When’s Not A Sin A Sin?

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationBible Readings for the day: Psalm 89:46-52, Romans 14:19-15:13, 1 Chronicles 11:1-12:22
Meditational Reading: Romans 14:22-23
22  The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.
23  But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

When’s not a sin a sin?  That’s not exactly the question that hit me when I read today’s meditational verses.  But would you read this if I entitled it, “When is it wrong to do right?” or “If it’s wrong for me then it’s okay for you”?  What struck me in the meditational verse is the fact that somethings that are not sin can be sin for some people.

We live in a culture which denies the reality of sin.  It is a culture that doesn’t like objective morality; it is a culture that doesn’t want Christian values imposed upon it as they seek to impose their anti-Christian values upon us.  Sin is not based on divine revelation; it is based upon perceived slights.  I can go on and on with this but I’m not going to!

I have to make three points clear:

  1. There is such thing as sin.  Sin is defined by God in his Word, the Bible.  If God tells me to do something and I fail to do it, then I have sinned.  If God tells me not to do something and I do it, I have sinned.
  2. There are matter of moral and theological indifference in the world.  God’s Word neither commands nor forbids these things and we are free, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to choose what to do.
  3. If I believe that a matter of indifference (theologically we call it an adiaphoron) is wrong, then it is a sin for me to take part in that activity.  Something that is not sin can (and will be) sin for me.

I think that the use of alcohol is a good example of these two points.  The use of alcohol is neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible.  As a matter of fact, the wise use of alcohol is promoted by Paul in 1st Timothy 5:23  “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”  I have started drinking four ounces of wine (almost) every each night.  It is supposed to be good for me.  The first few nights, it gave me a slight buzz because I hadn’t drunk alcohol is years.  Is drinking alcohol a sin?  No because God neither forbids nor commands it in his Word.  But suppose I believe that drinking alcohol is out and out wrong?  Then, based on God’s Word (verse 23 above!), it is a sin — for me.

Another point on the alcohol example:  While drinking alcohol is not a sin, getting drunk is.  God’s Word clearly speaks to this in Ephesians 5:18  “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

There are cases where “what’s sin for you isn’t sin for me.”  Those cases deal solely with adiaphora (plural).  If I believe that something is wrong for me (even though God’s Word is silent on the subject), then it is wrong for me.  I should not violate my conscience.  Also, because it is wrong for me, I cannot impose my belief upon other people because it is a matter of indifference to God!  If I believe that something is alright, then I should not try to change the person’s mind who believes it is wrong.

God the Holy Trinity has given us a great deal of freedom in living out our lives.  But God does not want us to abuse that freedom and impose it like a yoke upon people who believe differently, believe differently in matters of adiaphora.

Do I have you confused?  To summarize:

  1. When God’s Word, the Bible, commands us to do or not do something, and we ignore it, that’s sin.
  2. When God’s Word is silent on a matter, we are free to do what we want.
  3. If we believe that a matter of indifference is wrong, then it is a sin for us to indulge in it.
  4. Because an adiaphoron is wrong for me, doesn’t mean that it is wrong for you.
  5. This is not a matter of situation ethics.  Where God speaks we uphold it.  Where God is silent, he gives us freedom to what we want.
  6. We do not use our freedom to harm the faith of another believer in the Lord Jesus.

A prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, you have indeed given us much freedom as believers in you.  Let us use our freedom wisely so that we may build each other up in the true Faith and act as magnets, drawing other people to you.  This we aks in your name.  Amen!

Should you wish to access Pastor Kerner’s sermon archive, you can do so at https://gslcsuffield.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/sermon-archive-2010-2011/

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com  Should you wish to support this ministry, you can mail a check to the church.

If you liked this post in any way, please think about sharing it on your social media sites.  This is an effective way to evangelize on the internet.  You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.kerner

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