On Sunday 11th July I was due to preach at Stroud Green Assembly (London, UK) but until just before the service I had no clear word to give! Then I received a text message telling me that a lady was coming who was thinking of converting to Roman Catholicism. I prayed again and the above question “Who is on the Lord's Side?” came straight to my mind. It is from Exodus 32:26 although until I looked it up I had not remembered where it came from (even whether it was Old or New Testament!). It was Moses' rallying call to all Israel when he came down from Mount Sinai after 40 days to find that the people of Israel had turned back to idolatry by making a golden calf with their jewellery. Only the Levites responded. Suddenly I had my message. I had never seen this before in the passage and I hope it will be a blessing and a challenge to you all.
This incident took place after the Lord through Moses had delivered the people from Egypt and brought them through the Red Sea. They were on their way to the Promised Land. The crossing of the Red Sea is a figure of water baptism. As the Children of Israel were delivered from the bondage of Egypt (1Corinthians 10:1- 2), so, when we are converted, we are delivered from the bondage of sin (Galatians 1). Yet we have not reached our final destination. Unlike Paul we have not finished our course. However a crown of righteousness is awaiting all of us who get to the finishing line! (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Soon after the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt, Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. It was during his absence (of 40 days) that the people turned back to idolatry. The Lord had told Moses:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like you, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. - Deuteronomy 18:18
That Prophet was, of course the Lord Jesus Christ, God's only Son (Acts 3:22). Just as Moses was taken from the People of Israel for a time so the Lord Jesus Christ has also left us while He goes to prepare a place for each of us in heaven (John 14:1- 3). We know He is coming back, just as the People of Israel knew that Moses was coming back.However, despite knowing that Moses was with God on the top of Mount Sinai, it did not stop the Israelites giving up hope of his return (v1) and turning back to false idols. I say turning back because they made a golden calf which was reminiscent of the ox-worship of the Egyptians. Apparently one Egyptian myth has the rising sun as a calf born of the heavenly sky cow goddess, Hathor (in other myths the sun is born of Nut, another cow goddess, who personifies the heavens). The sun calf becomes a mighty bull at noon, and at sunset the sun-bull impregnates his mother, the heavens (the sky goddess cow), in order to be born of her the next morning. Just as Israel turned back to idols so have many in the so-called church of our day.The Second Commandment expressly states:
You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth - Exodus 20:4.
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 repeats this Commandment. Yet the Roman Catholic Church is full of idols: crucifixes bearing the image of the Lord Jesus, statues of the Virgin Mary, as well as pictures and statues of the Lord Jesus.The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church turns the Second Commandment into part of the First Commandment and makes these claims:
2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.
2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787 A.D.) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images.
2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honour rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honour paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.
Here we have an extraordinary justification for what the Bible condemns. According to the Roman Catholic catechism the Son of God introduced a new economy of images and God had prepared the way for this by permitting images pointing towards salvation such as the bronze serpent, the Ark of the Covenant, and the cherubim. However God never intended these to be objects of worship. The bronze serpent was destroyed by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4) because it had become an object of idolatry. Furthermore we do not hear again about the Ark of the Covenant once the People of Israel were taken into exile. Apparently according to RC dogma giving honour to an image is giving honour to its prototype. But if this is the case why was idolatry ever forbidden in the first place?
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16:
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yes, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.
Even those disciples who knew Christ in the flesh knew Him in that capacity no longer. After Christ was glorified His body completely changed, as we know from the description in Revelation 1:13-16. John, the writer of The Revelation, was the beloved disciple who rested on Jesus' breast (John 13:25 and 21:20), so relaxed was he in the Lord's company. Yet when he sees the Lord in this vision described in Revelation, he fell at the Lord's feet as if dead (Revelation 1:17). An image of the Lord Jesus in human form is no use to any of us now that He has been glorified. All it does is reduce the Godhead to human form and results in our worshipping the creature instead of the Creator.
The Lord Jesus warned his disciples to beware of “false christs” (Matthew 24:24). Canon 1 of the Council of Trent states:
If anyone denies, that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ... let him be anathema.
The adoration of the Eucharist is therefore another act of idolatry because Christ is worshipped as a wafer of bread!If the worship of Christ has become idolatrous in the Roman Catholic Church, how much more the worship of Mary – a mere human who has been elevated to divine status. According to the Roman Catholic catechism at paragraph 971, “Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship”, yet the Bible teaches that God is exalted above heaven and earth and He alone is to receive all honour and praise (Psalm 148:13 cf. Revelation 5:13). In paragraph 2677 of the Roman Catholic Catechism Mary is referred to as “the All-Holy One”.The motto of Pope John Paul II was Totus Tuus, meaning “all yours” and refers to his total consecration to Mary, who he believed saved his life when he escaped the assassin's bullet on 13th May 1981 – which coincided with the anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three children of Fatima.Centuries before Christ, the pagan world worshiped a mother god with a baby god in her arms.
The Egyptian Madonna, Isis, carrying her little sky god, Horus, became so popular that this mother-goddess supplanted the worship of his father Osiris. Once Mary was proclaimed “Queen of heaven” the statues of Isis were carried from vacant pagan temples and installed as Christian Madonna's in the churches of Rome. How ironic that, just as the People of Israel turned back to the gods of Egypt, so has the Church of Rome.There is another similarity between the practice of the Roman Catholic Church and the People of Israel. Although they erected pagan idols Aaron pretended that they were worshipping the true God by proclaiming a Feast to the Lord (verse 5). Is that not reminiscent of the Roman Catholic practice of claiming that they are celebrating the Lord's Death in the Eucharist when in fact they have turned to idolatry and are worshipping God in the bread?
The New Testament is as clear as the Old Testament about idolatry. Moses' rallying call was to those who were on the Lord's side to execute judgment on the idolaters (v26-28). Similarly in the New Testament Paul calls the Lord's People to separate themselves from idolatry:
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. – 2 Corinthians 6: 16-18
John, the apostle is equally urgent at the end of his First Epistle where he writes in 1st John 5:21:- “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.We are to have nothing to do with idolatry and to separate ourselves from idolaters just as the Children of Israel were to do the same. The only difference is that we no longer execute idolaters as did the Levites (Exodus 32:26-29)!
Instead we pray for them and seek to rescue them from their error (James 5:19- 20 and Jude 22-23).
What is clear is that we can have nofellowship with idolaters. It is therefore so sad to see how much of the Evangelical Church has fallen for the deception of Ecumenism.Recently a number of us from Stroud Green Assembly joined others to hand out leaflets to the thousands of unwary Christians who attended a Global Day of Prayer (GDoP) event at West Ham Football Stadium (Central London) on 13th June 2010. GDoP unites around the Apostles' Creed and the Bible. However the Apostle's Creed is silent about how a person is saved and GDoP fails to define what is special about the Bible and that it is God's inspired and infallible Word and our final authority for doctrine (2Timothy 3:16).In 2008 Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor addressed the GDoP by video link at Millwall Stadium in South London. This year Rt. Rev Bernard Longley, Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of Westminster endorsed this event.
It was interesting to note that GDoP took place on the first day of the week which fell on the 455th anniversary of the Colchester martyrs who were burned at the stake for denying that the Church of Rome was part of the true Church, denying transubstantiation and denying auricular confession. These martyrs understood the seriousness of idolatry but it seems the examples of our forefathers have gone unheeded in this day of increasing apostasy.
Another recent sad ecumenical initiative was the Westminster Declaration of Christian Conscience that followed the Manhattan Declaration in the US. In order to appeal to the maximum number of people to make a political statement about freedom of religious expression and the right to life for babies, the elderly and the terminally ill, both declarations seek to unite around a definition of Christian belief that contains necessary but insufficient criteria for saving faith. As a result both declarations are supported by leaders in Roman Catholic and Evangelical denominations and by others.
The good effect of drawing the net so wide is that the respective declarations send out the message that a large number of people object to the secularising agenda of governments and their attempts to destroy the Christian heritage of our respective nations.
However the bad effect of these declarations is that they send out the message that doctrinal differences between the established “Christian” denominations over what qualifies a person for heaven are not important, when in fact they determine a person's eternal destiny.Idolatry in all its forms is a barrier to the worship of the true and living God who seeks worshippers who will “worship in Spirit and Truth” (John 4:24).
The lesson from Exodus is that idolatry, even in the name of worshipping the true God, is harmful to saving faith and can rob a person of his/her eternal salvation.It is so easy for us to grow complacent and weary of the conflict but let us gird up “the loins of our minds” (1st Peter 1:13), and let us be zealous for truth in this time of lukewarmness and backsliding, just like the Levites in Exodus 32.Isaiah 59:19 is one of my favourite verses:
When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.
Let us all rally around the standard and be ready to see the Lord move to bring honour to His Holy Name.about the author
Mark Mullins is a practising barrister at the Bar of England and Wales. He is also an elder at Stroud Green Christian Assembly (a traditional Pentecostal church started out of a Smith Wigglesworth crusade in the 1920s). The Assembly has had links with CWM since its foundation (www.sgca-online.org).
Thank you! You are now Subscribed.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.