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The Scriptorium

Let's Be Clear about Idols

They're worse than you think. 1 Corinthians 10.18-22

1 Corinthians 10 (4)

Pray Psalm 96.5-7.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.

Sing Psalm 96.5-7.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
All other gods are idols vain; the LORD created heaven.
Splendor and strength with Him obtain; to Him be glory given!
All fam’lies, praise this mighty LORD! Give strength and glory to His Word;
exalt the LORD of heaven!

Read 1 Corinthians 10.1-22; meditate on verses 18-22.


1. What are idols really?

2. What must we avoid?

Having established that the Corinthians are partakers of the Body and Blood of Jesus, Paul returns to the issue which has led to this point: eating meat offered to idols.

Paul explained that, while idols are really nothing, right along with whatever sacrifices are offered them (v. 19), what lies behind all idolatry are spiritual forces of wickedness in high places--demons (v. 20). Paul did not want the Corinthians to downplay the seriousness of this question by running the risk of being in fellowship with demons.

If we drink the Lord’s cup and partake of His table, we must do so exclusively (v. 21). No secondary gods or idols—not even of the secular and materialistic sort—must have any place in our lives. The Corinthians, being babes in Christ, were in danger either of compromising what faith they had or of demonstrating that they had no true faith at all.

And if they had true faith and yet were partaking of demons, they ran the risk of provoking the Lord to jealousy (v. 22). Which means anger. Which leads to discipline. Which is never pleasant (Heb. 12.3-11).

God is stronger than we are, so we ought not provoke Him to wrath against us, whether by ignorance, carelessness, or outright rebellion. Paul will have a final word to offer on this matter, but he wanted to make sure the real issue was clear so that the Corinthians, whatever course of action they chose, would be careful to preserve their participation in the Lord.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
God said:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image…you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” (Ex. 20.4, 5).

Moses said:
“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4.24)

The writer said:
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12.28, 29).

Jesus said:
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk. 16.13).

Paul asked:
Will we make the same mistake that the Israelites made?
“Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1 Cor. 10.22).

Job said:
“God is wise in heart and mighty in strength.
Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?
He removes the mountains, and they do not know when He overturns them in His anger;
He shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble;
He commands the sun, and it does not rise; He seals off the stars;
He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea;
He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south;
He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number…
If He takes away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’” (Job 9.4-10, 12).

John taught:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. For the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2.15-17).

All these were clear about idols. We will do well to listen.

For reflection
1. What can you do to shore up your fellowship of Jesus, so that you will not be tempted to turn to idols?

2. How can believers help each other to beware of idols?

3. We can know that the devil is at work on us when… What should you do then?

Do you see how terribly Paul rebukes the Corinthians, shaking their very nerves and reducing them to an absurdity? Why, you may ask, did he not say this at the beginning? Because it is Paul’s custom to prove his point by many details, placing the strongest last and prevailing in the argument by proving more than is strictly necessary. Thus he began here with the smaller matters and made his way up toward the greatest of evils, so that the minds of the Corinthians had been prepared by the things already said. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 24.6

Pray Psalm 96.1-4, 11-13.
Call on the Lord to protect you from making an idol out of anything and from being influenced against Jesus by the idols of this world. Thank Him for the fellowship of Jesus to which He has brought you.

Sing Psalm 96.1-4, 11-13.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Sing to the LORD! O, bless His Name! All nations tell His glory!
Salvation’s tidings loud proclaim; let earth rehearse His story!
For God is greatly to be praised; His throne above all gods is raised!
Fear Him and sing His glory!

Let heaven sing with lusty voice; let earth and sea sing sweetly!
Let fields and trees in Him rejoice, for He is coming swiftly
to judge the world in righteousness, the peoples in His faithfulness.
He comes; exalt Him greatly!

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth needed revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today needs revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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