I am often asked about the subject of alcohol as a beverage and the Christian. More friends and associates of mine are imbibing today than ever before and it seems that there is a sense that this is a good thing. Though I want to avoid a “puritanical” attitude, I also want to sound a clear warning in an overly-permissive society.
In order to try to organize our direction for this, I am going to employ a four-point outline. We are going to look at The Scriptural Definition, The Scriptural Description, The Scriptural Condemnation, and The Scriptural Application.
The Scriptural Definition (Gal. 5:21)
We begin by noting that the Apostle brings to our attention two distinct but related fleshly works. The first, “drunkenness” is pretty easily understood. It is simply drinking to the point of excess. It is over-indulging in drink. It’s close associate, gluttony is eating to excess and thus sinning against God. And that is perhaps the silent sin of the modern evangelical church today. But, “drunkenness” has as its specific focus the result of overindulgence of alcohol as a beverage. And, as a general definition, this is a reference to the point at which alcohol takes over any part of your faculties. Whenever a person yields the control of their senses to alcohol, that is drunkenness. It is not primarily a matter of percentage, but it is a matter control. You cannot be drunk and be filled with the Spirit–drunkenness is opposed to the Spirit, thus you cannot both walk by the Spirit and be drunk. It is a fleshly work.
The second word, “revelries” is variously translated, some have “orgies”. That word is a reference to all kinds of wild parties. Speaking of these two words, John MacArthur has written,
[They] probably had special reference to the orgies that so often characterized the pagan worship ceremonies that many of the Gentile converts of Galatia had once participated in. In a more general and universal sense, however, they refer to becoming drunk under any circumstance and to all rowdy, boisterous, and crude behavior (MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians. p. 162).
[These] are sins of a different type, and incidentally they let us see that the early church was not made up (of) people whose pre-Christian lives were of the highest standard. The gospel made its appeal to people much given to self-indulgence as well as to those who lived on the highest level. Paul recognizes reality and reminds his readers that whatever kind of sin they had favoured in their pre-Christian days should be decisively abandoned (Morris, Leon. Galatians, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom. p. 172).
The Scriptural Description.
It is deceptive and is a cause of foolishness.
Prov. 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
It is associated with gluttony and poverty.
Prov. 23:20-21 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, 21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
It leads to ruination in life, distorts perception
Prov. 20:29-35: 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. 31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. 32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. 34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. 35 “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”
It leads to political and societal destruction
1Kings 16:9 “But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah.”
1Kings 20:16 “And they went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the booths, he and the thirty-two kings who helped him.”
It is associated with moral impurity and degradation.
Gen. 9:21 “He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.”
Gen. 19:32 “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”
Lam. 4:21 “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz; but to you also the cup shall pass; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.”
It controls your life.
Isaiah 5:11: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!”
It takes away understanding.
Hos. 4:11 “whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding.”
It is a characteristic of the unsaved.
1Pet. 4:3 “The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you”
The Scriptural Condemnation.
Now, we must be very careful to notice that the Scripture does not give a direct command against alcohol itself. It is very clear that the Scripture is speaking against drunkenness. And it is clear that drunkenness is condemned in the Scripture. Both testaments condemned drunkenness. It is a picture of sin, destruction, and ruin.
Because it is opposed to the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)
Because it is not a part of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
Because Christians are to avoid intimate associations with drunkards (1 Cor. 5:11).
Because it is one of the most obvious manifestations of the flesh (Gal. 5:21).
The only victory over drunkenness is to “walk by the Spirit” because then “you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”.
The Scriptural Application.
It is no secret that there is a tremendous drinking problem in America and all over the world. I have seen this evidenced on 5 of the seven continents and in every country that I have ever visited. It is one of the first realities that strikes you whenever you visit this or any other country. Alcohol i the #1 drug problem in America. 43% of Americans have been exposed to alcoholism in their families. Alcohol and alcohol related problems cost the American economy an estimated $100 million in health care and lost productivity every year. Four in ten criminal offenders report alcohol as a factor in violence.
Of course, there is much discussion on this issue in the church. In fact, 81% of all Roman Catholics and 64% of all Protestants drink alcohol as a beverage. There is no room to miss the fact that it is clear from the Scriptures that God hates drunkenness. It is a work of the flesh and opposed to everything that God loves. However, the question in many circles is should a Christian drink at all?
Drunkenness is forbidden by God. But there are places in the Scripture that speak of wine favorably. Our Lord’s first miracle took place at a wedding feast when He turned water into wine. The Bible even commends wine in certain occasions, including for medicinal purposes (Prov. 31:6-7; 1 Tim. 5:23).
Before I conclude , I want you to hear this, and hear it well.
Spirituality is not a matter of what you drink or don’t drink. It is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but rather what is already in him–it is a matter of the heart. If we are going to understand this issue, we must understand that it is first and foremost an issue of the heart.
This, like many issues is a matter of Christian liberty, as the Bible does not forbid drinking wine. God gives us certain principles that help us deal with this issue (and many like it). And I would like to give you some questions to ask yourself and to answer with the Scriptures. By providing a Scriptural application to this question you will be able to know whether or not you as a Christian should drink alcohol as beverage:
Is the wine of today and the wine of the Bible the same thing?
After quite a bit of study over the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that the wine of the Bible and the wine that we speak of today are two different things. I have read the arguments against this conclusion, but the evidence seems pretty clear, they are different.
Wine in the Scriptures seems to be primarily used as a purifier for water. (See Prov. 20:31-32)
Is this necessary for my physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being?
This issue is not a matter of necessity, especially in our day and time. It is in fact, a matter of preference. If you were in a country where you had to die of thirst or drink, it is clear that you would not be violating God’s Word to drink. However, that is most often (and probably never will be) the case for most of us. There is a biblical permission for medicinal use.
Does drinking alcohol as a beverage amount to the best choice?
Consider the high standard that was set for Spiritual leaders in the Bible: Lev. 10:9 (Priests); Prov. 31:4-5 (Kings); Numbers 6:1-5 (Nazirite); 1 Tim. 3:3, 5:23 (church leaders)
Will I subject myself to habit-forming and potential destructive practices?
This is a mind-altering drug. It is a depressant and works to eliminate restraints. 1 Cor. 6:12
Does this harm my Christian testimony both before believers and unbelievers?
Ask most non-believers. Plus the issue of causing my brother to stumble trumps all else.
Am I violating my conscience? Am I absolutely certain that I am glorifying God in this practice?
1 Cor. 8:7,12