“‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
–1 Corinthians 10:17
Quite an interesting verse in light of our recent discussion about consuming alcohol, the effects of it, and what the Scripture says about it. It’s a controversial topic–one I’m not afraid to tackle. It needs to be wrestled with, and I hope the truth shines through.
A lot has been said. Every side has basically weighed in. We have every extreme talking, we have people in the middle, and we have people leaning one way or the other.
I have promised to look at the issue once more, and to examine especially the comments of Steve McCoy, Joe Thorn, Derek Wallace, and One Salient Oversight, as well as a few others.
Steve–it’s your turn first.
But you have worked pretty hard to isolate the passages on drunkenness and these aren’t anti-alcohol but anti-abuse…We should rather seek to use the gift in the way God intended. That means abstinence is not a biblical position.
I can take that two ways–I can take it as you saying “Christians are not allowed to drink” is not a Biblical position or I can take it as “saying drinking is not best for Christians” is not a biblical position.
Now, if I assume you were speaking about the first instance, then I would agree. I never said that. I said drinking is not best for Christians. And that’s where I stand.
What truly stands is the fact that drinking alcohol is not necessary like continuing life or eating to stay alive. It is very unlike those things. One needs to realize this when they bring that argument to the floor.
The Bible doesn’t mention the goodness of smoking like it does with alcohol (Ps 104:15).
What does Psalm 104:14-15 say exactly?
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.
Now, that is a very, very good point. A point, which I am sure, everyone automatically says, “well, there you are. You can’t beat that verse and you can’t beat all of these verses either”:
Ecclesiastes 9:7 – “drink your wine with a merry heart, for God approves what you do.”
Psalm 104:15 – the Psalmist writes “wine gladdens the heart of a man.”
Isaiah 25:6 – God will provide a feast of rich foods and choice wines.
Amos 9:14 – God declares that His people shall plant their vineyards and drink their wine.
Zech. 10:7 – God says that when He saves His people, their hearts shall be glad as with wine.
Gen. 14:18 – Melchizedek offers a bread and wine sacrifice, and Jesus is the Priest in the same manner.
Gen. 27:25 – Isaac brought Jacob wine, and he drank, with God’s favor.
Neh. 8:10 – Nehemiah commands the faithful to drink sweet wine to celebrate the Lord and His holy day.
“Tim, you’ve just been shot out of the water. You’re dead, you’re gone, and you have no argument whatsoever. Why bother?”
Seems to be, until we do some deeper study–study deeper than just glancing at all of those verses. But before I look at this, let me clarify something: I am not saying drinking is a sin. I am saying that it is not best for Christians. I hope you get that and do not miss it.
What we truly need to consider is what “wine” are these passages referring to? Is it “non-alcoholic wine” (which sounds like a oxymoron) or are they what we today consider as “wine.” Certainly, this wine was not grape juice, and had some alcoholic content. What we need to look at is the historical aspects. What was the wine like in biblical times versus today?
Although there is dispute over the alcoholic quality or lack thereof in Biblical wines, it is safe to say that today God would not condone the use of fermented drink.
Alcoholic wines in Bible times were not nearly as full of alcohol as they are today; while modern wine may be 12% alcohol, unmixed wine in Biblical times would not have exceeded 4%. It was considered barbaric in Roman times to drink unmixed wine, and citizens would mix water and wine from about one part wine to four parts water to one part wine to eight parts water, and this would leave an alcoholic content of between 0.5 and 1% alcohol. Simply put, one would have to drink twelve glasses of Roman wine to even begin to equal one glass of modern wine, and such a quantity in Roman times would be inordinate for an average meal.
We must remember the wise words of Solomon in Proverbs 20:1 and Proverbs 23:31-35:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; And whosoever erreth thereby is not wise.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, When it sparkleth in the cup, When it goeth down smoothly: At the last it biteth like a serpent, And stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange things, And thy heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
“They have stricken me,” shalt thou say, “and I was not hurt; They have beaten me, and I felt it not: When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”
It is also good to note that “drunkenness,” which in Greek even includes the process whereby one gets drunk, is condemned as a “work of the flesh” by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, and those who would do such things “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” There is no need in our day to drink beverages with minor alcoholic contents since we have pure water and many other alternatives, and it cannot be proven to be profitable to bring one so close to temptation to sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23).
Now, obviously, today’s wine is entirely different from the wine of Bible times. Yes, it was alcoholic, but there was so little. An interesting conclusion can be drawn from this. If Biblical alcohol was alcoholic, and it was permitted only in moderation, then those who drink only a single drink today may very well be exceeding moderation spoken about in the Scripture! (http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/2000/nov/page11.htm)
The sad fact is everyone who is pushing for drinking in moderation is entirely correct. The only problem is that you can’t even drink one cup without exceeding the limits set in the Bible.
But the questions continue:
Why would it [wine] be used for OT sacrifices? Why would Jesus make it in John 2 when the wedding guests were already getting inebriated?
First of all, a sacrifice was giving something up. The Israelites had to give up wine to God. Now, in the second case, it’s much harder to grasp. The people at the wedding were getting drunk, yet the New and Old Testament tells us that God is not pleased with drunkenness. Why then would this change now?
I highly doubt that Jesus would have made wine that was different from the ordinary wine of that day–wine that would not make you drunk unless you drank about 12 cups of it. That’s where I stand on that issue, and I believe that there is nothing wrong with that as long as you remember what I’ve already said about biblical wine.
Joe Thorn weighs in on the debate:
I would argue that your father is not seeing the impact of alcohol, but the impact of selfishness, gluttony, drunkenness, etc. He sees the impact of sin, not simply the impact of wine/beer/alcohol. To push abstention because of drunkenness and resulting deaths would be the same as arguing for radical gun control because “guns kill people.” Though I imagine most tee totaling Christians are gun-friendly.
My dad will tell you about these men–men who started with one drink in moderation. They never thought they’d be in the place they are now. But now they are suddenly behind a wheel, telling the police that they can handle it. It all started with one drink, one sip, when they were young. They developed a taste for alcohol, and started drinking. Just a little bit. Then it grew. That’s how this stuff works.
Another interesting look at alcohol is from Marshall Sherman
All toxins are not bad, which is why I believe the scripture in which Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine and not just water is there.
I believe Alex King answered this question well in the comment section of his post “Side Effects May Include…”
1 Timothy 5:23 is commonly quoted to say that wine is healthy, but could it perhaps be just the lesser of two evils? We all realize that the water was not safe to drink in those days, and so most people drank wine. Why does Paul have to tell Timothy to do this? Perhaps he was abstaining for spiritual reasons, and because of that, running into stomach trouble from all the bad stuff in the water. Why else would Paul prefix the whole thing with “drink no longer water”?
I believe that answers that question.
What it really comes down to is something I’ve been bringing up over and over. Why drink alcohol? There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to start drinking. You have to develop a taste for alcohol. It’s not essential to life.
There aren’t any things that benefit you when you drink alcohol.
What we need to be is filled not with wine, but with the Spirit of God. We need to be “drunk” with the Spirit. We need to be overflowing with the Spirit.
I think commenter Sparky said some of what I’m trying to convey best:
You will NEVER have the problem of:
– Drunk Behavior
– People Killed by drunk driving
– Children abused by drunk fathers
– Deaths(Like my Grandfather) because of years of Drinking
– Other Crimes commited while under the influence
– Broken lives because of alcohol
– Broken homes because of alcohol
– Broken minds because of alcohol
If you NEVER take the first drink.
I encourage you Tim, and any other young person who has yet to take that first drink, never to do it.
Exactly right. Why start drinking other than the fact that “wine has a very pleasant taste to it and goes very well with a lot of food served at dinners.” If that’s all, then why drink other than the fact that you enjoy it. There is no reason to let yourself get into a situation that may possibly prove dangerous to your future health, or could possibly lead to drunkenness.
I heartily encourage you to not drink. It is not best. It is permissible, but it is not best. That’s where I stand–and I’m not going to bend in any way. There is no reason to drink today’s alcohol, which can possibly lead to sin. You may think you can handle it–so did those guys sitting in jail for drunk driving.
Think before you drink. It could save your life (and others).