February 06, 2011 Q & A

Are pictures of Christ OK?


A previous answer on the Q&A page stated, in part, “The Second Commandment forbids the making of images in order to worship them.” Does that mean it is OK to have images of God or Christ so long as we do not worship them?


Your question concerning the second commandment is appropriate. It is quite common to fail to recognize the clear distinction between the first and the second commandments. It is the first commandment that forbids the worship of any other than the true God. It is concerned, in other words, with whom we worship. But the second commandment is concerned with how we worship. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says in question and answer 51:

Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

The answer to your specific question, then, is that it is not OK “to have images of God or Christ” even though “we do not worship them.” The fact is that the only accurate and reliable “portrait” of Christ is the word portrait that God has given us in the Bible. The simple truth is that no one knows how to draw, paint or sculpt an accurate likeness of Jesus as he appeared while he was on earth. And the description of his present heavenly appearance as John the apostle saw him (Rev. 1) is not such as to provide a basis for such reproductions. What we need, in other words, is to have “the eyes of our understanding” opened to “see” in a spiritual manner the revelation that God has given us in the inspired Scriptures (cf. Eph. 1:18).

For more on this be sure to consult the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 109.



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