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Cigarette Smoking: A sin?

In answer to the question: "Is smoking cigarettes, or pot, a sin?" by Dean VanDruff.

The bible does not forbid smoking cigarettes or smoking pot directly. Most generally, the case is made that we should be good stewards of our bodies.

1 Cor 6:19-20 (NIV) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

1 Cor 3:16-17 (NIV) Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

As an alert reader has pointed out, the "temple" mentioned here refers to the collective body--as in the church, and individually--as in sexual immorality. While this verse has traditionally been applied to cigarettes, 1 Cor 6:18 (just after the above verse) suggests a more focused meaning. So the "destruction of the temple" case is weak in the context of smoking, and better understood in the context of abject sexual immorality being indulged in by those in the fellowship.

Beyond the traditional case made, there are two applicable biblical principals that apply to substance abuse such as cigarettes or marijuana.

First is the addictive nature of both. The idea of Scripture is that any habit (even of coffee or some "legal" drug) that has mastered us puts us outside of the control and freedom of Christ. In short, if we live at the level of "carnal instincts", we put ourselves under condemnation rather than grace. The battle is between the carnal nature and God, and when we decide to cave to the lower nature we are spiritually rejecting the grace of Jesus Christ who came to "set us free" from all such. Jesus is "Lord"... or not--really--in our lives. It is no good calling Him "Lord, Lord", and actually serving another master.

Rom 6:16 (Phi) You "belong" to the power you choose to obey...

1 Pet 2:11c (Phi) Keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls.

Rom 8:12-13 (Phi) So then, my brothers, you can see that we owe no duty to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you will live.

1Co 6:12 (NIV) "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.

Rom 6:16 (NEB) ... if you put yourselves at the disposal of a master, to obey him, you are slaves of the master whom you obey; and this is true whether you serve sin, with death as its result; or obedience, with righteousness as its result.

2 Pet 2:19 (Jer) ... if anyone lets himself be dominated by anything, he is a slave to it...

Rom 6:12-13 (Phi) Do not, then, allow sin to establish any power over your mortal bodies in making you give way to your lusts. Nor hand over your bodily parts to be, as it were, weapons of evil for the devil's purposes. But, like men rescued from certain death, put yourselves in God's hands as weapons of good for his own purposes.

Secondly, and more to the point of marijuana, is using drugs to change our moods or improve our lives. In Scripture, the word "witchcraft" is "pharmakia", from which we get pharmacy. Drugs are not sin in general, but "pharmakia/witchcraft" is using drugs to solve spiritual problems instead of turning to Christ or using chemicals illicitly as a short-cut to real spiritual growth and maturity.

Taking substances for spiritual effect is witchcraft, pure and simple, which is a grievous sin. Those who continue to do so will "in no way enter the kingdom of God" (Gl 5:19-23). We cannot have it both ways. We can wait upon the Lord for what He has promised "beyond what we can ask or think", or we can spiritually cheat with drugs.

God offers all that we could desire in the Gospel: love, joy, peace, energy, power, fellowship, relaxation and rest, sweet sleep, and the like. In the Gospel we lay our lives down and wait for His resurrection power in us; or... we could pop a pill or smoke something and "cheat" to get it.

This contest between "substance abuse" vs. being filled with the Spirit is portrayed to us as either/or, with wine being the drug that is abused most often in Scripture; as it was the most readily available back then.

Eph 5:18 (NRS) Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.

Eph 5:15-18 (NIV) Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Eph 2:1-3 (NIV) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Rom 8:5-8 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Gal 5:16-17 (NIV) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.

Gal 5:24-25 (NIV) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Eph 5:18 (TCN) Do not drink wine to excess... but seek to be filled with the Spirit of God.

John 6:63a [Jesus:] "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing."

John 10:9-10 (NAS) "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly!"

John 5:40 (NIV) "...Yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

This subject is perhaps most applicable to the radical brain-chemistry altering drugs many Christians are taking nowadays. In most of the cases where such drugs are being prescribed the source of the problem is sin, and drugs are being taken as the answer. Are we believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the way to address the spiritual problems and ramifications of sin in our natures, or are we believers in the new gospel of mood-altering drugs? Are drugs the answer to sin? In whom, or what, is our hope?

In summary,

  1. we should never allow ourselves to be "mastered" by any addiction/habit if we are truly "set free, indeed" by Christ; and

  2. we must choose between the Holy Spirit and drugs/witchcraft to improve our lives, for we cannot participate in both.

For a general case on witchcraft, or spiritually cheating, see the full Bible Study on Witchcraft.

1Cor 10:21 (NIV) You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.

Gal 6:7-9 (NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

2Ti 2:19 (NIV) ...God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."

2 Cor 7:1 (NIV) Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

2 Tim 2:21-22 (Wey) All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.


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