Is Drinking Alcohol Divine?
“Don't let the sparkle and smooth taste of wine deceives you. For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things.”
By popular demand I will attempt to answer the proverbial question… should Christians drink alcohol? This question of alcohol consumption has been challenging for believers from the beginning. The first recorded use of alcohol in the Bible, by Noah in Genesis 9, led to his shameful drunkenness. And of course Christians in Corinth were reprimanded by Paul for getting drunk at love feasts associated with the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:21).
Given the Bible’s clear position against drunkenness “drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:21), Christians today nevertheless pose the question: “Is it not permissible for believers to drink in moderation?” In this article we will examine the nature of alcohol; using biblical context, and demonstrate that there are distinctions in wines and their applicable use in Scripture.
In modern times, when we hear the word “wine” we automatically think alcohol; that’s because nowadays we speak specifically of “juice” when referring to an unfermented fruit drink. However, in Bible times, the same generic words were used for both fermented (alcoholic) wine and unfermented (non-alcoholic, sweet) wine. Consider the Old Testament Hebrew words yayin and shakar, and the New Testament Greek word oinos.
Context plays a central role determining which type of “wine” is under discussion in a given Bible verse. This can be a very liberating truth for modern Christians, who may be puzzled about seeming contradictions in the Bible’s stance on alcohol.
Fermented wine, the process of fermentation is the putrefaction of plant matter. It involves the slow decomposition of organic substances induced by micro-organisms such as yeast and bacteria. For example, in making alcoholic wine, yeast is allowed to feed on the sugar in grape juice and excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the alcohol content reaches perhaps 15% concentration, the yeast colony is poisoned and dies, if fermentation is avoided (through boiling, filtration, etc), wine can remain sweet and alcohol-free.
Let’s consider these references in context to what is obviously fermented wine:
Proverbs 20:1a “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler.”
Proverbs 23:29-35 “Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don't let the sparkle and smooth taste of wine deceive you. For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, "They hit me, but I didn't feel it. I didn't even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can have another drink?"
On the other hand the following are unmistakably references to unfermented wine:
Isaiah 65:8 “Thus says the LORD, as the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it, 'So I will act on behalf of my servants in order not to destroy all of them.”
Isaiah 27:2-3 “In that day, a vineyard of wine, sing of it! I, the LORD, am its keeper; I water it every moment so that no one will damage it, I guard it night and day.”
Isaiah 16:10 “Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards; no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting.”
Jeremiah 40:12 “And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.”
Jeremiah 48:33 “Joy and gladness are gone from the orchards and fields of Moab. I have stopped the flow of wine from the presses; no one treads them with shouts of joy. Although there are shouts, they are not shouts of joy.”
Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18 “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
The distinction between the two can be seen in Jesus’ first miracle mention in the Gospel of John chapter 2, as Jesus transformed water into wine. “And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John 2:9-10)
During the Last Supper (a Passover meal), Jesus describes the beverage as “the fruit of the vine,” instead of referring to it with a generic Greek word for “wine,” like oinos. When the Apostle Paul examines the elements of the Lord’s Supper--the bread representing Christ’s body, and the cup, His blood (1 Cor. 11), he says “the cup,” instead of using a generic Greek word for “wine,” like oinos.
For Christians who insist on consuming alcohol… Caveat Emptor which is Latin for "Let the buyer beware” Alcohol is a good preservative for everything but brains! Alcohol is a neurotoxin associated with significant to poor health and deaths. The American Medical Association (AMA policy H-30.972) states alcohol is classified as an addictive drug. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects. Furthermore, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy is considered safe for the fetus. Alcohol is a toxin that damages the liver directly.
Red wine for good health: The same antioxidants found in red wine can also be obtained from unfermented grape juice, and without the hazards related to alcohol.
Living in an age where alcohol is one of the Devil's foremost means of ensnaring souls and bringing them to temporal and eternal ruin, surely the drinking of alcohol by the Christian is one such matter that is not expedient. We would do well to remember what the evangelist Billy Sunday said about alcohol: "Whiskey is all right in its place – but its place is hell!"
Alcohol is a legalized drug as described by the American Medical Association; then Christians must take heed to the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
The word used for witchcraft (sorcery) this word in the Greek language is Pharmakia where we get our word Pharmacy. Pharmaceuticals or drugs are things used to put people under an outside influence bringing them into an altered state. That is a state that is not natural to mind but prompted by a foreign substance. This is called sorcery and is just as forbidden as drunkenness caused by another foreign substance, alcohol. Drugs can open one up to the spiritual realm as it alters the mind to function in a way unnatural to the how we were made.
In the end of time this will increase and be part of people’s lifestyle. Rev.9:21, "And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts." (Gr. pharmakeus); from pharmakon (a drug, spell-giving potion); a druggist ("pharmacist") a magician: sorcerer. It is a fact of history that drugs have gone hand in hand with sexual promiscuity. Religious orgies were often taking place when people practiced their sorcery, as the in consumption of particular plants would make everyone loose.
The Apostle Paul when telling Timothy to take a little wine (for medicine) for his stomachs ailments. He also writes to Timothy, a leader in the Church should not be given to drinking wine. So he is making a distinction of a custom of drinking at dinner and recreation or pleasure vs. medicinal value.
This is not to promote the freedom we have to take drugs but to give the example that they have a medicinal use. Almost all drugs are based on their original source of plants and herbs. We should always seek a better alternative but natural does not always mean better.
If you choose abstinence from the consumption of alcohol, it must be done out of love for the Lord and as a service for Him, if it is to be spiritually profitable. Any other motive will only lead to the bondage of Phariseeism!
Remember that at the heart of this question lies the issue of the appetites of the flesh and how far they should be indulged. Often there is a thin dividing line between necessary use of something and carnal indulgence in it. It is easy to progress from one to the other! One important question to be asked in this context is, Is it more important to be able to indulge a taste for wine than it is to be a good witness for Christ and to avoid being a stumbling block to others?
Paul when writing to the Christians in Rome stated: “Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don't condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian's path. I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don't let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too.
"So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don't tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. Don't eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn't eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning." (Romans 14:12-23)
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”
I Corinthians 10:23
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
Live in such a way that those who know you but don't know God, will come to know God because they know you.