There are two extremes of which believers need to beware. One, no believer should be an alcoholic. There are numerous passages of scripture that speak against this state, among which are Eph. 5:18; Prov. 20:1; 31:4. Alcohol in excess has a controlling effect on human behavior, a damaging effect on human health and is even the cause of many road fatalities. On the other extreme are believers who are so much in bondage that they would not even eat fruit cakes if the fruits were preserved in alcohol. Is eating fruit cake a hindrance to the Spirit of God? What does the bible say about consuming alcohol?
Jesus Turned Water Into Wine
One of the main passages in this debate is John 2:1-10 where Jesus turned water into wine. If Jesus made alcoholic wine, then that settles it. Why would he do it if he did not endorse it? Some scholars have suggested that the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic (if there really is such a thing). They allude to the following custom:
Wedding ceremonies in Jesus’ day extended for several days. To avoid having the guests get drunk too early, non-alcoholic wine was served first then later on, the alcoholic wine was brought out. The governor of the feast remarked that Jesus had saved the best wine for last, suggesting that he reversed the traditional order by serving the non-alcoholic wine last.
If this were the only scripture which discussed wine, the above “custom” would be easy to accept. But its veracity does falter when compared to Matt. 9:17 and Acts 2:13, 15. Matthew 9:17 speaks of two categories of wine – new and old. New wine cannot be placed in old bottles because the process of fermentation would increase the gas pressure causing the brittle old bottles to break. The new wine still had to undergo fermenting, whereas the old wine was fully fermented. Thus old wine is definitely alcoholic.
What about the new wine? On the day of Pentecost, when the crowd saw the disciples speaking in tongues, they thought they were drunk and accused them of being full of "new wine" (Acts 2:13). This suggests that even new wine had enough alcohol to make one drunk.
Now is it possible that they were just being sarcastic i.e. “these men are drunk with grape juice”? It is very unlikely given verse 15. Peter argued that they were sober not because new wine was non-alcoholic, but because it was only 9 a.m. The bottom line is that new wine is alcoholic though less strong than old wine. So the difference between the two types of wine is not one of alcoholic versus non-alcoholic, but varying degrees of alcohol content.
What Says Paul?
In 1 Tim. 5:23, Paul actually instructs Timothy to use wine for his stomach. Someone may say that was for medical reasons. Well what has changed since then? Has alcohol suddenly become "unmedical"? Research has shown that alcohol IN MODERATION has various health benefits. The problem really is not the moderate use of alcohol, but the abuse of it. This is what causes fat bellies, heart problems, spousal abuse and careless driving. Why condemn the fruit of the vine which God caused to grow (Prov. 3:10)? Condemn the alcoholic!
Another important factor which cannot be downplayed is the public testimony of the Christian. Social drinking could hardly be said to be Christian-like in the light of Rom. 14 and 1 Cor. 8. These passages teach that certain things are not wrong of themselves (Rom. 14:14, but may become sin if they become a source of offence or a stumbling block to others following Christ (1 Cor. 8:12). Drinking wine falls into this category (Rom. 14:21). It is not wrong in itself just as eating meat is not wrong. It becomes wrong if it causes others to stumble. For this reason, I would not advise Christians to consume alcohol in public.
The Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol and drunkenness. It also cautions against social drinking. However it leaves to the discretion of the individual the possibility of consuming alcohol in moderation. It even suggests that there may be health benefits associated with it. Whether the average person is responsible enough to use alcohol in moderation without getting carried away and becoming addicted to it is an entirely different story. However personal indiscretion does not alter the teachings of the Bible.Home PDF Comment Bookmark
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You say that drinking alcohol is not a sin, but I know many cases where alcohol has ruined lives and marriages and families.
I never said that drinking alcohol is not a sin. I said that social drinking may be a sin, depending on the circumstances. And I said that being drunk is a sin. In other words, I stated that drinking alcohol is not necessarily a sin, but could be. It’s grey area, just like eating meat (Romans 14:21). What destroys families and lives is not alcohol (C2H5OH). It is people who abuse it. Food has also destroyed lives of those who abused it. Why not make eating food a sin? Cars have killed many people, why not make driving a car a sin? Anything that is abused can destroy you. The problem is not with the thing being abused, it is the abuse of the thing. The problem is irresponsible people who cannot handle freedom.
I was always convicted by scriptures like “Wine is a mocker”.
Good for you. Romans 14 teaches that if eating meat violates your conscience, then FOR YOU, eating meat becomes sin. Also if someone else’s eating meat causes you to stumble, the FOR THEM, eating meat becomes sin. Drinking wine is in the same category as eating meat (See Rom 14:21). So if you are convicted by drinking wine, then don’t.
But don’t make doctrine for the rest of us. Don’t go beyond what the bible teaches. Proverbs 20:1 states that “wine is a mocker”, but what does that mean? “Strong drink is a brawler”. Does it brawl? Then it goes on to say, “Whoever is led astray [or controlled] by it is not wise”. Once again, this is talking about the controlling influence of being DRUNK with wine. It does not really condemn alcohol in moderation. God does not want us to be drunk with wine because it lowers our resistance against the desires of the flesh. In contrast, He wants us to be filled with the Spirit.
You need to study the original Hebrew words used for wine. Jesus turned water into tiryosh, which is Hebrew for grape juice - definitely non-alcoholic.
There are two main Hebrew words which are translated “wine” in the Old Testament: yayin (fermented wine) and tiyrosh (grape juice). It is clear from the usage that yayin is alcoholic while tiyrosh is non-alcoholic. That much is true. But the New Testament was originally written in (Koine) Greek not Hebrew. Any Hebrew version of the NT would be a translation not the original. You say that Jesus turned water into tiyrosh and not yayin. How do you know that?
The Greek word used in John 2:3,8,9 which narrates the water-into-wine miracle is oinos. This is the same word used in Eph. 5:18, “Do not be drunk with oinos”. How could anyone conclude from a word study that Jesus turned water into non-alcoholic wine (grape juice)? When the NT wishes to speak of grape juice (or non alcoholic wine), it uses the term gennema, which means fruit of the vine. This is the word used in Matt. 26:29 referring to the wine drunk at the Lord’s supper. Jesus turned water into oinos not gennema.