The Worship of Images
by Trevor Brailey

It should be no surprise that the Bible forbids the worship of images, or idols. The Ten Commandments make that clear. Exodus 20:4 says, "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" (NKJV). Other passages speak similarly. In Isaiah 42:8, God refused to give the glory and the praise that rightly belonged to Him to carved images. However, the people of Israel repeatedly sinned by worshiping idols. When the northern kingdom of Israel was permanently taken away captive, 2 Kings 17:10, 16 shows that their idolatry was a prime reason for their punishment. In the New Testament, Christians are also told to stay away from idols and the things offered to or polluted by them (Acts 15:20, 29).

You will meet very few people today who would say, "Yes, I worship images." However, many groups, including some that call themselves Christian, venerate pictures and statues; sometimes they are gilded, very expensive, and placed in prominent positions in a house of worship. Some people have some similar arrangements of items in their own homes that look like small shrines.

Images or idols are not always made of some physical material. Ephesians 5:5 refers to covetousness as a form of idolatry. Many people are more devoted to money and pleasure than God, and those things have become idols to them.

Some Christians are concerned about another kind of image. They are deeply concerned with how other people think about them. It is good to want a reputation for godliness (Acts 6:3), but some people are less concerned with being godly than having others think that they are godly. They can worship the image they have of themselves or their families.

Satan tempts some Christians to think of themselves as always in the lead or always getting their way. Satan tempts them to think of themselves as the smartest, the best, or even the most righteous. When another person who might be more talented appears, they might react negatively to him. Preachers can become jealous of other more successful or popular preachers. Good singers can envy a better singer.

After they have sinned, some Christians who feel that their image in the church is threatened might sin by finding fault with others (who have not sinned as they have) and tearing them down, whether indirectly through gossip or directly through harsh criticism. People are hurt and congregations are divided through the worship of someone's self-image. Exalting oneself brings humiliation before God, as with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:14).

No image made or conceived by men is to be worshiped (Romans 1:23). Instead, we must worship Jesus Christ, who is the image, or exact likeness, of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Not only that, we are to become like the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This makes sense because man was originally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and through obeying Christ we can be forgiven of our sins, restored to fellowship with God, and "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Colossians 3:10 NKJV).

We must not worship any image created by man - no golden calf, no stone sculpture, not even some arrogant concept of self-importance. We must instead look to the Lord and His word and be transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).