21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
The apostle John begins his final exhortation of his first epistle by addressing believers as “Little children”. This is his characteristic affectionate term in addressing believers. In this epistle, John used the salutation “little children” at least 8 times (1 John 2:1, 12-13, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). With tender affection, the apostle here warned believers concerning the danger of “idols”.
What are those “idols” against which the writer is warning? The Greek word eidolon, rendered here as “idols”, denotes an image or figure or anything that is set up to be acknowledged as representing God. In the New Testament, the word “idols” has been used for the heathen gods. Many of the early Christians were people who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). However, there was a great danger of them being tempted to return to idolatry because the communities among whom they lived were greatly influenced by idolatrous practices. So the apostle Paul warned the Christians in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” Then he continued, “What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:19-22). Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 6:16-17, Paul admonished, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”.
The word “idol” has also been used in the New Testament to represent anything which occupies the place that is due to God. In Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5, covetousness is referred to as idolatry; thus we are commanded to mortify our tendencies to be covetous. The exhortation to keep ourselves away from idols entails our duty to love and serve our living and true God always, and our consecration to be separated from all things that distract us from Him and His truth.