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Upon entering Athens, the apostle Paul became acutely aware of rampant idolatry in that city. Idolatry robs God of the devotion due him. Idolatry also robs its adherents of the blessings otherwise available to them, were they to worship and serve God. Therefore, Paul's ". . . spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16).
Consequently, the apostle proceeded to contrast powerless idols with the powerful God of creation and judgment (Acts 17:22-31). Paul chided his audience for being "too religious" (Acts 17:22, ASV) regarding their idolatry and "ignorant" (Acts 17:23) about our Creator and Judge.
Unfortunately, the same type of idolatry against which the apostle spoke survives today. Though prevalent in some distant lands, this idolatry is increasing in popularity in our nation, too. Characteristically, idolatry is adorned with statues of gods that mortals have crafted from "gold, or silver, or stone" (Acts 17:29). Essentially, men devise their own gods and ignore the true God.
Perhaps, were the apostle Paul to enter nearly any American city today, he would experience an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. Doubtless, Paul's spirit would again be stirred within him. The apostle would declare that America is wholly given to idolatry. He would be compelled to contrast powerless idols with the powerful God of creation and judgment. Paul would chide our nation for being too religious about idolatry and ignorant about our Creator and Judge.
The rampant idolatry in America, of which the apostle Paul would be acutely aware, is not comprised of statutes fashioned from silver, gold or stone. Our nation's most popular idols, though, are no less fashioned by mortals. However, the substance from which these idols are molded is the human imagination. The shrines for these idols are the minds of their adherents. The result of this idolatry is denominationalism. Essentially, men devise their own gods and ignore the true God.
The suggestion that denominationalism is comparable to idolatry is deemed offensive by religious people. Yet, the similarity between denominationalism and idolatry is strikingly familiar. Each idol god was attributed with different qualities. Denominational gods are represented with diverse qualities that also differ from Divine qualities. Additionally, denominationalism presents a medley of doctrines about worship, redemption, Christian living and eternity. Often these diverse doctrines contradict Bible doctrine.
Within every community is a veritable religious shopping center that is as conspicuous as the Athenian altars. Like those idolatrous altars, denominationalism, sadly, is distinct from the New Testament church.
We need to become acutely aware of idolatry in America. Idolatry robs God of the devotion due him. Idolatry also robs its adherents of blessings otherwise reserved for them. It is time that we are stirred in our spirits to lead idolatrous America to the true God, our Creator and Judge.
Further, Paul doubtless could not have been deterred as "disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met him" (Acts 17:17). Neither dare we allow ourselves to deter from distinguishing between primitive Christianity and idolatry or denominationalism. The church of the Bible is as distinctive as Jesus Christ who died to purchase it (Acts 20:28) and who is head of it (Ephesians 5:23).