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1 Corinthians 8:4 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:59 mins 18 secs

Idolatry and Demonism; 1 Corinthians 8:4


Idolatry in human civilization

1)  The development of idolatry, Romans 1:8-25. In Romans chapter one we see a historical summary of what took place after the flood, i.e. idolatry as we know it. That is not to say there weren't some forms of idolatry prior to the flood. Romans 1:18 NASB "For the wrath [divine judgment] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." In some translations there is a comma after the word "men." This indicates a certain interpretive decision that has been made by the translator that we don't agree with because it indicates, however subtle the indication is, the idea that all men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What that relates to is the Calvinistic doctrine of total inability as opposed to the concept of total depravity. Total depravity means that man in every area of his being is affected by sin. Total inability means that there is no area in man's makeup where he has any ability whatsoever, including expressing positive volition. What happens is they take the phrase "suppress" as a gnomic present. Grammar merely tells us that it is a present tense. There are ten or twelve shades of meaning to a present tense. If it is a gnomic present it means that this is a universal principle that is true in each and every situation. That would mean that every single human being at the moment of God consciousness suppresses the truth. That is negative volition. However, we think it is a historical present because as we go through the subsequent verses it explains what took place after the flood and so it is talking about the fact that God's wrath is revealed from heaven against men who suppress the truth as opposed to those who don't suppress the truth. There shouldn't be a comma there.

Not all men suppress the truth; there are some who do not suppress the truth. These people are positive at God-consciousness through the non-verbal revelation of God which we call general revelation. Psalm 19:1 NASB "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Romans 1:19, 20 is going to reiterate that principle, that every single human being as they grow up looks out at the creation and at some point recognize that there is someone higher and greater than them, and this text says they know there is a God. Some will say they want to know more about that God and some will say they don't want to know anything about that God. Those who don't want to know anything about that God suppress at that point what they know in unrighteousness, and God's wrath is revealed against them. But for those who express positive volition God in His justice will make sure they get the next amount of information which has to do withy salvation. That is how we solve the problem: What about the heathen? The heathen or those who never heard have an opportunity at God-consciousness to express positive volition or negative volition. If they express negative volition then God is not bound to get them the gospel—He may but He is not bound to. So they will go the rest of their life and never hear the gospel and they will never have a chance to reject Christ, but rhe reason they are never condemned is because they never believed in Christ, and they never believed in Christ because they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness at the first opportunity they had and they continue to be negative for the rest of their life. If anyone is positive then God is going to keep them alive long enough until somehow and in some way He will get the gospel to them.

Romans 1:19 NASB "because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." There is something inside the soul of every human being that is, like a radio, tuned to God's frequency so that everyone knows internally that there is something inside them whereby they know that God exists. There is an internal witness and there is an external witness, a subjective witness and an objective witness. [20] "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." How do we see invisible attributes? This is not talking about physical sight, it is talking about mental knowledge, mentally seeing a truth. There is a testimony; it is evident that there is a creator who is omnipotent. There is even non-verbal evidence of the Trinity. There is enough evidence there to hold every single human being accountable before the throne of God. [21] "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened."  "They knew" is referring to those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They had absolutely irrefutable knowledge in their soul that God exists. At some point in the life of every human being they know without a shadow of a doubt that God exists, and then they have to decide: are they going to go with that knowledge, or are they going to reject it? The vast majority of creatures suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Part of the judgment of God is that their thinking is darkened and hardened because of their negative volition. As a result that hardening is going to continue throughout their life and God may even intensify it as He did with Pharaoh, but Pharaoh is the one who initiated the darkness because of his negative volition.    

2)  The essence of idolatry is rejecting the creator-creature distinction. They are now assigning to something in the creation the role of creator. Think about the big bang. You go back to five seconds

after the big bang and there is this explosion taking place, and there is matter, energy and light. Well what is there ten seconds before that, five seconds before the big bang? The is still matter and energy. Something is there; it is not a creation, ex nihilo, from nothing. There is something there and whatever that is, that matter or energy, is eternal. So you are taking something within the created order and it becomes the creator. In many ancient religions they, too, had an evolutionary concept. We say that evolution is time plus chance equals complexity; they had chaos. In the beginning was chaos and the gods generated the earth, but the earth is made from prior existing materials. In other words, there is always something from within the created domain that is elevated above creation and identified as God. That is the essence of idolatry—taking anything in the created realm, something concrete or something abstract such as an idea, and elevating it to the position of God and exchanging the God of the Bible for that idea.

            3)  Idolatry, then, is taking something within the creation and elevating it above the creator. This developed in the ancient world into concrete idols, physical representations of gods and goddesses. In the New Testament the emphasis on idolatry is more on abstract idols such as intellectual concepts, values, ethics or knowledge. Knowledge in and of itself can become an idol; you exchange that for the worship of God. Doctrine in some Christians become an idol. You are so caught up in learning doctrine you forget the doctrine is a means to an end, the end of spiritual maturity and glorifying God. You are so caught up in the process of learning, and that is what the problem was in Corinth, that it is just academic knowledge. But under this point where something in creation is taken and elevated, one of the things that happened after the flood is that demons, fallen angels, are elevated to a position of gods and goddesses, and these demons were the unseen reality between the physical representations of these gods and goddesses. For example, in Leviticus 17:7 NASB "They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations." There is the recognition there that in going to the groves and to the Baals that when they were offering a sacrifice to that idol there was indeed a spiritual reality there and it was a demon. So idolatry has a spiritual dimension to it, but it is just a demon. Deuteronomy 32:17 NASB "They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New {gods} who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread." So we see that one of Satan's attempts to destroy civilization was to get them to worship demons and demon forces. Psalm 106:37 NASB "They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons."

            4)  Modern idolatry, that is the idolatry that has developed in the post-flood environment had its roots in the antediluvian invasion of the human race. So this goes back to Genesis 6:3 which explains the reason for the world-wide flood at the time of Noah. Genesis 6:1 NASB "Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, [2] that the sons of God [angelic creatures] saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. [3] Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." [4] The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore {children} to them. Those were the mighty men who {were} of old, men of renown. [5] Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Noah and his sons would pass on the stories to their progeny of what it was like before the flood. Some of their descendants are those who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and so what they do is to go back to these stories about these "heroes" before the flood, and there is probably other demonic activity going on on the earth at that time, so they develop and construct mythologies and religious system and gods and goddesses on the basis of those stories. So Satan is developing his own counterfeit religion and his own counterfeit idols. That is how postdiluvian idolatry developed.  

            5)  Idolatry in the Old Testament is primarily associated with physical idolatry, but in the New Testament it is primarily associated with mental idolatry. Quote from Kenneth Hamilton: "Just as polytheism continued in an underground form in the Middle Ages, and lives on today in modern cults of witchcraft and Satanism, the imagine of western man was never fully Christianised. The modern idolatrous imagination still refuses to believe that the promises of the living God are sure and that His grace is sufficient for all our needs. It sill looks to other powers and other authorities for support and guidance, transferring to them what belongs to the creator alone. The modern world upon closer inspection is filled with idols. There are historicisms"-- these are ideas, like Marxism and socialism. If you are into a philosophical system that is not biblical you are into an idolatrous system – "like Marxism that mimics God's sovereign plan and seeks to explain all things by historical, political, social, economic and military causes alone. There are naturalisms, like evolution, that mimic's sovereignty and omnipotence and seek to explain all things by natural, physical laws."