Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
What Does the Bible Say?
So much devastation is caused by alcohol in our community, not least on the roads and in homes, that this question should not even arise. Yet it does and must be dealt with from Scripture.
Alcohol Brings a Curse
The use of alcohol in the Old Testament had tragic results. Noah's drunkenness brought him shame and led to him cursing his grandson. Lot's daughters used drink to commit incest with him and produced Ammon and Moab whose children tormented Israel for centuries. Israel drank wine and fornicated as they worshipped the golden calf and thousands died (GENESIS 9:18-27,GENESIS 19:31-38; EXODUS 32:6,25,28,35). Amnon, another drinker, seduced his half-sister Tamar and brought tragedy to David when Absalom avenged her (2 SAMUEL 13:13-28). The children of Job died drinking wine as did Belshazzar when he used the sacred cups from the temple in his last drunken feast (JOB 1:13,18-19; DANIEL 5:2-5).
Isaiah foretold disaster for Israel if they drank, contrasting the drinkers with the spiritually thirsty whom He would fill with the Holy Spirit. (ISAIAH 5:11-12,22-25; ISAIAH 28:7-8,9-13;1 CORINTHIANS 14:21). Jeremiah said God would make "bottles of wine" freely available to destroy the nation. (JEREMIAH 13:12-15). How true is this in our own country? Later he saw the wine of Babylon destroying the nation, and 600 years later John saw Babylon still corrupting the nations with her golden cup. (JEREMIAH 51:7; REVELATION 17:3-6). Micah warned of lying, false prophets who prophesy of wine and strong drink (MICAH 2:11). Today they still teach "moderation", and lead many to damnation. It is time for true prophets to preach Biblical holiness once again.
What did God Teach?
God said Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, would die if they drank ANY wine or strong drink before entering the tabernacle. They had to make a difference between holy and unholy, clean and unclean. Today all believers are the tabernacle or temple of God, (LEVITICUS 10:9-10; 1 CORINTHIANS 3:16-17; 1 CORINTHIANS 7:9-20) every day. We are constantly in God's Presence and He is in us! He has not changed His attitude to alcohol. We defile this relationship if we drink.
In the same way, kings and judges were not to drink in ANY measure lest it affect their judgment. (PROVERBS 31:4-5; HOSEA 7:5-7). Those who separated themselves to God, called Nazarites, were to touch nothing of the vine, not even grapes or leaves. Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist were all Nazarites. (NUMBERS 6:2-3; JUDGES 13:3-7; 1 SAMUEL 1:11; LUKE 1:15). The grandchildren of Rechab pledged never to drink as their father commanded them, and God marvelled that His people would not obey Him in the same way. He promised to bless the faithful Rechabites when He judged disobedient Judah (JEREMIAH 35:2-10,12-19). In all the above cases ANY alcoholic drink was unacceptable.
We know God never changes. He warns of the evil in drink. Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler (PROVERBS 20:1; 23:29-32). The problem is in the drink itself, not in drunkenness. Priests who drank died. Alcohol is unholy and unclean as above. Their (Israel's) vine is the vine of Sodom, their wine is the poison of dragons (serpents) and the cruel venom of asps (DEUTERONOMY 32:32-33). God allowed the people to drink, along with the dying, and nor do we impose our standards on unbelievers. But there is a higher standard for God's holy people (DEUTERONOMY 14:26; PROVERBS 31:6; HEBREWS 12:14). Drink offerings were poured on the ground and the priests only ate the animals (NUMBERS 28:7; LEVITICUS 6:14-18).
Two Types of Wine
In Hebrew there were two words for wine: "tîyrôsh" or new unfermented wine and "yayin" for fermented wine. The Greeks had only one word, "oinos". So in the New Testament unless the text says "old" or "new" wine, (LUKE 5:37-39), only the context shows which is intended. Some have used this as a loophole to justify drinking alcohol when the whole message of Scripture is against it. Here are some examples:
At the wedding in Cana Jesus turned water in to "wine". Some suggest this must have been alcoholic wine. There were 6 pots each holding 20-30 gallons.
Did Jesus make 150 gallons of alcoholic wine, enough to get every guest blind drunk, when the Bible warns against drunkenness? He would have been denying His own Word! (HABAKKUK 2:15; LUKE 12:46; EPHESIANS 5:18). Surely He made unfermented wine and the "governor" of the feast complimented the groom on its quality. Some feel Jesus' words to Mary, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" were a rebuke because she suggested He make alcoholic wine. (JOHN 2:4,6,10; MARK 1:24; 2 SAMUEL 16:10). Jesus was called a "winebibber", or drunkard, and a "glutton" by the Pharisees. They also said He had a devil and blasphemed, among other things.
Nothing else was true so why should He be a drinker? They were contrasting His lifestyle with the austerity of John the Baptist, who ate locusts and wild honey and abstained from anything of the vine. (LUKE 7:33-34; JOHN 8:48-52; MARK 2:7; MATTHEW 3:4; LUKE 1:15).
At the Last Supper Jesus used "wine". Afterward He called it the "fruit of the vine". Fermented wine is processed and no more "the fruit of the vine" than yoghurt is the "fruit of the cow"! He probably said this to guard against such evil suggestions. (MATTHEW 26:29). The perfect, sinless Blood of Jesus could not be symbolised by corrupt old wine! When Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers offered Him fermented "wine mingled with myrrh, but He received it not". Jesus refused it. (MARK 15:23). So why would He have drunk wine normally?
Wine and the Church
On the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples first received the Holy Spirit, onlookers said:
"These men are drunk with new wine" (ACTS 2:13). The Greek word here is "gleukos" which was either new unfermented wine or "must", boiled non-alcoholic grape juice. They were mocking them by saying: "They are drunk on grape juice". The disciples must have been known for their abstinence.
"Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the spirit." This verse forbids drunkenness but shows the excess is in the wine itself. The issue is not how much we drink, but that wine is excessive by nature. The word "excess" is "asotia", translated: "riot and riotous living." (EPHESIANS 5:18; 1 PETER 4:4; LUKE 15:13).
In the criteria for oversight, Paul says a candidate must be: "me paroinos", or
"not near wine" (1 TIMOTHY 3:3; TITUS 1:7 literal translation!). Deacons should be, "not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, or gain". (1 TIMOTHY 3:8).
This appears to say some alcohol is acceptable, but that denies all that we have seen. It is more likely to mean they should not drink grape juice to excess, or have any other greedy habits making them unsuited for ministry.
Paul told Timothy:
"Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake" (1 TIMOTHY 5:23). Timothy must have been living as a Nazarite, drinking only water. Paul was telling him to use grape juice which is very soothing. The verse is not an excuse for people with no stomach problems at all.
Paul said he would neither eat flesh or drink wine or do anything which caused offense to a brother (ROMANS 14:21). When alcoholics are being saved from their addiction we must not cause them to stumble again.
The Bible speaks of:
"the wine of the wrath of God" (REVELATION 14:10). If wine is a symbol of wrath, why should we touch it? We are called to peace and holiness.
We are ministers of reconciliation, not anger.
It is sobering to realise that the sin of Noah is still wrecking families today around 4,300 years later. Have we learned nothing? Moderate drinking is not God's answer. Abstinence is! Every alcoholic begins his downward path with ONE drink! The church should never condone or allow that first step by its teaching. It should rather uphold the clear position of The Word of God, knowing that Jesus is The Word made flesh and come to dwell among us!
Auckland Christian Assembly - New Zealand.
Taken from HQL-9826, p. 8-9