These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
1 Corinthians 10:11
I wonder how many of us have read the Bible this way – as containing a series of examples for us to learn from. Both the Old Testament, and the new, are full of illustrations of what to do, and what not to do.
We find in this portion of scripture (1 Corinthians chapter 10) that Paul is talking specifically about the lessons to be learned from Israel’s idolatry. There are those who think idolatry isn’t an important issue, but it was important enough not only for Paul to address is specifically here, but to be warned against, time after time after time throughout the scriptures.
It is no small thing to have an idol. It is not an innocent thing, it is not a harmless thing, and it is certainly not a thing winked at by God.
God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.
In context here, what was Paul preaching about? He was troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in Athens, and was preaching to the people about the real God, the One True God, and how He should not be viewed in the same manner as these idols. And Paul was right, as the idols he was preaching against were not merely things made of stone, wood, or metal, but an abomination to God Himself.
But what is idolatry? Is it merely the worship of some kind of statue? No, there are many forms of idols. Ephesians 5:5 tells us that a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world. We see from this verse, that even at this point in the Church’s history, it was well known and taught that the definition of idolatry has a broader scope than merely bowing before an object or giving food offerings to a statue of a false god.
One website states:
Idolatry is the universal human tendency to value something or someone in a way that hinders the love and trust we owe to God. It is an act of theft from God whereby we use some part of creation in a way that steals from honor due to God. Idolatry conflicts with our putting God alone first in our lives, in what we love and trust (see Exodus 20:3-5; Deut. 5:7-9; Romans 1:21-23). In idolatry we put something or someone, usually a gift from God, in a place of value that detracts from the first place owed to God alone, the gift Giver. That thing or person is an idol. The way out of idolatry is always to love and to trust the gift Giver without interference from any gift or any thing other than God. We will then be able to love and to appreciate gifts appropriately, neither giving them too much power nor failing to be thankful for them. We will then be free indeed, and not in bondage or addiction to anything that cannot fulfill us or give us peace.
This is true, and idolatry is theft from God. There are many things in our world today that are made idols. Money, clothing, people, gadgets, food, entertainment, even brand names. And there is a part of creation very widely idolized by many Christians today that simply should not be – that part of creation is men, particularly men of the celebrity kind. These celebrities are worldly, they lead people away from Christ whether knowingly or unknowingly, and yet many in the Church see no problem with embracing them and what they stand for.
These celebrities, of all fields, be it movies, music, sports, television or what have you, all lead people away from Christ. They teach that it’s okay and actually encouraged to seek fame, and fortune. They teach that it’s okay to take the Lord’s name in vain, and then to thank Him with empty words when they are presented with a little golden trophy that tells the world how “great” this human being is instead of God. They teach that it’s okay to sin, to act like the world and then call yourself a Christian when it’s convenient.
But the fact is this kind of behaviour will only appeal to a heart uncircumcised. A true follower of Christ will be disgusted, offended, and upset by these idols and how they are leading so many people astray.
The word ‘Christian’ means ‘man (or person) of Christ’. A sports star, musician, actor, or what have you, that doesn’t lead you closer to Jesus Christ, is NOT a man (or person) of Christ. A person who’s life revolves around fame, wealth, and decadence is not a man (or person) of Christ. These people are glorifying themselves, not God. They are idolaters and they draw those who follow them into idolatry. If unrepentant, these people are going to face the same judgement that will come to every other human being on this earth who rejects Jesus Christ. They won’t be exempt because of their wealth, good looks, or ‘charm’. In fact, here’s what the Bible says:
It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.
So how, and why, are so many Christians bewitched by these people?
I think one big reason is that many Christians today have failed to realize two things: one, how important God is and how all-encompassing He should be in our minds, hearts and lives. Two, how completely vain, futile, and ultimately dangerous idolatry is.
You will never love God truly and completely while you cling to idols. It just cannot happen. You love what you cling to. Wouldn’t it be better then, to cling to God, instead of sinful, perishable foolishness that will ultimately be destroyed?
Do you truly want to serve God? Do you truly want to love Him? Do you realize that something is missing in this love you’ve been saying you have for God? If you know that it is wrong to commit adultery in your earthly marriage, you should surely know that it is worse to commit adultery in your spiritual marriage, and that’s what idolatry is.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.