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Little Tin Idols

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Humility, Idolotry

I appeal to you, brothers, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-18 ESV)

Poor Paul! He sounds like he’s about to pull his hair out. Some of the Corinthian Christians have reported to him that there are factions developing in the church—little groups of people who have chosen their favorite teachers, and are proudly identifying themselves by their names. And who are these teachers? Why, Apollos, Peter (that is, Cephas), and even Paul himself! And, as always, there are some who claim to be the true originals who follow only Christ!

Paul is horrified. This is barely a step away from idolatry, as he knows perfectly well. And he’s one of the idols! How absolutely dreadful. How can he get these people focused back on the only Person who matters at all—on Jesus Christ?

It’s sort of funny to watch Paul lose his cool as he sputters about not being crucified for them. Yikes, he didn’t even baptize most of them! How could they possibly have made such a terrible mistake and decided they were his personal followers? But the Corinthians aren’t the only people who fall into the trap of personality cults. We do it too, don’t we? A really good preacher, a favorite pastor, a youth leader who knows how to connect with the kids—or, on a larger scale, a favorite Christian singer or writer. How easy it is to take our eyes off Jesus and put them on these minor people—these fellow sinners who would be horrified if they knew they were taking attention away from Jesus Himself.

Let’s not do it. Let’s not exchange our merciful, glorious Jesus for a lot of little tin-plated idols. Instead, let’s look away from the celebrities of the day, however fascinating, and look to Jesus—look at the Holy One, God Himself, who loved us and laid down His life for us. Let’s look to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, who for love of us endured the cross—and by doing that broke the power of death and evil over everyone who trusts in Him. Let’s put our trust in Him before anyone and anything else—and receive the true, everlasting life He offers to us, His children.

Forget the rest. Give us Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, be first in my heart, without competition. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on January 18, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved

Reflection Questions:
1. Have you ever seen favorite leaders divide a group or congregation?
2. Who are some Christian celebrities who could be candidates for this sort of idolatry today?
3. How can you guard your heart against this evil, with the help of the Holy Spirit?

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