WHAT’S Wrong With Religious Pictures, Symbols, Images, And Icons?
People who visit our services here in Danville frequently observe that we have no religious symbols, pictures, or icons of any kind: no pictures of Jesus, no crosses, no pictures of saints, no angelic images. Our people do not wear guardian angels on their lapels, crosses around their necks, or other symbols and badges of religion to show their devotion and spirituality. Occasionally, I am asked why. People observing this stark contrast between us and others often wonder, “What’s wrong with religious pictures, symbols, images, and icons?” Let me briefly show you.
First, The Word Of God Strictly Forbids the use of all religious symbols, images, and Pictures in the worship of God. Exodus 20:3-5 is much more than a prohibition against open idolatry. It prohibits the use of images and icons in the worship of God. Even in Old Testament law, when God was known and worshipped under the types and shadows of the law, he forbade the use of icons and images other than those things given by his specific command, such as the cherubs overshadowing the mercy-seat.
The children of Israel, kept the serpent of brass, which Moses lifted up in the wilderness, for years, and years, and years. Who could blame them? That serpent of brass was a reminder to them of one of the most significant acts of God’s mercy in all of history. But their keeping of that brazen serpent was an act of idolatry. Read 2 Kings 18. When the godly king Hezekiah, destroyed the idols of the land, we read that he “brake in pieces the serpent of brass that Moses had made.” Hezekiah understood the commandment of God. He knew that all religious imagery is idolatry.
In this gospel age, there is absolutely no need of and no place for icons, images, crosses, and pictures of angels, saints, or Christ. “God is Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” If we need visible images to help us worship the invisible God, we do not worship God.
Second, OUR BLESSED SAVIOR STRICTLY FORBIDS ALL OUTWARD DISPLAYS OF RELIGION, GODLINESS, AND SPIRITUALITY. That is the message o Matthew 6:1-8. Sometimes, sincere, well-meaning people wear crosses and other religious jewelry as a symbol of their faith. But to do so is a direct violation of the Word of God. True faith never needs to show off. Outward religious garb, symbols, gestures, and shows of spirituality are all things to be seen of men. “The Lord looketh on the heart.” True religion, according to James 1:26-27, involves mercy, love, grace, and kindness, not a show of piety.
Third, ABOVE ALL OTHER PIECES OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM, THE DISPLAY AND WEARING OF CROSSES BY THOSE WHO TRUST AND LOVE CHRIST IS MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE. The cross was the Roman equivalent to our electric chair. It was a means of execution. It was that cursed thing upon which the Lord of glory was executed by the hands of wicked men. This fact alone would be sufficient reason why we should never be associated with the display or wearing of crosses. It would be like a woman whose loving husband was executed for a crime he did not and could not commit, wearing a jeweled image of an electric chair around her neck. The very thought of such a thing would be utterly repugnant to her.
Donald S. Fortner, Pastor - Grace For Today Radio Message #570
Grace Baptist Church of Danville - Danville, Kentucky 40422-9438