Warning against Idolatry and Immorality

In the Old Testament, when Moses went up the mountain to receive the two tablets of the testimony, written with the finger of God, the people of Israel urged Aaron to make them gods. Aaron succumbed to their urgings and he fashioned a golden calf from the rings of gold given by the people and declared to them, “These are your gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Aaron then built them an altar and declared a feast; the people offered offerings, sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play (indicating frivolous merry-making, dancing and possibly immoral behaviour). God’s wrath burned against them and He sought to consume them; Moses himself was furious with the people and he appealed to God on their behalf (Exodus 32).

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel (Numbers 25:1- 3). Notice the association of idolatry with immorality and the seriousness of such sins against God.

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament wrote to the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God…The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body….Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!..Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1 Corinthians 6:9-10,13,15).

In his epistle to the Ephesians believers, Paul again addressed the similar issues:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5: 3-7).

Notice that an idolater is not just confined to the one who worships other gods; such ones may be those who worship ‘wealth’, prestige, status, and are characterised by pride, greed and worldly desires. These may even include individuals who long for such pursuits in the context of spiritual activities and in the pretext of serving God.

In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the issues of idolatry and immorality are addressed and there can be no doubt that such sins are very serious in the eyes of God. They cause God’s wrath and anger to burn against His people, and the consequence of such habitual sins may incur eternal judgement to a point that Paul even declared that those who practice such sins have no inheritance in the kingdom of God!

Believers generally do not want to be judgmental and rightly so. The attitude of judgmentalism was also condemned by the Lord Jesus. But the Lord Jesus did encourage making right judgements (John 7:24). In fact, a local Christian assembly has the responsibility to make discerning judgements; but these judgements should be based on Scriptures that are maturely understood and on the unchanging characteristics of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. An individual or a church cannot avoid responsibility by refusing to make judgements, for the very refusal is already a judgement, especially when a judgement is called for in the eyes of God. What we can do is to ask God for the grace and wisdom to avoid making judgements based on flattery, prejudice, faulty understanding of Scripture, carelessness or impure motives.

The fear of being branded as being judgemental may cause many to remain silent, thinking that they are being tolerant, open-minded, forgiving when in fact the truths of Scripture have been distorted and the glory of God has been compromised. When believers, even Christian leaders, are habitually guilty of practicing immorality and ‘idolatry’, and are promoting false teachings and distortions of Scriptural truths, there is a place for discerning judgements to be made and even the exercise of church discipline. The Apostle Paul did not flinch in sounding out the warnings which come from God. The warnings from Scripture regarding the serious sins of idolatry and immorality should not be overlooked; this is especially so in the last days! We must humbly guard our lives and the life of the church prayerfully that we do not end up incurring the wrath and anger of God by rationalising that God understands and He is ever forgiving, when in fact we have grieved the Spirit of God and caused much pain to our Lord and God by our life and behaviour.