Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Idols are Nothing (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

“… we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one" (1 Cor. 8:4).

The world of the early church was infested with idolatrous practices, and the city of Corinth was not immune. Because of this, many of the Corinthian believers might have been tempted to give the hellenistic gods more credit than they were due. To remedy this situation and to lay the groundwork of his teaching on food sacrificed to idols, Paul reminds the church that idols are nothing. Once the Corinthians grasped the true nature of idolatry, they would better understand why eating food sacrificed to idols was a matter of indifference. When Paul says that idols are nothing, he does not simply mean that the Greek and Roman gods were powerless compared to the God of heaven, but they were a mere figment of the imagination, a fabrication of reprobate minds with no power, no substance.

What does Paul mean, then, when he says in verse 5 that “even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God …”? The “gods” he speaks of here are demons, those lords of the spiritual realm. But even these inferior beings who reveal themselves as noble and majestic to dull-minded humans are still creatures. There is only one eternal, infinite God.

God alone created all things. For His glory alone are we created, as Paul says, “of whom are all things and we for Him.” “And as there is but one divine Being, so there is but one Lord, i.e. one administrator of the universe, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed, and who is the only mediator between God and man,” Hodge wrote. “This one Lord is Jesus Christ, Jesus the Messiah, the historical person, born in Bethlehem and crucified on Calvary. Of this one Lord it is said, first, all things are by Him. [All things are created through Him.] … Secondly, it is said of this one Lord, that we are by Him.… The meaning is, we as Christians (not, we as creatures, for that had been said before), we as the children of God are by Him. We were redeemed by Him; we are brought unto God by Him.” No idol can take the place of God, no idol can claim to have the power of creation, and no idol can reconcile us to God as Jesus Christ has done.

How does Jeremiah 10:1–16 confirm Paul’s statement that idols are nothing? What does God think of those who worship idols? Think of some examples of idols that people worship today. Do such people benefit from their misplaced devotion? What about you? What things in your life (material or non) may be idols?