Homily #3 on The Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – nor bow down to them nor serve them.”
So we’re continuing to use the Westminster Larger Catechism, and its biblical exposition of the Ten Commandments. This morning, let’s consider some of the sins forbidden in the Second Commandment.
[A. 109] The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.
Well! Where to begin? Let’s begin with our human tendency towards self-willed worship. It’s not that people are irreligious, that is, that people are by nature atheists. Rather, our problem is that we are born with a misdirected religious impulse. It has been twisted by our sin. The Apostle Paul deals with this in his letter to the Colossians. There are false teachers troubling that church – promoting a kind of mystical legalism. The problem is, this false religion, like so many others, seems to make sense to our flesh.
Paul reminds us: Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion [or “will-worship”], false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
There’s the rub. False worship tries to fight the flesh with the flesh. The flesh that lusts carnally also worships carnally. The same flesh that has an appetite for immorality also has an appetite for idolatry.
And so beware of the “appearance of wisdom,” of pragmatic arguments for your worship preferences – whether traditional high liturgy or contemporary praise and worship. “I want to feel the reverence, the otherness of God – therefore I prefer the experience of high liturgy.” Or, “I want to feel the immediate presence of God, the power of the Holy Spirit – and so I prefer rib-rattling contemporary worship.” The apostle Paul might say, “A pox on both your houses!”
The Gospel is not according to the wisdom of the flesh. The Gospel comes not in elaborate liturgy or a high energy concert experience. The Gospel comes in the weak package of Word and Sacrament. Christ crucified – preached and portrayed in water, bread, and wine. The wisdom of the Gospel is counter-intuitive to the wisdom of the flesh, the wisdom of this world.
So let us repent of our heart-religion which is of the flesh. Let us embrace the external Word of Christ – which saves us, and sanctifies us. By which God draws us to Himself, to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.