Should we use statues of Jesus in worship?

Last updated on August 10, 2021

Statue Jesus

In the ten commandments it says: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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 or serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). So we are not allowed to worship statues.

Picturing Jesus

All churches know this and believe this. So how is it possible that Roman Catholic churches have statues and that people kiss them, bow to them, and burn candles before them? The first reason to have statues is that they are pictures to draw the thoughts of the church members to Jesus Himself. But of course kissing, bowing, and burning candles goes beyond that. The catholic church teaches that only God may be worshiped. Yet statues may be venerated, or given honor. This honor given to statues of Jesus is passed on to Jesus Himself.

However, other churches don’t use statues. In Eastern Orthodox churches, though not forbidden, the use of statues is very rare and generally not accepted. Instead, two-dimensional icons are used. Protestant churches renounced the use of statues of Jesus completely. They said that human nature is such that too easily much importance is given to the statue itself. And not to the real Jesus in heaven. The catholic theology even invites that mistake. It does not just allow statues to be used as a reminder of the real Jesus, but also as recipients of honor that is than passed on to Jesus Himself. There is no biblical justification for that.

We should not jump to the conclusion if we see catholic Christians bowing before a statue of Jesus that they are idolaters. But it is a dangerous thing to do.

In spirit and in truth

In the Old Testament, as we saw in Exodus 20, there is a strong prohibition on using images in worship. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the church should change that pattern of worship. On the contrary, Jesus called us to worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:46). The use of statues of Jesus, even when they are meant to draw our thoughts to Him, does not fit that description. So we should not use statues of Jesus in our worship.

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