HOUSMAIL HM#118 - Wine, Whisky, or Something Better? 26 October 2004
I know that it is unlikely that this short article can resolve the vexed question as to whether or not drinking alcohol is a salvation issue. That has been with us since Paul wrote about it in the 1st century! But I do have an opinion. I personally believe that it belongs in Paul‘s list of subjects which he calls "doubtful disputation".
It is noteworthy that Paul‘s discussion of the subject says that some brethren are "weak". By inference the others are "strong".
However in all of those cases Paul also makes it clear that the STRONG brother will never flaunt his "strength" before the weaker brother. To do so would be a serious failure of brotherly love.1. The weak brother is a vegetarian. The strong brother eats "meat". (Rom 14:2) A typical example would be insistence on refraining from pork, or even total abstinence from meat.
2. The strong brother regards all days alike. The weak brother keeps special days as more important than others. (Rom 14:5) Typical examples would be those Christians who insist that Sabbath keeping, and celebration of Jewish festivals are salvation issues.
3. The weak brother regards it as evil to drink wine. The strong brother does not. (Rom 14:17, 21) Many extend this argument to whether or not it is right to use wine or grape juice for communion.
Of course, reading between the lines, it ought also to be expected that the weaker brothers will grow stronger as their faith matures!
DRINKING WINE A SIN?
Based on considerable study of the subject, I don‘t believe it is! The Bible nowhere says that drinking wine is a sin. However drunkenness is another matter! That is listed amongst the sins which, if never repented of and discontinued, are a barrier to any inheritance in the Kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:10)
However, whilst I am personally convinced that the prohibitionist opinion is Biblically wrong, I respect the consciences of those who think otherwise. That is the main point of what Paul is trying to tell us in Rom 14. We may not attempt to compel others to join in activities which their weaker conscience regards as sinful.
FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES?
Paul does tell Timothy that he should take a little wine occasionally " for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments ."(1 Timothy 5:23) It is a pity we don't know which particular ailments Paul was "prescribing" for! It just might advance the cause of medicine in the 21st century! However the main point worthy of notice here, is that Paul's recommendation was for "medicinal purposes". You certainly can't use that verse to justify recreational drinking!
But since we can't be adamant about the precise "Biblical Health Benefits" of wine, let us concentrate for a moment on what we do know the Scriptures say about other aspects of its use.
IT REALLY WINE?
Over the course of many years, I have read all the arguments which are advanced by the prohibitionists, to claim that the "wine", or "new wine", or "fruit of the vine", in the Bible was not wine at all, but actually unfermented grape juice. I confess that personally, I find them most unconvincing.
The Bible mentions wine often. And in context, it is quite obvious that the several Hebrew and Greek words mostly refer to REAL wine made by fermenting grape juice. A careful unbiased word study of the several Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible will easily dispel prohibitionist claims that they actually refer only to unfermented grape juice.
One thing is certain -- You can't get drunk on unfermented GRAPE JUICE! BUT you certainly can on New Testament NEW WINE! (Acts 2:13-15)
There can be even less doubt that the " fruit of the vine " used at the Passover Feast in Jesus day, was alcoholic wine. Jewish historical sources tell us clearly that real wine was used for the Passover meal. However, it probably wasn‘t full strength. According to reliable sources, it was most likely mixed with water in the same proportions which are still fixed in modern tradition today, amongst orthodox Jews.
By the direction of the angel to Zechariah before he was conceived, John did not drink wine or other strong drink. (Luke 1:15) Jesus made mention of this. (Luke 7:33)
WAS NOT A NAZIRITE
Jesus was not subject to the same restriction! He did drink alcohol sometimes. He said so. (Luke 7:34) And his first miracle was at a wedding feast, where he changed water into wine. (John 2:1-11)
Have you ever noticed that those Christians who do argue in favour of drinking wine "in moderation", often seem to drink quite a bit more than a "moderate little"? And have you also noticed it takes a LOT less to affect physical coordination and activity of the mind, than most people like to kid themselves (or boast to others!) that they can "handle"?
Tell me -- all you who do drink alcohol -- just what is the point at which one's blood alcohol level passes across the barrier from "completely O.K. with God", to the condition where the control of the faculties is affected enough to cloud judgment, slow down the reflexes, and be potentially dangerous to others -- and DRUNK by God's standards?
Does God have a 0.05% blood alcohol "legal cut off" driving equivalent? Do you know what it is? Really?
And why is it that so many of those who are most vigorous in defending their "right" to drink alcohol, also seem to want to FLAUNT it before others, and even encourage others that they should drink too! All too often that seems to result in some spiritual damage to the conscience of a "weaker brother"! (Rom 14:1; 1 Cor 8:10)
GLADDENS THE HEART
The Old Testament says that wine "gladdens the heart". (Ecclesiastes 10:19; Psalm 104:15)
So, some may ask, --- What could possibly be wrong with that? Isn‘t it a good thing to be happy?
Not always! For a start we should remember that the Bible also says that "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise ." (Proverbs 20:1) Under the influence of alcohol, many rage, and many more deceive themselves! When the alcohol starts "talking", men laugh themselves silly -- about nothing much at all! And they call that having fun!
The bottom line is simply this -- if the "Fruit of the Spirit" is growing and flourishing in our hearts, as it is meant to, we should not need wine for that purpose! Remember? The fruit of the Holy Spirit is ..... JOY! To say that we also need to drink alcohol to assist in gladdening our hearts, is tantamount to a confession that we do not have as much of the Spirit of God as we should!
While the Bible does not say drinking alcohol is a sin, it becomes a serious problem when drinkers place a stumbling block in the path of others by FLAUNTING their "rights" to imbibe any time they choose.
Our Church Communion service is in a different category. People are invited to visit our Church on the clear understanding that REAL wine will be used at the communion BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT IS RIGHT TO DO SO. And if their personal sensitivity can't cope with being present when they know real wine is being used, they are allowed, without offence on our part, to exercise their personal freedom to vote with their feet!
MATTER OF PERSONAL CHOICE?
By my own freewill choice, I don't drink alcohol. (Except of course for that tiny sip at the weekly Sunday Communion) But it isn‘t because I think it is a sin! My own choice not to drink is a personal thing between me and God. And for the record, I am convinced that I "feel" better and function better without it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
every man be persuaded in his own mind."(Rom
"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine , nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth,
or is offended, or is made weak." (Rom 14:21)