21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21–23, NKJV)
People will inevitably form lesser gods to worship when they refuse to acknowledge the power and presence of the true God. Idolatry is alive in today’s world. It thrives when we close our hearts to the clear evidence of deity’s power and majesty that is portrayed for us in the created world (Romans 1:20). Wisdom is professed in the darkness of “foolish hearts” as it fashions its own gods that will bend to its own will. We should bluntly ask ourselves this simple question: “Am I an idolater?” If I am putting anything in my heart and life before the one true God, then the answer is, “yes.” Just as ancient idolaters had to destroy their graven images in order to worship the true God, we must destroy the false gods that reside in our hearts – pleasure covetousness, fame, popularity, selfish desires, etc. – and sanctify the Lord God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15). We cannot worship a false god in life and be with the true God in death and eternity. Think on these things, and serve the true God.
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (1 Corinthians 8:7–8, NKJV)
Paul addresses the situation of Christians who had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” yet their conscience had been trained to honor the idol as real (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Their conscience toward eating things offered to an idol was weak (that is, it was not yet developed and trained according to the truth that there is only one God, v. 7). If they were to eat things offered to an idol (even though an idol is nothing, and even though food does not commend us or condemn us to God, v. 8), their conscience would be defiled. We rightly conclude from this passage that violating one’s conscience defiles it. Even though the conscience is not our standard of truth and error, we must not disregard it, violate it and thereby sear its ability to operate (1 Timothy 4:2). A seared conscience is unresponsive and cannot be trained by a knowledge of the truth. Therefore, we must not violate our conscience, including when it has not been fully trained by the truth. Instead, let us continue to grow in knowledge of God’s will and training our conscience toward the true God with it.
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:4–6, NKJV)
Idolatry is abundant on the earth today, just as it was when Paul penned these words. Now, as then, there is only one God – the Creator and Father of us all (Genesis 1:1; Acts 17:24-26). Christians serve one Lord, Jesus Christ – not Lord Shiva (Hinduism) or any other so-called god or lord men have devised, carved images of and then worshiped (Isaiah 44:9-20). Idol worshipers are not spiritual, they are deceived and under heaven’s wrath for their defiance of the true God (Romans 1:18-23). Since an “idol is nothing” and “there is no other God but one,” be sure you honor and serve Him. “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27-32).
6 Return to Him against whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. 7 For in that day every man shall throw away his idols of silver and his idols of gold—sin, which your own hands have made for yourselves. (Isaiah 31:6–7, NKJV)
God is a jealous God. Therefore, Israel was not to make any carved images, bow down before them and serve them (Exodus 20:3-5). Idolatry has always been rebellion against the one true and living God (Acts 17:22-31; Romans 1:18-23). Gods that people make with their own hands are powerless – an utterly futile and sinful endeavor. Make no mistake, there are other idols that we can make that are just as revolting against God as those made of stone and metal. Covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Have we not made an idol of the pleasures of sin when we choose them rather than the will of God (Hebrews 11:24-26)? Does not our own prideful and selfish will become our idol when we follow our own will instead of the Lord’s way of truth (Jeremiah 10:23)? Whatever idol is in your heart, remove it now. Tear it down. Throw it away. Honor, worship and serve the only true God. He will not give His glory and praise to idols carved by the imaginations of men (Isaiah 42:8).