Cross-Reverence and Idolatry

July 12, 2022

Is cross-reverence really a symbol of faith or is it idolatry that had already been practiced by pagans long before Christian era? Cross-Idolatry is very common among Christians unknowingly.

The Second Commandment: Cross Idolatry

Almost all Christians view the cross as a symbol of Christianity since they were born with it in their respective churches.
Historically, cross-reverence had been practiced by pagans before Christ.
Biblically, the cross-idolatry is detestable before God.
Let’s understand about this through the Bible.

Exodus 20:4-5 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

We can see that in the above verse, God has forbidden us from making an idol in the “form of anything”. Revering God with an idol in any form is an act of idolatry. However, some may say, “We do not worship the cross, we just take it as a part of our devotion to God.” That’s exactly what God meant: Never serving God with any object or form like the cross. If we do so, it’s obviously idolatry.

The Cross is an Idol

Let’s see more about cross idolatry.

Leviticus 26:1 “ ‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.”

All images like sacred stone and carved images that people worship are types of idols. We can understand by common sense that a carved cross made of wood or stone that we relate to our God is also an idol. So revering the cross is not different from bowing down to stones before God, is it?
In fact, the cross has no power because it is man-made idol.

Jeremiah 10:2-5 This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel… Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

Psalms 135:15-18 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

With the verses above, putting value on a cross becomes clearer as an act of idolatry. This is because even if we say that we do not worship it, we can’t help but impose an important meaning on it. For example, we see people carrying the cross like a talisman to protect themselves from danger.

Some hold the cross while praying to God. Are these not obvious reasons that people put value on the cross in their own way? No matter how we look at it, a cross is an idol in the eyes of the Bible and God.

Result of those who worship Idols

Those who honor the cross have no idea what kind of disaster they are pulling upon themselves.

Deuteronomy 27:15  “Cursed is anyone who makes an idol — a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of skilled hands — and sets it up in secret.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Revelation 21:8 “… those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Let’s receive blessings by following the words of the Bible instead of following our traditions that go against God’s will.

Cross and Christian History

History books prove that the Early Church did not have crosses on their churches.

“The public use of the cross was adopted by the Christians as a symbol at the time of Constantine. For the early Christians, surrounded by crucifixion as a grim fact of common experience, there was no danger of beautifying the cross by sentiment.” (Bakers Dictionary of Theology, p. 152)

The cross was introduced as a symbol of Christianity as the church became secularized after Constantine, the Roman Emperor, authorized Christianity in 313 A.D.

“In the 6th century, the crucifix image was introduced, and worship (latria) to it was sanctioned by the Church of Rome.” (Fausett’s Bible Dictionary, p. 145)

Through the above pieces of evidence, we can understand that the Early Christians never treated the cross as a symbol of faith nor worshipped it.

Prophecy About the Cross in the History of Israel

God already prophesied about cross-reverence in the history of Israel.

Numbers 21:4-9 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The Israelites sinned by speaking against God. At that time, what did God tell them as the way to live? God asked Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole. Then God said, “Anyone who looks at the bronze snake will live”. Let’s think about this seriously.
Did they live because of the bronze snake itself or because of the power of God’s words? The answer is abvious.

However, the Israelites misunderstood God’s will and took the bronze snake as a symbol of their salvation for a long time.

2 Kings 18:3-4 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan).

The time of Moses up to the time of Hezekiah was about 800 years. The Bible records that the Israelites burned incense to the bronze snake Moses had made. This means they idolized the bronze snake until King Hezekiah broke it.

This is not only written down as history but also a prophecy about the crucifixion of Jesus.

John 3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

Jesus was lifted up on the cross. As it is written, “Just as Moses lifted up the bronze snake, so the Son of Man must be lifted up”, the incident in the time of Moses is just a prophecy to be fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

After Jesus went up to heaven, the church in Rome became corrupted with pagan customs such as setting up the cross inside the church and putting it on top of the churches on account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Eventually, they rationalized the use of the cross in various ways as a symbol of Christianity. Is this not the same act in the time of Moses?

After Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, the Israelites regarded the bronze snake as a symbol of their devotion to God when God saved them.
The Bible says, “… what has been done will be done again… There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1: 8-9).

We can see the relationship between the bronze snake and the cross clearly. With this, it is not right to insist that the cross is just a symbol of faith and not an idol.

Surely God views cross idolatry as detestable.