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A Study in Alcohol

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

“I am the greatest criminal in history. I have killed more men than have fallen in all the wars of the world. I have turned men into brutes. I have made millions of homes unhappy. I have transformed many ambitious youths into hopeless parasites. I make smooth the downward path for countless millions. I destroy the weak and weaken the strong. I make the wise man a fool and trample the fool into his folly. I ensnare the innocent. The abandoned wife knows me; the hungry children know me; the parents whose child has bowed their gray heads in sorry know me. I have ruined millions, and shall try to ruin millions more. I am Alcohol.”[1]

Introduction

Since this is a controversial subject, I beg everyone who reads this article to approach it with an open mind, a humble heart, and a willingness to change is necessary. There are several congregations of the Lord’s church that are “leavened” beyond measure because this subject has been neglected, discipline has been neglected, or both. So, what is to be done? Let us return to the inerrant Word of God and find guidance so that we might be holy as God is holy.[2] Please know that I am not approaching this topic from a Biblical perspective only. I have experienced a lifestyle of drinking that brought me nothing but misery. My prayer is that I can help those who are struggling with the sin of beverage alcohol.

The thesis is simple: Drinking alcohol as a beverage is sinful. Several arguments that are used to support drinking alcohol in moderation will be addressed. Once that is done, the thesis will be supported by three Biblical reasons.

“Wine” Is a Generic Word

“There is a perverse tendency in the human mind the limit a generic word to a particular species… We find the word which denotes the spirit often rendered wind or breath; shall we, therefore, conclude it always means wind or breath, and with the Sadducees, infer that there is neither angel nor spirit, and that there can be no resurrection? So, also, because the word heaven often means the atmosphere, shall we conclude that it always means atmosphere, and that there is no such place as heaven where the redeemed will be gathered and where is the throne of God?”[3]

In the twenty-first century, the word “wine” is defined as fermented grape juice. This definition is typically assumed when the Bible is read. However, since the Bible is an ancient book, and since words and definitions change over time, one must approach the Bible with an archaic lens. Before looking into the Hebrew and Greek words, it is important to know that the English word for ”wine” used to be generic, referring to either fermented or unfermented grape juice. In fact, Welch’s grape juice used to be called ”Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine, Pure Grape Juice.”[4] The generic use was in effect when the King James Version was translated.

Another way to see how the ancient writers used “wine” generically is to examine the Old Testament. There were times when wine was praised.[5] Other times it was condemned.[6] Were the Old Testament writers confused? Could they not figure out whether or not wine was good or bad? The obvious answer is that context defines whether grape juice or fermented grape juice is being discussed. If it is praised, it is grape juice. If condemned, it is fermented grape juice.

Since it has been shown that “wine” is a generic word, this should help to better understand difficult passages that are used to support beverage alcohol.

Did Jesus Make Fermented Wine?

Many state that if Jesus made fermented wine, then Christians are allowed to drink alcoholic beverages. They claim that when Jesus turned water to wine in John 2, He made an alcoholic beverage. Is this true? Or since “wine” is generic, should John 2 be reexamined? Let us take a look at the text and emphasize a few phrases:

(1) On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; (2) and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. (3) When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” (4) And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” (5) His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (6) Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. (7) Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. (8) And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So, they took it to him. (9) When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, (10) and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (11) This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

Notice the emphasis on three phrases. First, before Jesus had performed His miracle, the wine ran out. The inference is that they had already drunk a certain amount of wine by this point. That is why the headwaiter mentions the custom of the guests “drinking freely” before drinking the poorer wine. The Greek words for “drunk freely” are “methyo methysko”, which can mean “to drink well”. So, when the guests drank from the wine that Jesus made, they were already “tipsy” if the previous wine was fermented. Second, Jesus filled pots which contained twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That means He made roughly one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty gallons of wine. If this wine were fermented, Jesus would have given the guests the opportunity to increase their drunkenness. Given the fact that drunkenness from fermented wine was condemned in the Old Testament[7], Jesus would have sinned for placing a stumbling block in front of those who He came to save from sin.[8]

Does “Much” Leave Room for a Little?

Some people argue that Paul gave deacons permission to drink a little fermented wine because much fermented wine was condemned.[9] But how does one know for certain that Paul is referring to fermented wine? Since “oinos” is generic, it is possible that Paul was referring to grape juice. If he was not, then what did “much” mean? It could be compared to James 1:21, which says, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” The Greek word for “all that remains” means “an abundance, or superfluity”. Should we then take that to mean that James gave us permission to keep a little wickedness? This reasoning is very childish. The condemnation of much does not leave room for a little. Therefore, Paul did not give deacons or anyone else permission to drink alcoholic beverages. If he did, he would have contradicted himself, as we shall see in the next section.

Is Drinking in Moderation Acceptable?

The Christian’s goal is to learn what is pleasing to the Lord and what displeases Him.[10] Drunkenness is something that displeases the Lord and will not allow anyone into Heaven.[11] So, how should the Christian respond? Should they ask, “How much alcohol can I drink?” or should they run from anything that can destroy their soul?

Many people who claim to follow Jesus understand that drunkenness is condemned in the Bible. What they do not understand is that the Bible condemns drinking alcoholic beverages even in moderation. This is hard to accept for those who enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner. Some do not drink at all, but they just do not see what is wrong with having a drink every now and then. Those who hold to this position ought to be consistent and say that there is nothing wrong with a little meth, cocaine, or marijuana every now and then, but they will not agree to this. Therefore, they must see the Bible’s view on this issue. In the case of any sin, a little is just as sinful as a lot. Since it can be proven that drinking in moderation is sinful, then it is also sinful to condone it.[12]

The proof can be found in many passages, but one in particular is the “nail in the coffin”. Paul said, “Do not be drunk with wine, which is dissipation…”[13] The Greek word for “be drunk” is “methusko” which, according to Vines’ dictionary, is an inceptive verb.[14] An inceptive verb marks the beginning of an action. In other words, Paul is commanding Christians everywhere to avoid even one drink of alcohol for recreation. The Greek language helps to understand exactly what Paul was saying, but even the English translation should be enough for a person with the right heart. Some say that one drink does not get one drunk, but this often comes from people who have never drank. God says to avoid drunkenness, so the right heart responds by saying, “All right, Lord. If you say drunkenness is sinful, then I will not have one drink.” This can be said about many things that the Bible condemns, such as fornication. God says to avoid fornication, so the Christian avoids lust.[15] God says to avoid murder, so the Christian avoids hate.[16]

At this point, someone may say, “Well, Ephesians 5:18 in the KJV says ‘excess’, so Paul is saying to abstain from drinking excessively.” But is really what Paul meant? The New American Standard Bible does an excellent job of translating the word to “dissipation”. Other translations have “excess”, but that is not the best use of the Greek word, which means “profligacy” or “an abandoned, dissolute life”. So, according to Paul, just having one alcoholic beverage is “excess” and needs to be avoided at all costs.

Alcohol Hinders Influence

Christians are commanded to be examples of Jesus Christ, to be a light to reflect the true Light.[17] In doing that, they must abstain from every form or appearance of evil.[18] When a Christian has just one alcoholic beverage in public, what does that do to their evangelistic opportunities? When a Christian who moderately drinks purchases a bottle of wine at the grocery store, does that help their influence? Now, some people argue that Jesus must have drunk alcohol in moderation since He was accused of being a “winebibber” and a “drunkard”.[19] However, Jesus was also accused of having a demon.[20] Surely, He was not practicing demonic deeds in moderation. If Jesus was of accused of doing evil although He did nothing but good, why would a Christian do anything that would appear to be evil?

Alcohol Deceives

A fisherman never shows a fish the hook. He shows them the scrumptious worm that lures them into the trap. Likewise, Satan never shows his prey the negative effects of alcoholic beverages. On the surface, they look fun, but the results are murder, fights, rape, fornication, domestic abuse, car wrecks, depression, anxiety, broken homes, etc. For Noah, it caused trouble in his family.[21] It is possible that it caused Nadab and Abihu to worship God unacceptably.[22] The Proverbs writer also had many things to say about its effects.[23] Why do those who sell alcohol only say, “Drink responsibly”? What they should say is,

“WANTED: 100 new customers as most of our old ones have dropped out. 10 committed suicide, 20 are in jail, 15 are in the poor house, one has been executed for murder, 3 are in mental hospitals and the rest are broke. We must have new customers now! Young, fresh and strong for they will not live to stay with us long. Come and see us. We have brands that will cause you to disgrace your family, paralyze your mind, warp your body, and lose your self-respect and most of your friends.”[24]

The dangers of alcohol must be exposed in order not only save lives, but save souls.

Conclusion

As said in the introduction, this subject is special to me because of my past. I learned from it and I learned why God commanded everyone to run completely away from beverage alcohol. I pray that everyone can learn from this lesson and strive every day to be holy as God is holy.

[1] Winters, Howard, The Bible and Strong Drink, pg. 40, Win-more Publications. West Jefferson, NC. 1979. Print [2] 1 Pet. 1:13-16 [3] Patton, William, Bible Wines or Laws of Fermentation and the Wines of the Ancients, pg. 51. [4] https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/history-of-michigans-wine-and-grape-industry-part-2#:~:text=The%20Welch's%20first%20pasteurized%20Concord,Chicago%2C%20Illinois%2C%20in%201893. [5] Deut. 7:13; Psa. 104:15; Pro. 3:9-10 [6] Pro. 23:29-35; 31:4-7 [7] Pro. 23:29-35; 31:4-7; Hab. 2:15 [8] Heb. 4:15 [9] 1 Tim. 3:3, 8 [10] Eph. 5:10 [11] Gal. 5:19-21 [12] Rom. 1:32 [13] Eph. 5:18 [14] Vines Expository Dictionary, G3182 [15] Mat. 5:28 [16] 1 John 3:15 [17] Mat. 5:13-16 [18] 1 Thes. 5:22 [19] Mat. 11:19 [20] John 10:20 [21] Gen. 9:20-27 [22] Lev. 10:1-11 [23] Pro. 23:29-35 [24] Winters, pg. 39.

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