Why does God condemn idolatry in 1 Cor. 8:4 when idols are actually “nothing”?

Paul says here that “an idol is nothing in the world.” Yet the Bible repeatedly condemns idolatry (cf. Ex. 20:4), and even Paul said there are demons behind idols (1 Cor. 10:19). Is he then claiming that demons are nothing?  

1 Corinthians 8:4 says,  "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." KJV

1 Corinthians 8:4

ESV - 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one.

Clarify Share Report Asked February 21 2021 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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Mini Aurel Gheorghe
God is our creator and sustainer. By worshiping objects and images, we not only disobey the first and second commandments (Ex 20:4, 5) but we bestow allegiance, honor, and respect (that only God deserves) to worthless idols (Ex 32:4, 5). The Bible often equates idolatry with adultery (Jer 3:6-9, Ezek 16:15-19; Col 3:5). 

And idol worship is not harmless - for example, backsliding Israel sacrificed their children to Molech, the god of the Ammonites (2 Kings 23:10). 

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul is addressing a very controversial issue among Corinthian Christians: should food purchased from the market (that might have been sacrificed to idols) be consumed? Paul is addressing the issues by saying that idols are nothing (1 Cor. 8:4) and meat offered to them is not polluted and good for consumption, suggesting a don't ask attitude (1 Cor 10:25). 

He reasoned that as long as they didn't participate in idol worshiping, the food sacrificed to these worthless gods should be okay; however, to be careful not to cause a problem for someone else who is bothered by it (1 Cor 10:25-33).

February 22 2021 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Grant Abbott Child of Father, Follower of Son, Student of Spirit
In the ancient world, idolatry was the gold standard for religious experiences. Even Israel, chosen by God, who saw his sovereignty manifested in miracles, signs and wonders; still were captivated by idol worship.

Ancient cultures worshipped idols for 3 main reasons: 1) fertility, 2) harvest, 3) conquest. Ancient peoples believed their worship of idols (included child sacrifices) enabled their women to be more fertile, which expanded their populations, power and prosperity. They believed the idols would provide the weather necessary for abundant harvest of their crops and plenty of food for their livestock; so they would have plenty of food to eat for their growing nations. They believed these idols would protect them from their enemies and give them victory when they went to war, thus protecting and expanding their territory, power and prosperity. 

When things went horribly wrong, they believed they had offended their idol gods in some way, so their religious sacrifices became more frenetic and appalling, offering human sacrifices to their gods. 

We know that the devil and his hordes of demons are the principalities and powers that have dominion over the earth (to the extent that God allows it). These evil spirits are fallen angels who have great power. They are able to control natural events, like weather, the fertility of women by mating at the best times, the results of warfare among nations. These evil spirits can manipulate events so as to foster, promote, captivate and control people through idol worship. The same is true today. These evil spirits control the culture of our world and seduce us into all kinds of idol worship that causes us to be unfaithful to God.

In the Mayan culture, their pursuit of knowledge led them to create an accurate calendar based on the movement of the sun, planets and stars. With this calendar they could plot natural events, such as seasonal rains, so they would know when to plant and harvest their crops. The religious leaders who had this knowledge would use it to exploit the common people, predicting when the rains would come to ensure obedience to the king's commands.

God graphically equates the idolatry of his people Israel, with adultery, in the powerful allegory presented in Ezekiel chapter 16. I encourage you to read the entire chapter and allow all the graphical images to portray the love of God for his people, and how broken-hearted he is over their unfaithfulness = adultery = idolatry.

Here are some excerpts from this chapter, Ezekiel 16:15-25.

"But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty.[a] You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them. Also the food I provided for you—the flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat—you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign Lord.

“‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.

“‘Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign Lord. In addition to all your other wickedness, you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square. At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by."

Idol worship breaks the heart of God.

February 25 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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