by Ernest Reisinger
You shall not make for yourself a carved image -
Here is the second trusted, protecting friend, to guard our ways. It is going to guard our worship. For, you see, when we set about to worship God, all our sins and problems come to the fore to spoil that worship. Satan does not want us to worship the true God in a true way. Therefore, this commandment not only sets out what we are to refrain from in worshipping God, but it also directs our steps so that we will worship him in the way in which he wants to be worshipped. How would you summarize the Second Commandment? What is the thrust of it? I believe it to be this: God wants to bind his people close to him in a union that leaves nothing between them. God wants to forge a close union with you and to let nothing separate you from him.
According to the Larger Catechism, 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’ (Question 108). The proof texts include Deuteronomy 32:46-47, where we read:
‘And He said to them: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”’
The Catechism also cites the following Scriptures:
‘Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen (Matt. 28:20).
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing (1 Tim. 6:13-14).
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6).
Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:20).
Other duties required by this commandment include these:
The duty to read the Word:
Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes (Deut. 17:18-19).
For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
The duty to hear the Word:
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:21-22).
So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God (Acts 10:33).
The duty to administer and receive the sacraments:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Ma«. 28:19).
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
The duty of church government and discipline:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector (Matt. 18:15-17).
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:19).
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Cor. 12:28).
The duty to receive and maintain the ministry:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’ (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.’ Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things ? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:7-15).
The duty of religious fasting:
‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ (Joel 2:12).
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor. 7:5).
The duty to disapprove of, detest and oppose all false worship:
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there (Acts 17:16-17).
Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, Nor take up their names on my lips (Psa. 16:4).
The sin of enticing to idolatry:
If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him (Deut. 13:6-8).
The sin of approving any religious worship not instituted by God himself:
Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it (Deut. 12:30-32).
The sin of tolerating false religion:
‘It shall be in that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies (Zech. 13:2-3).
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars . . . But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate . . . Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:2,14, 15, 20).
The sin of 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:
Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage (Deut. 4:15-19).
Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising (Acts 17:29).
Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (Rom. 1:21-23).
Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 1:25).
The sin of worshipping images:
But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Dan. 3:18).
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods (Gal. 4:8).
The sin of making any representation of imagined deities:
They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ (Exod. 32:8)
The sin of worshipping or serving imagined deities:
So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made . . . So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them (1 Kings 18:26, 28).
But you are those who forsake the Lord,
The sin of superstition:
‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:21-23).
The sin of corrupting the worship of God:
You offer defiled food on My altar.
The sin of adding to or taking away from the worship of God:
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you (Deut. 4:2).
And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9).
The sin of simony:
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money (Acts 8:18).
The sin of sacrilege:
You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (Rom. 2:22).
Will a man rob God ?
The sin of despising the worship and ordinances of God:
But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business (Matt. 22:5).
You also say,
The sin of hindering and opposing the worship and ordinances of God:
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in (Matt. 23:13).
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul (Acts. 13:44-45).
Who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thess. 2:15-16).
Reasons attached to the Second Commandment to reinforce it:
These words are added to the Second Commandment:
‘For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments’ (Exod. 20:5-6).
1. God’s sovereignty over and ownership of us:
So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him (Psa. 45:11).
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested’ (Rev. 15:3-4).
2. The zeal of God for His own worship:
But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) (Exod. 34:13-14).
3. God’s indignation against all false worship:
Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? (1 Cor. 10:20-22).
‘The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. Do they provoke Me to anger?’ says the Lord. ‘Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place — on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched’ (Jer. 7:18-20).
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
4. His promise of endless blessing to those who love him and keep his commandments:
Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! (Deut. 5:29)
Ernest Reisinger was pastor emeritus of Grace Baptist church in Cape Coral, Florida, and associate editor of The Founders Journal. He has authored numerous books and pamplets, including, What Shall We Think of ‘The Carnal Christian?’, The Law and the Gospel, Today’s Evangelism, from which this article was taken and Lord & Christ: The Implications of Lordship for Faith and Life. Pastor Reisinger went home to be with the Lord Monday morning May 31, 2004 at the age of 84.
This article is taken from his book Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments?, published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999©.
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