This article consists of notes on Lord's Day 35 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

4 pages. Translated by Albert H. Oosterhoff.

Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 35

Lord's Day 35🔗

96. Question:         

What does God require
in the second commandment?


We are not to make an image of God in any way,
nor to worship Him in any other manner
than He has commanded in His Word.

97. Question:          

May we then not make
any image at all?


God cannot and may not
be visibly portrayed in any way.

Creatures may be portrayed,
but God forbids us
to make or have any images of them
in order to worship them
or to serve God through them.                             

98. Question:         

But may images not be tolerated
in the churches
as "books for the laity"?


No, for we should not be wiser than God.
He wants His people to be taught
not by means of dumb images
but by the living preaching of His Word.                                

Q. & A. 96-98 Hear Me🔗

A. Notes🔗

  1. A “graven image” is any image made of wood or stone. “Any liken­ess” means any conceivable representation of something.

    These images or representations may be of beings in heaven above (birds), or in the earth beneath (a calf), or in the water under the earth (a fish, or crocodile).

    To “bow down” and to “serve” means to offer the honour of worship and sacrifice. The Lord is a jealous God. His relationship to his people is so close that he does not tolerate a rival (cf. the marriage relationship). Those who hate him bring upon themselves a punishment which affects not only themselves but, in accordance with the nature of their offence, also their descendants. But there is grace for the descendants when they repent. We may not use the threat of the second com­mandment wrongly. (See Ezek 18).

    He who loves the Lord is blessed by him so liberally that this blessing makes its influence felt to thousands. Here we see the blessing of the true and the curse of the false religion.

    The addendum to the second commandment belongs also to the first, to which the second is closely connected. Moreover, because the first and second com­mandment together form the root of the law, the penal provision contained in the second applies to the whole law.
  2. The first commandment requires us to serve God. Therein it directs itself against the worship of idols and demands that the heart worship God only.

    The second commandment charges us how we must serve God. It directs itself thereby against the worship of images and requires of us the true worship. The worship of idols (idolatry) and the worship of images (iconolatry) are not the same. Idolatry is the worship of someone who, or some­thing that is Not God. Iconolatry is worship of God in a wrong way (e.g. the golden calf; Judg 17 and 18).
  3. The commandment Forbids all self-willed religion by which we disobey God, and all religion in which only the form is observed but the heart does not love God.

    The commandment Requires us to worship God in the manner he commands in his Word. We must serve him by being like him. Eph 5:1 says: "Therefore be imitators of God. . . ."

    Mt 5:48 says: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
  4. This LD refers to God's image. In Paradise, man himself was God's image. There he existed and lived in such a way that one recognized God in him. The Fall changed that entirely. Now we see in man the image of the evil one. Jesus said (Jn 8:44): "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."

    The true worship of God is not that we make an image of him and prostrate ourselves before it, but that, through the renewal of the Holy Spirit, we again become his image, i.e., that we live in such a way that God may be seen in us again and that we are his followers and are perfect as he is. In order to be strengthened in this true worship, the service of God night and day, we need formal worship. But we must always remember that formal worship is not the only, or even the most important service that the Lord requires of us. It will not exist any more in heaven. Then we shall serve God day and night and the entire creation will be his temple again.
  5. Formal Worship is:

    A. Public. People, being created of one blood, are com­munal beings. Only in communion with others does man's humanity truly become apparent. In his redemptive work Christ, therefore, unites us into a people, the communion of saints. This has consequences for all of life. Also for the worship service. We must worship communally. That happened already in the days of Enosh (Gen 4:26b); it happened also in Israel in the taber­nacle and temple and on the several feasts. And it continued after Pentecost (Acts 2:42, 46).

    Christ's injunction in Jn 4:23, that the true worship­pers must worship the Father in spirit and truth, applies also to the worship service. The worship service is not restricted to a particular place (such as the temple and the holy city in the OT), and it may never consist of empty, formal actions in which the worshipper does not give his heart. It must be truth­ful, i.e., it must express publicly what lives in the heart.

    This public worship service is characterized by the meeting of God with his covenant people. The tabernacle was called of old “the tent of meeting.”

    Hence, in the public worship service we distinguish two actions:
    i. on God's part: salutation, the ten words of the covenant, reading of the holy Scripture, ministry of the Word, administration of baptism and celebration of the Lord's supper.
    ii. on the congregation's part: votum, congregational singing, offertory and prayer (Acts 2:42).

    B. Familial. The family is a God-given unit. He gave it to man in creation and renews it in his covenant of grace, wherever he unites parents and children. Therefore, also the family must honour the Lord. Familial worship consists of reading of holy Scripture, prayer and singing. It takes place thrice daily in accordance with the division of the day which God assigned in creation. We find examples of this in Daniel (Dan 6:11) and Ps 55:18. The father or, in his absence, the mother or one of the adult children must lead the others in the worship.

    C. Personal. Since the service of the Lord is ultimately a bond of a single person to his God, the Christian is also bound to worship him personally. This consists in reading and pondering the Scriptures and in silent prayer. Everyone must make time for this every day. Carelessness in this matter leads to untold harm.
  6. The second commandment does not proscribe the fine arts and does not forbid all making of images. This is apparent from the commandment itself. It forbids the making of images for worship. (See also Deut 4:15-18).
  7. The Roman Catholic church wanted to use images as “books for the laity” in order thereby to instruct the ignorant. But we must not be wiser than God. He wants his Christians to be taught by the living preaching of his Word.

B. Cross References🔗

  1. Note also what the BC, art. 7, says about the “manner of worship which God requires of us.”

C. Questions🔗

  1. What is a “graven image”? What is a “likeness”? What does it mean that the Lord is “a jealous God”? To what does the penal provision of the second commandment belong? Can chil­dren of those who hate the Lord not share in his grace?
  2. What is the difference between the first and second com­mandments? What do the first and second commandments, respectively, forbid? What is the difference between idolatry and iconolatry?
  3. What does the second commandment forbid? What is self-willed religion? What is religion in which the form only is observed? What does the commandment require? What do Eph 5:1 and Mt 5:48, respectively, say?
  4. What is true worship? What is the goal of formal worship?
  5. How do we classify formal worship? Why is communal worship necessary? Give examples from the Bible. What is its nature? Which two kinds of action do we recognize in the public worship service? List what belongs to each.
  6. Why is family worship necessary? Of what does it consist? Who must lead it?
  7. Why is personal worship necessary? Of what does it consist?
  8. Does the second commandment forbid all making of images?
  9. Is it a good idea to use images as “books for the laity”? Why not? What does the expression “books for the laity” mean?

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