Can Christians Drink Alcohol?
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“Pastor some of my friends and I will be watching the playoff game on Sunday. I was calling to get your permission to get drunk.
I know where you stand on alcohol, but I will have a designated driver and we are not going to a public bar, so no one is going to get hurt or get offended.
I just wanted you to know from me; in case someone else found out contacted you. I wanted to get an ‘OK’ from you ahead of time. So do I… have an OK from you?”
“Jim, first of all, it is not my responsibility to give you an ‘OK’ on the use of alcohol. That is a personal responsibility to you and God alone.
You have to get your answer from the Holy Spirit and your conscience. If Holy Spirit gives you a clear “OK’ that’s your answer.
But remember, Holy Spirit will never violate or contradict the Word of God.
But I have a deeper question for you.
Why, as a man of God, do you even want to do such a thing? What makes that attractive to you?
Have you considered what will be the emotional impact upon your children when they see their godly daddy coming home having difficulty walking and out of control emotionally and physically?
How will that affect their perception of you as a godly father and the spiritual leader in the home?
One more question. Do you think this is the kind of activity becoming of a godly man and a man of influence in the community and in the church?”
Please, let me explain this is a totally fictitious story, but reflective of a growing issue in the western church culture.
There are Evangelical and Pentecostal churches that openly provide alcohol at their Super Bowl events.
Many serve wine or beer at meal functions for the Elders and Deacons. The art and skill of “tasting” is becoming popular in the Christian community.
Many believers and spiritual leaders would see the appropriate response to this fictitious story should be that Scripture clearly teaches against getting drunk.
If the intent was to have a couple beers or a couple glasses of wine, there would be no Scriptural problem. The intent of getting drunk is clearly a problem.
Conflicting views arise over the question, “Does Scripture teach total abstinence in the use of alcohol?”
While it has been the historical position in most Evangelical and Pentecostal churches that Scripture does indeed teach total abstinence, many – maybe even most in modern church era – teach that it does not.
Is that an accurate reflection of the Holy Scripture or a contemporary rewrite of the scriptural position?
“Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations,that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:8-11 KNJV).
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice for all the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5 NKJV).
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazarite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin”’” (Numbers 6:1-4 NKJV).
It is interesting to note that priests, kings and a man or women with a Nazarite vow were called to total abstinence from wine and sekar (the Hebrew word for any intoxicating substance whether beer or spirits).
Two primary objections will arise from those wishing to justify the use of alcohol at this point in the Scriptural study.
1. These are all Old Testament Scriptures and we are now under the New Covenant.
It seems they have forgotten the injunction by the Apostle Paul. “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.'” (emphasis is in the NKJV).
The Old Testament moral laws are just as relevant today as in the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets.
Notice God said to the Children of Israel, “It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations,that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean…” (Leviticus 10:9-10).
Spiritual leaders in this generation must be able to distinguish between holy and unholy, clean and unclean.
Maybe there is a correlation between the rising use of alcohol among the believers and spiritual leaders and the church’s inability to accurately apply the Scriptural position on morally acceptable behavior and same-sex relationships.
God is deeply concerned, “Lest they forget the law and pervert the justice for the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:5).
He does not want national, state and local leaders to forget or to ignore the law. He is deeply offended when judges and courts pervert justice.
All of this, God says, will happen when they give themselves to the use wine and strong drink.
We must not be naive to the contemporary scene and how the courts and laws are being manipulated by men and women who are lobbied at parties and dinners.
We must not forget this is a forever statute.
2. The second point often spoken in justification of the casual use of alcohol is twofold:
a) The priest could use wine and strong drink as long as they were not serving in the holy place that day. We are not Old Testament priests.
b) The use of wine and strong drink was prohibited to men and women who were under the Nazarite vow. We do not have the Nazarite commitment in the New Testament.
From their perspective these points validate the believer’s use of alcohol as long as they do not become intoxicated.
Let’s take a deeper look at these points.
The Apostle John said, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6 NKJV).
Every born again child of God has been made a king and priest to God and the Father.
The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit consecrates the human body of every believer as the temple of God.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you are bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV).
Therefore, every born again child of God is a priest to God and the Father, serving in the “Holy Place” twenty-four seven.
Not only are we priests serving in the tabernacle of the Living God, we are kings, seated with Christ in Heavenly places, serving in His Kingdom (Ephesians 2:6) and we live by a covenant and a vow greater than a Nazarite.
“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
The New Testament believer lives by the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1-4).
The New Testament is not a removal of the Old Testament moral standard but a higher standard of application because we have been born again, adopted into the royal family, and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 5:17-20; Ephesians 1:4-14).
Our bodies are the temple of the Living God, to be maintained holy and pleasing to Him.
Our service is a twenty-four hour three hundred and sixty-five day ministry of bringing a sacrifice of praise in sweet aroma to Him.
It is for these reasons, we choose to not defile the temple and weaken our service to Him by participating in that which would mock our true identity and deceive us into behaving in a manner that is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).
We are after all royalty, serving in the court of the King of Kings.
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Dear Pastor Dean
I am in total agreement about the abuse of alcohol but I’m not clear precisely on total abstinence. Scripture states that Jesus consecrated bread and wine. His first miracle was to turn water into wine. I believe that frequenting bars etc is walking a tight rope over sin, as is the foolish trend to get drunk, but is it wrong to have a glass of wine at dinner or to toast a friend’s marriage? Did Jesus then defile His body by consuming wine? I totally applaud anyone who makes the choice to abstain from alcohol but does the bible condemn those who may consume as above. Is it then a question of personal intention and moderation. I would really love to have your insight on this.
I certainly appreciate your question and concern. It is a question that is asked often. I have an unpublished manuscript on the subject that I prepared some years ago. I have given fifty or so copies away. I plan to have it published later this year or next year. I have copied chapter three of that manuscript for you. I hope it will provide some answers for you. I will look forward to hearing your response.
DID JESUS AND THE APOSTLE PAUL APPROVE THE USE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?
It is often said Jesus and the Apostle Paul approved the use of alcohol in moderation. It is important to take a careful look at the scriptures to ensure that is an accurate perspective. Was Jesus, in fact, giving his approval for the use of alcohol when He turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee? Jesus said: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matt 15:11 KJV)
The context of the passage in Matthew 15:11 is not discussing the right or wrong of various meats and drinks. It is very important to keep a passage of Scripture within its context accurately, if the danger of proof-text or misusing the Holy Word to prove a particular point or belief, is to be avoided.
The context of Matthew 15:11 is a discussion about the doctrines and teachings of the religious leaders of Israel. A group of Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem had come to Jesus and asked him why the Disciples were not following the laws of washing before a meal. Jesus answered their question with a question. “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Jesus began reviewing the laws of tradition the Pharisees practiced. He then pointed out the commandments of God they violated by not obeying them. He ended the review by declaring they drew near to God with lips of worship but their heart was far from Him. Then he answered their original question by saying, “Unwashed when eating does not defile the person (“not that which goeth in the mouth defileth a man”). The words that come out of their mouth will defile a person (Matt. 15:15-20).
This Scripture, often used to justify the use of alcohol, is being taken completely out of context and is inappropriate. It violates hermeneutics and good Scriptural study practices.
Was Jesus placing His stamp of approval upon the use of alcohol when He turned the water into wine? The argument is usually presented as follows:
“After all, the guests were drinking alcohol and when the wine ran out, Jesus helped supply them with more. Even the Governor of the wedding feast declared the guests drunk, exclaiming, ‘Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now’” (John 2:10 KJV).
Does this give clear approval from Jesus to drink wine and the casual drinking of alcohol? Three questions must be answered about this event. Did the Governor in fact declare the guests drunk? What was it about the water turned into wine that caused the host to make the proclamation, “You have kept the good wine until now?” Did the Holy Son of God violate the rest of Scripture by placing approval upon drunkenness?
Barnes Notes give excellent insight into these matters about the wine Jesus created at the wedding in Cana of Galilee: “[The good wine] This shows that this had all the qualities of real wine. We should not be deceived by the phrase “`good wine.'” WE often use the phrase to denote that it is good in proportion to its strength and its power to intoxicate; but no such sense is to be attached to the word here. Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace describe wine as “good,” or mention that as “the best wine,” which was harmless or “innocent”-poculo vini “innocentis.” The most useful wine-“utilissimum vinum”-was that which had little strength; and the most wholesome wine-“saluberrimum vinum” -was that which had not been adulterated by “the addition of anything to the `must’ or juice.” Pliny expressly says that a good wine was one that was destitute of spirit (lib. iv. c. 13). It should not be assumed, therefore, that the “good wine” was “stronger” than the other: it is rather to be presumed that it was milder.
The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine, nor drugged wine, nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land. The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape. WE use the word “wine” now to denote the kind of liquid which passes under that name in this country-always containing a considerable portion of alcohol not only the alcohol produced by fermentation, but alcohol “added” to keep it or make it stronger. But we have no right to take THAT sense of the word, and go with it to the interpretation of the Scriptures. We should endeavor to place ourselves in the exact circumstances
of those times, ascertain precisely what idea the word would convey to those who used it then, and apply THAT sense to the word in the interpretation of the Bible; and there is not the slightest evidence that the word so used would have conveyed any idea but that of the pure juice of the grape, nor the slightest circumstance mentioned in this account that would not be fully met by such a supposition.
No man should adduce THIS instance in favor of drinking wine unless he can prove that the wine made in the waterpots of Cana was JUST LIKE the wine which he proposes to drink. The Saviour’s example may be always pleaded JUST AS IT WAS; but it is a matter of obvious and simple justice that we should find out exactly what the example was before we plead it. There is, moreover, no evidence that any other part of the water was converted into wine than that which was “drawn out” of the water-casks for the use of the guests. On this supposition, certainly, all the circumstances of the case are met, and the miracle would be more striking. All that was needed was to furnish a “supply” when the wine that had been prepared was nearly exhausted. The object was not to furnish a large quantity for future use. The miracle, too, would in this way be more apparent and impressive. On this supposition, the casks would APPEAR to be filled with water ONLY; as it was drawn out, it was pure wine. Who could doubt, then, that there was the exertion of miraculous power? All, therefore, that has been said about the Redeemer’s furnishing a large quantity of wine for the newly-married pair, and about his benevolence in doing it, is wholly gratuitous. There is no evidence of it whatever; and it is not necessary to suppose it in order to an explanation of the circumstances of the case.” (Emphasis is in the original text)
Adam Clarke, British evangelist and one of England’s great theologians, gives further insight about the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding in Cana.
“A question has been asked, “Did our Lord turn all the water into wine which the six measures contained?” To which I answer: There is no proof that he did; and I take it for granted that he did not. It may be asked, “How could a part be turned into wine, and not the whole?” To which I answer: The water, in all likelihood, was changed into wine as it was drawn out, and not otherwise. “But did not our Lord by this miracle minister to vice, by producing an excess of inebriating liquor? “No; for the following reasons:
1.The company was a select and holy company, where no excess could be permitted. And,
2.Our Lord does not appear to have furnished any extra quantity, but only what was necessary.
“But it is intimated in the text that the guests were hearty intoxicated before this miraculous addition to their wine took place; for the evangelist says, methusthoosin (NT:3182), when they have become intoxicated. “I answer:
1. It is not intimated, even in the most indirect manner, that these guests were at all intoxicated.
2. The words are not spoken of the persons at that wedding at all: the governor of the feast only states that such was the common custom at feasts of this nature; without intimating that any such custom prevailed there.
3. The original word bears a widely different meaning from that which the objection forces upon it. The verbs muthuskoo (NT:3182) and methuoo (NT:3184), from methee (NT:3178) wine, which, from metathuein, to drink after sacrificing, signify not only to inebriate, but to take wine, to drink wine, to drink enough: and in this sense the verb is evidently used in the Septuagint, Gen 43:34; Song 5:1; 1 Macc. 16:16; Hag 1:6; Ecclesiasticus 1:16. And the Prophet Isaiah, Isa 58:11, speaking of the abundant blessings of the godly, compares them to a watered garden, which the Septuagint translates, hoos keepos methuoon, by which is certainly understood, not a garden drowned with water, but one sufficiently saturated with it, not having one drop too much, nor too little.
Did Jesus give clear reference to His personal use alcoholic beverages?
“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.”
Barnes gives the following answer:
[Neither eating nor drinking] That is, abstaining from some kinds of food and wine, as a Nazarite. It does not mean that he did not eat at all, but that he was remarkable for abstinence. [He hath a devil] He is actuated by a bad spirit. He is irregular, strange, and cannot be a good man.
[The Son of man came eating and drinking] That is, living as others do; not practicing austerity; and they accuse him of being fond of excess, and seeking the society of the wicked.
[Gluttonous] One given to excessive eating.
[Wine-bibber] One who drinks much wine. Jesus undoubtedly lived according to the general customs of the people of his time. He did not affect singularity; he did not separate himself as a Nazarite; he did not practice severe austerities. He ate that which was common and drank that which was common. As wine was a common article of beverage among the people, he drank it. It was the pure juice of the grape, and for anything that can be proved, it was without fermentation. In regard to the kind of wine which was used, see the notes at John 2:10. No one should plead the example, at any rate, in favor of making use of the wines that are commonly used in this country-wines, many of which are manufactured here, and without a particle of the pure juice of the grape, and most of which are mixed with noxious drugs to give them color and flavor. (Emphasis is mine)
What about the Apostle Paul? Did he give approval for the use of alcoholic beverages when he told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailment? Did the Apostle give approval for leaders to use alcohol casually, when he wrote the qualifications for Bishop and Deacon, as long as they drank in moderation?
Again, lets allow our two commentators to give us insight into these matters.
[Not given to wine] Margin, “Not ready to quarrel and offer wrong, as one in wine.” The Greek word paroinos (NT:3943) occurs in the New Testament only here and in Titus 1:7. It means, properly, “by wine;” i.e., spoken of what takes place “by” or “over” wine, as revelry, drinking songs, etc. Then it denotes, as it does here, one who sits “by” wine; that is, who is in the habit of drinking it. It cannot be inferred, from the use of the word here, that wine was absolutely and entirely prohibited; for the word does not properly express that idea. It means that one who is in the HABIT of drinking wine, or who is accustomed to sit with those who indulge in it, should not be admitted to the ministry. The way in which the apostle mentions the subject here would lead us fairly to suppose that he did not mean to commend its use in any sense; that he regarded its use as dangerous, and that he would wish the ministers of religion to avoid it altogether. In regard to its use at all, except at the communion or as a medicine, it may be remarked, that a minister will do no injury to himself or others by letting it entirely alone; he MAY do injury by indulging in it. No man is under any “obligation” of courtesy or Christian duty to use it; thousands of ministers of the gospel have brought ruin on themselves, and disgrace on the ministry, by its use.
An eighth article in his character is, he must not be given to wine; mee (NT:3361) paroinon (NT:3943). This word not only signifies one who is inordinately attached to wine, a winebibber or tippler, but also one who is imperious, abusive, insolent, whether through wine or otherwise. Kypke contends for this latter acceptation here. See his proofs and examples.
The Apostle Paul was not giving his approval for leaders to use alcoholic beverages in moderation, rather, he was warning of the dangers and urging them to abstinence. The same warning is given in Titus 1:7 and 2:3.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (1:7 KJV).
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (2:3 KJV).