Matthew 24:4-14 in Images

Matthew 24 4-5U.S. marines fire on a group of insurgents shortly after they launched a rocket propelled grenade at their 7-ton truck while on a 'movement-to-contact mission in order to flush out insurgents operating in the Fallujah area south of Fallujah on Thursday, April 15, 2004 in Iraq. The marines are part of the 3rd Battalion, 4th marine regiment, which saw heavy combat at the beginning of the war last year, and is now back in Iraq embroiled in intense fighting with the resistance. Today, the men of the 3rd Battalion were ambushed half a dozen times while they patrolled the palm groves and wheat fields around fallujah, and the marines killed at least 10 insurgents, and suffered only minor injuries. (Credit: Lynsey Addario/ Corbis, for The New York Times)Matthew 24 7aMatthew 24 7bMatthew 24 7cMatthew 24 7d 8Matthew 24 9aMatthew 24 9bMatthew 24 10aMembers of Michigan's Chaldean community, who are Iraqi Catholics, rally in Detroit Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. The rally was to express anger and frustration over what they describe as a lack of protection for Christians in Iraq. A siege Oct. 31 on a Baghdad church left 58 people dead. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Matthew 24 10cMatthew 24 11Matthew 24 12Matthew 24 12bMatthew 24 13Matthew 24 14Matthew 24 14b

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Seventh Commandment simply says: “You shall not commit Adultery” (Exodus 20:14 NKJV).

What is “adultery?”

Strictly speaking, adultery is a sexual relationship between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands the definition: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” According to Jesus, any man (married, or not) who looks at a woman (married, or not) and thinks about having sex with her, is just as guilty of adultery as the married man who actually does have sex with a woman other than his wife. Although not specifically stated here, the opposite is presumed true as well: A woman who lusts after a man is guilty of adultery as well.

Using Jesus’ definition, almost every person past the age of puberty is guilty of adultery. It is the very rare individual who has never lusted after someone to whom they are not married.

 adultery_Bible

What about other sexual sins?

In addition to adultery, both the Old and New Testaments describe many examples of sexual sins, including (but not limited to):

Additionally, there are a number of New Testament passages warning against the sin of πορνείᾳ, which is translated in various English versions as fornication, unchastity, or sexual immorality. According to Strong’s Concordance, πορνείᾳ – pronounced (por-ni’-ah) – is “a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity; promiscuity of any (every) type.” πορνείᾳ is the root word for the English word “pornography.” Essentially, πορνείᾳ includes all sexual acts outside of Biblical marriage.

How does the Bible define Marriage?

The basic definition of marriage is found in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus reiterated this basic definition in Mark 10:6-8:

But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Both Genesis 2:24 and Jesus define marriage as being between one man and one woman. wedding

What about polygamy? The Old Testament certainly records many instances of polygamous marriages, including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. However, in each of these cases, polygamous marriages caused serious consequences. Although there are a handful of Old Testament verses that can be interpreted to endorse or even require polygamous marriage, these same verses have also been interpreted to refer to successive marriages, rather than concurrent ones. Regardless of the interpretation of these verses, marrying multiple wives is not in harmony with God’s design for marriage from the beginning.

The same can be said for divorce. There are several Old Testament passages describing procedures for divorce. However, in the same passage from Mark 10, Jesus states that the law allows for divorce because of the hardness of the human heart (verse 5), and that ““Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (verses 11-12). Again, divorce is clearly not part of God’s design for marriage.

Homosexual marriage is never mentioned in Scripture. However, since the Bible speaks clearly about the sin of homosexuality, and since Jesus defined marriage in terms on one man and one woman, gay marriage is clearly not part of the Biblical design for marriage.

A Christian Response

The Biblical definition for marriage is one man and one woman for life. Divorce, polygamy, and gay marriage are sin, and not part of God’s design. However, all of these are practiced in our culture, even among professing Christians. How should Christians respond?

First, we must not compromise the truth of God’s Word. We need to acknowledge that all sexual relations outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage are sin.  As Christians, we must never compromise the truth of God’s Word. speaking-truth-love

Second, we also need to remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). By Jesus’ definition, almost every adult is guilty of sexual sin. Christians have no right to judge the sin of others if they do not recognize and repent of their own sin. Just because I haven’t actually had a sexual relationship outside of marriage, I’ve certainly thought about it, so according to Jesus, I’m also guilty. I’ve certainly also committed many other kinds of sin. Christians have no business looking down on the sins of others, just because they haven’t committed those particular sins. We have more than enough sins of our own, without adding hypocrisy to the list.

Christians who are caught in the snare of sexual sin need grace and truth to be able to repent of those sins and be restored to fellowship with Jesus Christ. If married, both the one adulterer and their spouse need compassion and Godly counsel in order to heal the relationship. If in an unbiblical relationship, they need to separate, in accordance to God’s Word, and need to repent of sin.

In the case of non-believers, what they need is the grace of Jesus Christ, not hate from Christians. Christians can, and must, truly hate the sin, but love the sinner. All non-Christians, regardless of whatever sin they may be involved in, need to understand they are sinners, but that Jesus Christ offers salvation and the forgiveness of sin for those who repent and turn to Him.

The following quote has been attributed to both Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and Pastor Rick Warren (I think Warren is the actual source):

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Christians must stand firm on the truth of God’s Word in regards to sexual sin, but at the same time, must demonstrate Christ-like grace and compassion toward sinners. Our goal must be to allow God to work through us to lead sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

You Shall Not Murder

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Sixth Commandment simply says: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NKJV).

What does “murder” mean?

The-Ten-Commandments-not-murder

According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, the Hebrew word רָצַח (ratsach) means “murder, slay.”

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines it as:

Put to death, kill, manslayer, murderer

A primitive root; properly, to dash in pieces, i.e. Kill (a human being), especially to murder — put to death, kill, (man-)slay(-er), murder(-er).

The word רָצַח (ratsach) in Exodus 20:13 has been translated into English as “murder” (NIV, NLT, ESV, NKJV, HCSB, ISV, YLT) or “kill” (KJV, ASV). The implication is that רָצַח (ratsach) involves the deliberate taking of a human life.

Does the Sixth Commandment forbid capital punishment?

On the surface, it might appear that the Sixth Commandment forbids all forms of intentional killing, including capital punishment. However, as with any passage in the Bible, Exodus 20:13 must be understood in light of other Bible passages on the same subject. In the Old Testament, the death penalty was stipulated many offenses, including murder (Genesis 9:5,6; Numbers 35:16-21,30-33; Deuteronomy 17:6), blasphemy (Leviticus 24:11-14,16,23), homosexual acts (Leviticus 18:22;20:13), adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:24), witchcraft (Exodus 22:18), and many other sins. Clearly, in light of these passages – and many others – Exodus 20:13 does not forbid capital punishment. Although many will debate whether capital punishment should continue to be practiced today, using Exodus 20:13 as a proof text against the practice is bad theology.

What about other killing of humans?

There are also other situation where Exodus 20:13 does not apply. The law distinguishes between premeditated murder and manslaughter (Numbers 35:22-25). The verb רָצַח (ratsach) is never applied to Israel at war. Killing in self-defense is permitted (Exodus 22:2, Nehemiah 4:17-18). The Sixth Commandment is limited to the deliberate murder of an innocent victim. To generalize the verb רָצַח (ratsach) to mean any form of killing is to take the Sixth Commandment out of context and to apply it in a manner that the text simply doesn’t support.

What about killing animals?

Thou-Shalt-Not-KillSome animal rights activists attempt to use this verse as an argument against killing animals. Human life is sacred because man bears God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Murder is wrong because Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). Again, while this verse might appear on the surface to support the idea that the Bible teaches animals should not be killed, there is a multitude of other passages throughout the Bible that contradict this notion. First, there are extensive passages that describe the Jewish animal sacrificial system, in great detail. Although these practices are no longer observed or necessary, they clearly contradict the belief that the Bible forbids the killing of animals. Second, beginning in Genesis 9:3, people were given permission to eat meat. Again, there are extensive sections of the Old Testament that describe in great detail exactly what animals the Jewish people were permitted to eat, and which were forbidden. In the New Testament, Christians were permitted to eat even these forbidden animals (Acts 10:9-15) as well as animals that had been sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25 and following). Again, using Exodus 20:13 as a proof text against the practice of killing animals is bad theology. The law only applies to people.

What did Jesus say about the Sixth Commandment?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV).

First, Jesus confirms Exodus 20:13. He does not say that it no longer applies, but rather affirms its continued relevance. Second, Jesus expands it by equating unjustified anger with murder. If a person is so angry with another person that they wish they were dead, they have broken the Sixth Commandment in their heart. Everyone has gotten angry without just cause. Although few of us have actually taken another person’s life, we have almost all been so angry that we wished someone were dead.

In Jesus’ view, everyone is guilty of murder, at least in their hearts and minds. We have all violated the heart of the matter – we have all hated. The bad news is, we are all subject to judgment by God for our hatred, the same as if we had murdered someone. The good news is, God extends forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus, to all who repent of sin and receive Jesus as Savior. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” When one repents, it means they change their mind concerning Jesus Christ. It means they change their minds about their own goodness and about their own righteousness before Holy God, and trust Jesus for the forgiveness of sin. All of us have sinned, and all of us fall short of God’s perfect standard – Himself. We all deserve death and eternal damnation for our rebellion against God. God has demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in our place. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Honor Your Father and Mother

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 5:16 (NKJV)

What does it mean to “honor?”

I looked up Deuteronomy 5:16 in the Hebrew to see what the word “honor” actually means. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated as “honor” in Deuteronomy 5:16 is כָּבַד (kabad or kabed), which literally means “to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome.” I did a little more digging, and found this explanation on BibleStudyTools.com:

The root of kabod [כָּבַד] literally means heavy or weighty. The figurative meaning, however, is far more common: “to give weight to someone.” To honor someone, then, is to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one’s life. A person grants honor most frequently on the basis of position, status, or wealth, but it can and should also be granted on the basis of character.

The command to honor our parents means, then, to give weight to their authority over us, and to show them respect.

Some have argued that the Fifth Commandment means that we are to obey everything our parents tell us to do. However, this is not what the word כָּבַד means. As children, we must obey our parents, but as we reach maturity, we are commanded to give weight to their authority, but not necessarily to blindly obey. If your parents are godly and faithful followers of Jesus Christ, then the wisdom they have in Christ and the experience they have in knowing you should be very carefully and weightily considered. Many Christians, however, have parents who do not know the Lord, or do not honor Him. Although we are still to give weight to what they tell us, if it conflicts with the Bible, we should absolutely not do what they say. We still must show them respect and honor, however.

Why should we honor parents?

My Mom and Dad, 2003

My Mom and Dad, 2003

Deuteronomy 5:16 says to honor your parents so “that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

Some skeptics have claimed that since this verse promises that everyone who honors their parents is guaranteed a long life and that all will “be well,” the Bible is obviously contradictory. Some people who honor their parents die at a young age.

However, there are many instances where the Bible speaks in terms of generalizations—things that are usually, but not always, true. Deuteronomy 5:16 is an example. The book of Proverbs contains many such generalizations. It is not a contradiction to have some instances where the general rule does not apply. When someone claims Deuteronomy 5:16 contains a contradiction, they are committing the fallacy of a sweeping generalization—applying a general principle as if it were a universal rule. Deuteronomy 5:16 is not intended to be taken as a universal rule, but rather as general principle that is true most of the time.

In most cases, our parents are a lot more wise than we like to admit. If they are godly parents, they have experiences and years of wisdom from the Lord that we have yet to gain. Generally speaking, if we follow the advice of godly parents, we will tend to live longer, happier lives.

Another reason to honor our parents is found in Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” It pleases God when we honor our parents. God appointed them to be our parents, and gave them authority as our parents. Whether they have been godly parents, or horrible parents, it pleases God when we show our parents the honor they are due, simply because they are our parents.

The bottom line

I haven’t always honored my parents as I should. Especially as a teen, I dishonored my parents greatly. I gave very little weight to their position or authority. As I’ve grown older, especially after I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, this has changed considerably. I also have a whole lot more respect for my parents, now that I’m a parent.

As a parent, I haven’t always deserved my children’s honor. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and have let my kids down far too many times.

However, the command to honor my parents is still wise advice from my Father in Heaven. He used my parents to help shape me into the person I’ve become, and is using me to shape my children into the young adults they are becoming, despite my shortcomings and sin.

If you have not been honoring your father and mother, maybe because they’ve hurt you, or simply because of your own sin, please consider the words of Deuteronomy 5:16 very carefully. God wants us to honor our parents, not because they deserve it, but because it pleases Him when we do. We all need to forgive our parents for the wrongs they have done to us, and honor them despite their shortcomings, no matter how severe. It’s not always easy to do, and for many people, may take a lot of time and healing, but it’s the right thing to do, as God has commanded.

Live Long and Prosper

Remember the Sabbath

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Fourth Commandment says:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11

moses-tenI started this series on the Ten Commandments some time ago. I sort of got “stuck” when I got to this one. I know what I believe, but, quite honestly, I have a difficult time backing up my beliefs on this issue with solid Biblical reasoning.

Unlike with the other 9 of the 10 Commandments, the New Testament is strangely silent on the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. With the exception of keeping the Sabbath, all of the commandments are retaught, and in most cases, expanded upon in the New Testament. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Here, Jesus not only confirms the Sixth Commandment, He expands it to include unjustified anger. The same is true throughout the New Testament with all of the Commandments – except the commandment to keep the Sabbath.

The New Testament records that Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not as the scribes and Pharisees said it should be kept. Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath – He picked grain and healed on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-12). Jesus attended synagogue on the Sabbath, as did His disciples. After the resurrection, Jewish followers, including Peter and Paul, continued to worship on the Sabbath. However, non-Jewish Christians apparently did not. I can find no place in the New Testament where worshipping on the Sabbath is either required or denounced. Historically, the practice of worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday) was slowly replaced with worship on Sunday by most churches. Again, I can find no place in Scripture that either requires Sunday worship, or denounces it. While the New Testament repeatedly teaches that Christ’s followers are to meet regularly for worship, it appears to be silent regarding which day of the week Christians should set aside for the practice.

In light of the absence of New Testament teaching requiring worship on a specific day of the week, I believe it is entirely up to the discretion of the church and the individual Christian.

There is considerable disagreement within the church regarding the Fourth Commandment.

Some churches are adamant about only worshipping on the Sabbath, and while I disagree, that’s fine. Most churches worship on Sunday, and again, that’s fine, too. An increasing number of churches now offer worship services on other days of the week, allowing folks that are required to work on weekends the opportunity for corporate worship. Again, I think that’s fine.

I’ve read a number of arguments that the Sabbath is still to be followed by Christians, and that Sunday worship is a pagan heresy. However, I’ve yet to find any that can justify this belief with solid Biblical exegesis. Every argument I’ve seen commits exegetical mistakes, makes unsubstantiated historical claims, and/or contains other logical fallacies. The same can be said for those arguments I’ve seen positing Sunday-only worship.

The key, as I see it, is that all Christ-followers are to set aside time regularly for corporate worship with other believers. We are to regularly meet with others for the teaching of God’s Word. We are no longer under the letter of the Law; we are under a New Covenant. However, we are still to follow the spirit of the Law. The Fourth Commandment says to set aside one day out of every week for worship and rest. The New Testament is silent regarding which day should be set aside, so I believe it is up to each one of us to determine with God’s leading which day to set aside. As the writer of Hebrews states,

“… let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25.

Worship

 

 

 

Do not take the name of the Lord in vain

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me10 Commandments
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Third Commandment says:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

curse_bubbleTaking the name of God in vain is more than using it as a curse word. Any time we use God’s name flippantly or disrespectfully, we use it in vain. Jesus restated the Third Commandment by flipping it around: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9, NKJV).

Why does God care if we use His name in vain?

God’s desire is to have a loving relationship with us. In relationships, when we show disrespect for the other person, it interferes with that relationship. When we use the name of God or Jesus in a disrespectful manner, it interferes with our ability to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that we were created to have. Taking God’s name in vain doesn’t change how God thinks about us; it affects how we think of God. It reflects disregard and indifference on our part toward God. When we use God’s name in vain, it inhibits our ability to love Him the way we should.

What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?

Names of GodIn the Hebrew, there are four consonants used to spell God’s name. In English we see them as YHWH. We pronounce them as Jehovah or Yahweh. We also use many other names for God: Jesus, Lord, Savior, Father, Christ, and so forth. The Bible actually lists over 300 titles for God, many of which are commonly used as names. Using God’s name “in vain” means using it in any way that is disrespectful, false, or trivial. We can do this by using it as a curse word. We can also use His name in vain by claiming God says something that contradicts or isn’t supported by the Bible. An example that’s getting considerable attention right now is the claim that God thinks homosexuality is acceptable to Him. This belief is clearly and repeatedly refuted by the Bible, yet many people, even Christians, claim it’s true. Invoking the name of God in an attempt to justify sin is using God’s name in vain. We also use God’s name in vain when we make false promises, such as “I swear to God that I’ll do such-and-such.” When we do this, we are lying in the name of God, and using His name flippantly. There are any number of variations on using God’s name in vain, far too many to describe in depth in a brief blog. The point it, we all at least occasionally use God’s name disrespectfully, falsely, or irreverently. We all have missed the mark of the Third Commandment.

What is the consequence for taking God’s name in vain?

“…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

As with any sin, taking the name of God in vain interferes in our ability to love God. It separates us from Him. It does not change God’s attitude toward us, but rather, changes our attitude toward God. For those who have never placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, sin prevents them from knowing God and from spending eternity in His presence. For those of us who have been saved, it interrupts our fellowship with Him. Using God’s name in vain reflects disrespect for God in our hearts, and the consequence is broken fellowship with Him.

What can we do about it?

VainFirst, if a person has never received forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, never been saved, and never made Jesus Christ Lord of their life, that’s the place to start. Everyone has sinned, and the only way for God to forgive is by our receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

For those of us who are saved, we need to begin by cultivating a love and reverence for God’s name. We need to grow in our relationship with Him. We need to value God’s holiness and give God the respect He is due. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we will begin to respect and revere the name of God and the name of Jesus. Taking the name of the Lord in vain will become the exception rather than the rule. Although we will never obey this commandment (or any other, for that matter) perfectly this side of Heaven, as we grow closer to Jesus, our sinful tendencies will become less and less.

 

You Shall Not Make For Yourself an Idol

The Ten Commandments:

  1. Golden CalfYou shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Second Commandment 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. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

What is an idol?

According to dictionary.com, an idol is:

1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
2. Bible.
a. an image of a deity other than God.
b. the deity itself.
3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.
4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.

Let us consider each of these five definitions.

  1. An image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed

The key points of the Second Commandment are that we should not 1) have images or likenesses that 2) we worship. The Second Commandment does not, as some have claimed, forbid artwork. It forbids the worship of images.

Many Christians wear crosses or have artwork depicting Jesus displayed in their homes. If one pulls Exodus 2:4 out of context, it would seem that any sort of God-themed artwork would be forbidden. However, verse 5 makes it clear that it’s not the artwork per se that is problematic, but the worship of these images.

Owning a cross or a statue of Jesus can be a wonderful reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross. However, when someone prays to the statue, or uses the cross as some sort of talisman to attempt to get closer to God, this becomes idol worship.

What about worshipping the Bible? Although the Bible is the Word of God, it’s not God. Worshipping a physical book is idolatry. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humanity – it points us to Him, but it isn’t Him. By way of analogy, this blog tells people a lot about me, about how I think and what I believe, but reading my blog isn’t the same as knowing me. Similarly, the Bible tells us about the One who wants us to know Him in an intimate, personal manner. Don’t worship the Bible – worship the One who gave it to us.

  1. An image of a deity other than God, or the deity itself.

Here, we’re no longer talking about crosses or paintings of Jesus, but of objects representing other so-called gods. Whether it’s a golden calf or a statue of the Buddha, the worship of any object representing any god other than the God of the Bible is forbidden. It doesn’t matter if one believes the object itself is a god, or just represents a god, any worship of or through an object is sin. There is only one true God – the God of the Old and New Testaments. The worship of any other so-called god takes away from our ability to have a relationship with the true God, and thus is sin.

  1. Any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion

American IdolIn modern America, few of us worship actual objects, per se. However, how many of us worship other people? Many people derive meaning and purpose for their lives from the teachings of the Pope, Billy Graham, Darwin, Barack Obama, Joel Osteen, the Dali Lama, or a host of other people. This is idolatry. When we put our faith and trust in anyone other than Jesus Christ, we violate the Second Commandment.

There are many Christian teachers whom I respect and from whom I learn a great deal. However, it is critical that I take whatever they say and compare it with God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. I am never to take what mere man says as infallible. To do so becomes idolatry.

  1. A mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

The worship of spirits, angels, demons, ghosts, and the like is clearly forbidden throughout the Bible. Ancestor worship, the occult, New Age practices, and so forth all fall under this category. There are numerous passages throughout both the Old and New Testaments that clearly forbid such practices.

  1. A figment of the mind; fantasy.

SexDrugsRockNRollThis one is interesting. How many people worship a false Jesus? Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims believe in a Jesus that was just a mere man, not God in the flesh. They deny the true nature of Jesus – they hold to a fantasy Jesus.

What about people who see Jesus as only loving? A Jesus that would never allow anyone to go to Hell? Or, a Jesus that picks and chooses who He will save, and who He will not, never giving some the opportunity to be saved? Both of these views deny the true nature of Jesus as revealed in the Bible. Both views are figments of man’s imagination. Both views are idolatry. Both incorporate certain aspects of God’s true nature, but deny other aspects. To worship man-made God who ignores sin is idolatry, as is worshipping a man-made God who only loves some people, but not others.

Can anyone follow the Second Commandment?

Ultimately, the answer is no, we cannot. We all get meaning and purpose from people and things other than God. Due to the limitations of our finite minds, none of us can truly understand the fullness of the nature of God, so we all worship something less than the actual God. At times, we all put other things before our worship of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We all fall short of following the Second Commandment perfectly.

Thankfully, despite our sin and idolatry, we can still be saved. If we repent of our idolatry and other sin, and place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” We need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ alone can forgive our sins and restore our relationship with God the Father. Any other worship is idolatry.