Why is it wrong to use images in worship?

A central verse on this subject is the second commandment, found in Exodus 20:4-6:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing 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 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

However, Roman Catholic churches are full of statues and icons, representations of Jesus, Mary, the saints, and angels. The Roman Catholic church counters the second commandment with paragraph 1192 of her catechism:

“Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

According to Roman Catholic theology, both Scripture and tradition are both equal fountains of knowledge, and both must be treated with the same amount of respect. Therefore, Rome is in a very difficult situation in trying to validate the usage of images in worship. This forces Romanists to apply eisegesis to the Bible, instead of reading the plain message of the Bible. They do not directly examine what the Bible says about a certain topic, but rather seeks Biblical support to verify their teaching.

Bowing before images is a pagan practice. For example, those who practice the voodoo religion also bow down before images. They give the exact same explanation as Roman Catholics that they are not bowing before the image but rather before the God whom that image represents.

Romanists bring up Exodus 24:4: And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

They claim that this contradicts Leviticus 26:1, which says 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 in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God. Therefore, they claim that Moses erected twelve pillars right after he received the Ten Commandments, despite the command not to do so in Leviticus 26.

It seems out of order that Moses would be breaking a command in Exodus, prior to it being given by God in Leviticus. In Leviticus 26:1, a standing image is called matstsebah in Hebrew. The same Hebrew word is used in Exodus 24. But does it mean the same thing? Leviticus 26:1 translates matstsebah as a standing image, yet in Exodus it is translated as merely a pillar. We must remember that in Hebrew, a word may cover multiple meanings. Just as the word adam in Hebrew means man, it also means dust, or earth. In Leviticus 26 we can see that there is a difference in the meaning compared to Exodus 24 in that God commands the Jews not to bow down before the standing image. Moses could have hardly bowed down before the pillars in Exodus 24.

Romanists also bring the example of the brazen serpent, mentioned in Numbers 21:8-9: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Thus, the Roman Catholic argument is that since Moses made a brazen serpent and put it on a pole, this is a valid case of making an image or likeness. If Roman Catholics would be at all consistent, their churches would be full of brazen serpents, but they are not. Why would anyone venerate a brazen serpent, according to the Roman catechism, par. 1192?! Later on, the brazen serpent was destroyed by Hezekiah since the Jews started worshiping it. This is the natural tendency regarding images, and that is why God forbade their usage in the second commandment.

Furthermore, Romanists fail to mention that the brazen serpent was a single event during the life of the Jewish people. This is a gross generalization on the part of Roman Catholics. If one image is sanctioned by God, then all images are valid. From the single case of the brazen serpent Roman Catholics claim that it is valid to make images of Jesus, Mary and all of the saints, and angels.

The important thing to note is that in the second commandment God commands not to make unto thee (yourself) any graven images. This means that the Roman Catholic practice of having images or statues (e.g. crucifixes, rosaries) in and around their house is wrong.

God is Spirit (John 24:4), and nobody has seen God. Therefore, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus to walk among us on Earth. Jesus is the reflection of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). However, Jesus has two natures – He is both God and man. These two natures are separate but connected. They do not intermingle. This is what is known in theology as the hypostatic union. Artists may indeed be able to portray a man, but how can they portray someone Who is both God and man at the same time? This would misrepresent God, and we would end up worshipping a false God, just like how Aaron misrepresented God when he created the golden calf for the Israelites as a sort of replacement god, while Moses was tarrying on Mount Sinai.

A further problem with images is that it diverts peoples’ attention from God, and fixes it on lifeless, inaccurate images. Fundamentally, men must call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, not look at images (Psalm 18:3; 1Cor 1:2, Romans 10:13). Images rob God of the glory of being the One Who sustains and aids all men. That is why it is wrong to pray to saints or images. God alone knows the heart (1Kings 8:39). In Hebrew the word avot means both to serve and to honour (many Hebrew words have multiple meanings). Thus, if you honor something, you also serve it, and a servant serves someone greater than him. This veneration means worship as well.

Latin Greek Hebrew
To honor latria (servio) λατρεία אָבֹ֧ת (avat)
To serve dulia (servio) δουλεία

Habakkuk 2:18 says: “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?”

Jeremiah 25:6 sums this up very well: “And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.”

Even the Roman Catholic book of Wisdom, chapter 15:4-6 says: “For neither has the evil intent of human art misled us, nor the fruitless toil of painters, a figure stained with varied colors, whose appearance arouses yearning in fools, so that they desire the lifeless form of a dead image. Lovers of evil things and fit for such objects of hope are those who either make or desire or worship them.”

Verses which describe bowing down before others include Revelation 22:8-9:

And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

Acts 10:25-26: And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.

Bishops regularly lie prostate before the pope when they are ordained in the Vatican. This is pope-worship and is wrong, based on the previous two verses.