Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

In the November elections the state of Michigan passed a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Ten states now allow recreational marijuna us. Thirty-three allow the use of medicinal marijuana. In the two years since the following article was originally posted the legal landscape has changed significantly. For Christians, the major issue remains the same.

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using THC or CBD based substances that are prescribed and overseen by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the federal government and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

However, even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana Christians have a higher obligation that forbids their use of the drug. The Christian is not to participate in anything that would enslave him. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. The Christian must never be under the power of any addiction. The Christian must never be under the control of anything but the Holy Spirit. If the child of God is forbidden to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

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Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

The Sabbath Day was a weekly memorial given to Israel as part of God’s covenant with the nation. (Exodus 31:15-16) The command to keep the Sabbath is the fourth and longest of the ten commandments. Breaking the Sabbath was in effect breaking the covenant with God and suffered the harshest of punishments. Surely this command must be taken seriously by all who study the Bible.

Traditionally Christianity has viewed Sunday as the New Testament Sabbath. Christians were taught to observe Sunday as a day of rest, doing nothing but the most necesary work and attending church services. This shaped American business practices for many decades. Though observing a Sunday sabbath has long been the teaching of churches few Christians today see a need to keep a Sabbath of any kind.

Uncertainty about the requirement of a Sabbath can be traced to the way the New Testament views the law of Moses. After the death and resurrection of Jesus certain of the Mosaic laws were recognized as no longer necessary. This included the dietary restrictions (Acts 10:11-16), circumcision (Galatians 2:3) and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:2, 14, 18). Most of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, but it contains no assertion of an obligation to observe the fourth commandment.

The pattern of the church during the apostolic era was to meet together on Sunday. The day of Pentecost, the day on which the New Testament church began, was a Sunday. Initially the church met daily, but within a few years the church began to set aside the first day of the week for the regular gathering of believers. (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

The Jewish believers probably continued to observe the Sabbath day. They continued to keep the law of Moses but did not require Gentile Christians to become observant Jews. Acts 15 records the discussion about Gentile obligation to keep the law of Moses. The only requirements the church in Jerusalem placed on Gentile believers was to avoid fornication and idolatry and to abstain from eating blood or animals strangled. The first pair of commands were universal commands and the second pair were things that would have hindered the preaching of the gospel because of their offensive to the Jews. They apostles and believers in Jerusalem say nothing about keeping a sabbath. The New Testament does not give any command to Christians to observe a sabbath day.

The New Testament leaves sabbath observance up to the individual Christian. The clearest statement of this is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He says “let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) The special days, special diets and religious feasts of the law were but shadows of Jesus. Now that Jesus has come the foreshadowings are no longer necessary. Those who keep the sabbath were never rebuked, but the New Testament clearly teaches there must be no insistence on the keeping of the sabbath. There must be no condemnation because someone does or does not observe the sabbath. Sabbath observance is a matter of personal preference and conscience to be kept or not unto the Lord.

What is a saint?

The term “saint” is a familiar word in Christian circles. Despite its regular use not every church defines a saint in the same way. The Catholic church is well known for its saints. In Catholicism a saint is someone who has shown great piety in life and meets very specific requirements after death. The Catholic church only gives the title of saint to those who have died, and only then to a very select few. Many Catholics ask the saints to pray for them, and saints are believed to exercise protection or guidance over specific groups, activities or places. For example, St. Christopher is believed to be the patron saint of travelers.

The Bible does not explain saints in this way. The Old and New Testaments both speak of saints and it means essentially the same thing in both testaments. The people of God are saints. In the Old Testament the saints were the believing Israelites. In the New Testaments all believers are saints. A saint is one who has been saved. Every child of God is a saint. In the book of Acts the apostle Peter went to the city of Lydda and visited with the saints there. Paul says in the epistle to the Colossians, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.” In the book of Ephesians the Christians living at Ephesus are said to be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews are said to have ministered to the saints. The book of Revelation repeatedly describes those who are saved, whether living or dead, as the saints. Sixty times the New Testament refers to Christians as saints. Everyone who has trusted Jesus for salvation is a saint.

The word saint has more significance than just a title. It is a description. The word saint means holy. A Christian is a holy one. He is holy in both major senses of the term. The Christian is one who has been made holy by the blood of Jesus. He is cleansed of sin and made righteous. Though the child of God still struggles with sin in this life, he is holy before God because he has been covered in the righteousness of Jesus. The Christian is one who has been set apart to God. He is holy unto God. The believer is set apart from the world to worship and glorify God. Every Christian is set apart unto God, His purchased possession and a royal priest in God’s holy nation. (1 Peter 2:9) A saint is the child of God made holy unto God by the blood of Jesus.

Why don’t Christians follow all the Old Testament laws?

No Christian in the world follows all the laws given in the Old Testament. No Christian even attempts to follow all the Old Testament commands. Regardless of how a person views his obligation towards the Old Testament, the keeping of the laws regarding temple worship and sacrifice is impossible in this present day. Very few Christians are concerned about their inability to offer a burnt offering in the temple. Very few Christians attempt to keep other commands. Most Christians are not concerned if their garments contain fibers from different kinds of materials or if the meat they are eating falls into the category of “clean”.

Why Christians do not keep all the Mosaic law? The typical answer given to this question breaks into three categories the laws given to Israel at Mt. Sinai. Ceremonial laws were those which governed the worship of the Israelites. Civil laws were those given to govern the operations of Israel as a nation and her people as citizens. Moral laws were those laws which summarize God’s universal standards of right and wrong (the ten commandments are usually cited as an example of the moral law). The common explanation asserts the ceremonial laws are fulfilled in Jesus, and thus are no longer needed. The civil law is no longer needed because God does not at this time have a self-governing nation as His people on earth. The moral law is the only portion of the Mosaic law which is still binding on people today.

This author prefers a simpler view to the classic one given above. The Christian is under no obligation to obey the law of Moses because Jesus has fulfilled the law of Moses and because the church is not Israel. The law given to Israel was intended for that nation from the time of Moses until the time they finally and fully rejected their Messiah. The law given to Israel was always limited in its scope, purpose and duration. Christians today are under obligation to keep the commands given to believers in the New Testament. Christians have no responsibility to observe a Sabbath because that law was in no way repeated to the church. Instead, Christians are under obligation to do something that is not found at all in the Old Testament- gather together every Sunday with other Christians. When the New Testament repeats an Old Testament command Christians are bound to obey it, but asking Christians why they do not follow all the Old Testament laws is a bit like asking an East Berliner why he doesn’t follow all the laws of Communist Germany.

This does not mean the New Testament Christian disregards the Old Testament. Some of the laws given in the New Testament are summations of Old Testament laws. For example, the New Testament forbids immorality but does not describe what that is. To understand what God defines as immoral sexual behavior one has to read the Old Testament. The Old Testament also gives the historic and moral foundation on which New Testament commands are based. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he pointed to the events of creation recorded in Genesis 1-3. The Christian does not scorn the Old Testament but reads and studies it to learn the character of His God and the nature of the requirements God places on His people.

Because God’s character does not change one would expect significant overlap between the commands given to Israel and the commands given to the church. One would expect similarity between the Law and New Testament commands. One would expect the same basic principles to be at the foundation of God’s commands to His people. One would expect certain unalterable, moral laws to be universally applied to all men. This is exactly what we find when comparing the laws of the Old and New Testament. Christians don’t follow the commands of the Old Testament because God has given in the New Testament the commands which He expects believers of this age to obey.

Why do Christian’s feel the need to speak out against things they don’t like?

When Christian’s publicly oppose a particular activity some reply, “then just don’t participate in it.” The reasoning is that just because Christian’s are against something doesn’t mean every one has to stop doing it. Is it not enough for Christian’s to be privately against something? Why do they feel the need to speak out against things like gambling, drunkenness, drug abuse, pornography, homosexuality and abortion?

Christians are to be a loving people. Love for others actively seeks their good. As a result Christians have a deep concern for what is good for the community. Christians also recognize that sin is inherently destructive. Sin is not just a difference of opinion about how to live. Those things which God declares to be sin are destructive to the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical well being of those who engage in them. Sin is not only destructive to the one who commits sin. Every sin affects others to their hurt. The drunkard’s sin affects his work, his family and his neighbors. The drug user’s sin has profound impact on the community. The sweeping changes brought about by the proponents of homosexuality give a powerful illustration of this reality. These changes do not just affect homosexuals. They have affected the legal definition of marriage, they are affecting our families at public bathrooms, our children in their school locker rooms and the Christian’s ability to live out his Christian convictions. Sin significantly affects the community. Loving Christians cannot abide by the patronizing advice of “just don’t spend your money on it”. Since we love others, we must oppose those things which will destroy our neighbors.

If Christians really believe this then why don’t they speak out against all sin. Why just pick on certain ones? It is true that Christians have rigorously opposed certain sins while ignoring others. It is also true that those who are serious about obedience to the Lord should be opposed to sin in all its forms. In the public arena this is not always easy to do. When the culture begins to actively promote a particular sin the Christian finds himself needing to oppose that sin with equal activity. As a result it seems to some that Christians are just choosing to oppose particular sins. This is not always the case. Christians are opposed to slavery, but very few are publicly fighting against slavery because the larger American culture does not promote slavery. When America attempts to reinstitute slavery expect Christians to be in the forefront of those who decry it as an evil institution. Christians appear at times to cherry pick what sins to oppose because the needs of the community require the Christian to address the sins most problematic or most promoted at that time.

Christians also measure their response to sins based upon the cost to others of that sin. Some sins cause greater damage to the community than others. Cussing is sinful (Ephesians 4:29), but the cost to others of uttering a swear word is not as significant as the cost of rape. The Christian performs a kind of spiritual triage in choosing which sins require a public reproof. We deal with the most destructive ones first. For example, Christians actively and vocally oppose abortion because of the death it brings to the unborn baby, the havoc it causes in the life of the mother and the destruction is wreaks in families and communities.

Christians are commanded by God to actively oppose sin. This opposition starts in the believers own heart as he strives for holiness in all things. This opposition is to take place in the church through believers exhorting and encouraging one another to forsake sin and walk in obedience. In the church believers are commanded to rebuke fellow believers living in sin. This opposition to sin continues outside the church walls. Because we love our neighbors Christians must speak out against sin, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

How should Christians respond to the recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage?

By this time Christians all across America have heard about and responded to the recent decision by the Supreme Court. Tens of thousands of words have been written on this issue, before and since the decision to make same sex marriage legal for the nation. A wide range of responses have been suggested. For some professing Christians, the response has been joyful. For many others, the response has been anything but glad. Those who have followed this ministry know that Everlasting Truths affirms the Biblical position that homosexuality in all forms is sin. Same sex marriage is not something to be celebrated but mourned.

A full discussion of the Biblical response would need to address several different levels of relationships. A few hundred words does not allow for a full discussion, so this article will consider the response of a Christian to a government which has completely run off the moral rails. Before getting into the Biblical instructions, it is worth noting the historical setting of the books of the New Testament. The Roman Empire was filled with depravity the level of which America has not yet reached. Things that would today be seen as heinous and criminal were accepted as normal throughout the Roman Empire. To those who opposed the wickedness of Rome, very few options were available. Dissent could easily result in imprisonment. Christians found themselves persecuted throughout the empire. The instructions of the Bible were not written to a Christian people in a Christian nation. They were written to Christians in the middle of an empire full of immorality and persecution.

To the individual Christian the Bible makes a number of very clear statements. Two passages summarize the main points of how a Christian should respond. 1 TImothy 2 teaches that Christians are to pray for the government. The Christian must pray earnestly and diligently for every level of governmental leadership. The Bible does not teach the believe to pray for power or prosperity in the nation. The prayers of the Christian are prayers for the promotion of peace in the nation and peace for the Christian so he can live a Godly life without opposition and so the gospel can be spread without hindrance.

Romans 13 teaches that every government, even a vile, wicked government, is of God. Therefore, submit to the government. Though in this matter, and maybe others down the road, the Christian will have to disobey the laws of the land, this does not excuse the Christian from obedience to the all the rest of the nations laws. A Christian cannot justly refuse to pay his taxes because the government promote wickedness. Submit to the government in all areas save those which would directly cause the Christian to violate the Word of God.

Honor the government. Every individual in leadership in the nation has been given his authority by God and is to be treated with respect and reverence. Though Christians should abhor certain morals, must oppose some decisions and will disagree with many policies, all such differences must be expressed in a respectful fashion. The Christian is commanded to show honor and respect to the individuals entrusted with rule in our land.

While the Christian must at all times honor the nation’s leaders and in most cases must obey the civil laws, the Christian cannot obey the mandates to support same sex unions. No Christian should support same sex marriage, regardless of the dictates of justices or the consequences to Christians. Fines and imprisonments are real possibilities. No matter the threats, Christians cannot go along with the flow. The Christian must continue to speak the truth, no matter the consequences. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)