It is keeping oneself from some action or indulgence that is unhealthy or unbeneficial to oneself or another.
“I will abstain from things that will cause another to stumble” (1 Cor 8:13).
“Everything is permissible, but not beneficial, helpful or constructive, I will not be mastered by it” (1 Cor 6:12). It is best to refrain from anything which would cause another to stumble (Rom 14:13,20; 1 Cor 8:9, 10:23,24,32; 2 Cor 6:3; 1 Jn 2:10).
John the Baptist was set apart for a special service to God and was not to have wine or fermented drink (Lk 1:15). In the early Church when the Gentiles were embracing Christianity they were instructed to abstain from foods offered to idols, sexual immorality, eating blood and the meat of strangled animals (Act 15:20).
Is there something I should be saying ‘No’ to?
wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves. Engaging in sexual activity outside that boundary is classed along with other ungodly behaviour as acts of the sinful nature which unless repented of will take people to hell (Gal 5:19-21; Heb 13:4). Abstinence until marriage is contrasted with celibacy, the refaining from sex which may last a life time. Not only are we instructed to abstain from some practices out of interest for others but especially for our own interest. In the Western World, much processed and convenience food should be avoided or at least consumption greatly reduced because excess salt, sugar, fat and preservatives make them unhealthy. Drugs, alcohol, smoking and other unhealthy substances and lifestyles also damage our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, making it less effective for service in His Kingdom (1 Cor 6:19,20).
The Ten Commandments say “Do not...” or “abstain from”. They are designed for our ultimate wellbeing. If you play with fire you will get your fingers burned, so don’t see how close you can walk to the edge of the cliff without falling off. Instead of loving God and serving humans, self is increasingly becoming the all-consuming focus of the worlds ‘if it feels good do it’ culture. As a result, many people are robbing themselves of God’s blessing by not abstaining from sex before marriage. Is there some area that I should be refraining from that tarnishes or detracts from my witness for Christ, or is detrimental to me?
See also: alcohol, celibacy, drink, fasting, pre-marital sex, self-control, self-denial.