In the March 2, 1967 Gospel Guardian an article appeared on smoking by brother Kenneth Hirshey. I am replying to this article because I'm interested in the truth. I don't mean to imply that brother Hirshey deliberately misrepresented the word for I believe he is sincere in his convictions and wrote what he feels to be the truth. Now even though brother Hirshey didn't come right out and state he believes the scriptures, by principle, condemns smoking, I do feel the article left that impression.
First, brother Hirshey showed that smoking damages the body. I believe any honest person will admit this in view of the evidence. I would like to notice however, that many studies on this subject make a distinction between cigarette smoking and other kinds. It is known that inhaling the smoke causes most of the damage to the body and thus non-inhaling which is usually the case in cigar and pipe smoking, is not near as damaging.
In his article, brother Hirshey implied if one defiles himself, God will destroy him, 1 Cor. 6:19-20 & 1 Cor. 3:16-17. First, the "temple" in 1 Cor. 3:16- 17 is not the individual's body, but the church. (See Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 4, pg. 115 and Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 422. ) This passage is not talking about defiling the individual's body but rather the church.
However, for the sake of argument, let's assume for the moment that it is talking about the individual's body. We would have to ask, what it is that defiles the man, before we could know whether smoke would defile him or not. In Mk.7:15 we read, "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man." Therefore, it's what proceeds from the mind of man that defiles him and not that which enters the body, Mk. 7:18-20. This rules out smoke as a thing which can defile man!
It was also implied that one couldn't present his body a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God, if he smoked, Rom. 12:1. But as just shown, smoke will not defile a man and thus wouldn't cause one to become unacceptable to God. Also, Paul said the sacrifice desired was "your reasonable service".
Again, it was implied that smoking was evil and hence we should abstain from it, 2 Thess. 5:21-22. However, smoke is not evil, Mk. 7:15-20, thus not a thing which one must abstain from.
Last, it was implied that smoking was a lust one should not fulfill because we now have knowledge of the word, 1 Pet. 1:14-16. But smoking is not dealt with in the scriptures, as brother Hirshey stated. Since smoke doesn't defile the man and the word is silent regarding smoking, one may fulfill the desire to smoke, or for that matter, drink coffee without, of itself, violating scripture.
For a moment, let us assume that anything which harms the body would be sin. If this were so, one couldn't smoke, drink coffee, eat saturated fats, be overweight, get overly tired, and he would have to wear a gas mask in smog areas and while driving on the freeways. In fact, just riding in automobiles is extremely dangerous and therefore one couldn't do that either.
Paul stated in Rom.14:14 "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: — ". I am persuaded that smoking, of itself, is not a violation of God's will. Could it become sin? Certainly! If one spent money on tobacco instead of feeding his family or giving to the Lord, he would sin. But notice that a violation of scripture is involved here. Again, if one were to smoke, thinking it was sin, he would sin in doing so, Rom.14:23.
In closing his article, brother Hirshey said, "I have not heard any one attempt to justify smoking on a scriptural basis." Friend, I haven't heard any one attempt to justify, on a scriptural basis, drinking coffee, watching T. V. , buying a power lawnmower, playing golf, or any other such things, which are matters of personal judgment.
Paul said in Rom. 14:13, "Let us not therefore judge one another any more:... ". Also Rom.14:20, "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure;...". Brethren, let us not destroy the work of God by making issues out of things pertaining to personal judgment.