What does the Bible say about tattoos?

Question: Is it a sin for a Christian to get a tattoo?

What does the Bible say about tattoos?

We are to glorify God through our bodies

From the principles of the Bible, we know that we should be very careful with what we do with our bodies. God created man in His own image and His likeness (Genesis 1:26-28). So we are not just another of His creation, but the only part of creation that God made after Himself. God has thus made man the pinnacle of creation.

The body is the temple of God

The Bible says that if we are born again, our bodies are the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

1 Corinthians 3:17

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”.

The way we conduct ourselves and how we treat our bodies shows either respect or disrespect towards God and His Holy Spirit. God calls us to “be holy, just as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16). So, knowing that we are His precious vessels, we should not bring disgrace to His Name by smoking or drinking alcohol, through sexual misbehaviour, or through dressing inappropriately. Just imagine if you are going to the house of God where He is dwelling all the time – would you bring alcohol or start smoking there or use drugs, swear or do similar things? Of course not. Therefore our conduct, behavior and the way we treat our bodies should give glory to God. It is our testimony to those who are not Christians as well – that we belong to Christ, not only our mindsand souls, but our bodies as well. Thus we should be careful when we consider making a tattoo – will it bring glory to God or rather show our rebellious nature to others.

What does a tattoo really signify?

The origin of tattoos, as you may suspect is definitely not Biblical. The Bible teaches that pagans (gentiles) who are enemies of God used to have marks on their bodies to revere their idols, to worship their false gods and to show to whom their allegiance and loyalty was directed. Therefore God forbid His people from making any markings or cuts to their body and not to follow the evil ways of the non-believers:

Lev 19: 28

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD”.

Some cultures and tribes still ‘brand’ themselves with tongs and hot irons as a form of worship of their devilish false gods. This is the true origin and purpose of tattoos. Just because it has been accepted by modern society doesn’t make it any less of a sin against God.

The Old Testament forbids tattoos

Even though all of the Old Testament Law does not apply to born-again believers of Christ, the principles and commandments found in it show us what God desires of us and the way God wants His people to live. The primary point is that Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17-18).

The OT Law can be divided into three categories:

Ceremonial law: These played an important role in typifying heavenly things and foreshadowed the coming of Christ, such as the sacrificial system whereby animal blood temporarily covered sin. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws by paying the ultimate sacrifice – shedding His own precious blood which sets us free from the curse of sin, satisfying the righteous anger of a just God, reconciling us to Himself, forgiving the sins of those who come in faith to Him, and giving us the great hope and gift of eternal life. This was signified by the tearing of the veil in the temple when Jesus died, representing the removal of the separation between God and man.

Civil law: was given to the people to teach them more about God’s nature and to keep them separate from the Gentiles surrounding them. These laws were given to the nation of Israel, till such a time as the Messiah should come. When Jesus came, He fulfilled these as well.

Moral law: was given to the Israelites to keep the people from sinning against Him. God’s holy nature is revealed in the moral law and since God does not change, neither to these laws.

Since the ceremonial and civil law do not apply to Christians today, many mistakenly think that that the moral laws of the Old Testament are also irrelevant. But remember, Jesus confirmed 9 of the 10 moral commandments (He fulfilled the Sabbath which was a ceremonial law in any case – Matt 12:8, Mark 2:27, Hebrews 3,4 – Jesus became our Sabbath)!

So there is no excuse for dismissing the clear forbidding of tattoos in God’s moral law. Today in our ‘enlightened’ so-called modern society, tattoos and other carvings on the body are generally made by those who rebel against God and often are used to show ungodly ideas and concepts, oftentimes even satanic.

Copyright notice: This photo is a derivative of “Grace” by LearningLark, used under CC BY 2.0. This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by AskBible.org

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