Should Christian's Drink Alcohol?
By Keith Malcomson
(Updated on 25.01.10)
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By Keith Malcomson
Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
This Book was written for three types of persons. Firstly, for those who are convinced that it is ok to drink alcohol socially and moderately. Secondly, for those who are fully persuaded that Scripture forbids the drinking of alcohol. And thirdly, for those who stand in the middle unsure of the clear teaching of the Bible.
This subject has certainly become a hotly debated subject in recent years by professing born-again believers. This simple book will challenge many contemporary opinions, traditions, fables, excuses and false teachings. It will also answer many questions you have had. This is a practical book for leaders, mothers, teenagers and all who have an interest, opinion, concern or doubt concerning alcohol and the teaching in the Bible concerning it.
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This subject has become one of the hottest debated subjects in recent decades amongst professing born-again believers. Prior to this time though, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Bible-believing Christian's and Spirit-filled believers would not even consider this a subject for discussion. It went without saying that a true Christian would politely steer clear of alcohol and most certainly any environment of drunkenness unless it was for the purpose of militant and compassionate evangelism. But this has all changed.
The social drinking of alcohol and strong drinks has been promoted by key preachers, teachers and leaders and as a result has swept across the church overnight. What was anathema yesterday is strongly encouraged today. Leaders may well say that they believe in moderation - drinking alcohol in small amounts so as not to get drunk - but the sad case is that what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears in a number of different countries is that this has led to tipsiness, drunkenness and loose living amongst so called born-again believers.
What may have been an issue that could be argued over or debated has now become a problem. I hear of incident after incident of so-called born-again Spirit-filled believers saying that obedience to the commands of Christ are legalism; a life of prayer, discipline, modesty and moderation is legalism; any restriction to their liberty to do whatsoever they please is legalism. Fasting, prayer, obedience, sacrifice, tears, repentance, the faithful reading of the Bible and even correct relationships and conduct between men and women is all cast aside as being of the order of the Old Testament!
But the Bible says that such people are sensual - they do not have the real Spirit of God. They are not rightly dividing the Word of truth. They are in very real danger of their eternal soul.
There are a great number of believers who have not been in the habit of drinking any alcohol or of encouraging its use but during the recent decades as they have been faced with a constant barrage of half-quotes and misapplied texts from the Bible, have become unsure as to their own convictions and ability to say that a Christian cannot drink alcohol. The seemingly convincing arguments of pro-drinkers have persuaded a great many. Such believers want to be honest and to interpret the Bible correctly but have felt that there is too much truth in what pro-drinkers say. Yet other scriptures make them to hold back from embracing such a thing as right before God.
This article will primarily help such people but will also be a solid challenge to those who are fully persuaded that as a Christian the Bible allows them to socially drink alcohol.
My heart also goes out to a whole generation who through lack of knowledge in being taught what Scripture reveals and commands are perishing within what is called the church. They have been birthed into a lukewarm environment in which the order of the day is to walk as close to the line as possible or to cast aside all restrictions and to do whatsoever seems right in their own eyes. Such is a very ancient heresy. My heart goes out to these young masses because they perish for lack of knowledge.
This article in the following sections will deal with the whole subject of Alcohol and the Bible and whether Christians are encouraged or discouraged from drinking alcohol by the Word of God.
- Wine in the Bible
- Facts about Alcohol
- Christian Drunkards
- Recovering a Fallen Brother
- Leadership and Alcohol
- Social Drinking by God's People
- A Spirit-Filled Life
- Questions & Answers
1. Wine in the Bible
First of all we must realise that when the term “wine” is used in our English version of the Bible it is a broad term including two specific and separate things. Firstly, grape juice which is non-alcoholic and is called wine in the Bible and secondly, alcoholic drink which can intoxicate or make a person drunk, is also called wine in the Bible.
Those who say that the word wine in the Bible always means non-alcoholic grape juice are wrong but so too are those who say that the term wine in the Bible always means an alcoholic drink. In fact 13 different Hebrew and Greek words are used for our English word wine in the Bible. These various Hebrew and Greek words can mean, i) Only a fermented drink, like shekhar, ii) Only an unfermented drink, like tirosh, iii) And those words which can be used for both, like yayin. (A comprehensive word study is beyond this present article but please bear in mind that this article is written in the light of all these facts).
Processing the Grape:
When grape juice is initially squeezed out, it has a high content of sugar and is not naturally alcoholic. It is only under the right conditions that yeast cells which are held on the surface of the grape skin begin to act on the sugar content that the process of fermentation begins which will eventually turn the grape juice into an alcoholic drink. When this action has produced about a 12% alcoholic content it ceases.
As is well known the production of alcoholic wine is a manufacturing business of great skill. It always has been. Good alcoholic wine does not develop of itself; it must be carefully watched, monitored and engineered.
This process of fermentation can fail to begin or can be greatly hindered by too much heat, cold or a number of other conditions. The yeast that ferments the wine is nothing more than a mould or fungus. Not all moulds will produce wine. Some bacteria if allowed to work upon the freshly squeezed grape juice will produce vinegar.
The temperature of wine must be maintained between 65 and 75 degrees in order to produce alcoholic wine. If this procedure is not carried out correctly it can destroy the production of alcoholic wine or stop it in its tracks at a very low level.
With hard work wine producers can produce a 14% alcoholic content in the wine but more normally the end result is 10-12%.
If during the fermentation process the temperature of the wine is kept at 100 degrees F for about one hour it will kill the yeasts that produce alcohol. If this was increased to 140 degrees F it would kill the whole process in ten minutes.
In the ancient world during the Old and New Testament period the production of non-alcoholic wine was widespread across the whole Mediterranean world. It was well known and practised. The use of heat, cold, thickening and filtering ensured this process.
Boiling ensured there was no fermentation as it killed the yeasts but concentrated the sugar content as the water evaporated. Fermentation was also prevented by storing it in a cool atmosphere in earthen, airtight vessels. Such grape fruit juice could be stored for up to two years without fermenting.
Many ancient writers like Virgil, Pliny, Aristotle, Homer and others wrote concerning the production of wine, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. They were very clear in explaining that non-alcoholic wine was widely used all the year round just as they were clear that there was also the means to produce good alcoholic wine for intoxication.
Why are we looking at these details and what do they have to do with the issue of alcohol in the Bible? These details go to prove that man had to work hard at producing good alcoholic wine. It proves that non-alcoholic wine was readily available during Bible days and was even a common drink in society. It also shows why the word for wine in the Bible was given to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine. These are important points in the biblical discussion.
Those who have been at the forefront of contending that Christians can drink socially have constantly stated that non-alcoholic wine was not widely available in Bible days and that when the Bible uses the term wine it always means fermented grape juice. Of course what we have just stated in this section factually undermines this myth.
2. Facts about Alcohol
It is a very clear fact that the word wine is also widely used in the Bible for an alcoholic drink which when consumed will produce drunkenness which is constantly condemned and warned against.
It is a scientific, legal and medical fact that even the smallest amount of alcohol affects speech, balance and the ability to make clear judgments. The more alcohol that is taken the more this increases until it becomes noticeable by the person and by others. By the time someone realizes that their alcoholic intake is beginning to affect them it already has!
This does not begin with taking a large amount to cause drunkenness but begins with the very first initial intake even if the effect is totally unnoticed by all. Medical science tells us that the effect of alcohol reaches the brain within one minute after intake. It needs no time to digest like food does; it gets VIP treatment and quick access to each member of the body.
When taken, alcohol passes from the stomach into the small intestine, where it is rapidly absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body. Because it is distributed so quickly and thoroughly the alcohol can affect the central nervous system even in small concentrations. In low concentrations, alcohol reduces inhibitions. The alcohol is then broken down by the liver and finally eliminated from the body. The liver is capable of breaking down the amount of about one drink per hour. Until the liver has time to break down the alcohol it keeps circulating in the bloodstream, affecting all of the body's organs, including the brain. The alcohol depresses the brain and slows down its ability to control the body and mind. This is why alcohol can be so dangerous. Alcohol acts like a sedative by slowing down muscle coordination, reflexes, movement, and speech.
The best secular advice by the National Council of Alcohol says that “If you do choose to drink, sip each drink slowly, and always consume alcohol with food. Space drinks out to no more than one drink per hour, and consume plenty of water in between drinks. Never drink while pregnant and never drive when intoxicated.” Again The British Dietetic Association says "Even a moderate amount of alcohol produces a range of negative short-term effects on the body..."
Even the world realises that alcohol is a very dangerous drug which must be handled with extreme care. Sad to say many so-called Christians deliberately overstep even this basic worldly wisdom.
Within the alcohol is the power and ability to undermine the natural God-given abilities of thought and action.
Social drinkers who binge can get irregular heartbeats from their alcoholic intake. If an individual drinks too much alcohol, his or her breathing or heart rate can reach dangerously low levels or even stop.
The dangers of excessive drinking range from small short term problems to large terminal problems. Dehydration, dulled senses, decreased reaction time, impaired judgement, impaired memory, weight gain, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, blood conditions, loss of long term memory, heart problems, premature dementia and loss of bladder control are all very real dangers. Half of those diagnosed with cancer in the oesophagus, larynx and mouth are linked to alcohol. Various forms of arthritis can be advanced by alcohol abuse. The list is endless. When consumed in large amounts over a prolonged period of time, alcohol can harm virtually every part of your body.
Most medical advice will strongly suggest that pregnant women steer totally clear of all alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol travels rapidly through your bloodstream, your placenta and to your baby. The baby can not process the alcohol as fast as you can as its liver is one of the last organs to develop fully and does not mature until the latter half of pregnancy, so it is exposed to greater amounts of alcohol for longer than you are which can seriously affect the baby's development. Alcohol in a foetus has a toxic effect on developing cells and organs, especially in the brain, where it kills cells. Too much alcohol during pregnancy can change the way a baby's face, organs and brain develops. It can also affect the nervous system, which is why learning difficulties and life-long problems with movement and coordination often result. Miscarriage and premature birth are also a very real danger. Children damaged during pregnancy may be born small and remain small for their age. Again the problems are numerous. This drug endangers the life of humanity on all fronts.
One last area that alcohol has a deadly affect upon is the crime rate in our nations. Whilst writing this article I caught a brief news item informing us that half of those arrested for criminal activity in my country, Northern Ireland, were under the influence of alcohol. Statistics in America for alcohol related car crashes are beyond belief. At least 40% of all car crash fatalities are alcohol related. Someone is killed every 45 minutes and injured every two minutes by someone under the influence of alcohol. This is America’s leading criminal cause of death each year.
Not only is it dangerous to the body and soul but also to the eternal destiny of the spirit. Alcoholic wine is portrayed time and time again in the Bible to be as dangerous as a serpent’s bite which kills. Deut.32:33 “Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” Pro.23:31-32, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”
Drinking alcoholic wine is like drinking poison.
Let’s look closer at the description of this wine in Proverbs 23. It says “at the last it biteth.” In other words it does not initially reveal its danger. At first it may seem fun and innocent but in the end it will bite like a serpent.
This drink has the ability of being the doorway to all sin and of carrying a man where he thought he would never go. In verse 33 it says “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” A man who would not normally do this would do it when under the influence of alcohol.
In verses 29-30 we read of other dire consequences for an individual under the influence of this wine. “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.”
In the light of all this verse 31 commands “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” This is not a description of non-alcoholic wine, it is a clear description of alcoholic wine. Here is a command to not even look upon such a drink!
The writer knows that the drink itself is dangerous, not just its abuse. He also knows that this problem is not dealt with by advising moderation in drinking. He places a ban upon the first look which leads to the first drink. The word used here for “look” means to fix your eyes upon it, to gaze at it, to consider or take heed to it. This is not talking about a mere look at it but a real lust and desire for it with the intention of drinking it.
We well know that Jesus taught that if a man looked upon a woman to lust it was equivalent to committing adultery. In this proverb the writer is dealing with the root and the heart of the problem. Don’t even look upon such a drink with a desire to drink because the end of such a desire is disastrous for a great many. Such a look at alcoholic wine could be equivalent to the actual act of drunkenness.
It is in the light of all this that the Bible warns in Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” And again it warns about close association with those who are given over to drinking alcohol or to a gluttoness lifestyle. “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” Pro 23:20-21. As a side note those who overeat are put in the same bracket as drunkards!
How can any Christian continue to drink socially in a manner they call moderation when they hear all of these facts?
The first issue to settle in relation to alcohol is the fact that the teaching of scripture is very clear in calling all drunkenness sin. Sadly, in certain groups which call themselves ‘Christian,’ drunkenness is accepted, tolerated, promoted, enjoyed or seen as a mere weakness.
All such excuses for drunkenness are clearly challenged and condemned by the written Word of God. Men and denominations can argue over such things but God’s Word alone has the final say in all such matters. Let’s look at what the Bible says about drunkenness.
Drunkenness is mentioned over 70 times in the Bible and as with every other subject it is very clear in stating what is right and wrong.
I Cor.6:9-10, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Take good note here that Paul teaches the Church at Corinth that a “drunkard...shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He will not enter God’s kingdom, he is not saved and he is not on his way to heaven. Paul confirms this again in Galatians ch.5:21, “...murders, drunkenness...and such like...they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” This could not be clearer.
Again note in the above scripture that Paul says “...the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He then goes on to define this unrighteousness by naming several lifestyles including drunkenness. Drunkenness is unrighteousness and will send you to hell as quickly as murder, idolatry or adultery.
In verse 11 he goes on to say “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” So those who made up the Corinthian church had amongst them those who before becoming Christians were drunkards, liars, homosexuals, adulterers and a host of every sinful lifestyle.
Paul was clearly saying here that there were believers amongst them who were once drunkards but who had through salvation been washed, sanctified and justified. They were not only forgiven and washed from their past sin but were changed in character and nature in a manner that made them a new creature in Christ Jesus. They no longer got drunk. Praise God.
The Greek word for drunkard means: to be tipsy; to drink well; to drink to the point of intoxication. It was the act of drinking beverages made from barely, grapes or pomegranates which were fermented and so alcoholic. It was a state in which a man took that which affected and dulled his senses and altered his mode of action, speech, composure and ability. To be a drunkard was not a one of incident but a way of life.
Let’s be very clear, such actions as drunkenness unless repented of will send a man to hell.
Such sins as drunkenness were set apart as so wicked in the Old Testament, and dangerous to the whole welfare of the community that God ordained that such a person should be stoned to death.
Deut.21:20-21, “And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Drunkenness goes hand in hand with rebellion and gluttony. God calls it evil and says that it must be put away from amongst His people. It cannot be tolerated.
The Bible warns us more than 70 times about the sin of drunkenness and gives us 19 clear examples of the abuse of alcoholic wine. Let’s look at just a couple of such incidents involving righteous men in the Old Testament who got drunk and the consequences that came from it.
The first recorded incident of drunkenness in the Bible was that of Noah. He was indeed a righteous man who feared God but this one-off incident of drunkenness is indeed sad. Gen 9:20-21, 24-25, “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan;” This act of drunkenness led to great shame and family conflict.
The second incident of drunkenness was that of Lot. You will remember that he set his tent towards the city of Sodom and Gomorrah and actually raised a family there amidst gross abounding iniquity which eventually polluted and destroyed his whole family even though he himself was righteous. After escaping the judgement of God with his two young daughters he took refuge in a cave. The daughters, thinking that all mankind had been destroyed, produced a plan to conceive a child by their father. In Genesis 19 we are told that they said “...let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him. And they made their father drink wine that night also...” This terrible act of incest was the result of drunkenness. These desperate and immoral girls learned their trade in Sodom. This righteous man was led to immorality twice through drinking wine. They could only fulfil their scheme if he was drunk. He never would have consented if he had his wits about him.
Many a righteous young man or woman has played games with alcohol and have been burnt by being taken advantage of while under its influence and losing their virginity. Hab.2:15 “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!” This world and even some who profess to be Christians will use alcohol to draw others into sin. Those who avoid all such use of alcohol are saved from many dangers.
4. Christian Drunkards
Paul goes further in speaking of those in the church who are called Christians, who are called by the name of the Lord and so called “brother” yet who on a regular basis begin to get drunk or come under the influence of alcohol. He says,
I Cor.5:11, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
Again Paul is very clear. He says that if there is a man in the Church who is considered to be a Christian by others or who calls himself a Christian but yet gets drunk, he is to be dealt with, not ignored. The Church, the Christians who know him or others who come in touch with him are instructed how they are to act towards such a so-called Christian Drunkard.
First of all they are not to keep company with him. That means they are not to intermix with him or allow him to intermix with them. They cannot gather together with him or dwell in unity with him as if nothing is wrong. He must be excluded from fellowshipping with them in meetings or Christian gatherings.
Secondly, they are not even to eat with such a one. So this does not only include church meetings but also social fellowship. In verse 13 we are told “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” A so-called Christian who gets drunk is called a “wicked person.” True Christians who love Jesus and love God’s Word must not allow such persons to fellowship amongst them in their meetings or in their homes. Our young people must not see such a lifestyle displayed as acceptable.
This is basic Christian teaching concerning the order of the local church and again is very clear. Sadly it is rarely taken seriously in most churches.
Please do take very good note however that Paul makes it clear in verse 10 that he is not speaking “of this world” or people of this world who were outside the Church and outside of Christ because then “must ye needs go out of the world.” If Christians were commanded not to meet, intermix or eat with drunkards, fornicators, idolaters and such like it would be impossible to live in secular society at all.
But Paul is only speaking of those who profess to be Christians. In verse 13 he says “them that are without, God judgeth.” And again “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?” So although Paul was distinct in his preaching and teaching that drunkards in the world will go to hell, he makes clear that God will deal with them and judge them, not man or the church.
While we are not to implement judgement upon sinners outside the church Paul does say “do not ye judge them that are within?” Of course the answer is yes. Christians are to implement judgement or church discipline upon those calling themselves Christians if it becomes evident that they are living in such sin.
It has become increasingly popular to hear Christians say ‘leave it to the Holy Spirit to convict them’ or ‘leave it to their own conscience’; or ‘God knows their heart,’ but the fact is that we are clearly commanded to be led by the Spirit of God in dealing with them over it. To turn a blind eye and to ignore such actions without taking action is disobedience to the revealed will of God.
Why is this to be done? Again Paul says in II Thess.3:14-15, “...have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” This separating of yourself from him is for the purpose that he may be ashamed of his actions. To be ashamed means to come to a realisation of his sin; to realise the sinfulness of sin; to turn his eyes inward to his own inward state in such a way as to create shame for his actions.
5. Recovering a Fallen Brother
Again in II Thess.3:14-15, “...have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Here is a lovely balance. Yes separate from him but treat him as a brother and look for him to repent, to turn from his sin and to return to Christ.
We have known Christians to become ashamed of such a person who has fallen into drunkenness who have then separated from him in such a manner as to count him an enemy rather than a fallen brother. This is wrong. This shows a lack of compassion, concern, and no consciousness of their own frailty. We must treat such a one as a brother and not an enemy until such time as it becomes clear that he will not take heed to genuine brotherly warnings.
How do you treat him as a brother rather than an enemy? By admonishing him. To admonish means to call attention to; to warn; to put in mind. It carries the sense of carrying this out with gentleness. If you want to act with brotherly love towards such a one you will admonish them. You will point out their sin, you will exhort them to return, you will seek to woo and win them back to Christ.
Eph.5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
No matter what someone’s past testimony seems to be as a Christian, if they turn aside to drunkenness and die in such a state they will be eternally lost. Jm.5:19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
A true Christian may stray, stumble and fall but they prove themselves a true brother in Christ by listening and responding to such admonishing and by returning to Christ. A practising drunkard who calls himself a Christian is called by God a “sinner.” Unless he turns he is on a pathway of death. Those who think they can get drunk but go to heaven are deceived.
Christians must realise that they must labour to turn so-called Christians as well as sinners from drunkenness and to know that by doing so they will save souls from hell. In Lev.19:17 we are told that if we see our brother sin but do not rebuke him, it shows that we hate him! “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Prov.27:5
It is a real sign of spirituality for a Christian to labour to restore a fallen brother. Gal.6:1: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
It is not sufficient to rebuke a fallen brother we must restore them. That is the goal in view of all godly rebuke. This term “restore” means to repair or mend something and is used of the fixing of rent fishing nets. We must labour to restore a fallen brother to his first estate.
Take good note that we are to do this “in the spirit of meekness”, that is in gentleness and humility. Anyone who is going to participate in restoring fallen Christians must have the right heart attitude. This is vital. Pride, arrogance, roughness, mocking and such things will never restore a fallen brother. But more than that, if someone tries to minister to others with such a heart they may well themselves find that they are tempted and fall into sin. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1Cor.10:12
If and when a brother who has fallen into drunkenness repents with great sorrow over his sin and returns again to Christ, the church ought to embrace him in Christian love. “...ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.” II Cor.2:7-8. Be careful that such sorrow for his sin or the consequences of his sin does not hinder him in moving on with God. “...forgive him...comfort him...love him.” Make sure that he is welcomed back with great warmth in a manner that will make him function as a vital part of the body and act in such a manner to aid him from falling into such a lifestyle again.
6. Leadership and Alcohol
In both the Old and New Testament’s qualifications were laid down for those in leadership. We could say very much about this but we want to concentrate on the issue of alcohol in relation to qualifying or disqualifying leadership.
In Proverbs 31 we read the words taught to King Lemuel by his mother. Prov.31:4-5, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” In the previous verse we read that such a thing is “that which destroyeth kings.”
Please note that there is a very logical reason why kings should not drink wine or strong drink. It will result in them forgetting God’s Word and also will impair their ability to judge issues which will greatly affect people who are in trouble. Alcohol will interfere with the task of a king and his ability to faithfully fulfil his duty.
When God was establishing the spiritual ministry of the priesthood in Israel He commanded Aaron saying,
Lev.10:9-11, “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.”
Again the wisdom of God is revealed in this for wine and strong drink will not aid or help this ministry but only hinder an individual in accomplishing it. But more than this ministry under such an influence is not at all acceptable to God.
The Lord warns that if they approach ministry with any influence upon them which impairs or alters their facilities He would kill them. If you read carefully this happened to both of Aaron’s sons, they dared to approach ministry in such a state and God killed them.
Isaiah the prophet had to deal with drunkenness in the lives of the priests and prophets amongst God’s people. He said,
Isa.28:7-8, “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.”
Again Isaiah speaks in ch.56 of the shepherds who were called to be watchmen of God’s people. He says they had become blind, ignorant, dumb, greedy, and slothful lacking any understanding. Then in verse 12 he says, “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.” These shepherds and watchmen actively encouraged the drinking of alcohol to the point of drunkenness. This had become a part of their message.
We are only skimming over a few verses here, there are many others but let’s look at the New Testament Church. Again Paul lays out very clear qualifications for eldership or leadership in the local church in I Timothy ch.3. In the midst of these qualifications he mentions “...apt to teach; Not given to wine...”
Again in verse 8 he gives the same instruction to the deacons who had a practical ministry not a spiritual leadership position, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine...”
When writing to Titus in ch.1:7 he says “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine...” then in ch.2:3 “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;”
The Greek word translated “not given to wine” is the word paroinos which literally means: staying near wine, that is, tippling. This does not just mean to ‘not get drunk’ but means to not even linger in the atmosphere of such an environment. It means one who does not even hang around in an atmosphere of social drinking.
This is as important as the ability to teach in qualifying true leadership. Be sure that when Church leadership relax on this one issue it will affect many other issues and in turn affect the whole church. God nowhere commends leaders who practice social drinking or who allow themselves to get tipsy through means of alcohol. No. He utterly condemns it at every turn.
The only reason we have a problem with social drinking and drunkenness in the church today is because leaders are setting the standard by their example.
By social drinking we generally mean Christians who drink alcoholic wine or beer but who do not get drunk in a manner that causes them to sway when they walk or slur when they speak. Many today think that by stopping short of intoxication or drunkenness, they have the full backing and support of God and of the Bible.
But do they? That is our next question.
7. Social Drinking by God’s People
Does God’s Word encourage or even allow Christians to drink alcohol? In recent decades the practice of social drinking has swept the church. Alongside this we have seen Biblical standards fall on all fronts. Dress code, separation from the world, purity in the pulpit, the centrality of Christ, His Word, the Blood, the Cross and a host of foundational truths have been sidelined. Truth has been sacrificed for carnal desires.
The fact that there has been a mass turning amongst the churches towards social drinking is a symptom of something far worse. It has always been a symptom of a departure from God and the ancient paths of truth.
A backslidden people will be sent prophets who will begin to prophesy that they should drink wine and a backslidden people will receive such a message and messenger. Micah 2:11, “If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.”
Such a turning from God happened in Amos’ day. He was a pure young man whom God called and gifted to be a prophet to a backslidden religious system. In ch.2:8 he says that they “drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.” The same wine which was condemning godless men to hell for drunkenness was being drunken by these so-called leaders and followers of the true God.
Amos says that their church was the house of “their god.” It was “their house” and their god was no god at all.
This same religious system was enjoying great financial prosperity and forsaking any teaching of coming judgment. They believed that they were in the midst of one of the greatest of revivals. It was a worship revival in which they talked much about personal anointing but sidelined any talk of affliction. They rebuked leaders who dealt with sin and commanded true prophets to stop prophesying.
But that is not all. In 2:12 they “gave the Nazarites wine to drink.” Holy young men who wanted to separate themselves from every influence of this world and to yield themselves totally to God were given wine to drink by this new revival. It was an hour when leaders made fun of those who sought separation from wine in order to walk with God.
In 4:1 he says “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria...which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” This so-called revival was filled with the world, living in the world like the world. The people were so carnal that they called unto their leaders to bring them drink. In 6:6, we read that even a part of their gathering together was for the purpose to “drink wine in bowls.”
This demand for drink is preached as a liberty, an allowance and a ‘right’ by the backslidden.
This is only one incident of the drinking of alcohol becoming popular in the midst of God’s people who think they are in revival yet remain intact living like the world. No wonder there is great numerical growth at such times.
Young Amos prophesied against this thirst, lust and desire for wine and strong drink as did every true Old Testament Prophet.
Only false prophets prophesy to the church that they can drink wine and strong drink yet please God and walk with Him!
An emphasis of drinking alcoholic wine only arose in ancient Israel when she was backslidden. No good fruit ever came from this practice. Search out every righteous man in the Old Testament who indulged in this sin and you read of terrible consequences even though they repented and returned to God.
8. A Spirit-Filled Life
Eph.5:18 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;”
God’s answer to an alcohol influenced life is for a man to be saved, sanctified and Spirit-filled.
In Ephesians chapter 5 it is clearly stated that the wine mentioned has as its very nature and intrinsic character “excess”. The Greek term asōtia which is used here is literally set as the opposite of the term sozo which is widely used in the NT for the act of salvation or deliverance when a person is brought into Christ. So mark carefully that the effect of salvation is set in opposition to the effect of drunkenness. It is literally saying that the charter of an alcoholic drink is in opposition to the character and nature of salvation.
Barnes explains excess as meaning “...that which is unsafe, not to be recovered; lost beyond recovery...that which is abandoned to sensuality and lust; dissoluteness, debauchery, revelry.” This is confirmed when the other references where it is used are studied, Titus 1:6; I Pet.4:4; Lk.15;13.
More specifically it is saying that built into the nature of alcoholic wine is the tendency to be carried into a lifestyle of conduct and actions which are contrary to a life of salvation in Christ. Paul here makes a clear statement “be not drunk with wine.” He then sets forth an alternative filling for the NT Christian: “be filled with the Spirit.”
Just as the command is clear – “be not drunk” it is also a clear command to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” These two things are compared and contrasted. When filled with alcohol the influence is manifest in the speech, the walk, the attitude, in fact in all things. It speaks of an influence upon the whole life.
This is comparable to the Spirit-filled life. When a man is truly filled with the Holy Spirit every area of his life is affected and influenced by the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to come under the influence or effect of the Holy Spirit. The smallest influence of the work of the Holy Ghost in a life will have a manifest result.
It is of interest to note two incidents of people wrongly accused of drunkenness. The first is Hannah in I Samuel ch.1 who was marked out as a righteous lady who poured forth prayers and intercessions unto God for a man-child, a prophet, but in verse 13 we are told “Eli thought she had been drunken.” Here is a woman who is in the hand of God, under the work of the Holy Spirit but is misinterpreted as being drunk by a leader!
She responded “I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink...Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial:” Hannah was clear in understanding that only children of Belial would come under the influence of alcohol. It is worth noting that “the sons of Eli were sons of Belial;” Not only did Eli misjudge a prayerful lady for a drunken lady, he also allowed his immoral sons to continue in ministry.
The second incident is on the day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost. Some accused, “These men are full of new wine.” It was very obvious that these disciples had come under the strong influence of something which was affecting everything about them.
But Peter responded “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:”
Please note that drunkenness would have left these disciples incoherent in coordination, speech and action but instead they were bold, calm, eloquent and convincing. A filling with the true Holy Ghost made them to shake off fear and to stand up publicly to preach a powerful and convicting message.
Paul draws a very distinct line between the influence of alcohol and the influence of the Spirit to the believers in Ephesus. These two things are set in contrast and opposition to each other. It would be an utter contradiction to think of a Spirit-filled believer coming under the influence of alcohol in any degree.
A truly Spirit-filled believer ought not to come under any other influence. It is an issue of influence, effect and control. What influence should be upon the Christian’s life to lead and direct him? Only that of the Holy Ghost.
Jude tells us in 1:19 “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” These were people who had mixed with the church calling themselves Christians and making much of the fact that they had the Spirit and were led by the Spirit. In reality however by their actions of separating from true believers they revealed that they did not have the true Holy Spirit.
The same goes for those who continually indulge in coming under the influence of alcohol; by such actions they reveal that they are not Spirit-filled. They may claim a profound experience of the Holy Ghost but the Holy Spirit will not indwell and fill a life that will not yield to Him, obey Him and come under His influence and control alone.
The true Holy Spirit will not share His temple with the influence of alcohol.
The remedy for remaining free from the influence of alcohol or any other moulding influence of the world is to “be filled with the Spirit.” When filled with Him there is no room for other influences. When filled with Him there will be no desire to seek for joy, peace, solitude or deliverance in alcohol.
In Galatians 5 Paul draws out a picture for us of the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. He exhorts believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” He goes on to reveal the manifestation of the flesh having its way in a life and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit having His way in a life. Just one manifestation of the flesh is drunkenness whereas one manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is temperance which is defined as self-control or the ability to control the appetites, lusts and desires of the flesh.
Just before this command, Paul says to them, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Eph 5:15-17). This is all part of walking circumspectly in a wicked world and so he calls upon them to have spiritual wisdom that they might "understand what the will of the Lord is." He then gives the command “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” This is the will of God for all who are wise. We must not be entangled with anything that will hinder us in this life.