“Your Word Is Truth”
Not Everything Called “Christian” Is Approved by God
MANY persons claim to be Christians. But even though accompanied by apparent prophesying and performing of powerful works, that claim of itself does not give one an approved standing before God. Jesus Christ acknowledges as his disciples only persons who are doing the will of his Father. He said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you!”—Matt. 7:21-23.
Jesus’ words emphasize the need for one seeking divine approval to conform to God’s way in matters of worship. Not man, but God, determines what is acceptable sacred service. “God is a Spirit,” said Jesus, “and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) A true worshiper of God does not depend upon the presence or use of visible things and geographical locations. He worships, not by means of things he can see or touch, but “with spirit.” His worship is in agreement with God’s truth.
However, there are many persons calling themselves Christian who use images as visible aids in worship. They claim that what they worship is not the image, but the one represented by the image. They maintain that such worship is indirect, “relative,” and so is not idolatry. But is this worship acceptable to God?
God’s ancient covenant people, the Israelites, were commanded: “You must take good care of your souls, because you did not see any form on the day of Jehovah’s speaking to you in Horeb out of the middle of the fire, that you may not act ruinously and may not really make for yourselves a carved image, the form of any symbol, the representation of male or female.” (Deut. 4:15, 16) Thus the Israelites were expressly forbidden to make an image of God. Actually, any image made would inevitably misrepresent the Creator, for no man had ever seen him.
The establishment of the Christian church or congregation did not change this. In no period of human history have people had any better idea about what God looks like than did the Israelites. Despite this fact, images depicting God as a man have frequently been made for religious buildings in Christendom. But how could God approve of such image making when he forbade the Israelites to do this?
Of course, it may be argued one could make images of Jesus and Mary because they lived as ‘humans on earth. But people today do not know what Jesus or Mary looked like. Therefore no images made of them could ever be proper representations. Images of Mary or of Jesus, for example, show tremendous variation in facial features. At times these features resemble those of the people of the particular land where the images are made. The worshiper of the image believes that it represents Mary or Jesus simply because he has been told this.
Thus it can be seen that a certain sanctity is attached to an image merely by virtue of its supposedly representing a certain person. But the matter does not end with that. There are often many images of the same person, yet not all are viewed in the same way. Pilgrimages are made to certain images, and it is even claimed that miracles have occurred in connection with these particular images. It is believed, for instance, that one praying before a certain image of Mary will get a better response than if he were praying before another image of Mary. Why should this be the case if Mary and not the image is being venerated? Does this not show that more than relative worship is involved, that actual power is attributed to the images themselves?
How could Jehovah God approve of such image worship? Even if it were just a matter of relative worship, would that make it right? The Bible shows that we should worship God alone. No Scriptural basis exists for the belief that there are various degrees of adoration. Jesus Christ, in resisting the Devil’s temptation, stated: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) When the apostle John fell down to worship before the angel who had been instrumental in giving the revelation to him, the angel told him: “Be careful! Do not do that! . . . Worship God.”—Rev. 19:10.
If a lower form of adoration could have been given to angels, there would have been no reason for the angel to caution John about his act. Since it was improper for John to fall down before an angel to worship, obviously it would also be wrong for a person to bow to an image of an angel or of anyone else. All image worship runs counter to what the Bible says about true worship. The apostle Paul wrote: “We are walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) Persons who use images are definitely walking “by sight.” They are using a crutch. By insisting on the use of images in their worship, they manifest a lack of faith. Why, then, should God look with approval upon them when they kiss, bow to and burn incense before images? The Bible declares: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.”—Heb. 11:6.
Not only is Christendom’s manufacture and use of images disapproved by God, but even her most sacred days are linked with customs that are rooted in false religion. Easter, for example, though supposedly commemorating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, betrays its non-Christian origin in its very name. Says The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home: “The word ‘Easter’ comes from Eostre or Ostara, the name ancient Germanic tribes gave to the time of year when the rising spring sun broke the death of winter, when nature was reborn. The word came to mean the springtime ‘feast of life’ for the pagan Germans.” Both the egg and the rabbit so prominently associated with the Easter celebration are known to have been ancient fertility symbols. Many in Christendom decorate ‘Easter eggs,’ just as sun-worshipers did centuries ago.
Regarding the choice of December 25 as the date for celebrating Christmas, the above-quoted encyclopedia says: “This was the day which had been dedicated in pagan Rome to the feast of the sun god and had been called Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.” In connection with Christmas customs, we read: “Gift-giving, the Yule log, and mistletoe, are Christianized versions of ancient Roman, Germanic, and Celtic lore.” They are rooted in paganism.
How could God approve of practices that are adaptations of things associated with false worship? His Word the Bible shows that he does not do so. Christians are asked: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness?”—2 Cor. 6:14.2