Acts 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe…they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

I Corinthians 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

20 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.

21 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.

II Corinthians 6:16 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.

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication,

uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.


MEMORY VERSE: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. —I John 5:21


CENTRAL THOUGHT: The apostles admonished the believers—the strict Jewish Christians, but especially the Gentiles who, having been brought up in Greek and Roman paganism, were now seeking to serve and know the true God—to keep from being defiled by idolatry and devil worship and its accompanying feasts and sacrifices. They warned against false teachers and leaders of heresy.



Acts 17:22 “Superstitious”: having a religious (superstitious) fear driven by a confused concept of God—producing “sincere” but very misdirected religion. Indeed, this is the mark of heathenism.—HELPS Word Studies.

Acts 17:30 “God winked at”: Overlooked; did not come forth to punish, as in Acts 14:16: “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.”

Acts 21:25 “Things strangled”: animals or birds that had been killed without shedding their blood, which implied eating the blood, which was also strictly forbidden to the Jews. The reason the Gentile believers were also restricted was because it was used in the feasts and compacts of idolaters. The blood contained the life, a deeper reason as to why the eating of it had been prohibited by God.

I Corinthians 10:7 “Rose up to play”: Hilarity, laughter, singing, and indecent dancing (Moses found the people were naked).




The book of Acts records the ways in which the New Testament church of God conquered the dragon, paganism, and cast him out of the “heaven” or the high places of worship, in men’s hearts. In the example we have in our lesson, Paul, after observing the many religious rites and shrines at Athens, explained that the making of gold and silver images in an effort to worship God was part of the ignorance of the past. Understanding had now come with the teachings of the Gospel, and God was calling mankind to repent of idolatry and turn to the true and living God.

A huge thing in the New Testament church was the settling of the questions about the Gentile idol worship with its feasts and sacrifices, and the scruples of the Jews concerning the eating of meat that might possibly have come from those sacrifices. The discussion seems to stem from the way an animal sacrifice was divided up. The blood was poured out in sacrifice to the idol; a second part was dressed and eaten by the sacrificer, and another part was sold in the market indiscriminately, along with other animals which had not been sacrificed but killed for common use. Devout Jews, knowing that the flesh hanging in the market bazaar could have been dedicated to an idol, scrupulously abhorred and avoided it. Jews who had been converted to Christianity were just as careful. But the believing Gentiles, having turned from sacrificing and feasting in idol worship and realizing that the idols weren’t real, but just myths and imaginary fables, had no qualms about buying the marketplace meat. They felt that their intention was no longer to partake of idolatry, so the meat was no longer of “sacred” quality to them.

Partaking of the sacrificed meat—either buying it with that knowledge or sitting down to feast in the idol temple—was absolutely forbidden by Paul and the other disciples. That was equivalent to communing—having fellowship—with devils, or demons. A strict commandment, however, was not given concerning the meat in the market that wasn’t clearly marked. Personal liberty was allowed; however, charity toward all believers, scrupulous Jews, Christian Jews and converted heathens alike, trumped all allowances or prohibitions of “law”; a Christian should allow himself no liberty when he knew it brought offence to his brother.

The two underlying guidelines, then, are: (1) do everything to the glory of God and (2) do all for love of the brethren. These are sufficient rules to “regulate every man’s conscience and practice in all indifferent things, where there are no express command or prohibitions” (Adam Clarke).

In no way did the New Testament Christians give allowances to any form of idolatry. The warnings and commands come from Jesus, Paul, James, John, and the other disciples. They dealt also with the worship of angels, gluttony as a form of idolatry, covetousness and worldliness. As was mentioned in an earlier lesson, Paul portrayed the beginning factors and end results of idol worship in the first chapter of Romans. The book of Revelation goes even deeper into admonitions against the different forms of apostasy and idolatry. So we see that a prevailing theme of all Scripture is to flee idolatry and worship the true God.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck




  1. Enlightenment: How did Paul reason with the Athenians concerning the nature of the true God, and what were they now to do?
  2. Clarity: The Gentile believers weren’t made to observe all of Moses’ law. What were the four prohibitions placed upon them by the apostles?
  3. Purity: What kinds of wickedness always accompanied the worship of idols, and how did the apostles address this in Scripture?
  4. Awareness: Feasting at the table with the idolaters was really sharing communion with _______________.
  5. Guidance: What two concepts should regulate everything we do?





Originally, just for our education, I was going to list the gods/goddesses from the ancient Canaanite/Phoenician religions and their counterparts in the Greek and Roman religions. What I found was astounding—and sickening. There are literally hundreds of gods and goddesses. What they represented and their worship rites and practices boggle the mind. Their stories are a conglomeration of complicated details of immoral relationships, violence, fear and horror, which was reflected in the entire culture.

Here is a short description of Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth: “It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible, even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description.” —Edersheim

Rather than find out all about the gods that produced such a culture, I decided it would be far more edifying to study God’s Word to find out how He wants us to worship and live. Let it suffice to say that the early Church went forth conquering and to conquer ALL the false gods. However, within a few hundred years a mixture of the elements of paganism and Christianity began to take place. The Roman Catholic church established its own system of idolatry. Later the Protestant reformation took place, but the “daughters” of the “mother church” were just like her in that the worship of creeds, formal rituals, the leadership of men, pride and worldliness characterized their systems.

Whatever the form, we still need to beware of the “mixture.” This is what was dangerous to the Israelites, this is what composed the Apostasy, and this is what we have to deal with today. Let us seek for that true, pure religion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck



According to I Corinthians 10:20, Satan is behind idolatry. It is an attempt to lure man’s interest, attention, affection, and devotion from the true God. An idol can be anything that comes between us and our relationship with God.

In my teenage years, sports was one of my idols. I loved it, I watched it, I practiced it and played it. I looked to it for happiness and satisfaction. It consumed me as I sacrificed body and time. Sports is a big idol in our nation today along with Hollywood, money, fame, music and false religion.

Things that are innocent can also become an idol, if gradually, over time, I give them too much time, money, and energy, and neglect my relationship with God. People may not literally bow down before an idol, but bowing in the heart is just the same.

Lord, help us to live carefully and to set our affections on things above.

—Bro. Bob Wilson