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The Privelege of Abstinence

Read Proverbs 31:1-7

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink ... (Proverbs 31:4)

Kings are called and anointed.  They have special positions, special authority, and special responsibilities.  Kings must be sober and in full possession of all their faculties, alert at all times.

Some believe that all Christians should abstain entirely from alcohol. They may quote Proverbs 31:4 as support, claiming that this verse applies to believers since they are "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6) in God's kingdom.  There is no question that believers should abstain from drunkenness (Eph. 5:18).  However,  beyond this, special abstinence should spring from a special call. Abstinence was not required of the Gentile believers in the book of Acts (Acts 15:20). Quite the contrary!  Paul vehemently denounced those who commanded various forms of dietary abstinence. (1 Timothy  4:1-5).  But note that though Paul also denounced compulsory circumcision, he himself circumcised Timothy because of his special  calling to preach to the Jews.

Special abstinence (from foods, sex, dress, activities, etc.) should be a voluntary calling, and not mandated by church regulations. On the other hand, a church or denomination may require certain kinds of abstinence if it sees itself as fulfilling a special purpose within the kingdom of God (compare the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35:5-10).  However, that church must make it absolutely clear that this abstinence is an accessory to and NOT a requirement of the gospel.  The purpose of any such abstinence is to promote the gospel, and not to condemn believers in Christ who are not called to the same behavior.

Some denominations preach abstinence from alcohol. This promotes the gospel by removing temptation from the weak.  Such denominations can have a special effectiveness in ministering to those with a background of alcohol abuse. Similarly, many churches in India discourage the wearing of personal ornaments, because they exist within a culture where ornaments are connected with Hindu polytheistic worship.  In the same way, the apostles in Jerusalem wrote to the Gentiles to abstain from strangled animals and from blood,  because these things were associated with idol worship. On the other hand, in modern China people kill chickens by strangling them, and eat sausage made from  blood.  To apply the apostles' command  to  them is to entirely misinterpret the command's intention.

To repeat:  abstinence may be situationally expedient for ministry, but it is not a requirement of the Gospel.

Some believers renounce certain pleasures because their consciences trouble them.  But it is WRONG to force abstinence on those who has not heard from their own consciences. If you do, you are  usurping authority which God never gave you.  You are interfering with others' personal relationship with Him.  You are adding conditions to His word, which is as heinous an offence as denying His word (Deuteronomy 12:32, Prov. 30:6)

For myself, I practice and enjoy abstinence.  Like physical training, it tests and enhances my spiritual strength.  It allows me to focus on important things, and escape from distraction.  I can better appreciate the quieter, subtler, deeper things of God, when I abstain from shallower pleasures.

PRAYER:   Father, in Jesus' name please teach me to enjoy and embrace abstinence when You call me to deny myself. Teach my heart also not to judge or look down on those who are not called to the same sacrifices.  Help me  appreciate and respect the different mantles of responsibility which You have placed on all of your various children; and help me in all of my actions to promote and enhance others' fulfillment of the callings to which You have called them.

©1998 CrossPollen. CrossPollen articles may be copied without permission from the author AS LONG AS (1) the article content is not changed (2) the original copyright notice is included. If you have been stimulated or challenged by these articles, please consider making a financial contribution to CrossPollen."Do not muzzle the ox who threshes the grain... If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?"(1 Corinthians 9:9-11) Please contact us via e-mail. Thank you!

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Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: July 19, 2001

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