Summary: Find out the ’what’ and ’why’ of this terrible sin that plagued the church at Corinth and still plagues us today.

“Idolatry 101”

I Corinthians 10:14-22

INTRO: Last week we understood clearly from the Israelites story that we ought always, at every crossroads, follow the Lord at all costs! How could we miss it, right? Well, right on the heels of his positive admonition is a stern warning, and that’s where I’d like to focus your attention this morning. Turn to I Corinthian 10:14…

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry!”

When I say idols, you probably think of carved images, golden statues … perhaps images from OT stories pop into your head. And rightly so. Idolatry always exhibits itself in the worship of some object. No doubt Israel had a long-term problem with idolatry, even to the point where it continued even into the time and city of Corinth. Take a look at some of the “idols” the Hebrews fell prey to in their history.


Corinth was no exception. Many of the believers had backgrounds in idol worship from their past life, and others simply were being drawn into it because of the depth of idolatry in Corinth. Even worship at the temple had degenerated into an idolatrous sexual orgy!

Add to that the question that began this whole discourse – “can we eat meat offered to idols?” – and you can see why idolatry was such a critical issue for this church. It was all around them – what were they to do?

You have no doubt felt that same way, haven’t you? While we know idolatry is a prevalent sin today, we don’t hear that word used much, do we? We hear other less-offensive phrases, such as “misplaced priorities” or “skewed perspectives.” But like it or not, worshipping any thing or person more than God is called idolatry, regardless of the century in which it occurred! Even John wrote in his first epistle (5:21), “…keep yourselves from idols.” It’s a bigger problem than you think!

This morning let me walk you through five principles about idolatry that emerge from this chapter. Together let’s examine the Word of God and see exactly how idolatry plagued the Jews, learning from that how we can better resist its temptation. These five principles will answer four basic questions about idolatry, questions that perhaps we all have but are unwilling to ask, such as, “What is idolatry?”, “How does it show up?” and “What effects does it have?” With you Bible open to I Corinthians 10, let’s dig in!

First, let’s read again our key verse for this morning…

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

The word “therefore” indicates we can look both ways regarding this instruction. Would you circle that word in your Bible and draw arrows pointing both directions? Essentially, Paul is making a conclusion based on what he said earlier, so what’s behind and what’s ahead will help us understand this verse better. Here is the first principle, and it answers the question, “What is idolatry?” Look back to 10:6…

1. Idolatry’s Definition (10:6)

“Now these things occurred…”

“These things” refers to the crossroads the Israelites came to, and it is this story on which Paul bases his exhortation to flee from idolatry. When they refused to follow God, they were, in no uncertain terms, following something else. That is idolatry! That’s why we can say idolatry is always the core issue at every crossroads of obedience. And that’s the first principle: 1. When we choose our own way instead of God’s way, we commit the sin of idolatry.

Make no mistake – each time we choose what WE want instead of what God wants, we are worshipping ourselves more than God! That’s idolatry. And you are faced with this decision every day. Hear me loud and clear – disobedience is idolatry! I’m saying, “I love my sin more than God.” “I love my way more than God.” “I love my desires more than God.” It’s nothing short of idolatry!

Remember the three Hebrew young men faced with the decision of either bowing to the idol or staying true to God? That was a crossroads, and to disobey the law God had given (10 commandments) would have been idolatry.

Let me hurry to principle #2 to further explain what idolatry is…

2. Idolatry is always, first and foremost, an inner, spiritual sin of the heart that involves lusting after things selfishly instead of loving God supremely!

Look at the remainder of 10:6 …

“setting our hearts on evil things…”

Or as the NASB renders this, “crave evil things.” The picture is clear – idolatry begins in the heart with lust! Idolatry is always more about taking, while true love is about giving! And doesn’t this fit the text well? What were the Corinthian believers asked to do with their new freedom? That’s right – Be willing to give it up for a weaker brother! But without love that won’t happen. Instead, we’ll seek our own way, lust for our own gratification, and end up committing idolatry! When “I” is your most common word, watch out…the “dolatry” part is not far behind!

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