Apostasy and the 2nd Commandment

Step Two: The Making and crafting of personal Idols before the LORD – Breaking the Second Commandment

Exodus 20:4-6 – 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, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In the simplest of words, the second command is that you shall not make for yourself an idol.  But what type of idol?  The answer is: any kind – be it physical or metaphysical, anything replacing or taking a place before God is what this command is speaking of. The explanation of why this command exists is found in Exodus 20:5 when it states, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” God created humanity to serve Him with the utmost respect, and for “His people” to place Him first and foremost in their life.  Today’s culture – and cultures throughout history – seems to have gods to offer of every king. There are sex gods, money gods, gossiping gods, power-hungry gods, and even the often-overlooked coveting gods. If you have a hunger, the world has a “god” that you can fulfill your flesh with and make you satisfied for some time.  What is frightening, however, is how these things that our culture has to offer often sweep their way into the church.

When thinking of this command, many people look at things in their lives and think, “I don’t worship that!” Yet it is these very things that easily end up controlling their entire life because it pleases them the most.[1] This is a part of the process in the lives of those who have lost a high respect for the name of God… once that is lost, God’s place is easily pushed aside to make room for other things. Without exaltation of Him, there will be no placement of Him in the life of the one who claims to be a believer of the gospel. What once began as joking, lightening-up on the third commandment has now opened the door for the breaking of the second commandment. What is worse is that it makes all the more sense.  If you do not have respect for the LORD’s name and do not use it like He wishes and allows, then why not place idols in one’s life beside Him, or even in front of Him?  It is very sad, but true, that many so-called believers have placed their possessions (house, money, cars, etc.), their personal desires, their plans for life, and even their family, in front of God. One of the biggest problems about living in a culture that feeds the needs of personal desires is finding an idol that fits to one’s desire.  Sadly, it is what gets in the way of following the second commandment the most.  The issue is not just simply worshipping another God. The issue in the second commandment is worshipping God in a wrong way.  Letting other idols take place of what He is to do, letting other gods come in and lay beside Him, and replacing what this world offers as idols to get one’s “fix” so they find their solace in something other than God Himself. This is not okay in the least and leads to nothing but rebellion against God Himself and what He has commanded of “His people.”

How does this lead to apostasy?  The individual makes and crafts idols, placing them in their heart, life, and mind, above that which God has asked “His people” to keep. What this idolatry does is blind the person from seeing the light of the gospel.  The person then sees the importance of whatever it may be that they have placed in front of their sight, and then constantly looks toward that for their happiness.  This leads to apostasy as it blinds the person from thinking eternally; instead, they look for the best idol that pleases them now in life.  The nice car, big house, beautiful wife, new suite, big pool, green grass, fine wine, etc., becomes what they worship.  This path leads to worshipping the items which mean so much to their everyday life, and which come to mean even more to their heart. This blinds their pathway to Christ, and provides a flattened ground to walk away from what they know to be true of the gospel, leading them to hell.

The less respect that one holds for the name of God leads to a life that holds less importance and less need for God overall; the less need for God one has, the more one turns to other things (gods) that they feel they need instead. It makes perfect sense that if one does not give the honor to God that He asks in the third commandment, then one will rob God of His place in the life of the individual. It is the first three commandments that deal with the worship of God, and if one does not hold a high-regard for His Deity’s name then why would one have a high-regard of placing Him above all things? All of this leads to one result in the end, apostasy completely from God.

How does one not fall down this pathway to apostasy?  By seeing that the second commandment is utterly important in the way one worships God.  Nothing should ever come close to one’s own personal worship of God. Both in the home with the family, and in the church, no idol of any kind can come close to the measure in which one worships God.  By focusing on the truth that this commandment forbids the “LORD’s people” of worshipping any other idol, provides a principle by which one is to live by and to enjoy – that is, that one can only worship the one, true, living God who is all-satisfying, enjoyable, and giving – both now and throughout all of eternity. However, when one does not honor the LORD’s name, and does not worship Him first, only then comes the placing one’s self in front of God and totally apostatizing.


[1] Cf. G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008.

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5 Comments on “Apostasy and the 2nd Commandment”

  1. Neil says:

    Great article! It is SCARY how many idols are out there and how easily we can slip into the habit of putting things before God in out lives. Sadly I see this in myself at times with technology. Wonderful piece. Thank you so much.

    God bless.

    -Neil

  2. Kyle says:

    Does the second commandment forbid images of Jesus?

  3. Since you are asking a rhetorical question, I’ll let you go ahead and answer your own question that you were looking forward to anyways.

  4. Kyle says:

    How is that a rhetorical question, I actually wanted a reply. You’re the one doing the study on apostasy, I wanted to hear your thoughts.

  5. Ahh, most of the questions you usually ask me, you have an answer for.

    At any rate, it seems to me and my studies so far that the primary issue with the 2nd command is dealing with idolatry. Maybe images too – I have not made a clear stance on that yet. However until I do, for now I do not watch plays, movies, etc. with images of Christ or post pictures etc. Most of the reasons for this however is not because of my stance on the 2nd commandment as much as it is that no picture can truly give justice to the God-man, Jesus Christ in both His humanity and His deity.


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