Should Christians use the cross or the dove to represent Christ or the Holy Spirit?
Exodus 20:4-5" 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 nor serve them.” (Repeated in Deut.5:9 )
Does not God tell us not to make any image of himself or anything else?
These commands if not looked at carefully can lead one to be extreme and legalistic.
This prohibition is in the context of worship, to make an object made by man’s hands as being the holy God and worshiped. He included in the prohibition what is in heaven AND on earth (Rom.1:23)
God’s commandments tell us not to make an image and bow down or worship it. But there were images made and put inside the tabernacle. So God would be contradicting himself if this is what He meant by only an image.
Exodus 26:1 the ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; had artistic designs of cherubim in them (Ex.36:35)
In Ex.25:19-20; Ex.37:7 there were two cherubim on the ark overlooking the mercy seat. These were to reflect the tabernacle that is in heaven.”
Leviticus 26:1-2: 'You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.”
Deuteronomy 12:3-5: “ And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.”
This is the point, not to use things made by our hands to worship God in a way he did not instruct, to not make him as an image as the Gentiles did.
In answering questions about the dove. When we come to the New Testament we read of the Holy Spirit coming as a dove. It says this:
Matthew 3:16: “ and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.”
All four gospels record this which makes this an important event.Mt.1:10; Lk.3:22 and John 1:32.
And John bore witness, saying, " I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him .”
Notice like a dove, not a dove.
Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him ” (Mk.1:20)
John writes, “ He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’
We have several bible scholars who take different positions, for example Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament says of John 1:32As a dove hoosei (NT:5550) peristeran (NT:4010). I n the shape of a dove.”
Matthew 3:16 As a dove hoosei (NT:5550) peristeran (NT:4010). In the form of a dove, and not, as some interpret, referring merely to the manner of the descent-swiftly and gently as a dove (compare Luke 3:22 "In a bodily form, as a dove"). The dove was an ancient symbol of purity and innocence, adopted by our Lord in Matthew 10:16. It was the only bird allowed to be offered in sacrifice by the Levitical law.” (from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament)
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament John 1:32 says The Semites regarded the dove as a symbol of the Spirit.” Matthew 3:16 It is not certain whether Matthew means that the Spirit of God took the form of a dove or came upon Jesus as a dove comes down. Either makes sense, but Luke (Luke 3:22) has it "in bodily form as a dove" and that is probably the idea here” (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament,)
This is often debated what is meant. Personally I read this as coming gently as a dove, having the characteristics of a dove, not the form, though some say it is. It only happened this once,
Matthew 3:16 “ After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him”
The dove is not a form of God or a creature representing God in His nature or form. But the Bible is clear that God chose a dove which conveyed a Biblical meaning to the Jews who saw this event. A dove is a bird that has a mate for life. In Noah's flood, Noah sent out a dove to see that the waters receded (Genesis 8:8-12).
In Moses’ law, a dove was the poorest of offerings as it was used for an offering for Jesus birth ( Luke 2:22-24; Lev.5:7). There are other symbols of the Holy Spirit, water, oil and fire.
The name Jonah in Hebrew, (Yonah יונה), means “ dove” as he was sent on his mission to most vicious Gentiles at the time to make peace with God. Doves are known as birds representing peace and not birds of prey. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves”
As far as the cross, it is not representing an image of God, but what Jesus did for us on it. We are not to use the cross for our worship, to bow before it, as it was an object to crucify Jesus (and others). It is not necessary to wear a cross, though some unbelievers and believers have even used it as an amulet for protection against evil. We are to walk with the cross (figuratively), as a representation of suffering with Christ.
In the early church era (first cent) they drew symbols on the ground to identify they were believers because Christianity was illegal at the time and they could not wear them on themselves.
The cross was repulsive because of what it was used for, only later was it
was adopted as a symbol of the crucifixion in Christianity to show ones
belief in the one who hung on it.
These symbols and others would come under ones personal preference since we have liberty to use what is spoken of and what is not (as long as they are not directly attached to occult use prior). In the same manner of freedom we can eat meat sacrificed to idols (Rom.14:15; 1Cor.9:7; 10:25-28) and also choose one day of worship over another.
It is left up to your own conscience. The only thing we are told not to do is not to stumble others by our liberty (1 Cor.10:29).