‘Tis the season for Christmas and Christmas parties; many of which will include no mention of Christ but plenty of alcoholic beverages. So, let’s lay all the cards out on the table (so to speak) and let you, the Christian reader, decide if you’ll be consuming alcohol along with the unsaved. Many will argue, “I am not an alcoholic – I’m just a social drinker.” However, if socializing drives you to drinking, maybe the company you keep isn’t so good after all. Or perhaps the influence others have is too strong. So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that drunkenness is sin – and sin will put a wedge between God and us AND affect our eternity. In fact, 1st Corinthians 6:9-11ESV states: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Sanctified and Soused???
Soused: An adjective defined as “under the influence of alcohol; drunk.”
Many Christians would agree that drunkenness is sin – but they can somehow justify “just one glass”. However, if drunkenness is the mark of a hell-bound sinner (as mentioned in the scripture above), why even take the first drink? Many will say that wine has health benefits – but even still, aren’t there other ways to stay healthy? Most people don’t make excuses to go to the gym for health reasons – but they will fight tooth and nail for that one glass of wine. My Great-Grandmother lived to be nearly 93 and never drank alcohol a day in her life. Let’s be honest – an excuse is an excuse. Alcohol is not a necessity.
Wine in Scripture
Why then (in 1st Timothy 5:23), would the Apostle Paul instruct Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailment? In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, it is stated very well: “Drink no longer water…. Though it was commendable in him to keep under his body, as the apostle did, by abstemious living, and not pamper the flesh and encourage the lusts of it, and so preserve purity and chastity; yet it was proper that he should take care of his health, that it was not impaired by too much severity, and so he be incapable of doing the work of the Lord. And it seems by this, that his long and only use of water for his drink had been prejudicial to his health: wherefore the following advice was judged proper: but use a little wine; some, by “a little wine”, understand not the quantity, but the quality of the wine; a thin, small, weak wine, or wine mixed with water; and so the Ethiopic version renders the words, “drink no more simple water”, (or water only,) “but mix a little wine”; though rather the quantity is intended, and which is mentioned. Not as though there was any danger of Timothy’s running into an excess of drinking; but for the sake of others, lest they should abuse such a direction, to indulge themselves in an excessive way; and chiefly to prevent the scoffs of profane persons; who otherwise would have insinuated that the apostle indulged intemperance and excess: whereas this advice to the use of wine, was not for pleasure, and for the satisfying of the flesh, but for health.”
We find that the “little wine” Timothy used was strictly for medicinal purposes only. It wasn’t like he had a CVS or Walgreen’s pharmacy on the corner that he could go to… AND he was using such a small percentage in order to be well to do the Lord’s work. Many Christians that drink “just one glass” are simply encouraging the lusts of the flesh and setting themselves up to be tempted. Timothy certainly wasn’t an alcoholic nor was the Apostle Paul encouraging him to be such. Nonetheless, Christians who are bent on drinking will find scripture to twist it in their favor so that they can have their beloved alcohol.
Many argue that Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding denotes His approval of drinking alcohol. However, we must remember that the term wine in scripture can reference unfermented “wine” (grape juice) or it can reference fermented wine (with the ability to get one drunk; alcoholic). However, the fermentation of wine takes several days before it would be strong enough to be considered alcoholic. Therefore, we can be confident that water-turned-wine by Jesus was unfermented (grape juice) since it was consumed the same day.
In his book, Sober Saints, Keith Malcomson states: “Alcohol is a contemporary and vital issue that must be faced by the Church in this hour. Over 85% of all adults in our world drink alcohol.” He continues, “Those who say that the word “wine” in the Bible always means unfermented grape juice are wrong, but so too are those who say that the word “wine” in the Bible always, and only, means an alcoholic drink. In fact, no less than thirteen different Hebrew and Greek words are used for our one English word ‘wine’, in the Bible. The fact that we use only one English word to cover thirteen different Greek and Hebrew words should make us cautious about making assumptions regarding wine and alcohol in the Bible. Sadly, too many Believers hold dogmatically to opinions without careful, informed study. Furthermore, it is remarkable, and regrettable, that there are a number of contemporary Christian studies written in promotion of the drinking of alcohol which are ignorant of these simple facts or which simply and deliberately ignore them.”
Abstinence in Scripture
There are many instances in scripture when God commanded total abstinence from alcohol (strong drink, wine, fermented drink, etc.). When God was going to use a man, he instructed him to stay away from all forms of alcoholic drinks. The Nazirites, Israelites consecrated to the service of God, did not drink at all (see examples in Judges 13 and 1st Samuel 1:11). Also, the priests and judges, in scripture, were forbidden to taste wine or other forms of liquor before entering the temple. Then, we see in the New Testament how before John the Baptist was born, it was prophesied of him, “…for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
This dedication to abstain from wine and strong drink took self-control and a deep desire to please God. Do we still have such a desire to please Him? Do we, as Christians, exercise self-control which is one of the ways we know we have the Spirit of God living within us? (see Galatians 5:22).
Also, we must be very careful as to not cause another person to stumble by our actions. In scripture, the Apostle Paul references this very thing in regards to eating meat offered to idols. However, the same could apply to any action – if what we do causes someone else to sin then we should abstain. Paul knew the seriousness of sin and didn’t want to cause anybody to do so. “If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin” 1st Corinthians 8:12-13NET. Also, scripture instructs us to avoid even the appearance of evil. Sure, many things may be lawful for us, but not all things are helpful. We must not be enslaved by anything, according to scripture. The great preacher, John Wesley (1703-1791) once said, “If you add, ‘It [alcohol] is not poison to me, though it be to others’; then I say, throw it away for thy brother’s sake, lest thou embolden him to drink also.”
In the popular Christian Facebook group, Stop Playing Church, one researcher posted, “There is a 95% connection between alcohol use and depressive symptoms. Alcohol is deceptive in that drunkenness occurs in degrees, and if awareness is lowered then one will not necessarily be able to effectively evaluate the degree to which he or she is or is not drunk.” Many think they can control themselves to not go too far – however, shouldn’t we rather strive for purity, thus, alleviating all worry?
Those who are recovering alcoholics, live with an alcoholic, are sick because of alcohol, or know someone who has been killed by a drunk driver know all too well how evil alcohol can be. We are to be a light in this dark world. Christians are to be different – set apart. How can we share the Gospel or be a light in a dark world with a Bible in one hand and a beer in the other? We must use wisdom and thus glorify God with our bodies.
So, the decision is yours – will you choose good or evil? There is no middle ground. I will leave you with the words of Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church… “If what you are doing is right, you don’t have to justify it.”
“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” ~Proverbs 20:1NLT
“Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink” ~Isaiah 5:22KJV
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go down to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on the top of rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I am not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?’” ~Proverbs 23:29-35NIV
“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” ~Romans 13:13ESV
“Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” ~Deuteronomy 32:33KJV
Article Links on Wine:
The Great Wine Debate – http://www.baptistpillar.com/article_689b.html
Greg Laurie – http://blog.greglaurie.com/?p=8358