What is meant by abstaining from things polluted by idols?


Hello Jeff,

After reading Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; Revelation 2:14, 20 it seems it was wrong for Christians to eat food sacrificed to idols but in I Corinthians 8 it seems OK. It seems to me after reading Revelation 2:14, 20 the churches in Pergamos and in Thyatira were told to repent of eating things sacrificed to idols. What is meant by abstaining from things polluted by idols?

Could the principal of abstaining from things polluted by idols apply to other things? For example abstaining from buying products polluted by sin? By polluted by sin I mean things like for example: shopping at a store which may support bad things or buying a book that may contain a few bad things, which can be easily be crossed out like a book which has drinking in it.


I Corinthians 8 and 10 deal with cases where there is an indirect connection with idolatry. The pagan temple sells its meat to the butchers in the marketplace and someone then buys the meat from the butcher. In such cases Paul says we should not be concerned. "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake" (I Corinthians 10:25). We don't have to go to extremes to make sure there is absolutely no connection to idolatry.

However, if someone does make a connection, such as at a meal pointing out that the meat comes from a certain idol feast, then Paul said we are not to eat -- not because the meat is tainted but because the person's mind who told us is giving credence to an idol. "But if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols," do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness"" (I Corinthians 10:28).

A Christian would not attend a place of idolatry just because free food is being handed out. We don't give support to false religions. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (I John 5:1). This is what was wrong in Thyatira, there was a woman, claiming to be a prophetess, telling Christians that they could eat things they knew were connected to idolatry, as well as claiming there was nothing wrong with fornication and adultery. Pergamos had a similar problem stemming from a group that called themselves the Nicolatians.

As a general principle, Christians should not support things that are sinful. When I get hungry, I don't get a meal at a casino, even if the food is cheap there. I oppose gambling and the food is a lure to get people to come and gamble. But I do buy gas at the corner convenience store, even though it sells alcohol and cigarettes. I can do business there and not be considered a supporter of those things. In a similar fashion, I'm choosy about the messages on my tee-shirts. The criteria is whether a person would reasonably conclude that I support something sinful by my use of a product. If so, I don't use or purchase such things.

That makes sense to me. Thanks for answering.