The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

III. The Second Commandment: Q & A 49-52

Q. 49 Which is the second commandment?

A. 49 The second commandment is, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex. 20:4-6).

Q. 50 What is required in the second commandment?

A. 50 The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in His word.

This Q & A emphasizes what has come to be called ‘the regulative principle’ as it applies to worship-doing only what God, in the scriptures, commands. There are differences of opinion as to what is commanded, but the basic principle is one thing which this command emphasizes. Adding to or taking away from what the scriptures teach is what is called “will-worship”. It is important to remember however, that the regulative principle is something that applies to the whole of life (Cf. Dt. 12:32; 32:46; Mt. 28:20). The scriptures themselves teach that God gave Moses and the people a pattern for the tabernacle and temple, their place of worship (Cf. Ex. 25-31; 35:4-39:43) The writer to the Hebrews reiterated this point (8:5; 9:23). Those who follow the tradition of psalms only without musical accompaniment appeal to the synagogue, and thereby they violate the very principle they claim to adhere to.

Q. 51 What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. 51 The second commandment forbids the worship of God by images,-or any other way not appointed in His word. The LORD reminded the people of God that they saw no image of Him when He spoke to them at Horeb in the midst of the fire (Dt. 4:15-16). Worship which follows the commandments of men is vain (Mt. 15:9). False worship is idolatry which is vanity (Col. 2:18). Since the Father and the Son are one, this commandment also forbids making images of Jesus (Jn. 5:23). Since we have no image of Jesus, any such attempts are necessarily false (Cf. Is. 40:18; Jer. 10:14-15; 51:17-18). Paul said, “we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29).

Q. 52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?

A. 52 The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, His propriety in us, and the zeal He has to His own worship.

“The special reasons added why we should observe this commandment are-1. God is our sovereign (I, the LORD); 2. God is our owner (your God); 3. God is jealous for His own worship (am a jealous God)” (Lawson, p. 36). When it says that God is our LORD, it also means that He is our covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. True worship is covenantal worship. The LORD, according to His sovereign will, claims us as His own via covenant. He is both a great King above all gods, and specifically our God, jealous of the covenant relationship (Pss. 95:2-3; 45:11; Ex. 34:14).

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