Idols And Idolatry


Introduction.  (I John 5:18-21)  It has always seemed a bit unusual to me that the Apostle (through the direction of the Holy Spirit) ended his epistle with this admonition to flee idolatry. 

•  In the midst of speaking (vs. 20) about who Jesus is and before that speaking (vs. 18) about what we should be because of who Christ is John says “keep yourselves from idols” (vs. 21).

What is an idol?  We might define it in two ways…

1. Image or something used as object of worship.  (example of Diana –  Acts 19:21-41).  

2. That on which affections are strongly set.  (Jesus speaks of money as “mammon” in Matthew 6:24 teaching us we cannot serve both.  “Mammon” is defined as wealth personified  (i.e. giving it life, treating it as a person). 

•  Perhaps this is why John ends this way – the fact that Jesus is the Savior of all the world – the one way to the Father – God in the flesh – demands that we reject anything else that would exalt itself above Him!  We must “flee idolatry.”

            Let’s talk this morning for a few minutes about Idols and Idolatry and see if we can’t come to better understand how these words can apply to us.  


I. The Nature of an Idol. 

Note:  These images are false.

A.  Image or statue representing a false deity (I Corinthians 8:4-6).

B.  Idolatry is in opposition to true faith (II Corinthians  6:14-18).  

C.  Things which are too much and indulged in sinfully.  Matthew 6:24 - “Mammon.”  Money is not sinful but the love of it is (I Timothy 6:6-10). 

      One man has said – “When men have gone so far as to talk as though their idols have come to life, it is time someone broke them.”  (Richard Tawney, Quotation Dictionary, pg. 145).

      This doesn’t just involve money.  Another man put it this way –

      “Whatever a man seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, this is the god of his idolatry.”  (William B. Ullathorne, Quotation Dictionary, pg. 145).


II. Idol Worship Is Always Wrong.

A.  Israel sinned when they made golden calf (Exodus 32:1-8).  Note:  It is not worshipped as another god but as the god who brought them out of Egypt (Acts 7:41).   Note:  “work of their own hands.”

B. Nebuchadnezzer’s image of gold was wrong (Daniel 3:1-7).


IV. Types of Idolatry.

A.  Worshipping a false god (Acts 17:16).    

B.  Worshipping any likeness of God (Deuteronomy  5 :8-10).   

C.  Human inventions thrust into worship (Deuteronomy 12:32).   To add something to God’s word is to exalt the works of our own hands above God.

      Shakespeare in one of his plays has the line –

      “ ‘Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god.”  (Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Sc. 2, Line 56).

      Many people exalt man-made tradition over God. 

D.  Setting our heart on any creature other than God (Philippians 3:18-21).

E.  Unlawful love for things of the world (Colossians 3:1-6).

F.  Stubbornness is equal to idolatry (I Samuel 15:22,23). 


Conclusion.  As children of God we must allow our conviction that Jesus is the Son of God to lead us to reject every other thing that exalts itself above Him.  If you are not a Christian you are letting something else have your devotion rather than God.  Perhaps…

—  Fears     —  Desires     —  Peers

Whatever the case it is clear that all people should shun idolatry.   I Corinthians 10:11-14