DEFINITION: Idolatry is the worship of idols and false gods. Idolatry includes putting anything before the one true and living God who is revealed in the Holy Bible. This also includes excessive adoration of a person, obsession with an activity, money, or materialism.
FACTS ABOUT IDOLATRY:
Idolatry is sin. The first of the ten commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:3). Idolatry is also listed as one of the works of the flesh (acts of the sinful nature) in Galatians 5:19-20 and in Colossians 3:5.
Idolatry is more than just worshiping an idol. It is any commitment to a person or group of people, activities, or material things that you put before God–you love these more than you love God.
Proud and arrogant behavior is idolatry. The Bible says: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). When you are rebellious and arrogant, you are establishing yourself as an idol! Deciding to do it “your way” instead of God’s way is rebellion and is compared to the sins of witchcraft and idolatry.
Materialism is idolatry. Money in itself is not wrong, but the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Those who worship money and material things err from the faith and experience many sorrows.
You cannot worship God and still worship an idol. Dualism in worship is idolatry because God is not in first place and is not receiving your total allegiance and worship (Matthew 6:24). Any form of idolatry estranges you from God (Ezekiel 14:5). You cannot be a temple for both God and idols (2 Corinthians 6:16).
Doing things because “everyone else is doing them” is idolatry. The Lord said that Israel imitated the sinful nations around them, although God had ordered them not to do so. They followed idolatrous people and became idolatrous themselves (2 Kings 17:15). When you decide to do something because “everyone else is doing it”, you are establishing those people as an idol–imitating them and adhering to their standards instead of following God.
You are not to keep company with idolaters. This does not mean you cannot minister to them, but that they should not be your close friends (1 Corinthians 5:11).
Those who worship idols will become as worthless as their idols (2 Kings 17:15) and be put to shame (Psalm 97:7). They will become like the idols they worship (Psalms 115:4-8).
Idols have no power. They are made by men and are powerless to aid you in times of trouble (Psalms 115:4-8). Idolatry–the worship of idols–is very powerful however. It is a practice that has drawn many to serve false gods.
Idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of God. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters …” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The destination of idolaters is the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).
How to recognize idolatrous behavior. Bowing down before an idol, making one, praying to one, and using items designated for worship of an idol are immediately recognizable as idolatry But idolatry also includes anything or anyone that consumes your passion, your thoughts, and your time more than serving God. Things that in themselves are not wrong–like a hobby or an activity–can become an idol in your life if these things become more important than your commitment to God. Ezekiel 14:3-4 speaks of “idols in the heart”–meaning anything in your heart that comes before God.
DEALING WITH IDOLATRY:
Repent of idolatry. Idolatry is sin and, as in the case of all sins, you must confess and repent of it. Repent of any rebellious, proud, or arrogant behavior. When you do, God has promised:
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25). He also promised that you…”will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23). Ask God to forgive you if you have put a person, an activity, or material things before God.
Determine you will worship and serve only the true God. There is only one true God, and that is the God revealed in the Holy Bible which is His Word (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
Eliminate idolatrous objects. These include any idols, charms, books, music, or other items used to worship of false gods. Eliminate posters and pictures of performers, movie stars, and sports heroes–anyone you have idolized before God (Exodus 23:24).
Foster a new love for God. Your love will grow by spending time with God in prayer and worship, studying the Word, and by attending a Bible-believing church.
Keep your focus on God instead of the things of the world. All that is in the world–including your idols–will pass away: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Keep yourself from idols. The Bible cautions: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). You can keep yourself from idolatrous behavior by immersing yourself in God’s Word and refraining from participating in any activity that draws you away from His plan and purposes for your life. Things that in themselves are not wrong–like a hobby or an activity–may be wrong for you if it becomes an idol in your life. It is your responsibility to eliminate these things. The Bible commands you to put idolatry to death (Colossians 3:5-6).
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT IDOLATRY:
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [ generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)
Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. (Exodus 20:23)
Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. (Exodus 23:24)
Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:4)
Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 26:1)
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. (Deuteronomy 29:18. See also through verse 29)
Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. (1 Samuel 12:21)
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. (1 Samuel 15:23)
They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do. (2 Kings 17:15)
They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did. (1 Kings 17:40-41)
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)
All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols… (Psalm 97:7)
But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalms 115:4-8)
And the idols he shall utterly abolish… (Isaiah 2:18)
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)
I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection [of idols] save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:12)
This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” (Jeremiah 2:5)
How I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.” (Ezekiel 6:8-9)
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25)
“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 37:23)
Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. (Habakkuk 2:18-19)
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters … (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” (1 Corinthians 10:7)
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)
Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19-21)
…I do not wish you to be ignorant… somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to dumb idols. (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5-6)
…They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,…(1 Thessalonians 1:9)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)