-Asceticism: Adding To God's Word

It is God's blessing to mankind to have the 5 senses of t
ouch, taste, smell, sight, and 
sound. It is to God's glory when we pleasure in the touch of a smooth surface. It is to God's glory when we pleasure in the taste of delicious food. It is to God's glory when we pleasure in the smell of flowers. It is to God's glory when we pleasure in the sight of a sunset. It is to God's glory when we pleasure in the sound of music. God created the 5 senses for our pleasure. And it is to God's pleasure when we enjoy these gifts as he created us to do. This includes sex, which is a gift from God to his people. 

One of the great evils that the apostle Paul fought against in the early church was the growing falsehood of Asceticism. Asceticism is defined as the practice of abstinence from pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. This came from early Gnostic teaching that taught abstinence from sex, marriage and certain foods. What is Gnosticism? Gnosticism was a troublesome perversion of Judaism that was passed on to Christianity. Among Gnosticism’s many strange teachings, some adherents taught that the physical world was intrinsically evil, and that the human body was a cage for the spirit. Only by rejecting the physical world and its delights could the spirit be set free to soar. Gnostics taught the dualistic belief in which the spiritual world is regarded as good and the physical world is regarded as evil. Asceticism has been historically observed in many religious traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism. After the apostles died and left the Christian scene, this philosophy that Paul warned about began to flourish. This is why Paul wrote about these things in several areas of his inspired writings. Paul primarily focuses on the teachings of forbidding marriage or particular foods. But this subject is not limited to those topics only, as those are the primary ones mentioned in order to teach the principle of Christian freedom. We are not to add to God's word or forbid that which God does not forbid. For God has pleasure in his people having pleasure in that which God created us to do.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Col. 2:8
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Col 2:20-23 (Paul isn't talking about actions that are black or white, as is either 100% right or wrong. He's talking about actions that are permitted, but is considered sinful if overindulged. So in order to prevent this overindulgence, teachings came about that taught abstinence. They taught that the more you abstained, the holier you were. The more you deprived yourself, the holier you were. These "holier than thou" human rules that have "an appearance of wisdom," are ineffective in stopping overindulgence. So Paul says teaching abstinence is wrong, as well as overindulgence. The biblical approach to pleasure of the 5 senses is to partake in moderation. Overindulgence, or sensuality, is sin. Abstinence for the sake of superior spirituality and imposing these rules on others is sin. Paul is warning against Ascetic teaching that commands "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! The philosophy of Ascetic teachings has had a great effect on the teachings from the church regarding sex.)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Tim. 4:1-5 (Timothy calls these "holier than thou" human rules and traditions "things taught by demons." "Everything" and "nothing" indicate that we aren't just talking about forbidding to marry and forbidding certain foods. The subject encompasses more than that. It is the principle of nothing made by God is bad and it should all be received with joy, thanksgiving, and of course moderation. Ascetics teach that sexual desire is to be suppressed, this is a doctrine taught by demons.)

For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. Titus 1:10-16 (The ascetic teachings came from the Pharisees. Titus chimes in on the subject of ascetics depriving themselves and burdening others with these falsehoods. He says that those whose minds are corrupted, call all these gifts of God to be sins. But those that are pure receive God's gifts with joy, thanksgiving, and of course moderation.)

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. Rom. 14:1-2 (We see in this verse that some, whose faith was weak, became vegetarians to avoid eating unclean animals and they gloried in their perceived superior holiness for doing so. But yet again this is another example of adding to God's word human regulations that the Bible never spoke about.)

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and GodBlessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Rom. 14:14-23 ("Blessed is the one" who does not deprive himself of God's pleasures as the ascetics do. If you know something is good, don't allow others to take that away from you.)

No Law = No Sin

Jesus and the apostles fought against those that sought to add to God's word teachings of man that cast heavy burdens on people. The Pharisees did this through their oral traditions which became the Babylonian Talmud. And the Gnostics did this through their teachings on asceticism. Paul says these are doctrines of demons. God's word is clear that their must be a law against something to declare it a sin. This is made clear in order to prevent mankind from going down this path. But we must hear what God's word says and believe it.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. I John 3:4 (Now we know the definition of sin.)

Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Romans 4:15 (If there is no law against something, then it would be a teaching of man to forbid it as that is adding to God's word.)

For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Romans 5:13 (There must be a law against it to declare it a sin.)

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Romans 7:7 (The law tells us what is sin, period.)