There's a beautiful song that's been playing on K-LOVE (my favorite radio station) lately, called "Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)" by Casting Crowns. The chorus of the song says this:
Living, He loved meIt reminds me of my last post, Part 3 -- that if the cross of Jesus only reminds you of death, you are lacking the deeper experience of life and freedom that comes through that cross. It's as if you sang, "Living, He loved me; Dying," and stopped right there.
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming, Oh glorious day
But even with this deep meaning and feeling associated with the symbol of the cross, another question surfaces. Does God forbid this type of symbol or image as idolatry? If so, then we must not use it, no matter the meaning we may ascribe to it. If not, then we are free to use such symbols or images to help our faith. That's what I'll explore today...
Do you remember in Part 1 we examined one of the World Mission Society Church of God's videos about the cross? The video starts with a quote of Exodus 20:4. (It actually includes part of verse 5, though the video only references verse 4.)
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:4)"And at minute 3:54, the video tells us,
"God forbids us to make any kind of religious image."Obviously, God forbids us to make any form or image as an idol, worshiping it instead of God. But does God actually "forbid us to make any kind of religious image"? Does the Bible allow us to use symbols to help us in our faith, to remind us of spiritual truths or things God has done? Yes!
Here are just a few of the images God has given us. Whenever we see these things, whether in real life or in art, we can remember the lessons God gave through the symbols.
Rainbow (Gen. 9:12-17) -- The Noahic Covenant
Dove (Matt. 3:16) -- The Holy Spirit
Rock (1 Cor. 10:4; Matt. 16:18) -- Christ
Vine and Branches (John 15:1-8) -- The relationship between Jesus and the believer
Potter and Clay (Is. 64:8; Jer. 18:6) -- God's sovereignty in our lives
Arrows (Psalm 127:3-5) -- Children as a blessing from God
A Torn Curtain (Mark 15:38; Heb. 10:20) -- We can draw near to God because of Jesus
Water (John 4:1-14) -- Eternal life through Jesus
Fish (Matt. 4:19) -- Making disciples as fishers of men
Lion (Rev. 5:5) -- Jesus, who has triumphed
Shepherd and Sheep (John 10:14) -- Jesus takes care of us
The Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) -- Christ who saves us from death by His sacrifice
Gate or Door (John 10:9) -- Jesus as the only way to heaven
There are so many! God liked to give us symbolic imagery. We find it all through the Bible. But it wasn't for us to only visualize in our heads--God told people to make concrete symbols they could look at and hold. Here's a list of some of God's concrete symbols and what they were meant to remind us...
Cherubim (Ex. 25:18-22; 26:1) -- God's presence
Jar of Manna (Ex. 16:32) -- God's provision through the wilderness
Pillar of Stones (Josh. 4:19-24) -- The miracle of entering the Promised Land on dry land through the Jordan
Fringes on Garments (Num. 15:38-39) -- The commandments of the Lord
Bronze Snake on a Pole (Num. 21:8) -- The healing power of God
So as you can see, God does NOT "forbid us to making any kind of religious images," as the WMSCOG claims. He commands and encourages us to use symbolism and imagery!
What is forbidden is worshiping those images and symbols, but we must let God Himself be the judge. Only He knows the true heart of the person kneeling before a statue or a cross.
Next time--Biblical support for the symbol of the cross.
Click here to go on to Part 5.