Forgetting the Reformation: On Pictures of “Jesus”

As of recent, I have been reading a book by Own Chadwick, entitled: ‘The Reformation”. I have gained (and am gaining) a deeper appreciation for what godly men (e.g. Calvin, Luther, Zwingli) have fought for. It also provokes much comparison between their time and ours. Theirs was a time of reformation- as is ours. They were fighting to be free from the externalism of the Roman Catholic Church. Today we are fighting against the ritualism of the sinner’s prayer. To add: Idolatry was very much around- images and pictures were very common. When the reformation arrived these idols were removed- sometimes they were sold or smashed (reformed theology has always attempted to take our eyes off of these “distractions” and place them on Christ). In our day, there are those who believe that images portraying “Jesus” (faulty images- of course) are helpful in our devotion to our Lord. I am not one of them. 

First, let me state that these images are inventions of the human mind. There is no biblical description of what Jesus looked like- as a man.

Second, the second commandment forbids us to make visible representations of God (Exodus 20:4,5)

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Thomas Vincent adds: 

It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all, and because his body, as it is now glorified, cannot be pictured as it is, and because, if it do not stir up devotion, it is in vain; if it do stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment.”

Thus the argument that “this picture will aid me in my devotion” is not a valid justification. Our devotion ought to be drawn from who Christ is in the scriptures. Not from statues, paintings, or other so called aids. 

The Second Helvetic Confession (a reformed confession) reads: 


Of Idols or Images of God,
Christ and The Saints

IMAGES OF GOD.  Since God as Spirit is in essence invisible and immense, he cannot really be expressed by any art or image. For this reason we have no fear pronouncing with Scripture that images of God are mere lies. Therefore we reject not only the idols of the Gentiles, but also the images of Christians.

IMAGES OF CHRIST.  Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters. He denied that he had come “to abolish the law and the prophets” (Matt. 5:17). But images are forbidden by the law and the prophets” (Deut. 4:15; Isa. 44:9). He denied that his bodily presence would be profitable for the Church, and promised that he would be near us by his Spirit forever (John 16:7). Who, therefore, would believe that a shadow or likeness of his body would contribute any benefit to the pious? (II Cor. 5:5). Since he abides in us by his Spirit, we are therefore the temple of God (I Cor. 3:16). But “what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (II Cor. 6:16).

The Heidelberg Confession reads:

Question 96. What does God require in the second commandment?

Answer: That we in no wise represent God by images, (a) nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word. (b)

Question 97. Are images then not at all to be made?

Answer: God neither can, nor may be represented by any means: (a) but as to creatures; though they may be represented, yet God forbids to make, or have any resemblance of them, either in order to worship them or to serve God by them. (b)

In Christ, Awretchsaved


About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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