1 John 5:18-21

by FBCMagnolia

Little Children, Keep Yourselves From Idols

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

v.18, No Christian goes on sinning as he did before he turned to Christ.  The reason is that the one who was born of God keeps him safe.

v. 19, We learn that the devil is a creature, subject to God’s authority, who is not allowed to go an inch further than God’s permission sanctions, and whose ultimate doom is assured.  That is why the world’s freedom is slavery, and the devil’s offer of independence from God, which lies at the root of all sin, is an illusion.  As we have discussed before, God and Satan are not dual powers fighting it out to see who has power, God created him and even in his rebellion Satan cannot do any more than our loving God permits him to do.


What, then, is idolatry?  Idolatry is valuing anything or any person more than the one true God.  An idol is anything or any person that takes center stage in our affections.  God is a jealous God.  He deserves center stage in our lives.  Anything that assumes that place becomes an idol, whether it be a spouse, a child, a humanitarian project, or pornography, or drugs, or power over the poor, or religion.  An idol is a god-substitute.  Archeology limits idols to stone statues; biblical theology teaches that idols are anything that takes the place of god in our lives.  When understood this way, we can realize that idolatry is not ancient history but is alive and flourishing in America as we rush toward the twenty-first century.

Therefore, John’s closing command “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” has as much relevance for our day as for any generation since creation.  The main reason why is because our hearts are idol factories.  We are created to worship, that is why every culture in this world even the most remote villages in the most desert places worship something.  Therefore, if we do not fill our heart with the one true God that satisfies this desire to worship, our heart will produce idols for itself to worship.


The Jews had just come out of Egypt, who worshiped man-made idols.  Therefore, they wanted to have something that showed the power of their great God that delivered them from Egypt.  So they carved out an image out of Gold of the strongest animal they knew, a bull, in order to display how strong and powerful their God was.  No doubt the image of a bull was thought to honor him, as being a fitting symbol of his great strength.

However, what is the problem with displaying and image of God?  It is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults God, for what idea of His moral character, his righteousness, goodness, patience, and His love could one gather from looking at a statue of God as a bull?  Therefore, Aaron’s image hid God’s glory by only glorifying His power and neglecting all His other attributes.

However, we do not just do this with symbols we do it with our hearts also.  We rely on money to get us what we need, we rely on others to make us feel important, we rely on food and drink to make us feel satisfied, we rely on TV, internet, video games, and sports to entertain us.  All these things are good things but they become idols when we would rather rely on them than on God.  And just like the Jews that made an idol they can see to worship, we create things that we can see to worship.  Therefore, how do we keep ourselves from idols.  By keeping in perspective who our creator is and who can truly fill our desire to worship.

Now to recap.  Why does John end his letter with as command to stay away from idols?  Well, hope that you see that the whole theme of the letter is that John was trying to give his readers assurance that they are true Christians and that they would stay that way because Jesus Christ will keep them.  And he gives them two tests for them to test to see if they are true believers.  And those tests were to keep God’s commandments and love one another.  Therefore what can keep us from keeping God’s commandments and loving one another?  Idols!