Total Abstinence

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

The command to abstain occurs only a few times in the New Testament, but there are three occurrences which are especially relevant for Christians today. One of these is 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” The Greek word here actually applies to any type of sexual relationship outside of marriage, and the command is not merely for temperance or for “love” in one’s non-marital sexual relationships, but for total abstinence. This exhortation is perhaps needed more today than at any time since the days of pagan Rome, even for Christians and, unfortunately, Christian leaders. But that is not all. In the words of our text, we are also urgently exhorted to “abstain from fleshly lusts,” since these carnal desires are in mortal combat with our very souls. One must avoid situations which might initiate or encourage fornication or its kindred activities.

But even that is not sufficient for the serious Christian man or woman. “Now we exhort you, brethren, . . . Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 22). The word here means anything that in outward form might appear to be evil, regardless of whether it is really wrong in itself or not. The Lord desires that we “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10) and that we “give none offense” (1 Corinthians 10:32).

A believer cannot afford to be careless in this warfare against his soul. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). HMM


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