Do we do this and accept this premise with no regard to fact? Since when do believers who claim God’s word as infallible and our rule for all the issues of life, miss these trees for the forest? I know, you are thinking to yourself, ‘Scott, all believers have a level of tradition mixed in with their faith and walks!’. Are we not as guilty as Rome? Since when do we divert from truth so as to tickle our senses and ears for the sake of peace? Do we appeal to the masses and not our sovereign? Do we tremble like the demons in their belief or do we mock God in light of this fact? The demons tremble!!! Are we being prudent? Shall we not just build a golden calf-Surely God will understand. it points to Him after all. If the Ark is falling, surely we can touch it to support it from hitting the floor, no?
At this point, if your biblical acumen is sharp, you should be directing me to Colossians 2:16-23.
Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
In regards to ‘sabbath days’: You are aware that there were more than one sabbath day? Sabbath days are days of rest. However, the sabbath day and rest denoted in the decalogue is not the sabbath day that is spoken of here in this Colossians passage-obviously; else God’s word is contradicting itself, and we know that can’t be, right?
Lev. 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
Lev. 23:38 Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. 39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
The above ‘sabbaths’ were festival days; they are not the Sabbath commanded in the 4th commandment; the 4th commandment is a moral command and was instituted at creation. Make the distinction; these festival days are what the writer of Colossians is speaking of. As well, you will notice that the writer uses the term in a plural sense, i.e. ‘or of the sabbath *days*’. My emphasis added. When it comes to the 4th commandment, it is perpetual. When we speak of days like easter, Christmas, Good Friday, we cannot use this passage in Colossians to validate the amplification of these pagan days for the use in a believers life-that is not what the apostle was intending. If that was the case, we could use the same mentality along the lines of condoning any day we would choose then and we know that doesn’t work. Surely the apostle had in mind, days that were approved of God and supported by His word. In other words, it is not open-ended and random.
“That there are positive institutions of worship appointed in connection with the Church, few will be disposed to deny. That there are ordinances of an arbitrary kind, framed and designed to express the homage of the collective body of believers in their act of worship to God, admits of no dispute. And it cannot be doubted that, since these ordinances cannot administer themselves, it is the office of the Church, in virtue of her authority, to dispense and carry them out for the benefit of the members. The office and authority of the Church in reference to the institutions of public worship, enacted by Christ for His people, are precisely parallel to the office and authority of the Church in reference to the doctrines He has revealed. It is simply and exclusively ministerial in both cases. There is no more warrant in Scripture for the Church to add to the institutions, than there is for the Church to add to the doctrines of Christ. The very same principles that limit the authority of the Church in matters of faith, making its office declaratory of the truths before revealed, and not creative of new truths not revealed, in like manner limit the authority of the Church in matters of public worship, making its office executive of ordinances and institutions previously established, and not invested with power to decree new observances not previously established. It is as steward and administrator of the mysteries instituted by Christ, and not as the inventor or framer of new mysteries of its own, that the Church is uniformly exhibited to us in Scripture. These mysteries can derive no authority from their appointment by human power; the ordinances which the Church administers are authoritative only in so far as, and no further than, they are ordinances of Christ. Their virtue as means of grace depends upon their being institutions not of men, but of Christ; and public worship, whereby sinners in their Church state approach to God, and hold intercourse with Him, is only lawful and only blessed when it can claim its origin not from ecclesiastical persons or authority, but from express Divine appointment. When the Church goes beyond the warrant of Scripture in devising ordinances or appointing worship, it trespasses into a province not its own, and into which it can carry with it neither the stamp of authority from on high, nor the virtue of a blessing from on high. Any worship beyond the limits of Scripture direction is an approach to God unwarranted and unblessed; any attempt at intercourse with God, except through the regulated channel and authorized manner of such intercourse, is presumptuous and unsanctioned. The worship of the Church´s own invention or appointment is “will-worship” [Col. 2:3; Greek, p. 344]; the addition to God´s words or God´s ordinances being as impious and unlawful as any alteration or diminution. The command, “œThou shalt not add unto them,” when applied either to the truths or the ordinances of Christ, is as valid and binding as the precept, “Thou shalt not take from them.” [Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Matt. 28:20] The proper walk of the Church in both cases is within the boundaries of what is expressly revealed in Scripture, and up to those boundaries. The sin of addition errs as decidedly as the sin of omission. Beyond the limits of what is expressly appointed for sinners in the way of institutions of worship, the Church can have no authority for its doings, and can expect no blessing from its Lord. Worship in a way not appointed and explicitly warranted by God can carry with it no authority as a Church appointment, and convey no blessing as a means of grace.”
~James Bannerman, Rites & Ceremonies in Public Worship
From the Directory for the Publick Worship of God:
“Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.
THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued. Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people. As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconvenient for Christians to meet together therein for the publick worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of publick assembling for worship among us should be continued and employed to that use.”
Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. Acts 5:7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Acts 5:9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
John Know writes:
“All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express commandment, is idolatry.”
~Selected Writings of John Knox
Joe Vusich continues:
“1. The 2nd Commandment forbids not only the worship of man-made images of earthly or heavenly beings/creatures, but also the creation of such images. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–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.” The tendency is to run this statement together with what follows (“you shall not bow down to them nor serve them”) to conclude that it is only the worship of such images that is forbidden. Yet the commandment has two imperatives and expressly forbids the making of such images exactly because it is in the nature of man to fall down and worship what he considers to be divine (this is why the second half of the commandment naturally follows from the first). Jesus our Lord is in heaven, and He is to be worshiped by faith. He is not to be imaged.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism, on the second commandment reads:
Q. 107. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.
Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.Q. 110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.
In Fishers Catechism, he writes about what the Catechism implies:
“QUESTION 49. Which is the Second Commandment?
ANSWER: The Second Commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
QUESTION 50. What is required in the Second Commandment?
ANSWER: The Second Commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.
Q. 1. What is the opinion of the Papists respecting this commandment?
A. They allege that it is not a distinct precept from the first, but only an appendix, or supplement to it, by way of illustration.
Q. 2. What is their practice, in consequence of this opinion?
A. They constantly leave it out in their mass books and other liturgies of their church, lest the people should observe the manifest contrariety of their image worship, to what is here so expressly forbidden.
Q. 3. In what then does the Second Commandment differ from the first?
A. The First Commandment respects the object, and requires that we worship the true God for our God, and no other: the second respects the means of worship, and requires that the true God be worshipped in such a way only, and by such ordinances as he has appointed in his word, in opposition to all human inventions.”
Were you aware that the Lutherans and Romanists lists of the commandments exclude the 2nd commandment? Well, technically they have 10-they just eliminate the 2nd command and split the 10th command into two parts. It’s silly really as the Apocrypha has the same book of Exodus with the same commands. The New American bible reads:
Rome and the Lutherans must exclude the 2nd commandment in light of their doctrine related to their veneration of statues and images. The portion of the passage that they have excluded has a direct relationship to the manufacturing of statues and images, right? Think about this for a minute; for them to intentionally exclude this portion of the Exodus passage is self defeating and indicting, no? It is. If it isn’t, why would they bother with excluding it from their lists? The Apocrypha has the identical passage in Exodus, chapter 20 as our bibles. To remain consistent, they could not allow for this scripture in their rendition of the decalogue. In the same way, in a contrast to their actions, it is indicting to Protestants who allow for images and statues as even Rome acknowledges that the 2nd commandment accurately describes what is and what is not allowed, hence why they exclude it. For us to allow for images is as silly as their treatment.
Rome defends her view on images and statues based on some obvious passages in scripture. Unfortunately, it is found greatly wanting in their assessment.
Let’s look at the instances in question:
The Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant; These were gold statues. God was very specific in how they were to look and where they were placed on the Ark.
Ex. 25:18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.
The 2nd commandment reads: “or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above”
The golden serpent in the desert:
Num. 21:6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
The serpent itself was also commanded of God; for a good season of time, Israel was without issue in that regard. However, over time, the inclination of men are as dust and we need to understand that these things that are practical exercises for us becomes stumbling blocks easily. We are emotional. Look what eventually happens to Israel’s attitude towards the serpent:
2Kings 18:1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. 3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
The 2nd commandment says: “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,”
One Roman Catholic defends the practice:
“This serpent on a pole was symbolic, represent Jesus Christ on the Holy Cross. Equally, when Catholics look at a crucifix or a picture of Jesus on the Cross, they are reminded that the Lord Jesus is their Saviour. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one lives unless he goes through Jesus Christ. As the serpent on the pole was part of a Jewish religious ritual, the crucifix is part of the Catholic liturgy.”
You see how they miss the point. It is not the image per se, but that men are fragile and will eventually worship the statue, serpent or picture subconsciously. The other distinction that needs to be made is that there is a big difference when God commands a thing to be done and men taking the thing into their own hands and deciding. On one hand we have the 2nd commandment which clearly forbids it and then on the other, we have our mighty God issuing a command. Don’t confuse the two things as the same.
This Roman catholic apologist continues:
“Equally, Jesus left this earth before all of us were born. A painting of Jesus serves the purpose of reminding us of what He looked like. It serves the purpose of reminding us to adore Jesus, to obey Him, to serve Him, to plea to Him on behalf of others, etc…”
How does anyone know what Jesus looks like? You recall in previous studies that we talked about God being spirit; He is not like men who have arms and legs. To wonder what God looks like is sinful and is by default a break in the 2nd commandment. The same can be said of Christ. If no one knows what He looked like, since he is God manifest in the flesh, we should not elaborate. We should stick with scripture which calls him average.
Is. 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
You recall what happened when Israel made the golden calf and how God reacted:
Ex. 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. 3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. 6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
Ex. 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
‘Turned aside quickly out of the way…..” What was the way? The way is God’s law; it is the 2nd commandment He is referring to. They are fickle people; no different from us, really. They are cultural. As soon as things got tough, they abandoned their covenant. Moses writes: “To morrow is a feast to the LORD.” They do not abandon fully their allegiance to God and assign a Holy feast using the calf as a representation.
In light of what we have discussed thus far, what was it that God was upset about in regards to the golden calf? Didn’t Aaron make it clear that it was just a representation and that Israel had not abandoned their steadfastness towards God? Didn’t the leader, Aaron say, ‘tomorrow is a feast unto the Lord’ and as well built an altar?
Listen to J. C. Ryle on the issue:
“It is not necessary for a man formally to deny God and Christ in order to be an idolater. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible and actual idolatry are perfectly compatible: they have often gone side by side, and they still do so. The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. “These be thy gods,” they said, “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” And the feast in honor of the calf was kept as “a feast unto the LORD” (Exo 32:4, 5). We should observe [that] the idol was not set up as a rival to God, but under the pretence of being a help—a stepping stone to His service. But . . . a great sin was committed. The honor due to God was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The Second Commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry”
Look what it says in a few chapters earlier in the book of Exodus:
Exodus 34:10 And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. 17 “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.
One can see that it goes beyond the idea of actual worship of the idol itself. Let’s look again at what the Roman Catholic apologist said about their statues and images:
“Equally, Jesus left this earth before all of us were born. A painting of Jesus serves the purpose of reminding us of what He looked like. It serves the purpose of reminding us to adore Jesus, to obey Him, to serve Him, to plea to Him on behalf of others, etc…”
How is this any different from what Israel did in chapter 32? Isn’t this the reason God wanted to strike them all dead? Well, you might say, ‘Scott, God doesn’t strike people dead anymore like He did in the Old Testament!’
I ask you, how do you know that? Does God change? I believe the scriptures say:
Mal. 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change;
Psalms 102:25-27 “Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.
Hebrews 6:17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath…
James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Lev. 26:1 “You shall not make idols for yourselves;
Listen to what Calvin says:
“Exodus 34:17. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. When he calls graven things, statues, and pictures, by the name of gods, he shews the object and sum of the Second Commandment, viz., that God is insulted when He is clothed in a corporeal image. Moreover, the name of God is transferred to idols, according to common parlance, and the corrupt opinion of the Gentiles; not that unbelievers thought that the Deity was included in the corruptible material, but because they imagined that it was nearer to them, if some earthly symbol of its presence were standing before their eyes. In this sense, they called the images of the gods their gods; because they thought they could not ascend to the heights in which the Deity dwelt, unless they mounted by these earthly aids.”
Thomas Watson writes in his book, A Body of Practical Divinity:
21. But the commandment forbids setting up an image for religious use or worship.” “In the first commandment worshiping a false God is forbidden; in this commandment, worshiping the true God in a false manner is forbidden. “You shall not make unto you any graven image.”
This does not forbid making an image for civil use, i.e. a statue of Calvin, Knox or a statue of Michael Jordan; However, even these statues have the propencity to cause people to worship them; you recall what Calvin said; we are idol factories.
A great example is Caesar’s image on the coin;
Matt 22: 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Notice how Jesus does not rebuke Rome nor the Pharisees for the inscription on the coin.
In Gen 3:5, we see Jacob submitting to the command:
Gen. 35:2 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.
The argument against liturgical usage and decorative:
There are some, even in the reformed rank who hold to the idea that if it is decorative and not involved in the call to worship, i.e. liturgical that it is allowed. I believe we have addressed this issue already. One of the passages used to argue for decorative instances is in 1 Cor:
1Cor. 8:4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
Calvin illuminates what Paul was saying in this passage:
“Now, however, he *(Paul) explains particularly, what is the kind of knowledge on which they valued themselves — that an idol is an empty figment of the human brain, and must therefore be reckoned as nothing; and accordingly, that the consecration, that is gone through in name of the idol, is a foolish imagination, and of no importance, and that a Christian man, therefore, is not polluted, who, without reverence for the idol, eats of things offered to idols. This is the sum of the excuse, and it is not set aside by Paul as false, (for it contains excellent doctrine,) but because they abused it, in opposition to love.
As to the words, Erasmus reads thus — “An idol has no existence.” I prefer the rendering of the old translation — An idol is nothing. For the argument is this — that an idol is nothing, inasmuch as there is but one God; for it follows admirably — “If there is no other God besides our God, then an idol is an empty dream, and mere vanity.” When he says — and there is none other God but one, I understand the conjunction and as meaning because. For the reason why an idol is nothing is, that it must be estimated according to the thing that it represents. Now it is appointed for the purpose of representing God: nay more, for the purpose of representing false gods, inasmuch as there is but one God, who is invisible and incomprehensible. The reason, too, must be carefully observed — An idol is nothing because there is no God but one; for he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by a visible sign, so as to be worshipped through means of it. ” *My emphasis added for clarity.
Liturgically speaking, one needs to search no further than the Regulative Principle for an answer; if it is not commanded, we must deal with the idea prudently and dismiss it. As well, it is important to note that when God commanded the making of the cherubim and serpent, they cannot be considered idols as all idols are worshipped; God never intended for the Cherubim or the serpent that was lifted up to be worshipped. This is an important distinction.
Iconoclasm and it’s definition:
“Destruction of religious images. In Christianity and Islam, iconoclasm was based on the Mosaic prohibition against making graven images, which were associated with idolatry. The making of portraits of Christ and the saints was opposed in the early Christian church, but icons had become popular in Christian worship by the end of the 6th century, and defenders of icon worship emphasized the symbolic nature of the images. Opposition to icons by the Byzantine emperorLeo III in 726 led to the Iconoclastic Controversy, which continued in the Eastern church for more than a century before icons were again accepted. Statues and portraits of saints and religious figures were also common in the Western church, though some Protestant sects eventually rejected them. Islam still bans all icons, and iconoclasm has played a role in the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus in India.”
~Taken from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconoclasm
The 1st great iconoclastic backlash to image worship began with Emperor Leo III of Byzantium (717″“41). Earlier church council’s had forbade idols before then though (Synod of Elvira, 3rd Council of Constantinople). Pope Gregory II stood against the Emperor in defense of image worship. The east opposed the images while the west generally supported them, though the Frankish Kings were for a time an exception. The Pope’s opposition to the Emperor also gave him the opportunity to rebel from his lawful superior and assert his own civil independence and soveriegnty in Italy. The iconoclasts also turned their anger to relics and condemned prayers to the saints. Image worship was finally resored in the east by the Emperess Irene and the 2nd council of Nicea, though there were later bouts of iconoclasm, perpetrated mostly by the Byzantine Army.
Iconoclasm was revived during the Protestant Reformation. Where ever the reformation spread so did mobs of image breakers. For example, in the Netherlands, where decades of persecution were beginning to stir the oppressed, iconoclastic zeal swept across the Low Lands on August 14 1566. An estimated 400 churches were ransacked. The Reformers unanimously condemned such acts of unrestrained violence, yet they certainly felt no sympathy for the idols and often directly instigated the riots. John Knox’s example is well known: May 11, 1559 Perth, Scotland, Knox preached a sermon against idolatry and the Christian’s duty to destroy idols, that same day the towns people broke into a frenzy of image breaking.
~The above provided by Peter Gray, Elkins Park RPCNA
*For additional historic data I refer you to Carlos Eire’s book, ‘War Against the Idols’ : http://amprpress.com/war_against_the_idols.htm
What things do you think you idolize? Calvin wrote: “Our hearts are a perpetual factory of idols”.
I want to start by saying that idolatry is very insidious. It is subtle. It does not have a scent. You cannot identify it as it creeps up slowly on you. One of the reasons is because most teachers don’t want to go here; it’s not an easy subject to teach on, so hence, it is often neglected as most of the commandments that we break flow out of some form of idolatry or another. Yea, we talked about the obvious types of idolatry above, but what of the other stuff-things we cannot see in an image or statue?
What is the great commandment? “Love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, heart and strength and your neighbor as yourself”
Are you fulfilling it? Do any of us?
What do you love? Is it possible that some of the things you love are idol worship? If we love things of this life more than we love God, we are knee deep in idolatry and need to identify it for what it really is.
Is this love akin to a desire or a lust? There is a difference. A lot can flow out of idol worship, i.e. pride, lust, etc.
Matt. 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Matt. 12:34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders….
As you can see, we are what we love;
Listen to brother Ryle again on the subject:
“Let us gather up these things in our minds and ponder them well. Idolatry is a subject which, in every church of Christ that would keep herself pure, should be thoroughly examined, understood, and known. It is not for nothing that St. Paul lays down the stern command, “Flee from idolatry.” Let me show the cause to which idolatry may be traced. Whence comes it? To the man who takes an extravagant and exalted view of human intellect and reason, idolatry may seem absurd. He fancies it too irrational for any but weak minds to be endangered by it. To a mere superficial thinker about Christianity, the peril of idolatry may seem very small. Whatever commandments are broken, such a man will tell us, professing Christians are not very likely to transgress the Second. Now, both these persons betray a woeful ignorance of human nature. They do not see that there are secret roots of idolatry within us all. The prevalence of idolatry in all ages among the heathen must necessarily puzzle the one—the warnings of Protestant ministers against idolatry in the Church must necessarily appear uncalled for to the other. Both are alike blind to its cause. The cause of all idolatry is the natural corruption of man’s heart. That great family disease with which all the children of Adam are infected from their birth shows itself in this, as it does in a thousand other ways. Out of the same fountain from which “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,” and the like (Mar 7:21, 22)—out of that same fountain arise false views of God and false views of the worship due to Him; and therefore, when the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians what are the “works of the flesh,” he places prominently among them “idolatry” (Gal 5:19, 20).”
If you had to honestly list the things you desire, where would God really fall in that scale? What is the epicenter of your universe? It is not difficult to measure. What do you think on often? Look at what the Psalmist says:
Psa. 27:4 One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.
One thing! How many of us can say that; You might inquire of me, “Scott, surely the psalmist was an employed man; he had concerns of the world; he had a family. He was given great responsibility over common men. What of when he was ill physically, surely he had things that would derail his desire for God and the things of God, no?” Yes, this is true. while in the flesh, we will have to deal with the flesh; however, imbedded deep down in thet flesh is a seed God planted when He converted you. That seed flourishes. It is in a constant flux, much like our cells in our body-they are never stagnant, ever changing and replenishing. The Psalmist knew two very important things, it is all the work of God and it is a participation; it is a race we are in. No one shows up to the starting line in a race thinking that he will not win, else why would he participate. In light of all this, even in the midst of trial, in sickness, in work, the primary thing remained primary. We were bought with a price. God’s word is not based on a possibility. We have promises. Promises that are grounded in covenant. God does not lie! Paul understood covenant:
Phil. 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Notice that this scripture from Phillipian’s is not a possibility, but reality. In the same way the word of God brought creation into existence out of nothing, ex nihilo, He brings about sanctification, in the same manner; yet, God condescends and allows us to respond to this miracle. We participate in a mysterious way. n the compound sense, it is all of God, in the divided, we participate.
In light of the claim of the Psalmist, where do you fall? Is God at the front of the pack? If not, I suggest you pray. God answers prayers. The fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much.
What is at the basis for your joy? This is not easily answered. I understand when things are good or better yet, typical-no conflicts; it is easy to say, God is on the throne. But what happens when all hell breaks loose?
All things must be checked in the balances of our hearts. Men are inclined to bow down before many things. Our propensity is towards sin-generally. Do you have a besetting sin? One that you refuse to repent of? I know the feeling; I am not unlike you. You sin and then you repeat the sin; you say you repent, yet you return to the same slop, time after time.
Do you understand the difference between a sin and a besetting sin?
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… –Hebrews 12:1 KJV
Besetting sins are ones that a person is more susceptible to. It is idolatry in that the person has a special kinship to it. Even though the person may hate sin in general, the besetting sin has a root in the affections. It is particular and odd. It is one in which the person is gratified in a way most other sins, he is not. Notice how this sin is a level of tolerance. We fight, but we indulge. We repent, yet we allow. The besetting sin is akin to an anchor. It is extremely heavy and weighs the believer down. Was Paul’s thorn a besetting sin?
2Cor. 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Surely Paul, being the man he is, did not indulge this sin; He ran the race well. He fought the good fight. We are not the Apostle Paul. We should use this exhortation to our benefit. Pray ye enter not into temptation; resist the devil and he will flee; Put on the mind of Christ. Draw near to Christ and he will draw near to us. Be proactive in your walk. Do not take into consideration that since we are believers and in light of God’s mighty sovereignty that we are above an assault-we are not. Think heavenly. Pursue righteousness.
idolatry is not just venerating a statue, carving or painting. Idolatry occurs when we begin to value anything more than we value God. If we spend more time thinking about our hero than God, that’s idolatry. If our every thought is about the latest gadget or our personal appearance, that’s idolatry. If the first priority in our lives is our family, even that’s idolatry. At the center of idolatry is self. It is pride.
Our homes: Look at the collection of stuff we all have. Our homes are busting at the seems. It is all our desires to have bigger home; 2-3 car garages, pools, closet space!!! We all want more closet space; so that we have more space to put our stuff!
We are really worshipping the god of materialism. When the next apple phone comes out, we want it. Bad. We have Ipads, Galaxy note’s, Iphones coming out of our ears. Laptops;
Then we have career and jobs. We want more money-we work two and 3 jobs-that’s still not enough. We want the status. We seek out leadership. Lets not confuse Gods command to work; in fact, work is a fruit of the fall, believe it. God commands that we support our families. But working all the time, especially on the Lords day, unless providentially hindered is idol worship.
How about the bible itself? Could God’s bible be seen improperly? I asked previously if you think of God’s bible like the Muslim does of the Koran? It is not the book itself that is Holy, but the words in it. This distinction needs to be understood. I have mentioned in the past that I was raised Roman Catholic; I was taught that a bible is never to touch the floor.
Is the content of the bible divine? I would say, no. The content of the bible is divinely inspired and for that reason it should be reverenced; there is a difference. The content itself is not divine. If we were called to worship the bible, that is akin to idolatry. It is what is in the bible that we worship, not the pages itself. To worship the bible is called ‘bibliolatry’ and an error. We must remember that the bible is not God and it does not contain all of the knowledge of God.
John Frame writes:
“God’s word, wherever we find it, including Scripture, is an object worthy of reverence. I’m not advocating bibliolatry, which is worship of a material object with paper, ink, and so on. The paper and ink are creatures, not God, and we shouldn’t bow down to them. But the message of the Bible, what is says, is divine, and we should receive it with praise and worship.”
B.B. Warfield writes:
“The whole (of WCF ch1) is closed with the assertion that the Holy Spirit who speaks in every part of Scripture (cf.xiv.2) is the Supreme Judge in all controversies of religion, so that they all are to be determined, not on the ground of decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men or asserted private revelations–under whatever name they may masquerade, whether as traditions, deliverances of reason or of the Christian consciousness, individual or corporate–but on the ground of the unrepealable “thus saith the Lord” of Scripture itself (sct.10). Accordingly, in the Confession’s sense, whenever the doctrine of Scripture is ascertained all religious strife is ended, and in its sentence we are to rest. As Rutherford says: “The Scripture makes itself the judge and determiner of all questions in religion.”10 Or, as Reynolds puts it: “The Scriptures…are the alone rule of all controversies…. So then the only light by which differences are to be decided is the Word, being a full canon of God’s revealed will, for the Lord doth not now as in former times make himslef known by dreams, or visions, or any other immediate way.”11 Or, if we may look beyond the immediate circle of Westminster men to a Puritan divine whose praise is in all the churches, as Richard Sibbes says: “What is the supreme Judge? The Word, the Spirit of God in the Scriptures. And who is above God? It is a shameless ridiculous independency of men that will take upon them to be judges of Scripture.”12 Shall we not say Amen to this, though it may condemn much modern practice and mayhap entail on us the charge of “bibliolatry”?
Such a reverence for God’s Word as God’s Word is no doubt an act of worship; but whom shall we worship if not the God of the Bible? At any rate, the Confessions closes the chapter on Scripture which it began by declaring Scripture “most necessary,” by declaring it also final and decisive in all questions of religion. We cannot do without the Scriptures; having them we need no other guide. We need this light to light our pathway; having it we may well dispense with any other. Are we making it the light to lighten our feet? Are we following it whithersoever it leads? Are we prepared to test all religious truth by it, while it is tested by none? Are we prepared to stand by it in all things on the principle that it is God’s Word and God will be true though every man be a liar?”
Tim Challies writes:
“I can affirm that it is entirely possible for a person to idolize the Bible. If I were to place a Bible upon an altar, light some candles around it, and bow down before the Bible, I would be worshipping a collection of paper, ink and leather (or “pleather”). I would be idolizing a created object rather than worshipping God. This would be no better than worshipping the image of a man or animal carved from wood or stone.”
Generally speaking, Calvinists are the ones who are often charged with bibliolatry. This misunderstanding is rooted in our devotion to the word of God-specifically, our claim of it’s infallibility and inerrancy. Obviously, in light of our understanding idolatry, this could be nothing less than a fallacy.
What about addictions:
Substances, i.e. Alcohol and medicine
Sport teams and players
Illicit drug and alcohol use
If we all are honest with ourselves, God is not at the center. It should be our desire to always please God first and foremost. When we get up in the morning, it is He that should be first on our lists; first to our thoughts. First in regards to our next moves. Yet, He is often, not.
Lord’s Day Calendar: http://www.doyouconfess.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014LDC.pdf
Roman Catholic Vatican Calendar: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/calendar/ns_liturgy_calendar_en.html
I pray this paper helps to exhort you in your walk with the Lord.