1 Kings 18:16-24
Next, let’s consider the object of the contest between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, and the false prophets encouraged by Ahab and Jezebel. This is an unpopular topic in this day of the “intolerance of tolerance” (D.A. Carson). Political correctness in North America and Europe has reduced the level of communicating ideas to the level of complete silliness. If you say anything that disagrees with the opinions of the self-appointed intellectuals and pop celebrities, you are branded a bigot, intolerant, or worse and then roasted alive in social media. A truly open-minded person is willing to join in a discussion and to listen and to talk without inflammatory words.
Elijah acted in order that the reality of the worship of the Lord would be clear. True Christians are against violence and trying to coerce people to believe. We think that all people are free moral agents and must grasp the superiority of Jesus Christ and the gospel, if they are to follow him. No one can follow the Lord, unless they are convinced in their minds to follow him. Having said that, we also state that the worship of the living God is just not another religion to be tolerated. It is the right one. All others are wrong.
Someone might ask, “Isn’t that being rather narrow-minded?” Let’s use an illustration. If we had a table before us with 20 glasses on it, one filled with pure water and 19 with deadly poison, would it be narrow-minded to drink only the one filled pure water? If God’s word is truth, then all other religions are deadly error. Should Christians then work for the suppression of other religions? Israel was so ordered in the old covenant (Deuteronomy 13). No, because we live under a different covenant, which is not a ministry of death, but of life (2 Corinthians 3). The new covenant way is to avoid false teachers (2 John).
During the old covenant, God demonstrated his ability to effectively deal with sin. He operates in space and time. He reserves to himself the right to tell us how to interact with people who oppose him and truth. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5).
In our time, we are in the midst of a great struggle within professing Christianity. Here are a few examples.
- Is the object of religion to love God or oneself?
- Is the Bible the word of God or a mixture of truth and error?
- Can we even say that there is any such thing as absolute truth?
- Is there eternal punishment for the unsaved or merely annihilation or even universal salvation?
- Is a Christian someone who merely assents to the “Apostles’ Creed” or one who trusts in Jesus Christ alone in order to be right with God?
- Is there any value in or purpose for being heavenly-minded?
- Was Christ’s death and resurrection necessary to save us, or were they only moral examples?
- Does God really care about sexual immorality?
Elijah acted in order that the people would serve God only. His demand was based upon a basic principle of the old covenant: “if… then follow…” (1 Kings 18:24). The law covenant prohibited the worship of any other gods and the making of idols and images (Deuteronomy 5:1-10). Once you know what is right, you must live in conformity with the truth. Jesus taught this same truth: no person can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). You must be for the Lord and live for him, or be for a false god and live for him.
What should we learn from this uncomfortable incident?
- It is not enough to be brought up in a Christian home, and just to drift along with the tide when out in the world. You yourself must know Christ by faith and decidedly live for him.
- It is insufficient to have an orthodox creed and to live a wicked life (Titus 1:16). True faith produces godliness.
- It is not acceptable to be a Christian on Sunday, and yet fail to confess the Lord Jesus Christ during the week (Matthew 10:32-33).
- Don’t waver between two opinions. Worship the living God and live for him!
Grace and peace, David