Religious Idolatry

By Arthur J Licursi

Part 1 of 2

The Works for the Flesh

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revel-lings, and such like...” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Adultery here heads the list of gross sins that the Apostle Paul calls “the works of the flesh,” followed then by fornication and uncleanness. Some may say “Well, my sins aren’t that gross.” They forget that “gossip” is murder of another’s reputation. They forget that seemingly minor common sins such as jealousy and envy are still sin. There are no junior, senior, mortal or venial sins in God’s economy. Paul makes clear that all men are sinners.

Apart from God’s salvation, all mankind is lost and due to receive eternal death “…THE SOUL THAT SINNETH, IT SHALL DIE.” (Ezekiel 18:4b).

Paul speaks of “the works of the flesh” in the past lives of believers as a life that which was unfruitful in righteousness, and which would have led to their eternal “death.” “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for THE END OF THOSE THINGS IS DEATH” (Rom.6:21).

All men are in need of God’s salvation through Christ’s atoning substitutionary death and shed blood on the cross. Romans 3:25 (NIV) God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justiceGod’s justice is served by Christ’s death in our place.

Why do all men sin?

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

The sinful acts of man are the natural fruit of the Sin nature “within” man. The secular humanist idea that prevails in the world today is that a man does bad things only because of his external environment. But Jesus said the man’s evil emanates “from within, out of the heart of man, (that) proceed evil thoughts.Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart(Matt.5:28)

It’s obvious that a fruit tree’s fruit always springs from the life and nature within the tree. Apple trees produce apples, not oranges, because they possess the apple tree life. Similarly, all men possess the Sin-spirit that “worketh in them. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh IN the children of disobedience:” (Ephesians 2:2)

The “works of the flesh” are the automatic fruit or spontaneous natural outcome of the Sin-spirit and nature that dwells within the flesh body-members (Rom 7:17-23) of every person. This Sin infection results in death came to all mankind via the first man, Adam. Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: This is the origin of Sin nature in all mankind.

But there is a most subtle kind of “works of the flesh” – it is “idolatry.” Broadly, idolatry is a term that refers to anything that becomes more important to a man than God. It could refer to an inordinate desire for money or possessions, or of your career, or even of another person who becomes more important to you than God.

Idolatry is based upon what one may hold in first place as seen by his manner of living. Self-idolatry is observed when one relies upon and/or serves one’s own self. Most all of us serve at least these three gods to one degree or another – me, my self, and I. If I rely upon myself to serve my self interest I am then acting as the god of my own life – this is the greatest and most subtle form of idolatry. This is much more evil than the idolatry of worshiping or revering graven images as though they had power.