The use of sacred icons or images in Worship

For 10 years I have been a born again Christian but I was born a Catholic but I didn’t had the chance to talk to a priest and ask a question about the use of images in the churches.  Last week new members of MCC Philippines asked me about the images of Christ and of the saints that they saw at their worship service.  Protestant believes and other ‘bible believing’ Christians believe that images, pictures and statues of Christ, Mary and the saints are a form of idol worship or idolatry.  And they always quote Exodus 20:4-5 to prove their belief that this statues should be destroyed.  This was my former belief when I was a born again Christian but now I changed my mind why?


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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

According to Moses, God was talking to the Israelites.  Not to the Christians of today.  Not to the Catholics or to the Protestants.  Moses was talking to the Israelites.  The Book of Exodus is about the Israelites not the Catholics, Protestants, Christians or any ‘bible believing’ people of today.


Exodus 20:1-3 (NIV)

1 And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

According to God himself the images or idols that are forbidden are the god’s of Egypt.  Not the images of Christ or Mary or the Saints.  During this time the Catholic church or the Orthodox church does not exist so quoting these verses against sacred icons or images of the church is in the wrong context.


Numbers 21:4-8 (NIV)
The Bronze Snake

4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

EXODUS 25:17-22 (NIV)

17 “Make an atonement cover [c] of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. [d] 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 2122 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you.

In this two verses God commanded Moses to make an image.  First was the bronze snake for healing and the other one was the image of two cherubims for the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence.  There is nothing wrong in making images as long as we do not worship, we do not bow, we do not pray to them and we do not make them our God.


Romans 13:7 (New International Version)

7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

How do we give honor to the heroes of our country?  We make them statues and put it on pedestals.  We print their pictures and hang it in our schools and print it on books so that we can remember their lives and what they did for us.  So much so the picture of Christ and of the saints, because they are the heroes of our faith.


When the early Christians were persecuted in Rome 100-300 AD they hid themselves in the Catacombs of Rome.  And there they draw pictures of Christ and of the saints.  Here are some examples of early Christian images.

Inside the Catacomb of Callistus

Another view of the Catacomb of Callistus

Early Christian Art

Early Christian Art

Early depiction of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd

So here in our church, we also use pictures of Christ and of the saints but we do not worship them as God.  We honor them and remember them because they are the heroes of our faith.  We do not pray to them, we do not bow down to them, we always look to them to remind us that God is always with us to inspire us and to help us so that we will never forget our Christian heritage.  The early Christian made pictures of Christ and of the saints and so do we.  If you believe that we belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith, we will preserve and maintain the holy traditions that was handed down to us by the early Christians and not just believe in wrong interpretations of the Bible.  God Bless you.

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