These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
1 Corinthians 10:11
I wonder how many of us have read the Bible this way – as containing a series of examples for us to learn from. Both the Old Testament, and the new, are full of illustrations of what to do, and what not to do.
We find in this portion of scripture (1 Corinthians chapter 10) that Paul is talking specifically about the lessons to be learned from Israel’s idolatry. There are those who think idolatry isn’t an important issue, but it was important enough not only for Paul to address is specifically here, but to be warned against, time after time after time throughout the scriptures.
It is no small thing to have an idol. It is not an innocent thing, it is not a harmless thing, and it is certainly not a thing winked at by God.
God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.
In context here, what was Paul preaching about? He was troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in Athens, and was preaching to the people about the real God, the One True God, and how He should not be viewed in the same manner as these idols. And Paul was right, as the idols he was preaching against were not merely things made of stone, wood, or metal, but an abomination to God Himself.
But what is idolatry? Is it merely the worship of some kind of statue? No, there are many forms of idols. Ephesians 5:5 tells us that a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world. We see from this verse, that even at this point in the Church’s history, it was well known and taught that the definition of idolatry has a broader scope than merely bowing before an object or giving food offerings to a statue of a false god.
One website states:
Idolatry is the universal human tendency to value something or someone in a way that hinders the love and trust we owe to God. It is an act of theft from God whereby we use some part of creation in a way that steals from honor due to God. Idolatry conflicts with our putting God alone first in our lives, in what we love and trust (see Exodus 20:3-5; Deut. 5:7-9; Romans 1:21-23). In idolatry we put something or someone, usually a gift from God, in a place of value that detracts from the first place owed to God alone, the gift Giver. That thing or person is an idol. The way out of idolatry is always to love and to trust the gift Giver without interference from any gift or any thing other than God. We will then be able to love and to appreciate gifts appropriately, neither giving them too much power nor failing to be thankful for them. We will then be free indeed, and not in bondage or addiction to anything that cannot fulfill us or give us peace.
This is true, and idolatry is theft from God. There are many things in our world today that are made idols. Money, clothing, people, gadgets, food, entertainment, even brand names. And there is a part of creation very widely idolized by many Christians today that simply should not be – that part of creation is men, particularly men of the celebrity kind. These celebrities are worldly, they lead people away from Christ whether knowingly or unknowingly, and yet many in the Church see no problem with embracing them and what they stand for.
These celebrities, of all fields, be it movies, music, sports, television or what have you, all lead people away from Christ. They teach that it’s okay and actually encouraged to seek fame, and fortune. They teach that it’s okay to take the Lord’s name in vain, and then to thank Him with empty words when they are presented with a little golden trophy that tells the world how “great” this human being is instead of God. They teach that it’s okay to sin, to act like the world and then call yourself a Christian when it’s convenient.
But the fact is this kind of behaviour will only appeal to a heart uncircumcised. A true follower of Christ will be disgusted, offended, and upset by these idols and how they are leading so many people astray.
It’s a sadly all too common thing these days for people to lash out at the preaching of obedience to Christ by crying ‘don’t judge me!’ supposing to back up their position by adding such phrases conveniently pulled from scripture such as ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ and ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’. But are these scriptures even fully understood? The fact is…by most people, they’re not.
First of all, if someone is preaching obedience, or preaching against specific sins, or are addressing you personally, and in your mind (or by your mouth) your response is ‘don’t judge me’, you should examine your heart honestly. There is something in there that causes you to say that. Often this is the response of someone who is under conviction but fighting against it.
The cry of our hearts as children of God should be:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Understand that God doesn’t only speak through His word (the Bible), He also speaks through His servants. He will use men and women who truly know Him to preach and teach His truth – and that includes preaching against sin. God is Holy, and God doesn’t wink at sin.
God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him.
Acts 17:30 (NLT)
I’ve heard it suggested more than once that if one were to just go about their business never judging anyone in any way shape or form ever…that God wouldn’t judge them. This logic is flawed. God is the supreme judge…He will bring (is bringing) His judgement to the world, and He will judge every single one of us. God’s judgement begins in the House of God. No warped theory or head buried in the sand will be able to avoid that.
His judgements have come to the world in the past, and they come now, to wake up His sleeping Bride and to deal with those who continually reject Him. The hearts that can turn to Christ He will draw to Himself…no matter what it takes to do it! And those who will continue to rebel against Him…will pay for it!
Then, when the time comes, He will judge the dead, and reward His servants the prophets, as well as His holy people, and all who fear His name, from the least to the greatest. And He will destroy all who have caused destruction (corruption) on the earth. (Revelation 11:18)
For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgement upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
It would be far wiser to listen to the uncomfortable conviction and turn away from sin, then to put up the walls of ‘don’t judge me’, and block out the warnings against sin. And it’s better to heed God quickly, and not resist Him. Such warnings are delivered with love and trembling, though you may not see or feel it. Such warnings are delivered to try to spare you from God’s judgements and snatch you from the brink of Hell – but ultimately it is up to you whether you heed them or refuse to listen.
‘Judge not…’ on the surface this verse would appear simple enough, but we have a problem if that is the case. Humans make judgements both consciously or subconsciously all the time. You judge the weather when choosing your clothes. You judge whether food tastes good or not. You judge whether you like certain colors or not. You judge whether something is clean or not. You judge whether someone is treating you the way you want them to, or not. We spend our days doing a lot of judging.
What this verse is specifically referring to is rash, harsh, fleshly judgement – the kind that does no benefit to anyone. The kind that says, ‘You‘re not attractive enough to be my friend’, for example, or ‘your words aren’t smooth enough so I won’t listen to you.’ These are fleshly judgements that serve no good purpose.
But there is a righteous judgement that benefits the tender hearted. This is a judgement intended to correct. The same way that parents correct their children, God will give correction to His children, because of His love. God has a clear path for us to follow, but often times we can get sidetracked, wander, or stray completely. It is God’s love and mercy that puts us in a place where we get confronted about what we do wrong…no matter how he chooses to deal with us.
For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.
God tells us we will know people by their fruit – this is also judging, because you cannot examine a fruit without making a judgement about it, whether it is good or bad.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Moreover, we are given in God’s word clear directions on how to judge:
Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.
2 Chronicles 19:7
God actually commands His servants to judge righteous judgement. For example, He asked Ezekiel to ‘judge the city of murderers (Jerusalem) and to confront them about their sins!
Will you judge, son of man? Will you judge the city of murderers? Then tell it about all the disgusting things that it has done.
Ezekiel 22:2 (God’s Word)
So…judge not? Judge not a harmful, useless, fleshly judgement. Judge not the way the world does, with no godly motive. Judge not to condemn, but to point and to lead closer to Christ and to lead to obedience to Christ.
– – – – – – –
‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…’
This verse quotes Christ. Yes, it is true Jesus said this, and we all know the story of what happened when He said it. But most people who quote this to defend themselves forget key facts surrounding this quote.
I would point out that the stones were intended not to bring the woman to repentance, but to simply fill the letter of the law by killing her. Without a doubt, those holding the stones weren’t looking at her with love, but with hate for her sin. They had condemned her.
Christ stepped in and spared her life out of love. But there’s something else, too. He told her to ‘go and sin no more’. The same is asked of us, by Jesus. He spares our lives when we ask him to save us and repent…and He tells us ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11), to be ‘perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect’ (Matt 5:48).
The question is, are you saved? Saved from what? Did Christ save you from idolatry? From lying, cheating, and stealing? From adultery or fornication? From lust, pornography, or other addiction? If you want to be saved from hell, you must also be saved from sin. That’s not to say the people of God never stumble, but we are absolutely not permitted to habitually, wilfully sin, using God’s grace as an excuse to do so. The same rule applies to all of us…if we sin, when we become aware of that sin, we must repent (turn away) from it.
It is not casting stones at a person who is in sin to tell them that they are in sin. It is stating facts. It is not casting stones at a person to tell them they need to repent, it is love.
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.