“. . . and such like.”
Where does the Bible say I can’t smoke marijuana? Where in the Bible is social drinking condemned? If the Bible does not specifically condemn dancing, then don’t tell me I can’t dance! How do we answer people who demand a specific Biblical condemnation for behavior that most of us recognize as being wrong? Consider the following:
The title of our article is taken from Galatians 5:21. Verses 19 through 21 of Galatians chapter 5 is one of several texts where Paul lists certain sins of the flesh (see also; Col 3:5-10; 1 Cor 5:11; 6:9-10 and Eph 5:31). The phrase “and such like” found in Gal 5:21 however indicates that these lists are not exhaustive. All the sins of the flesh are not specifically mentioned in these texts. Paul is only giving us a few examples which are similar in nature to many other such sins.
There are other passages that make the same point. For example, in 1 Thess 5:22 Paul states, “Avoid every kind of evil.” Also in Romans 1:32 where Paul gives a rather lengthy list of various sins, he ends with these words: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death . . .” In Ephesians 4:3 we are commanded, among other things, to “Get rid of . . . every form of malice.”
All of the foregoing verses list some specific sins but then very clearly point out that there are actually other activities or attitudes not specifically mentioned that are just as sinful and stand just as condemned – other activities that are like the ones mentioned. Other activities that are of the same nature as those specifically mentioned. These too are sinful!
There are two strong implications of concluding a list of sins with the phrase “and such like”. First of all, as we have already pointed out, the list is not to be taken as all inclusive, and secondly, the sins listed simply give us a basic idea of the kind of things we are to avoid. We must apply discernment with regard to many activities which may not be specifically condemned in the scriptures. Many people require that we show them a “Thou shalt not . . .” in order for a certain practice to be condemned. If the Bible contained all such information it would be too big to carry around in anything smaller than a wheel barrow. Instead, we are given basic principles of conduct, with some specific examples to illustrate such principles. We are then expected to exercise judgement and discernment concerning what is good and evil using the principles found in the Scriptures. Hebrews 5:11-14 speaks of the need to grow in our ability to distinguish between good and evil. It is part of a maturing process that we all must experience as Christians. This text speaks of “the teaching about righteousness”and the need that we be acquainted with it. Once we become intimately acquainted with the teaching in the Bible, it will become more easy for us to recognize sin in activities that the novice may not be able to discern.
Today we are often faced with issues that may not be specifically mentioned in the Bible – such things as dancing, drugs, movies, music, smoking, TV programs, etc. How do I know when something not specifically mentioned is right or wrong? One helpful way is to compare the activity in question to the two lists found in Galatians 5:19-23. One list describes the “. . . and such like.”
“works of the flesh,” the other list describes the “fruit of the Spirit.” Is the activity in question “like” the works of the flesh or is it “like” the fruit of the Spirit? You may have to think about it for a minute, but if you are honest in your evaluation the answer will soon become apparent. Is the activity going to make me look more like a Christian or less like a Christian? Will it be seen by others as activity that is consistent or inconsistent with my profession of Christ.
Two keys in achieving the ability to discern good and evil in matters not specifically mentioned in the Bible are the consistent study of God’s word and developing the right attitude toward subjecting our will to God. In other words, are we going about our life each day looking for excuses to do what we want to do, or are we looking for ways to honor, glorify and obey God? If we know right from wrong as taught in the Bible and have truly submitted ourselves to the will of God we will develop the ability to discern right from wrong in matters that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible.