WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT...DRINKING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?
by Betty Miller
Proverbs 20:1 (KJV):
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Proverbs 20:1 (AMP):
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a riotous brawler, and whoever errs or reels because of it is not wise.
The Bible has much to say about many subjects; and drinking alcoholic beverages is one of them. There is a debate in religious circles in regard to the question - was the wine in the Bible referring to grape juice or fermented grape juice, which is alcoholic in nature? To answer this question we must study the original language in which the Bible was written.
Actually, there are fifteen words from the Hebrew and Greek languages, which are translated "wine" in the Bible. When we compare these words in the context in which they are used we can better understanding their scriptural meanings.
The first scripture in which wine is mentioned is found in the book of Genesis. The Hebrew word used there is "yayin." It always means fermented wine, primarily from grapes.
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
Noah could not have become drunk by drinking grape juice, so we must assume he drank an alcoholic beverage made from the grapes of his vineyard.
The New Testament word translated wine is usually the Greek word "oinos." We also find in the New Testament the account of Jesus performing his first miracle which was turning water into wine. You can read the entire account of this miracle in John 2: 1-11.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
Notice in verse 10 the comment that men usually served the good wine first and kept the wine that was not as good to be served lastly so that its quality was not noticed. This had to be a reference to fermented wine, as the alcoholic content of the wine would be more inclined to cause them not to notice bad wine later in the evening after they had a few drinks.
There are many other references to wine throughout the Bible showing that it is actually an alcoholic drink. Now with this scriptural evidence, comes the next question. Is it sinful to drink wine? The answer to this question is that the wine itself is not sinful, because sin is in the heart of man and does not exist in any object of itself. It is the drunkenness and intoxication that comes about when a man drinks too much that causes him sin. The Bible teaches discipline and moderation; even eating too much food is a sin and is called the sin of gluttony in the Bible.
The scripture in Proverbs 20:1 warns us what wine and strong drink can do to a man. Men can end up raging and brawling and doing things in a drunken stupor that are very unwise and that they will also regret. How many times have we heard the expression when someone talks unwisely after drinking too much -- "That was the alcohol talking." The Bible does make a distinction, as to the affect that strong drinks (alcoholic beverages like whiskey, vodka, etc.) have on a person, as opposed to wine, showing that the strong alcoholic drinks are far worse at causing men to become out of their heads and violent. The wine is bad enough, as it can cause men to loose their senses and mock others. People will also mock them for their out of control inebriation.
So what should our position be as Christians since we know the many sorrows that drunkenness causes? We know that alcoholism is responsible for many broken homes because of the abusive behavior toward family and others. We know the many deaths on our highways caused by drinking and driving. What about the many premature deaths caused by health problems stemming from alcoholism? Alcoholism has now become a costly drug addiction problem. Yes, drunkenness is a very evil sin that hurts the whole nation. The Bible says all drunkards who do not repent will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
9 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,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Although, a Christian may be free to drink moderately as long as they do not become drunk, is that the highest thing we should do? Paul stated in the New Testament that he would not allow his liberty to be a license to sin, nor would he do anything that would cause a brother to stumble.
Galatians 5:13: "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
1 Corinthians 8:9: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak."
In the Old Testament there was a group of people known as Nazarites that took a vow to separate themselves unto the Lord and therefore they would not drink any wine or alcoholic beverages.
Numbers 6:2-3: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried."
We must all give an account of ourselves before our Lord. What would please Him? Would it not be pleasing to Him if we loved others enough to give up those things we could have, for a greater cause? Would it not be a more powerful witness to others in our age to stand out as one who did not drink alcoholic beverages because we had no need to do so. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, His spirit gives us the joy and release that many are seeking by drinking. May we instead desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have no need for "spirits." Ephesians 5:18-20:
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;