1 John 5:21
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. The connection of this verse with the preceding seems to be in the antithesis between the" true God" and "idols." Loyalty to the "true God" demands separation from all false gods. Notice -
I. THE AFFECTIONATE APPELLATION BY WHICH THE APOSTLE ADDRESSES HIS READERS, "Little children." "He parts from them with his warmest and most affectionate word of address." This form of address suggests:
1. The spiritual paternity of the apostle. Probably many of those to whom he was writing were his children in the Lord, begotten by his ministry - by his preaching, his prayers, and his faith. Very tender and sacred is this relationship (cf. chapter 1 John 2:1; 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15; Galatians 4:19; Philemon 1:10).
2. The spiritual affection of the apostle. This is delicately yet clearly indicated by the use of the diminutive.
3. The spiritual authority of the apostle. His relation to them, his affection for them, and his large and ripe experience, combined to invest him with sacred and commanding influence. And, as "little children," his readers needed guidance, and owed to him obedience.
II. THE IMPORTANT EXHORTATION WHICH THE APOSTLE ADDRESSES TO HIS READERS. "Keep yourselves from idols." Consider:
1. The nature of the sin to be guarded against. Idolatry. Originally it seems to have comprised two things:
(1) the attempt to represent the Divine Being by visible and material forms;
(2) the offering to these forms the worship which belongs only to God. Some are in danger to-day of falling into idolatry of this kind through the use in worship of pictures and statues designed to represent the Saviour. But the essence of idolatry is giving to another the love and reverence and devotion which are rightly due to God alone. Many make an idol of riches. Money is their god, and they devote all their powers and opportunities to the eager pursuit of it. "Covetousness... is idolatry." Others worship pleasure. They live but for amusement, and endeavour to subordinate everything to their personal gratification. And others make honour, or fame, or power, their god. We may make an idol of some beloved relative or friend - wife, husband, or child. Or, and this is in some respects worst of all, a man may make a god of himself - may think first and chiefly of himself, study his own interests and happiness, and love himself supremely. It has been well said, "Wooden idols are easily avoided, but take heed of the idols of gold. It is no difficult matter to keep from dead idols, but take heed that thou worship not the living ones, and especially thyself; for as soon as thou arrogatest to thyself either honour, or praise, or knowledge, or power, thou settest thyself in the place of God, and he has declared that he 'will not give his glory to another.'" And this sin offers the greatest dishonour and wrong and insult to God.
2. The damager of the sin to be guarded against. This may be seen from the following considerations.
(1) The worship of anything less than God cannot satisfy our spiritual nature. God has made us for himself, and our souls cannot rest until they rest in him.
(2) The worship of anything less than God dwarfs and degrades man's spiritual nature. The exercise of real worship transforms the worshipper into likeness to the object worshipped; e.g., the idolatry of riches will gradually mould man into a groveling, grasping miser; of power, into a ruthless, despotic tyrant, etc.
(3) The worship of anything less than God will lead to bitter disappointment and irretrievable loss. Sooner or later, the idolater will be awakened from his delusions, and then he will find that his god is a poor sham, and that, as for himself, he has "forsaken the Fountain of living waters, and hewed him out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." And how terrible is death to the idolater! Death may take from him the wife whom he loves more than he loves God, or the child, etc. And when he dies he must leave his idols behind him - his money, etc. "We brought nothing into the world, neither can we carry anything out." "When he dieth he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him." And then will arise the bitter cry, "Ye have taken away my gods; and what have I more?"
3. The method of guarding against this sin. The most effective preservative against idolatry is growing fidelity to God. He who assiduously cultivates reverent attachment and hearty devotion to him cannot fall into idolatry. "The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.