Wednesday 17 June 2020
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. 1 John 5:21
John finishes this epistle with a simple thought. It seems almost disconnected from anything else he has said, as if it is an afterthought affixed to the main letter, but such is not the case. He begins this final verse with the word teknia, or “little children.” It is the seventh time he has used this term, and it is the last use of it in the New Testament. He uses it in a form of fatherly address to his darlings, forming an appeal that is to be taken to heart. With that said, he continues with, “keep yourselves from idols.”
Here, John uses a much stronger term for “keep” than he did in verse 18. The word here can be equated with a soldier guarding a garrison. In other words, “defend heavily” yourselves from idols.
The word “idols” is prefixed by an article that is generally not translated, but rightly should be – “keep yourselves from the idols.” The people of the world were, and continue to be, surrounded by idols of all kinds. In saying, “keep yourselves from the idols,” it bears the intent of, “keep yourselves away from anything that will draw your attention from God.”
The connection to the epistle is obvious. In his previous verse, he said, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Idols are false gods, which are no gods at all. They do not reveal anything about God, nor do they offer anything from God. In drawing near to idols, one moves away from the true God.
Therefore, it is incumbent on all people to pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ. In this, the true God is made manifest to us. And that thought then goes back another verse where John says that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” If one draws near to idols, which are not of God, they are drawing near to that which lies within the domain of the devil.
John’s desire for God’s people, his “little children,” is similar to what Paul admonished toward those in Thessalonica – “Test all things, hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22). By keeping from the idols, John’s addressees would be on the proper path to do just that.
Finally, John finishes the epistle with the word, “Amen.” In essence, “So let it be.” John has instructed his little children, and now he anticipates that it will be so for them, and for all who afterward receive his letter, taking it to heart and applying its truths to their lives.
Life application: The book of 1 John has been an immensely wonderful learning experience on many levels. Now, more than ever, it is hoped you will find it a book to be viewed as a wonderful treasure of insight into God’s salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this final verse, John doesn’t distinguish between types of idolatry. Instead, he speaks of all forms – both physical idols which were (and remain to this day) present in the world around us – as well as non-physical ones, such as false beliefs. Anything in our life which takes the place of worshipping God through Jesus Christ is an idol. It can be our car, our girlfriend, incorrect concepts of Jesus (such as those that various fringe cults proclaim), statues of religious figures, etc.
If you go into a church or other religious area and bow or speak to a statue, you are committing idolatry. This isn’t something to be taken lightly by saying, “Oh, I’m thinking about God as I do this.” Rationalizing away your actions which are in conflict with such a direct command from the Bible is actually a second form of idolatry. You have placed an idol before God, and then you’ve placed yourself above God by disobeying the word that He has given you. Think this through carefully; and please, please…keep yourselves from the idols. Amen.
Lord Jesus, we honor You because only You reveal the Father to us. Keep our hearts, our eyes, and our thoughts from idolatry, and keep our souls desiring only You. We love You Lord, and we give you our praise and honor. May You be highly exalted! Amen.