Thinking Cap # 3 - The Question: Alcohol and the call to "Moderation".

I've been wondering about this alcohol thing and the call to "moderation" on the part of the Christian. Are we "Baptists" being a little narrow minded when it comes to the use of wine and beer. Didn't Jesus turn water into wine and give it to others to drink. Wasn't Timothy advised to drink wine? I'd really rather have something more solid to go on than the canned, the wine that Jesus created was "grape juice" answer and the "don't be a stumbling block" response. Is moderation and balance the right stance for the Christian of 1995? As a Biblicist, seeking to establish a thinking-man's world view, what say ye? Responses are due by midnight, Friday, January 20.

I heard from Jeremy Fisher (a homeschooled high school student), George Levesque, Ed Komoszewski (three pages), Richard Degler, Pat Winters, Ron Tottingham, Martin Olson (an extensive and good analysis), Ben Eynon and got several responses indicating that they planned to get to that topic as soon as they had "time".

Here, for what it is worth is how I would approach this topic.

  • One of the rules for Bible study is the "Law of First Mention." The first time that a topic is mentioned in the Bible is usually when God also reveals to us some important truths about that subject. Genesis is the book of beginnings. Every major doctrine in the Bible can be found in the first twelve chapters of this book. With this in mind, consider the first reference to a vineyard and wine found in Gen. 9:20-23. Not a pretty sight with Noah and Ham. The third reference is with Lot and the incestuous relationship with his daughters in a drunken condition found in Gen. 19:32-36. The fourth reference is when Jacob brought food and wine to his father Isaac as he deceived him into giving him the blessing found in Gen. 27:25. The "Law of First Mention" would indicate that God is telling us that wine and alcoholic beverages are not a good thing for His children.
  • The English language, while rich in many areas is weak in the area of the word "wine." There are 10 Hebrew words that are generally translated into the English word for wine. Some reference simple grape juice and some reference intoxicating beverage. Of those, 7 are negative or adverse in their usage in reference to an intoxicating usage of wine. You will find the same ratio in the five Greek words.
  • The word "wine" is referenced 212 times in the Old Testament. A survey of these usages done by Richard Degler, a man that I am currently discipling indicates that 92% of those references are "negative" in context. This doesn't even consider the use of the words "strong drink." My first Pastor, Dr. David Earnhart used to give us a method by which to make decisions. He said that we should state the question and then make three categorical headings on a sheet of paper. Under one list all the good things about this course of action. Under the second, list all the bad ramifications. Under the third, list the "don't care" issues. The resultant list can help us get a big picture on the best course of action. Apply this approach to all the references to "wine" in the Bible. God is telling us something. Are we listening?
  • In a survey done by George Levesque, a student from years gone by in my High School Philosophy class, and now a college graduate, he identified three classifications of people in the Bible and specific instructions given to them regarding the usage of intoxicating beverages. First, you have the religious leaders, who were told to abstain Num. 6:1-3; Luke 1:15). Second, you have the secular authorities, who were told to abstain (Prov. 31:4). Third, you have bishops (pastors) in the New Testament who were "not given to wine." (1 Tim. 3:3). I will comment on 1 Tim. 3:3 in the next point. This would indicate that the more authority you had or the closer you got to God, the further you would get from alcoholic beverages.
  • In looking at "not given to wine" from 1 Tim. 3:3, it is important that we consider overall teachings of the Bible. a) It condemns drunkenness (Eph. 5:18, 1 Pe.4:2-3, Prov. 20:1). b) The Bible very carefully and specifically defines our attitude toward alcohol. It does make allowances for medical purposes (1 Tim 5:23). There were cultural situations (1 Cor 9:22, 10:25-33). But, caution is needed here. I question whether you will encounter such "cultural allowances" in the U.S. In addition, we as more mature Christians are not to be a stumbling block to others (Ro. 14:21 and Mt. 18:6). Our lives are to be transformed to live by higher standards than the strict observance of laws (Rom 12:1-2). c) The Bible implies a broader principle. Nothing should control our lives but the Holy Spirit. We can be "drunk" on many things (1 Cor. 6:12, Prov 23:19-21).
  • One of my favorite passages dealing with alcoholic beverages in the Bible is Prov. 23. Starting in verse 21 and through the end of the chapter you can find what I call the "12 Woes of Alcohol" including: poverty, woe, babbling, contentions, sorrow, wounds, redness of eyes, spouse problems, mouth control problems, judgment problems and addiction problems. Find and underline them in your own Bible. It's a good reference list and also sends us a message as to what God thinks of the use of intoxicating beverages.
  • Hab. 2:15 is a good verse to consider in dealing with alcohol as it casts a particularly strong "woe" onto those who are involved in the sale or distribution of intoxicating beverages.
  • In line with number 7, it would be good to bring up a favorite verse of those who base their view on a superficial study of the Bible, or who are seeking for a verse to condone their current practice. In John 2:9, Jesus turns water into wine at the marriage feast. Considering all the above cautions and prohibitions regarding intoxicating beverages, it would seem impossible (the one thing that God cannot do is violate His very character) for Him to make an intoxicating beverage and offer it to others.
  • Finally, consider two verses already referenced from a different perspective. Read Eph. 5:18 and then also look at Luke 1:15 speaking of John the Baptist, "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." Is it possible that the "filling of the Holy Ghost" and "intoxicating beverages" are mutually exclusive? Or, is that a rhetorical question?

    To net it down, does the Bible say "thou shalt not drink alcoholic beverages?" I think it would dishonest to emphatically state that it does. But, does the Bible make strong statements regarding its use? Yes! For religious and secular leaders, I believe you can make a case for abstinence. It would appear that the guiding principle for everyone would be "the closer you want to get to God, the further you will get from alcohol." That puts the decision squarely in your court. But, then the Holy Spirit is a much better remedy for carnality than "legalism." How "filled with the Holy Spirit/Ghost do you want to be?"

  • Pleasant Thinking
    Kent Haralson


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