We learned that the Thessalonians had turned TO God from idols in our last study. But what IS an IDOL? Perhaps you think of some African native bowing to a carved statue- you would be correct to identify such as a form of idolatry. What would have been an idol to the Thessalonians? Let's think about this. WHEN did Paul write this letter to the Thessalonians? It was in the First Century, approximately around 51 A.D. WHO did he write to? Yes, the Thessalonians, but WHAT empire was ruling at that time? The Roman Empire. Thessalonica was located in part of Greece. With the Roman and Greek gods being basically the same, the idols that would have been common to these people would have been the Greek/Roman gods of the time. John Gill, in his exposition of this letter names the following:
" the great and chief gods of the Gentiles, were worshipped; as Jupiter and Bacchus, Ceres and Proserpina, Pluto and Mercury, Castor and Pollux, and Esculapius"
This tells us that many (most?) of the converts in Thessalonica were not Jewish, but Gentile. It would have been a big deal for them to STOP worshiping the popular idols of their day. And Paul certainly makes a big deal out of it in verse 9 of our current chapter, "you turned to God from idols." Jesus Christ began a major change in the lives of the Thessalonian believers! So what? What does this do for us TODAY? Does this apply to us today?
Think about yourself. Have you ever worshiped an idol? Do we have idols today in 21st Century America? Maybe your first thought is "NO! we don't have idols!" But would that be accurate? Does an idol have to be a statue? Can an idol be something more abstract like a boyfriend or a girlfriend or money or sex or sports? At first I was hesitant to think this way because I wanted to be sure of how the Bible defined idolatry. The Bible certainly includes worshiping statues, Greek gods, and those types of things in defining idolatry. But what about the abstract things I mentioned? Let's look at a couple of verses:
Eph 5:5-6 " 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." ESV
Col 3:5-6 "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming." ESV
In these verses, the Apostle Paul identifies some behaviors that are considered IDOLATRY. Those behaviors include: sexual immorality, covetousness, impurity, evil desire. You see, friends, IDOLATRY EXISTS TODAY IN 21st CENTURY AMERICA! These behaviors and attitudes are rampant today in society! So if you are following after these things instead of God you have to ask yourself, "Am I guilty of idol worship?" Please think very seriously about this. I must do the same. If I allow lustful thoughts, coveting more wealth, coveting a bigger house, or any other sinful thing to become more important than God, then I have committed the sin of idolatry! These may not be your struggles- but what ARE your struggles?
If you have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but find yourself guilty of committing Idolatry, Paul tells you that you need to be concerned: "because of these things the wrath of God is coming." Yet you are not without hope! You can be like the Thessalonians and TURN AWAY from those idols. You can TURN TO THE LIVING GOD!! Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sins have done just that. We have turned away from those enslaving idols and turned to the One who deserves our worship-Jesus Christ. If you want more information, please CONTACT me!!
Remember, God is all sovereign...