Idolatry: Religion Without Love

Leviticus 26:1 You shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall you set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God.

The word “idols” in the original language is elilim, and means “nothings.” The significance of “idols” and “nothings” being synonymous is seen in the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians.

I Corinthians 13 is commonly called “the love chapter.” The Greek word used here is agape, which refers to divine love. The King James Bible, though, weakly translates it “charity.”

I Corinthians 13:1-2 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

Even if a person speaks with the tongues of men and angels, has the gift of prophecy, can understand all mysteries, and has all knowledge and faith, he is “nothing” when the agape-love is absent. Paul says basically the same thing in his epistle to the Galatians. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love. Galatians 5:6.

It matters not how religious or spiritual a person seems to be, if the love is missing he is “nothing,” he is “idol.” Ministry without the love of God in it is idolatry. When the love is absent the person is usually seeking his own glory, for ministry without love does not glorify the Lord. Love envies not…vaunts not itself, is not puffed up…seeks not her own…I Corinthians 13:4,5. When the love is missing, envy, pride, and arrogance take its place. Consequently, self becomes an idol, an elilim (nothing). God’s love cannot flow through a person that idolizes himself and his own ministry.

Does it seem strange that someone could speak in tongues, prophesy, and have revelation, knowledge, and faith, and be guilty of this kind of idolatry? Signs, wonders, and gifts of the Spirit are not necessarily an indication of Christ-ministry. The gifts are important, but they need to be motivated by the love and compassion of Christ. Then, and only then, will ministry be the Kingdom ministry of the Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity (Literal, “lawlessness”).

Jesus saying, “I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work lawlessness,” doesn’t mean they weren’t Christians. They were lawless Christians because they ministered in the name of the Lord for their own glory. They were guilty of idolatry, because they esteemed their own ministry. For this reason they became idols (elilim, or “nothings”). Consequently, the Lord did not recognize them as ministers of His Kingdom.

I Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

The love is the all-important ingredient. All religious and benevolent works, and even martyrdom, are idolatry without it.

We must realize, though, that the agape-love is not inherent in human nature. Neither can it be generated or developed by human discipline. Its source is the divine nature of the Lord, and it has to be appropriated from Him. Neither is it quite that simple. The appropriation of His love takes place along with the work of the cross, the dying of self. If any man will come after Me (have the love that He has), let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. Matthew 16:24-25.

We cannot know the Lordship of Jesus Christ or experience His attributes without the work of the cross in our lives. Self must be removed from its pedestal, so that Jesus can be Lord. To the degree that self is crucified, the Holy Spirit sheds the agape-love in our hearts. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also (the work of the cross): knowing that tribulation works patience (Literal, “steadfastness”); and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. Romans 5:3-5.

Copyright © 2005 by Henry DuBose