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Question and Answer

Are pictures of Christ OK?


A previous answer on the Q&A page stated, in part, “The Second Commandment forbids the making of images in order to worship them.” Does that mean it is OK to have images of God or Christ so long as we do not worship them?


Your question concerning the second commandment is appropriate. It is quite common to fail to recognize the clear distinction between the first and the second commandments. It is the first commandment that forbids the worship of any other than the true God. It is concerned, in other words, with whom we worship. But the second commandment is concerned with how we worship. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says in question and answer 51:

Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

The answer to your specific question, then, is that it is not OK “to have images of God or Christ” even though “we do not worship them.” The fact is that the only accurate and reliable “portrait” of Christ is the word portrait that God has given us in the Bible. The simple truth is that no one knows how to draw, paint or sculpt an accurate likeness of Jesus as he appeared while he was on earth. And the description of his present heavenly appearance as John the apostle saw him (Rev. 1) is not such as to provide a basis for such reproductions. What we need, in other words, is to have “the eyes of our understanding” opened to “see” in a spiritual manner the revelation that God has given us in the inspired Scriptures (cf. Eph. 1:18).

For more on this be sure to consult the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 109.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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