Key Words: Abstinence
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
How many innocent lives have been taken, children abused, families split apart, and careers ruined due to the demon alcohol? The Bible is filled with such examples, yet many Christians still see nothing wrong with taking a drink now and then. George Washington said, “Drink is the source of all evil and it ruins half the working men of this country.” Abraham Lincoln saw liquor as the greatest enemy to mankind and the abolishment of legalized liquor traffic as the next colossal job for the country.
For Robert E. Lee, “My experience through life has convinced me that abstinence from spiritous liquors is the best safeguard to morals and health.” Despite the testimony of these great men, you can find some Christian authors who claim that if the Apostle Paul were here today, he would see nothing wrong with an occasional drink or two.
With all of this contrary doctrine coming from liberal Christians and the world, it is very important for the normal Christian to be grounded in what the Word of God teaches about alcohol. This applies not just to our own standard of living, but also in order to teach and help others. The question of alcohol is not just a personal issue – it affects our community and our country. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “the liquor traffic is cancer in society, eating out its vitals and threatening destruction”.
In this lesson, we shall study what the Bible has to say about alcohol and prove that God would have the normal Christian totally abstain from its use.
I. Bible Descriptions concerning Alcohol
History provides us with many a disaster that was the direct result of alcohol. Alexander the Great, the Tudors and Stuarts in England, Washington’s victory at Trenton, and the Germans in Belgium and France in 1914 are just a few examples.
When any sane person looks at the effects and results of drinking alcohol, they cannot but admit its danger. The outcome of alcohol ought to be enough to convince the normal Christian that they should totally abstain from its use. So, let us look at what the Bible has to say about the results of drinking alcohol.
1. Judges 13:3-4
The mother of Samson was told not to drink any wine because she was pregnant. Alcohol is a life-germ poison that can affect an unborn child.
2. Proverbs 20:1
The Bible says that wine is a mocker and a deceiver. The very first and perhaps most dangerous effect of alcohol is to deceive the drinker about their own condition. Wine overcomes a man before he is aware of it. It mocks a man (like sin) by the promising pleasure that it cannot give, and in fact, quite the opposite is its final outcome.
3. Proverbs 23:21
This verse gives a great truth: Drunkenness leads to poverty. The alcohol drinker neglects his business, becomes inefficient, and will eventually lose his job.
4. Proverbs 23:29-35
Here the Bible associates drinking too much alcohol with woe, sorrow, contention, babbling, wounds, redness of the eye, poison, and such. Alcohol can lead to ailments and misfortunes, impaired physical health, quarreling, foolish talking, uncontrolled impulses, unwise statements, shame, disgrace, loss of judgement, and eventually death. Perhaps the worst result is given in verse 35: Alcohol is a habit-forming drug. How many lives have been ruined because a person thought they could drink and not get hooked?
5. Isaiah 28:7-8
In this passage, a strong drink is said to lead to error or being out of the way. Alcohol confuses judgment, impairs physical and mental vision, hinders the ability to do a job, and cancels training and education. Here the result on the stomach is also mentioned.
6. Hosea 4:11
What an awful disaster is given in this verse for those who drink wine: It takes away the heart. By this, we should understand that alcohol takes away reason, judgement, and even common sense. It causes a person to become a fool and turns the heart from God. Alcohol can cause a person to desire sensual lusts and pleasures over a respect and love for God.
7. Hosea 7:5
Continued use of alcohol impairs the normal function of the stomach, liver, kidneys, blood vessels, and corpuscles and destroys brain cells.
8. Joel 1:5
Alcohol causes drowsiness and stupor.
9. Joel 3:3
Alcohol destroys morality and again we see the addictive nature of alcohol. There is no limit to the debauchery and wickedness that a drunkard will do to fulfill their passions.
II. Bible Prohibitions against Alcohol
When we look at some of the prohibitions found in Scripture against alcohol, it ought to be clear that the normal Christian should abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages.
1. Leviticus 10:8-11
The priests were commanded explicitly not to drink wine or strong drinks. Similarly, the Nazarites, who had consecrated themselves to God, were forbidden to drink or eat any form of grapes (Numbers 6:3). As Christians, we are priests unto God and we are the temple of God, therefore it seems obvious that we should avoid alcohol totally.
2. Proverbs 23:31
This is a clear command from the wisest man, Solomon, to not even look at fermented grape juice. If we do not look at it, we shall certainly not be tempted to drink it!
3. Habakkuk 2:15
God pronounces a curse on those that give alcohol to others. It is a sure characteristic of the wicked to share their iniquity with others that they may partake in the same wickedness (see 1 Peter 4:3-4).
What does this say about Christians involved in the making or sale of alcohol?
4. Ephesians 5:18
Today many Christians are sure against drunkenness, but they see nothing wrong with an occasional drink. Let us consider this command from God that the Christian is to be under the control of the Holy Spirit as opposed to the control of alcohol. How much alcohol does it take before a person is under its influence? With its deceiving power, can a person even make that judgement after one glass? No, we ought to avoid any chance of being intoxicated and under the control of alcohol.
5. 1 Thessalonians 5:22
God commands us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil”.
Can an occasional drink be considered abstaining from the appearance of evil when there is always the possibility for others to see that we are drinking?
III. Bible Words and Alcohol
When we see the word wine today we naturally tend to think of an alcoholic beverage, but the word translated as “wine” in our Bible does not always signify a fermented drink. The Greek word translated as “wine” in the New Testament is the word “oinos” (oinov) which can mean “the fruit of the vine” or fresh grape juice. There are several Hebrew words translated as “wine” in the Old Testament some of which can refer also to fresh grape juice. For example, Isaiah 16:10 says “the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses” (here the Hebrew word used is yayin, Nyy). Isaiah 65:8 says “the new wine is found in the cluster” using the word tiyrowsh (vwryt).
Since the word “wine” found in Scripture does not always refer to an intoxicating drink, we ought to be careful interpreting passages that use this word. Do not let a liberal or unbeliever confuse the issue of alcohol by misusing the meaning of the word “wine”. We must look at the context, for it will always show whether God is dealing with an alcoholic drink or not (as in Proverbs 23:31).
IV. Bible Passages misapplied to Alcohol
The confusion of Biblical teaching on alcohol is not limited to the meaning of the word “wine”, for there are several passages of Scripture that have been incorrectly used to authorize drinking alcohol. Let us look at a few of these passages:
A. The Wedding at Cana
John 2:1-10 gives the account of Christ’s first miracle – turning the water into wine. So many have tried to use this passage to prove that Jesus gave his blessing on the use of alcohol because he made a fermented beverage. Let’s consider a few reasons why this wine that Jesus made must refer to a form of unfermented grape juice rather than an alcoholic beverage.
1. He would not have disobeyed Scripture
We have already seen the many prohibitions concerning alcohol. Jesus was wiser than Solomon and would not have thrown out Proverbs 23:31. As our high priest, he surely would not have been involved in making that which the Law would forbid Him from drinking. Finally, He certainly would not have given his neighbor wine or strong drink.
2. The purpose of the miracle was to cause belief in His Person
The purpose of the miracle was not to mock or deceive through alcohol. It was to cause people, especially His disciples, to believe that He was indeed the Messiah. To have made an alcoholic beverage would have certainly caused a stumbling block (Romans 14:21) for many to believe that He was the Christ. Therefore the very idea that Jesus miraculously turned water into an alcoholic beverage is a contradiction to the very purpose of the miracle.
3. The story itself refutes the possibility
Verse 1 tells us that the miracle took place on the 3rd day of the wedding feast, while verse 10 clearly explains that they had been drinking wine since the beginning of that feast. A group of people who had been drinking alcoholic beverages for 2-3 days would not have the ability to perceive a difference in the quality of the wine (or for that matter the presence of mind to understand that a miracle had taken place).
B. The Last Supper
Many people mistakenly believe that Jesus served wine at the last supper, but they are very much ignorant of Scripture. God protected this passage from there ever being any question, for the word wine is not used in any of the three accounts (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:15-20)
C. Paul’s advice to Timothy
Many insist that this passage gives the privilege (if not an express command) to use alcohol for medicinal reasons. However, it seems medically illogical for Paul to tell Timothy to use alcohol for stomach problems. What doctor would advise a patient with stomach problems to use alcohol? On the contrary, they would warn against this. Whatever Paul was trying to say here, it definitely seems impossible that he was suggesting the use of an intoxicating beverage.