PICTURES OF CHRIST

The preceding was adapted and/or excerpted from a tract titled “Pictures of Christ,” by J. Marcellus Kik, Chapel Library, Venice, Florida 33595:

“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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

In this second commandment we are forbidden to make 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. We are forbidden to bow down to them or to serve them. Now the question has been asked whether or not this commandment forbids the use of pictures of Christ. Naturally the commandment forbids the bowing down before such pictures and worshipping them. There can be no question of that.

But in many Protestant churches and in many evangelical churches pictures of Christ are used in teaching, and in the homes of Christians pictures of Christ are hung up to remind them, I suppose, of Christ. Is that Scriptural? Does it meet with the approval of God? Is it sinful? Is it another way of breaking the second commandment?

No doubt, if I state that the use of pictures of Christ is unscriptural; that it does not meet with the approval of God; that it is sinful; and that it is a breaking of the second commandment—I will be considered as a fanatic, a reactionary, and perhaps not quite normal. But before you have such unkind thoughts please hear me out. If we are Christians our service and worship will be regulated by the Word of God. The Bible is our infallible guide in faith and worship.

Now here is the surprising thing. Nowhere in the Bible, either in the Old Testament or New Testament, is there a physical description of Christ. Isn’t that strange if God wanted to use the picture of Christ in spreading the Gospel or in worship, that we are not told whether Christ was tall or short, fair or dark, light or dark hair, blue eyes or brown eyes?

With all their love for the Lord you would think that Peter or John would have given a description of him—unless, of course, they were forbidden. They wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Surely it is significant that neither they nor any other of the Scriptures gave a physical description of the Lord. Surely if God desired the use of pictures of Christ to further the cause of Christ he would have had a physical description of his Son in his Word. Why should we consider ourselves wiser than God and provide what he has deliberately left out?

The second amazing fact is that in the first four centuries of the history of the Church no picture of Christ was used. These were the years when the Church made her most astonishing growth. These were the years in which the Christians conquered pagan Rome. It is so frequently stated that we need pictures of Christ in order to teach people the Gospel. The apostle Peter did not need pictures of Christ to instruct the young or bring the Gospel to adults. The apostle John did not need pictures of Christ to convert pagans and instruct the Church. The apostle Paul did not need pictures of Christ to convert Barbarians and Greeks. The early church did not need pictures of Christ to conquer paganism. They accomplished it by preaching the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

When pictures of Christ were first introduced they were opposed. The Church historian Eusebius, who lived in the fourth century, declared himself in the strongest manner against images of Christ in a letter to the Empress Constantia who asked him for such an image. Amongst other things Eusebius wrote: “Who can therefore counterfeit by dead and insensible colors, by vain shadowing painter’s art, the bright and shining glistering of such his glory? whereas his holy disciples were not able to behold the same in the mountain; who, therefore, falling on their faces, acknowledged they were not able to behold such a sight.”

Here Eusebius touches on one of the reasons why it is impossible to have a true picture of Christ. If you want a picture of Christ do you want it as he was upon earth or as he is now in heaven? If you want a picture of him as he was upon earth you have quite a problem. There was no picture of him painted. The so-called pictures of Christ which are present today are from the imaginations of the artists. That is why there are so many different pictures. Not one of them is a true picture. So every time you say this or that is a picture of Christ you are uttering a lie. You cannot teach truth by a lie. Christ is the Truth, and surely he would not want the use of a false means to point to him. Christ abhors lies and falsehoods.

How would you like it if someone who never saw you painted a picture and told every one that it was a picture of you? Certainly you would resent it. And certainly Christ must resent all those counterfeit pictures of him.

But supposing you wanted a picture of Christ as he is now. The disciples had such a vision of him on the mount of transfiguration. We read in Matthew 17:2, “And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” This was the glorified Christ. No artist could give us a picture of Christ which would show the glowing of Christ’s face as the sun and his raiment as white as the light. They would only rob Christ of his glory by miserably falling short of a true painting of Christ in his present glory.

But someone will state that at least we can depict the humanity of Christ as he appeared upon earth. But who are we to separate his humanity from his divinity! The apostle John states in his Gospel, chapter 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Notice that the apostle states that even while Christ was in the flesh they beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. In other words, they beheld his divinity as well as his humanity. This one cannot paint. So one must behold his humanity as separate from his divinity. Then one falls into the ancient error of Nestorius. He stated that Christ consisted of two persons: one human and the other divine. There was, according to Nestorius, a separation between the human and the divine persons.

That was the ground on which the Council called by Constantine V condemned paintings of Christ. You see, this question of pictures of Christ was the subject of controversy throughout the eighth century. So Constantine in 753 called a council of three hundred and thirty bishops. Their conclusion was this: “If any person shall divide the human nature, united to the Person of God the Word; and, having it only in the imagination of his mind, shall therefore attempt to paint the same in an image; let him be holden as accursed. If any person shall divide Christ, being but one, into two persons; placing on the one side the Son of God, and on the other side the son of Mary; neither doth confess the continual union that is made; and by that reason doth paint in an image the son of Mary, as subsisting by himself; let him be accursed. If any person shall paint in an image the human nature, being deified by the uniting thereof to God the Word; separating the same as it were from the Godhead assumpted and deified; let him be holden as accursed.”

This council points out the difficulty and indeed the impossibility of painting a portrait of Christ. Christ is more than man. He is God-man. It is impossible to depict by a painter’s brush the almighty power of Christ; the glorious majesty of Christ; the infinite knowledge of Christ. You cannot localize by a painter’s brush the everywhere-presence of Christ. One can only succeed in degrading Christ. When one considers the deity of Christ it is no wonder that the apostles did not attempt a physical description of their Lord and Saviour.

There is always, also, the danger of worshipping the picture of Christ and attaching power to it. Even a Protestant publishing firm stated that there is power in a picture of Christ. It stated: “When one plants deeply and firmly in his mind the picture of Christ, it has a strong and powerful influence in his life.” Thus instead of attributing this influence to Christ and the Holy Spirit they attribute it to the picture they are trying to sell! That is a breaking of the second commandment.

But can it not help in the saving of souls, it is asked. But how? Looking at a picture of Christ hanging upon the cross tells me nothing. It does not tell me that he hung there for sin. It does not tell me that he hung there for my sin. It does not tell me that he is the Son of God. Only the Word of God does that. And it is the Word of God that has been given us to tell the story of salvation through the blood of Christ. It is not through the foolishness of pictures that sinners are converted but through the foolishness of preaching.

It is amazing how slowly unscriptural practices enter the Christian Church. We must at all times go back to the Scriptures. The Bible is our infallible guide. And if our practices and doctrines do not conform with the teachings of the Scriptures, then we must eliminate them. The Bible instructs the Church not to make any likeness of Christ. The present day pictures of Christ are false and no one would make a serious claim that they resemble Christ upon earth. They separate his humanity from his deity. They do not at all give us a glimpse of his present glory. They are not condoned by the inspired apostles.

God has ordained the foolishness of preaching to evangelize the world. He has promised to attend the preaching of the Word with the power of the Holy Spirit. The so-called pictures of Christ are a hindrance and a temptation to idolatry. Let us cleanse the Temple of God from them.

Advertisements

IDOLATROUS WORSHIP

“My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry!” 1 Corinthians 10:14

Romanism is a gigantic system of sacrament-worship, Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, and priest-worship! In one word, Romanism is a huge organized idolatry!

I know how painful these things sound to many ears. To me it is no pleasure to dwell on the shortcomings of any who profess and call themselves Christians. I can say truly that I have said what I have said with pain and sorrow.

I believe that many a poor Catholic at this day is worshiping with an idolatrous worship, simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him. He has no faithful minister to teach him. I remember all this; and I say that the Catholic eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion.

But all this must not prevent my saying that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church. I would not be faithful if I said less.

My own conscience would rebuke me if I did not warn men plainly that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church, and that if they will join her, they are “joining themselves to idols!”

That heart can hardly be right with God, which can think of the millions who are sunk in heathenism, or honor the false prophet Mahomet, or daily offer up prayers to the Virgin Mary — and not cry, “O my God, what shall the end of these things be? How long, O Lord, how long?”

Christ rightly known, Christ truly believed, and Christ heartily loved — is the true preservative against ritualism, Romanism and every form of idolatry!

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

— J.C. Ryle

EVERY TREE IS KNOWN BY ITS FRUIT

Quote

“Christmas time is also synonymous with a Christmas tree to most. One source claimed the tree to be the most cherished Christmas custom or ritual (tradition, ceremony, sacrament). These trees are idols placed in your home (Jer 10:3-5, Deut 7:26). They are decorated, reverenced and enjoyed all. These trees (and wreaths) have pagan origins associated with fertility (Baal, Jer 10:3-5). Fertility produces life, so this tree could easily symbolically represent the tree of life. Man was denied access to the tree of life due to his transgression against God – forbidden and denied to man (Gen 3:22-24). Man will only regain access to the tree of life through submission to and obedience of the commandments of Christ, but never through the flesh (Rev 22:14). These trees are faithfully erected with devotion every year. They are decorated with cherished images (emblems/symbols with personal meaning) to be adored by all. Perhaps incense candles will be lit around the room? No idol would be complete without offerings (as at an altar). Presents (gifts) are placed under the Christmas tree that contain all the things loved ones have coveted (lusted) after (things of the flesh). Many make wish list for the things they desire. These lists tend to be more “expectations” than hopes – so don’t disappoint. People gather around the Christmas tree in admiration and song. After partaking of the offerings (gifts) many will then celebrate in gathering (assembling) for a big meal. There is little difference here than how men have worshipped false gods through the centuries. Most would think it very petty of the author to call the tree an idol, yet most could not imag(e)-ine a year without one. God said in His word that we were not to make images, altars or groves and set them up in such a way (Deut 7:5, Ex 34:13, Num 33:52). Churches will set up trees in their sanctuaries and hang wreaths on their doors. Some may Christianize them by putting religious “images” on them. Imag(e)-ine that, an “image” set up in the midst of those who claim to worship Christ (Deut 16:22)! How could this happen if men are truly submitted to the Holy Spirit’s leading? We do not have to look far in biblical history to find that the children of Israel did these very same things. God sent Judges, Prophets and Kings, but it made little difference to the multitudes (majority). There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9). Consider the behavior of the children of Israel: Jeremiah 7:1-10, “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?” They worshipped other gods (images – Baal, nature and fertility god) and then came into the House of the Lord to worship. God was not pleased and told them to amend their ways. He who hath ears to hear! This message did not make Jeremiah a very popular likeable person among the people. The author’s message will not garner him any praise either. Most people (religious or not) believe they are delivered to do these abominations. Its all so fun and innocent to those who have exalted their word above God’s. When Jesus came, He called us out of such things to follow Him. However, man as a whole (majority), in all his religiosity, has not change from his fallen rebellious nature. This is a message for the remnant that will receive the truth – and start “following.” Change starts with submission and obedience to what Christ said – read the gospels and stop considering them in an abstract way (as not strictly applying to you) – they are applicable to you now.

The symbology of the Lord is always God-centered. The symbology of man is always flesh-centered. All the symbology used in Christmas has pagan meaning and fleshly appeal (Eph 2:3). Everything about Christmas is directed toward the satisfaction of the flesh, yet those who do such cannot please God (Rm 8:7-8). Romans 8:12-13, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” To seek the will of the flesh is to oppose the will of God and “thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17, Ez 33:14). We must mortify (die to) the flesh to find life in God. Christmas is known as a time to eat, drink and be merry; and a time to enrich yourself in possessions and indulge in worldly entertainments. What is the forbidden fruit of the Christmas tree (i.e. celebration in general)? idolatry, gluttony, lusts, depression, envy, jealousy, greed, partying, debt, bitterness, disappointment, drunkenness, obligating others, arguing, gossip, pride, arrogance, materialism, worldliness, guilt, anger, sloth, witchcraft, and a high suicide rate – the “spirit(s)” of Christ-mass. The author does not suggest that there are no good things can be found, but these fruits of the flesh are clearly and dominately manifested. The devil always tempts (and manipulates) through the desires of the flesh (i.e. the good things), these are just the burdens and bondages that result (same as with Egypt , Gal 4:3 – come out! Gal 1:4). These are the works/fruits of the flesh (Gal 5:19 -21). Christmas is a huge (tremendous) cash cow (golden) for the retail, food, travel, delivery, flower/card, etc. industries. The bulk of all yearly sales will be realized at Christmas time. In other words, there is a significant “money” variable (love of, 1 Tim 6:10 ) to all of this. People will be buying and indulging to unprecedented levels at this time of the year (lust) – filling the flesh to the full (please consider 1 Jn 2:15 -17). This did not Jesus and this is dishonoring to Christ’s very nature – He calls us out of this world. Does any business just “opt out” at Christmas time (greed)? Is it even possible to stop participating given that manufacturers print Christmas motifs (designs, patterns, images, themes, decorations, ornamentations, subjects) on all their products and people expect to find all such paraphernalia on store shelves? Could a store that doesn’t observe Christmas (if there is such a thing) even survive? What rules (dominates) at Christmas time: the selfless nature of Christ (and His denial of the world) or the indulgences of the flesh (the retail numbers do not lie)? Should you ever see clearly to come out of such things, you will quickly realize what an incredible bondage and burden it is. You will never forsake the celebration of Christmas without significant resistance from everyone. This is the sole reason that most will flow with the world (Pharaoh/Satan does not release his subjects without a tremendous fight). Some will say there is great joy in seeing their children’s happiness over gifts (toys) received. This joy is found in the lusts of the flesh (will keep your eyes on the world); leads your loved ones opposite of God to the things of the flesh; and you have missed the point of this whole book. No doubt, there will be great tears one day if you continue along this “broad path.” Some will quote: Ephesians 4:8, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” The gifts Christ gave are: 1) Himself – perfect love (sacrifice for others, Jn 10:15 , 15:13 , Gal 1:4, 2:20 , Eph 5:25 , 1 Tim 2:6, Ti 2:14 , 1 Jn 3:16 ) for the intent of reconciling man to God. This reconciliation is accomplished through faith, which is a forsaking of self-will and surrender to God’s will and surrendering to the Lord’s working in your life (Jn 12:25, 1 Pt 1:5). 2) The Holy Ghost – given for the purpose of leading, guiding, teaching and empowering one to walk as Christ walked and to conform to His image (Lk 11:13). 3) Eternal life for those who obey Him (Mt 19:17, Jn 17:3, Rm 5:21, 6:23, 2 Thess 1:8, 1 Pt 1:22, 4:7, Jude 1:21). John 17:2, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” The gifts Jesus gave are God-centered. The gifts man gives (or expects) are mostly flesh-centered. The author has talked to many religious people who “profess Christ,” about such things as Santa Claus and Christmas trees. These will not receive the truth no matter how convincing the use of scripture (neither would the Jews depart from the worship of Baal or Ashtaroth – what has been shall be again). Some will acknowledge parts of the truth, but their actions will not follow. The deep-seated tradition of Christmas is instilled (rooted) in most by symbology through the self-satisfaction (filling of the flesh), songs, stories, foods, candies, decorations, sentimental attachments, family, strong peer pressure, memories, obligations, festivities, emotions, time off, etc. This may be likened to the children of Israel leaving Egypt (and its wickedness and idolatry). We are being called out of the wickedness and “into the wilderness” by God. Sure there were bondages in Egypt, but some will also see a good side that they feel outweighs the bondages inflicted. Jesus once said during a deliverance: Mark 5:8, “For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” The Lord also said in a conversation regarding being unequally yoked with unbelievers (fellowship of righteousness and unrighteousness; light and darkness, 2 Cor 6:14) and idolatry (2 Cor 6:15-16): 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The “unclean thing” is that which transgresses the will of God and is in rebellion to Him (whether spirits, idols, or men). Uncleanness comes through following the lusts in your heart (Rm 1:24, 2 Pt 2:10) – those who live in error (2 Pt 2:18, Eph 5:5). The English word, “church” is ekklesia in the Greek which means, “called out ones.” Followers of Christ are called out of such things (i.e. Egypt – representative of). God is calling us out of the world, but many do not want to leave Egypt. Some have traveled to the wilderness and now want to return to Egypt. We will either seek Egypt (the world) or God. Those who seek both are still in Egypt bowing to an idol (golden calf) of their own creation. God is in the wilderness calling – who will respond? Leaving Egypt includes all that opposes God – those celebrations and attachments of the flesh. Egypt certainly had celebrations and festivities (complete with foods and traditions) which had to be completely forsaken. We must be prepared to leave the flesh nature and your own authority (control, being as a god). The wilderness is harsh on the flesh, but the spirit will survive if it yields to God’s authority. Folks, its easy to profess a Christ when the flesh is in control. This book has raised the issue of two enormous idols – the television and Christmas. Many reading this book have probably thought, “how incredibly dumb and stubborn the children of Israel had been toward God.” Perhaps you are no different if you cannot give up your own idols and unbelief – confused, idolatrous, double-minded, obstinate, opinionated, and froward. Its easy to cast judgment on the children of Israel, but are you clinging to your own rebellion and idolatry? The children of Israel’s flesh was denied in that wilderness and they rose up in great complaint and protest. Their unbelief produced disobedience which always brings death (their carcasses dropped in the wilderness). How will you be when your idols are taken away? God will try your heart in this life and the results will be eternal (1 Pt 1:7). Your stubbornness toward God’s attempts to reach you (call you out) will be your own undoing at Judgment. When the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land they were told to destroy the idols and altars; pictures; and high places of the wicked nations (peoples of the land, Num 33:52, Deut 12:2-4). Israel was not to learn their abominations (Deut 18:9); they were to learn God’s commandments (i.e. fringes on the garments, put Words on stones, Deut 27:2-4). In other words, it was unacceptable by God to incorporate other practices (devotions) into their lives in addition to Him. Nothing has changed for the follower of Christ. All the idols and altars in your life must be torn down, no other gods – period (Deut 5:7, 6:14 ). Modern man is completely blind to his own idolatry.”

—David Neal

ARE YOU WORSHIPPING GOD OR IDOLS?

“Satan doesn’t care what we worship, as long as we don’t worship God.”

— D. L. Moody

Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

Psalms 81:9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.

Deuteronomy 8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

Jeremiah 25:6 And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.