The Shorter Catechism, 16
Return to The Shorter Catechism main page
Q49: Which is the second commandment?
A: The second commandment is, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thy self to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
See Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 5:8-10.
Q50: What is required in the second commandment?
A: The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word.
The way wherein we have to serve God is expressed in His Word. All ordinances God has given us are obligatory. We are not at liberty to change therein. An ordinance for us is the way wherein God wishes to be worshipped. He forbids to worship Him through images. Graven images are forbidden. Serving Him through any other means, and in any other way He has expressed in His Word, is forbidden. Some think to serve God while they are in the open air, and forsake the services. They err greatly, because we read in an Epistle that we should not forsake those services. "And let us ... not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another", Hebrews 10:24,25.
It is important that we listen carefully to the Word, and reject all own imaginations. "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law." Deut. 32:46. God is not worshipped in our way, and according to our thoughts, but only in the way He has commanded us. Jesus commanded His disciples, that they should go out and preach the Gospel to everybody, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you", Matt. 28:20. "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it", Deut. 12:32.
Q51: What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A: The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
God cannot be worshipped by images, or by any other thing of stone. Our silver, gold, money, and whatever we have; we cannot worship God through it. The only true worship is the one we find in the Word. What is the true worship? It is in truth and in the spirit. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:23,24.
In Paulís time there were people who said that it was forbidden to go directly to God, through Christ. That was pride, according to them. So they introduced what they called humility, to go to God through other mediums. This worship of God, as it is not prescribed in Scripture, yea, as it even is forbidden therein, is false. Paul warns us against that. "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind", Colossians 2:18. Also in our time, we still have the idolaters, who pray to the Saints. They pray that the Saints may intercede between them and God. Such a thing also is against the commandment. It is an own invented way of so-called worship of God, because it is nowhere prescribed in Scriptures. It also dishonours Jesus, because they disregard Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and us.
Q52: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A: The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, Godís sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
Have a look now at this second commandment. Which reasons are annexed to it? Have a look at the text:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thy self to them, nor serve them.
This is the commandment: You shalt not make unto you any graven image. Why not?
For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Why shall we not make images, and not bow down ourselves before such things? Because God is a jealous God. He cannot bear any other god besides Him. He is the only one. He is the only, the sovereign God. He is our God, and He cannot bear that we have other gods. We have one God, and that is our Lord in heaven. There is none besides him. "The LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods", Ps. 95:2. When God is our God, let we them worship Him only, and forsake all the rest. "He is thy Lord; and worship thou him", Ps. 45:11. "Thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God", Exod. 34:14.