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What is idolatry?

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Most people today who have any concept of idolatry probably think of pagans bowing down and worshipping a strange-looking idol—a carved image or statue. That's part of what idolatry means, but since most of us today don't do that, how do God's commands against idolatry apply to Christians now?

In the King James Version of the Bible, there are three different words translated as “idolatry.” Each one ( teraphiym kateidolos  and  eidololatria ) has at its core the concept of serving or worshipping something other than the one true God.

The apostle Paul provides us with a modern application of idolatry in the middle of a sentence in his letter to the Colossians. He mentions “covetousness [greed, New International Version], which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5 Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
American King James Version×

So idolatry is not just venerating a statue, carving or painting. Idolatry occurs when we begin to value anything more than we value God. If we spend more time thinking about our hero than God, that's idolatry. If our every thought is about the latest gadget or our personal appearance, that's idolatry. If the first priority in our lives is our family, even that's idolatry.

When God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3 Exodus 20:3You shall have no other gods before me.
American King James Version×
), He wasn't just talking about the imaginary deities that seem so ridiculous to us today. He was talking about  anything  that usurps His place as number one in our hearts. The solution to this problem is as simple (and as difficult) as Christ's admonition in Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×
: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Everything else  must  come after.

For more understanding, please read our booklet What is Your Destiny?

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  • TruthX

    Worshiping Jesus is idolatry.
    You should worship only God, who is The Creator of everything. not his creation. this was the True message of Jesus.

  • Lena VanAusdle


    If Jesus Christ is not God, how do you explain the following?

    Jesus was the divine Word through whom God created the universe! “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3; see verses 1-3, 14).

    Paul states directly that “God . . .created all things through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). He elsewhere writes of Jesus: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).. He adds in verse 17, “and in Him all things consist.” The Old Testament presents God as Creator of the universe (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 40:25-26, 28). When the early Christians said Jesus was the One through whom all things were created, they were clearly saying that Jesus is God.

    Jesus claimed to be all that God is, and the disciples believed and taught it. They understood that Jesus was “the exact expression of His [the Father’s] nature” (Hebrews 1:3, HCSB) and “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9, NRSV).

    They understood precisely who He was and still is from His own words and actions. There was no question in their minds. They had seen Him prove it time and time again. They would go to their martyrdom firm in this conviction.

  • Amanda Boyer

    The worship of Jesus Christ is not idolatry, it is commanded by God our Father. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him [Jesus] and given Him [Jesus] the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” When we give honor, worship and praise to Jesus Christ, it give honor and glory to God the Father.

  • KARS

    It’s the statues of the so called Jesus Christ you do not want to bow down too or have posted on your walls. We can’t see the God the Father or the Son right now. We are to walk by faith and not by sight. Believing in God our Father and His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ.

  • Cheryl Allen
    Truth X had this right. If you worship Jesus ‘only’ and ignore his Father that sent him this is idolatry because Jesus is a creation. Jesus says at John 17:3 John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
    American King James Version×
    in a prayer to his Father, Jehovah/Yahweh..” This means Everlasting Life their taking in Knowledge of You, the ONLY True God and of Me, whom You sent.” There you have it you need knowledge of two spirits, not three, and one of the spirits is greater than the other. They are not equal.. Jesus says at John 14:28 John 14:28You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
    American King James Version×
    ” You heard me say that I am going away but I will be coming back again. If you Loved me you would rejoice that I am returning to my my Father, for He is greater than me. When Jesus was here he made his Father’s name known to the disciples his Father gave him. ~ John 17: 6 He is praying to his Father still he says ” I have revealed Your Name to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours and you gave them to me and they have observed your word. (26) And I have made Your Name known to them and will make it known in order that the Love with which you Loved me may be in union with them.” When Jesus began his ministry after he was baptized he worked under the power of his Father, who poured from His own power source that was inside of Himself, Holy Spirit upon his Son, sending it down like a dove..Note: Jesus is not practicing to be a ventriloquist here..this is his Father’s voice. Matthew 3:17 Matthew 3:17And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
    American King James Version×
    ” Look! Also, there was a VOICE from the heavens that said: ” This is My Son, ” the Beloved, whom I have approved.” So he and his Father were in truly together in Holy Spirit from his Father who is the Holy Spirit. Here is proof: The Most High God is a Spirit and His Spirit inside of his outer Spirit is Holy, the Holy of Holies is Jehovah/Yahweh the Creator of Jesus, who became His Right Arm and His Masterworker. ~ John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
    American King James Version×
    ” God is a Spirit and You must worship Him in Spirit and In Truth. ” and Deuteronomy 4:24 Deuteronomy 4:24For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
    American King James Version×
    ” For Jehovah/Yahweh is a Consuming Fire even a Jealous God.” When Jesus returned to heaven his Father gave him what He had promised him, and that was his own Holy Spirit from Himself. ~ Acts 2: 32 ” This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we are all witnesses. (33) Being, therefore, by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of his Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this which ye see and hear. ~ John 7:28 John 7:28Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, You both know me, and you know from where I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom you know not.
    American King James Version×
    , 29 ~ John 12:28 John 12:28Father, glorify your name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
    American King James Version×
    , Matthew 17:5 Matthew 17:5While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.
    American King James Version×
  • Ivan Veller
    Hi Ms. Allen, 1. Re: “two…not three, and one of the spirits is greater than the other.” Correct. “Paul clearly states that ‘the head of Christ is God’ (11:3). In both of these passages Paul describes two individual divine Beings, with Jesus being subject to God the Father. This is consistent with Jesus Christ’s own statements in which He said, contrary to the Athanasian Creed, ‘My Father is greater than I’ (John 14:28 John 14:28You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
    American King James Version×
    ) and ‘My Father … is greater than all’ (John 10:29 John 10:29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
    American King James Version×
    ). Directly from Scripture, we see that God the Father is the undisputed Head of the family—and that Father and Son are not coequal in authority, as claimed by the Trinity doctrine” (Jesus Christ’s Submission to the Father): 2. Re: “Jesus is not practicing to be a ventriloquist here [“‘This is My Son—the Beloved’” (Matthew 3:17 Matthew 3:17And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
    American King James Version×
    YLT)—] this is his Father’s voice.” Correct—and memorably stated! “Scripture clearly states that there is only one God (Isaiah 46:9 Isaiah 46:9Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
    American King James Version×
    ; Malachi 2:10 Malachi 2:10Have we not all one father? has not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
    American King James Version×
    ; Romans 3:30 Romans 3:30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
    American King James Version×
    ; James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
    American King James Version×
    ). Nevertheless, it is evident that the one God comprises more than one Being existing together as a divine family (compare Ephesians 3:14-15 Ephesians 3:14-15 14 For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
    American King James Version×
    )—of which the human family is a physical type. The Hebrew word translated ‘God’ throughout the Old Testament is Elohim, a plural noun pointing to more than one almighty Being…The plural aspect of God is often taken as evidence supporting the doctrine of the Trinity, which maintains that God is three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in a single being. Yet…this doctrine is unscriptural”:… 3. Re: “Jesus is a creation.” Well, let’s see what the Scriptures have to say about this question: “Jesus…referred to His existing before the creation when, in praying to the Father, He spoke of “the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5 John 17:5And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was.
    American King James Version×
    , NIV). Jesus speaks of the relationship between Himself and the Father “before the foundation of the world” (verse 24), a phrase echoed by Paul in Ephesians 1:4 Ephesians 1:4According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
    American King James Version×
    [(ISV 2010): “he chose us in the Messiah before the creation of the universe”]”: “God…made the universe through Him” (Hebrews 1:2 Hebrews 1:2Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
    American King James Version×
    b, HCSB 2009):…
  • Ivan Veller
    “God replied to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ and then said, ‘Tell the Israelis: ‘I AM sent me to you”” (Exodus 3:14 Exodus 3:14And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
    American King James Version×
    , ISV 2010). “Jesus told them, ‘Truly, I tell all of you with certainty, before there was an Abraham, I AM!’” (John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
    American King James Version×
    ISV). Also see:

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