Church of God, New World Ministries

The Ten Commandments - Part Two

The Second Commandment

Modern idolatry is more widespread than you may have realized! You, yourself, may be guilty of some form of idolatry! Here is the second of a vital series of articles explaining the Ten Commandments, the active, living way of Almighty God.

This generation has the distinct possibility of living in two worlds! For although true to human nature, most people refuse to face this fact, man has about reached the end of his rope in this scheme of things.

In his inaugural address, former President Eisenhower stated: “With both sides of this divided world in possession of unbelievable destructive weapons, mankind approaches a state where mutual annihilation becomes a possibility. No other fact of today’s world equals this in importance – it colors everything we say, or plan to do.”

Yet, in the end, even this perilous situation is a blessing in disguise. For it is destined to bring man face to face with the true God.

Man has been worshipping false gods long enough. That is why God has permitted mankind to come to the very brink of human annihilation. That is why the Almighty will permit man – possibly within the next several years-- to go through the most horrifying time of drought, famine, starvation, disease epidemics and mass destruction by war that this world has ever seen!

But how – for those who are willing to heed – it is time to wake up! It is high time to become acquainted with the true God! It is time to forsake our idols. (Send for our FREE DVD, “My  People Are Destroying Themselves”).

The first commandment – “The Great Commandment” -  we find that Jesus Christ based His entire teaching on the Old Testament and on the Ten Commandments. He said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). The only written word of God at that time was the Old Testament.

In His teaching on the Mount, Jesus stated: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: But whosoever shall do and teach them (even the least commandment) the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). Throughout the entire message called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was explaining and expounding and magnifying the Ten Commandments. He was showing that this spiritual law was a living law – like the law of gravity or inertia. When you break it – it breaks you!

We have seen, therefore, that when men or nations break the first commandment – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – they automatically bring an inevitable penalty of suffering and wretchedness upon themselves and their posterity. When men cut themselves off from the true God, they cut themselves off from the source of their being, from the purpose of life, from the laws that would give them happiness, peace and joy. Men cut off from the true God are empty, frustrated and miserable. And whether by the awfulness of war, personal violence, sickness or simply the rotting of corruptible human flesh, the ultimate fate of all men cut off from God is an ignominious death – with no hope or promise of eternal life thereafter.

Man is incomplete, then, having cut himself off from the true worship of the true God. Yet he is to worship that God alone – “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”

The second commandment tells us about how to worship the true God, what pitfalls to avoid in our worship, and of the continuing blessing or penalty that comes to our progeny as a result of the way in which we worship Almighty God.

“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 Eternal 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” (Ex. 20:4-6).

The natural mind of physical man cries out for something to help him in his worship of God. he wants some physical object to “remind” him of the invisible God – some “aid” to worship. Yet, that is exactly what is forbidden in this commandment.

Jesus said: “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him” (John 4:23). Notice that it is only the “true” worshippers who are able to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Many others attempt some form of worship, but because they limit their worship by a false concept of God it is largely in vain. “God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (v. 24).

The instant a man sets up any representation of God, he denies that which is essential in God. God is the essence of all power – all wisdom – all love. God is limitless. When man erects a mental or physical image of God, he automatically limits in his own thought and worship the God who will not be limited!

Many times after reiterating the Ten Commandments, God again warned Israel against any form of idolatry. “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone on your land, to bow down unto it: For I am the Lord your God (Lev. 26:1). God was continually against every form of idol or image used in worship.

However, lest some misunderstand, let us pause at this point to note the fact that God does not condemn art or sculpture, but rather the setting up of any picture or image or representation “to bow down unto it.”  In the original command in Exodus 20:4-6, God is not condemning every picture and image, but the command continues, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

So it is the use of art or sculpture as a form of worship or “aid” to worship that God condemns!

The real basis of all idolatry is that self-willed, rebellion man refuses to surrender himself to worship the true God in the way that He commands! Not really knowing the true God, then, not having His Spirit, man thinks he needs some “aid” or “representation” to help him worship his humanly devised concept of God. Notice that this second commandment is not speaking of the worship of an idol – that’s forbidden in the first commandment. This second commandment forbids the use of physical “aids” or “helps” in worshipping the invisible God.

No man who really knows God as his Father – no man who is living in daily communion with Him – needs a picture or image to help him to pray. If a man thinks he needs this kind of help, it is simply because he has not come to know God – and undoubtedly is not filled with and led by the Holy Spirit of God. In order to worship God in Spirit, you must have the Holy Spirit. “Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).

But God gave His Holy Spirit only after repentance and baptism – and only to those who “obey Him” (Acts 2:38; 5:32). Very few men in this day and age have truly surrendered themselves to obey God, to walk with Him, to let Him Rule their every thought and word and action. Therefore, they are not actually acquainted with God. He seems far off – unreal – nebulous. They need a physical “reminder” in front of them to help them realize that He exists and is there to hear their prayers!

This very practice proves the lack of real spiritual worship – and it comes directly from paganism!

Thousands of professing Christians employ representations in pictures of a so-called Jesus Christ in their worship – and even display them in their homes. What does your Bible say about such pictures? (Enroll today in our “Traditional Christian Doctrine Series”).

First of all, the second commandment itself obviously prohibits the use of any thing which represents God or could easily become an object of worship. Certainly, since Jesus Christ is God (Heb. 1:8), this would directly prohibit any picture or likeness of His person!

In addition, for those who might wish to “reason” or argue about his point, these so-called pictures of Christ have no similarity whatever to the way Jesus Christ really looked! Jesus –when in the human flesh –was a Jew (Heb. 7:14). The features in His supposed pictures are obviously not Jewish!

As the Word of God, Christ inspired the apostle Paul to write: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame (or vile) unto him” (I Cor. 11:14)? Yet, these pictures invariably show a man with long hair, soft feminine features and a sentimental, sanctimonious look in His eyes. This is not the Christ of your Bible!

Actually, Jesus was undoubtedly very masculine in appearance. As a young man, He was a carpenter, working out-of-doors. And he continued spending most of His time out-of-doors even during His ministry.

Jesus’ face must have had a rugged, sunburned appearance, but rather had short hair like a man. He did not have beautiful, aristocratic features, but as He inspired Isaiah to describe His human appearance: “He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa. 53:2).

As a human being, Jesus was a normal, healthy, perhaps somewhat rugged looking young Jew in His early thirties, who with earnestness and conviction preached the message of God’s soon-coming kingdom (the true gospel) to rule over this earth.

However, if we think of Jesus’ appearance at all, we should think, in general terms at least, of the way He looks today. He has described this for us in Rev. 1:13-16. “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire. And his countenance was as the sun, shineth in his strength.”

As very God, Jesus’ face now shines with radiance and with power. As a human being, you would not dare to look directly into it!

So these crucifixes, pictures and images of Jesus are in total opposition to every description given of Him in the sacred Word of God! They give a false impression of the true Jesus Christ in every respect.

Many will claim they do not worship these pictures or images. Perhaps so. But this false picture and false concept of Christ undoubtedly comes into their minds quite often when they think of Christ or pray. These false pictures and statues actually come between them and Christ. They separate the worshipper from Christ!

If you use such images or pictures of Christ, you are breaking the second commandment! And you are greatly limiting your concept of the living Christ – who now sits glorified at the right hand of God in heaven with His face shining like the sun in full strength! It is time to wake up!

The human individuals and denominations of this world have devised many wrong methods of worshipping God. Jesus warned the people of His day against their human religious traditions: “Howbeit in vain to they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8).

Many of our “traditional” religious holidays in this Western world are directly condemned by the Bible! They are condemned not only because they were directly borrowed from paganism, but because they involve idolatrous practices and concepts. Just as an idol does, they give a false concept of God and of His plan.

For instance, the name “Easter” is borrowed directly from paganism! It is a name of an idolatrous pagan goddess. It is nowhere commanded in the Bible, and the early New Testament Church never observed it!

But the practices and ideas associated with Easter observance – the Easter bunny rabbits, the eggs, the hot cross buns – all these come from paganism and are symbols of idolatrous sex worship condemned by your Bible.

In the same manner, the observance of Christmas, as the birthday of the Son of God, is also a pagan, idolatrous festival borrowed directly from heathenism! As with Easter, God nowhere commanded the observance of Christmas and it was never observed by the original apostles or the immediate followers in the true Church of God, then and now.

Any encyclopedia or Bible Dictionary will verify the fact that Christ was not born anywhere near the time of December 25th. And even if He were, we are nowhere commanded to observe the date of His birth – but rather the time of His death commemorated by the Passover celebration. The December 25th date is taken from an idolatrous pagan festival of sun-worship. The traditional Christmas tree, the Yule log, the holly wreaths, and kissing under the mistletoe – all were borrowed from heathenism and used in a pagan religious orgy dedicated to the sun-god. And the idea of Santa Claus – originally a vile and sinful man – is a direct lie that parents tell their children every year. It is not a “white lie” – all lies are black in the sight of God!

Both Christmas and Easter and other traditional religious holidays in our Western world, give a false picture of God and His plan.

For instance, Christmas pictures a “little Lord Jesus” held in His mother’s arms away in a manger somewhere.  The emphasis is on a purely sentimental attachment to the helpless person of a baby boy, the trading of presents back and forth between friends and relatives, the deceitful symbol of “Santa Claus” for the unsuspecting children, and a time of human joy and revelry. The true message of Christ – of His laws, His ways, His soon-coming government on this earth – all are forgotten in this time of human merriment. Rather than the true picture of Christ sitting at the right hand of God – His face shining like the sun in great power, waiting to return and rule this earth with a rod of iron – the participants in the Christmas celebration are left with a picture and concept of a helpless little baby in its mother’s arms.

Therefore, such humanly devised religious festivals give a false picture of God, and this is idolatry!

One of the most common forms of modern idolatry is the making of an idol out of one’s church or society. For many people, this world’s society – its dictates, customs and traditions – become a literal “god.” Many people are desperately afraid of doing anything that might be regarded as different or “odd.” They feel they must conform to this world and its ways. They are afraid someone won’t “like” them on Facebook or Twitter.  They conform!

But God commands: “Be not conformed to this world. But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). This command must seem very hard to obey for people who get to thinking that other people must be right in what they think, and do and practice. They become so convinced that they are right they condemn you for not believing the way they do.

The Bible shows that many people in Jesus’ day failed in their worship, “For they love the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). If you blindly obey the dictates of your family, your church or society instead of the direct commands of God, you are guilty of idolatry.  That group or institution becomes an idol to you in place of the true God.

Even ritualism in a church service is a dangerous thing, for however refined the ritualism of some institution may be, it begins and ends in the physical senses of human man – and is not a valid substitute for the true worship of God “in Spirit.” The Bible directly warns that people of our day would be, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5).

The true God is the invisible, eternal Creator and Ruler of the universe. How should you worship Him? He answers: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

You must worship God directly – and with a humble and willing heart. You must study God’s Word – willingly be corrected by it – and tremble before its authority over your very life! With a heart proven to be submissive through repentance and obedience you must pray to God in heaven many hours each week on your knees and in silent prayer as you go about your daily tasks. You must come to know and love Him as your “Father.”

As Enoch and Noah and Abraham did, you must learn to “walk with God” – and be in constant and increasing communion and yieldedness to Him throughout every day of your life. Then guided by His Spirit you will never even begin to consider using an image or idol or picture as an “aid” to prayer and worship of the great sovereign Ruler of this universe, and your personal Father in heaven.

We have seen that God forbids the making of any image or idol to represent Him: “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” (Ex. 20:5-6).

Because God is our Father, and is lovingly zealous for our eternal welfare, He is jealous over us in that He will not accept the worshipping of false gods by His children. This, of course, is for our own good!

If we persist in an idolatrous and vain form of worship, God says He will visit our iniquity upon our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are, perhaps many ramifications to this statement and principle.

But there is one obvious direct meaning in this context. If, in worship, men put an idol, image or something else in place of God and come under the influence of that false worship, then they are not only harming themselves, but their children and grand-children! The principle is that their false idea of worship will be transmitted to their children –damaging and wrecking their lives and happiness! Look around you today, our nation is besieged with catastrophic weather, natural disasters, violent crime, the threat of war, broken homes, drug addiction, and the list goes on and on! There is a reason for this. Read the second commandment again!

It is a solemn and terrible thing thus to pass on to your children a false conception of God. It is one of the most awful things a man can do! But together with this warning, God gives a merciful promise to those who are willing to worship God as He commands. In their case, He is a loving and merciful God, “showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Here is a remarkable contrast. God only visits the iniquity to the third and fourth generations before intervening with merciful punishment and awakening to truth. But He show s mercy unto the thousandth generation!

God calls men into His own immediate spiritual presence – to worship their Creator directly. Men can come to really know the great God of the universe as their personal Father. They can daily walk with Him, talk with Him.

Whenever a man stops short of that face-to-face worship of the Eternal God, he is working ruin in his own character – he is breaking the Commandment of God. This is the meaning and force of the Second Commandment. Be sure to read next article on the 3rd commandment, a surprising revelation of the name of God!

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