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Idol Worship in the Church — 28 Comments

  1. An interesting point is that what may be an idol to me may not be an idol to you, because it is our attitude to towards a symbol, a day or an action that determines whether it is an idol.

    Before Jesus the sanctuary & sacrificial system was to point them forward to the coming Messiah, but they concentrated on the rituals and things instead of a relationship with Jehovah, maybe that is why Jesus didn't institute a system to take the place of the one He instituted at Mt Sinai?

    • "...it is our attitude to towards a symbol, a day or an action that determines whether it is an idol." I think I would agree, Shirley.

      Eze 14:4

      "...Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his [own] face, and comes to the prophet [for instruction]; I the LORD will answer him that comes, according to the multitude of his idols"

      God will answer that person as if he were an open, flagrant, idolater.

    • I have had questions for a number of years regarding the purpose of attending a worship service in church. It appears that the purpose is not the same for everyone. Entertainment value seems to be a priority for some. The music is always one of the first subjects of controversy. I wonder about some of the participants that are very young. Where is the attention or the purpose? Is it to showcase a cute little child? It is a matter of reverence as I see it. Some of our services are lacking in that regard. The focus should only be in one direction. Upward.

      • Paul, while each of us must search our own heart for defilement, I believe it is not difficult to see the signs of idolatry within a congregation. Without intent to judge, God's servants will understand how to labor for those who are misled into such idolatry and away from serving God faithfully.

        It also affects the outreach (if there is any) of the congregation. God will not bring new believers into the confusion of today's idol worship.

  2. If christians wear jewelry are they worshiping
    Idols and can you give me some pointers in the bible about not wearing jewelry

    • Yvonne, a thought comes to mind from the Book of Isaiah. It speaks about jewellery in terms of "BRAVERY". If our confidence, courage, etc. is based on externals, then we are in danger, and it is for this reason that God endeavours to lead us off of that 'enchanted' ground.

      "In that day the Lord will take away THE BRAVERY of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails." (Isa 3:18-23 KJV)

    • Yvonne, we as Seventh Day Adventist used to be more conservative than we are today. Women wore hats and other clothes items that were not to have feathers and other ornamental decoration that would draw attention. The reason is that we attend church to worship God, our Creator. If we detract from that worship by what ever means,that is something that is not appropriate and may even be sinful. I used to attend a Sabbath School class, that the teacher was medical doctor who wore white shirts with French cuffs. Would not wear cufflinks or a watch that could be seen,for the reason as I described. That was quite a few years ago and our culture has changed considerably, however the premise or reason has not.

  3. Yvonne, I would imagine different people wear different articles for different purposes. Thus, I would be hesitant to make a blanket statement about all jewelry being idolatry. HoweverJacob did refer to certain articles of his wives jewelry as idols and strange gods. Without getting our discussion totally sidetracked on jewelry,here you will find a study on Christian adornment.

  4. I wonder how many of us spend more time viewing / paying homage to our televisions then we do to the study of the Bible, God's Word. When it was first invented a wise man said this thing can educate or it can destroy!

  5. I like the topic 'Idol Worship in the Church' it's a great warning to us people in the Church because the Idols which everyone of us should guard against is Idolizes our Pastors, Elders, Deacon's and all Church leaders. even our wealth can be our biggest obstacle to the grace of our lord Jesus Christ

    • Ilike your comment,'even our wealth can be our biggest obstacle to the grace of our lord Jesus Christ'.More speciaaly money in today's world that has attracted every one.Paul said in 1Timothy 6:10.'for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil'.We need to take care in as much as we go out looking for a means of survival in this short-lived world, we don't forget the warning of God's word so that what we do there is not evil and we don't start valuing it more then our lord Jesus Christ.

  6. Yvonne, maybe this will help a little. Once upon a time my husband gave me a pendant watch. I had seen others wear them and thought nothing of it, but I could not wear that watch. The way I felt every time I put it on, I just knew I couldn't wear it! I don't really understand why. Maybe I felt like it was my (unbelieving) husbands way of trying to separate me from God because to him it was a necklace, which he knew I wouldn't wear. So for me, I believe it would have been a sin to wear it, even though I saw nothing wrong with others wearing it. Some things are personal - between you and God.

  7. To me the following comment magnifies an aspect of God's Law wonderfully well :

    "It is as easy to make an idol of false doctrines and theories as to fashion an idol of wood or stone... With many, a philosophical idol is enthroned in the place of Jehovah". (Great Controversy p.583)

    Perhaps most idols today are based on 'theoretical' science. Tangible things like people, places, and objects can all become idols of course, but a wider, less visible field exists in the mind.

    How easily the public mind is made to bow down to concepts of evolution, and to other ideas and theories equally absurd! The land is full of idols. (Isa 2:8-9)

  8. I think one of our biggest idols is the image of Jesus that permeates our churches and publications. It is a violation of the 2nd commandment however you slice it. Most people claim the image of Christ in the SDA church isn't an idol because we don't "worship" it. However, those same people will simultaneously claim that TV, jewelry or even people can become an idol even though overt acts of worship aren't being done towards it (i.e. Prayer, bowing, burning incense, etc). The hypocrisy and inconsistency is rarely noticed. Either worship is more than outward religious forms or it isn't. And if it is then how can we claim that we are not "worshipping" the image of Christ? We cannot have our cake and eat it too.

    • Bensheh, a TV is worshiped through the TIME and MEANS devoted to it. Jewelry is worshiped by the TIME and MEANS devoted to purchase it and by the true purpose for adding it to one's outward dress. People are worshiped by flattery, compliments, adoration and imitation, and any TIME and MEANS spent towards them.

      If you purchase a book with the image of Jesus somewhere inside it, did you purchase if for the picture or the contents? Do you give service, time or means to this image? Worship is seen in direct actions and attitudes toward something.

      Notice the relation of Revelation 13:8 and 17:13. This is the same group doing the same thing, but notice how it is described in 17:13. This is worship, giving one's "strength and power" to something. If you can, look up those words in the Greek and see how they are defined. We worship without knowing it by our actions and attitudes.

      Also, the true worship of God is in holiness(Ps 29:2), and there is no true worship of God without this holiness, since true worship is to devote all to the object which will transform us into the likeness of it's character. Mimicry is worship. What/who do we mimic? If we mimic the LORD, we will be holy as He is Holy. (Lev 11:44, 1 Pe 1:16)

      • Defining idolatry as "time" and "means" spent seems awfully legalistic especially when we consider how easy it is to spend time and means on day to day activities that hardly rise to the level of a god. The biblical understanding of idolatry is anything that leads us to disobey the words and commandments of our Lord. If we live our lives according to "thus saith (fill in the blank)" rather than Thus saith the Lord, then the former has become our god. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Romans 6:16.

        As far as the purchaser of books with Jesus pictures on them, no I don't think this person bears guilt for the creation of this image. However, I still believe they can be corrupted by a limited representation of an unlimited God. But by your own example you admit that those who both create and perpetuate this image are the true guilty party. Here are some arguments people make in defense of this image and my response to them:

        1. "We're depicting Christ humanity not His divinity." Really and who gave you this remarkable ability to surgically divide the two natures of Christ? In 1 John 4:3 John tells us that people who claim that Jesus was all God and not human are anti-Christ. Isn't it then anti-Christ to create an image of Jesus that's all human and not God?

        2. "This is only a representation to illustrate a point." Put a picture of sponge bob square pants in front of a child and ask him to name who it is and he'll tell you " SpongeBob SquarePants!" Put a picture of "Jesus" in front of that same kid and ask him to name who it is and he will not say "that's an artistic representation of what Jesus may have looked like." No, he will exclaim "that's Jesus!" Because pictures of Jesus are not presented as if they depict something about Jesus, they're presented as if they are Jesus.

        3. "God used imagery like lambs and priest to represent Jesus all throughout the Bible." Yes, symbols which represented Christ character and mission. Not His likeness.

        4. "But Jesus was visible."
        So are frogs, birds, and cattle. But once you make an image of them with the title God attached to it all sorts of problems arise from that. Which is why it is forbidden.

        I leave you with this quote from patriarchs and prophets about the antediluvians who rejected Noah and refused to repent:

        The men of that generation were not all, in the fullest acceptation of the term, idolaters. Many professed to be worshipers of God. They claimed that their idols were representations of the Deity, and that through them the people could obtain a clearer conception of the divine Being. This class were foremost in rejecting the preaching of Noah. As they endeavored to represent God by material objects, their minds were blinded to His majesty and power; they ceased to realize the holiness of His character, or the sacred, unchanging nature of His requirements.{PP 95.3}

        As it was in the days of Noah...

        • An idol can be anything we see as more important than the cause of Christ in this world. It can be any possession of ours, and even our ideas or opinions. Perhaps you have read such quotes that describe this, or how people can make an idol out of the foods they choose to eat? Anything that God has counseled against can become an idol when we cherish it.

          There is time and means spent on many things needed for living, but anything that takes us from devotion to the Lord and the work of seeking the lost is an idol. We need food to live, but not TV. Legalistic or not, the law is fulfilled only when our love for God is supreme, which will lead us to love our neighbor as our self, which will guide us in the way we use our time and means. Works reveal faith or unbelief, and either glorify God or bring reproach upon Him. This is why we are judged on our works, as they reveal our true motives.

          Time and means are spent as the result of placing value on something, and if that something is not needed for life and keeps us distracted from serving the Lord by meeting the needs of our fellow man, haven't we made it an idol?

          • Let's distill this down to what the core argument really is:
            Images of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be made just as long we don't "worship" (spend time and means?) them.

            Here's why I disagree. "And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words, but saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice…Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves…Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged foul that flieth in the air, The likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them…" (Deuteronomy4:12, 15-19). Moses emphasized that the children of Israel never saw what God looked liked, they only heard His voice. Therefore they were to be a people that worshipped God by following what He said, not through what He looks like. Whether that image is worshipped or not is besides the point, the commandant categorically opposes making images of God under any circumstances. This is further expanded in the book of Isaiah "To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One" (Isaiah 40:18, 25). There are no answers for these questions, the purpose is to inspire silence and reverence for the God whose glory is greater than anything man can imagine.The Bible makes no such distinction between images of God that aren't worshipped verses images that are. Such a distinction is artificial and foreign to scripture. According to the Bible everything that is associated with God is all about the worship of God. "The Second commandment prohibits man from worshipping the true God through any creature or image. It forbids the making of any image which man might try to liken to the Creator. It forbids the making of an image of any creature to represent God or to be associated in any way with the worship of God" (Ellen G. White, Sermons and Talks, Vol. 2, pg 181-182)

          • What you say is "the core argument" isn't the argument at all as far as what I am addressing.

            I have personally not seen any "image" being made of any members of the Godhead for the purpose of worshiping them.

            What I have been sharing is that we can make an idol of anything even if we don't make an image of it and physically bow to or worship it. Worship is more than a formal action of "worship". It is making anything more important that God or His Kingdom, so that we are found instead to be against it while thinking we are in support of it. This is the deception that most seem to not realize. Satan is clever to turn us against God while thinking we are not. The true object of worship, if not God, is self. We can profess to serve/worship God while we serve/worship self.
            This was the nation of Israel in Jesus' day and according to scripture, is no different today. All this the judgment will reveal. (Mal 3:18)

  9. Some idols are certain preachers in our churches who are being exalted more than Jehovha himself. "Without so and so preaching I will not attend divine service" are some statements. Even here on ssnet - without so and so commenting I will not read the rest of the comments or I will always believe so and so's comments on snet without checking to the scriptures etc

    • Paul faced the same problem in the early church where some were praising him and others were supporting Apollos. Of course Paul pointed his readers to Christ and asked them to look beyond the preacher to see Jesus.

      The problem is just the same today with many relying heavily on media personalities to define their faith for them. it is a scary thought that a popular TV personality can have so much influence. We do need to take stock of our own experience though and "search out our own salvation" rather than living it vicariously through others. We need to acknowledge that the problem is often one of our own making, rather than the preacher or writer.

  10. One brief comment that I would like to make in regards idol worship in the church is in the light of the spirit of prophecy .it seems at times that sister white and her writing are mention more than the word of God itself And that has been one of reason why at times people rejects the gospel , as the matter of fact she said that her writings where" the lesser light that leads to the britter light"

    • Elliot, I agree that it is a problem when Sister White is mentioned more than the Word of God. She can be set up in place of God (and that will not do any of us any good), but nevertheless she should not be "shut out" of the church, or avoided, should she?

      As a 'body' we accept that God employed her as a spokes-person -- of course not everyone in the church accepts that -- but if God has spoken to us through that lady, then we are in danger if we do not refer to her and take heed to what she said.

  11. I've seen where our traditions can cause a big argument within the congregation. For example the time of Sabbath school, where the class sits etc. Is this worth a fight?

  12. Mr. Earnhardt,
    In your discussion you stated that "So God ALLOWED snakes to enter the camp." You used as a reference Numbers 21. After reading the passage verse 6 NKJV: ”6 So the Lord SENT fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel
    died." Can you justify your statement because God says that He will not give His glory to another?
    In our past Sabbath School lesson study, we elaborated on the passage:
    Psalm 89:14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

    Because Jeremiah lamented because of the coming judgements announced against God's His people for their disobedience.

    I would like to add the following passages: Psalm 9:16 The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.

    Psalm 76:8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still,

    We reemphazied the fact that God is in control. Remember that Noah preached that God is going to destroy the earth? Not another.

    Genesis 6:17 (KJV)
    17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die

    We must understand that God is not a passive God when it comes to evil. He hates it. It cost Him His Son.

  13. Thank you James and everyone else for your thoughtful comments.

    James, the snakes were outside the camp the entire time and would have come in had it not been for God's presence keeping them out. So He sent them in simply by removing Himself from where He was not wanted.

  14. Is there a possibility that we may not be having the correct conversation? A review of Num 21:4-9 records that the Israelites "became very discouraged on the way" (Num 21:4). To be sure, the journey from their miraculous freedom from Egyptian enslavement to their own land, promised by God, was no cake walk. That acknowledged, discouragement---a condition or state of mind--supplanted God's will for them, His love for them and His power on their behalf and became their ruler. Their new "ruler" led them to make a false, contradictory statement regarding the actual facts (Num 21:5). If there had been NO food and NO water, what was the "worthless bread" (NKJV) that their "soul" so loathed? (In the light of of Jn 6:32-33, the "worthless bread" takes on even greater meaning, but that's another post). Discouragement, again a STATE OF MIND, they acknowledged had led them to the confession "we have sinned" (Num 21:7). Sin, according to James 1:13-15, is a problem of the mind's perception of realities, whether as in this case challenging, or in some others pleasant (Deut 8:14). Num 21:8-9 records their Creator's rescue plan for each guilty victim. It fore-shadowed His actual rescue plan of sending Christ who has been made "to be sin" in the place of each of Adam's descendants (2 Cor 5:21; Jn 3:14-16).
    Should we be focused on the idols/objects of idolatry or the SOURCE of the idolatry? Once we recognize the problem's SOURCE (Jer 17:9; Isaiah 44:18-20), shouldn't we be looking for an effective rescue plan (Gen 4:7; 1 King 8:38-39; Col 3:5)? Should we be unconcerned that Scripture suggests that that which God has provided for healing can become a snare? (2 King 18:4; Isaiah 1:11-14). Since Moses (Deut 11:16), Isaiah (Isaiah 47:8), Jeremiah (Jer 7:24), James (Jms 1:14, 22) and Christ (Mt 15:16-20) has warned of this danger, shouldn't we be paying closer attention to our Creator's declarations? A blatant rejection of God's rescue plan (Jn 1:29; Jn 3:18) is as disastrous as relating to it in an inappropriate manner (Mt 7:21-23)...as either way, satan triumphs over our human failure!
    When we have conversations around "Idol Worship in the Church" (I'm NOT saying we shouldn't), because of our sinful MINDS, we risk exposure to self-deception in that (1) we may mistakenly associate worship with liturgical practices performed on a particular day at a particular place. (2) The word "church" implying a group/others may divert focus from the personal responsibility of each creature within a right relationship with his/her Creator. Christ has covenanted (Heb 8:6) to release each of us from the victimization brought on by our own sinful minds (Heb 8:10; Philipp 2:5; 1 Cor 2:12, 16), when its numerous possible productions stands in a higher place than the Creator. God intends to break the power of the oppressor (Isaiah 14:24-27) and free our minds to give its complete service or worship due rightfully only to its Creator and Owner (Mt 22: 36-38).


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