A Biblical Perspective on the use of Alcohol

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).

Many believers find nothing wrong with consuming alcoholic substances. Drinking has become an acceptable part of church life to the point that Christians frequent pubs and clubs. Both medical science and evidence in society prove that alcohol consumption causes many illnesses and problems (the recent case of George Best confirms this). We are also aware of the devastating effects of drink driving and alcohol related crime, but here is a short list of what it can do to the drinker and unborn children:

Alcohol is a toxic substance
Abuse or even mild overuse over a period of time can cause:

Heart disease 

High blood pressure 

Liver disease 

Impotence 

Nerve and brain damage 

Sleep problems 

Cancer 

Damage to the stomach and kidneys 

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Drinking during pregnancy can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the baby. The symptoms include:

Skeletal deformities. 

Mental retardation. 

Hyperactivity. 

Stunting of growth. 

Malfunctions of the major organs. 

Underdevelopment of the head and face.

In this study we will take a look at what Scripture actually says regarding wine.

Wine is symbolic of Christ’s blood
Matthew 26:27-29, John 15:1 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 teach that wine is symbolic of the blood of Jesus Christ. It reminds the believer that the blood of the Lord was poured out to purchase salvation.

We are not going to enter into an argument over whether the early church used fermented wine or grape juice in their communion service, but we can be sure that they used it honourably for a holy purpose. Where do we find it advocated for use in other church activities?

Wine is symbolic of joy
Psalm 104:14-15 speaks of the things that God has given to man to enjoy and make him happy, of which wine is one of them. This is not meant to offer man the freedom to become intoxicated any more than it is to make him overweight with bread or to be smothered in oil. Psalm 104 is known as “The Song of Creation” and is a celebration of what God has provided for man’s welfare. Wine therefore is symbolic of joy. Wine, oil and bread were the basic necessities of life in that day, and without them existence would be far from happy.

To abuse anything that the Creator has given us is the exact opposite of the thankfulness this psalm encourages us to have. The abuse of wine, though it has the semblance of merriment, will not have lasting joy but will end in heartache. The joy alcohol brings is deceitful and makes a fool of the drinker. It is the devil’s tool to bind and destroy man’s body and mind (Proverbs 20:1.) Solomon, who knew a bit about wisdom, saw nothing good in wine but describes its adverse effects (Proverbs 23:29 -32.) It is certain that verses 31-32 discourage the use of fermented wine. Those who abuse wine end up losing control of themselves (Proverbs 23:33-35; Genesis 9:21; 19:32-35.)

Why did God give us wine?
There are several reasons why God gave us wine, but we will focus on three main points:

(a) For celebration (Genesis 14:18; John 2:8-9; Deuteronomy 14:22-26.) We have noted the celebratory aspect of wine above, but it ought to be obvious that God gave it to be used not abused. At the wedding in Cana the central theme was the marriage rather than the wine. The guest did not gather to consume as much wine as possible, as is the case in modern weddings, but to celebrate the union of the bride and groom. In light of the effects alcohol can have on unborn children would Jesus have created intoxicating wine? It is interesting to note that fermented wine will not be used during the Millennial reign of Christ (Amos 9:13 and Joel 3:18), therefore the wine used at the Last Supper was grape juice (Matthew 26:29.)

(b) For medical purposes (Luke 10:34; 1 Timothy 5:23; Proverbs 31:6.) With so many Christians advocating the use of wine today, we can only assume that there are lots of sick people in the church. Social drinking is not described in these texts.

(c) As an offering to God (Numbers 28:7.) The drink offering was never consumed by the worshipper, instead it was poured out. Does this not bring us back to the blood of Christ? I wonder how many would purchase their wine to “pour out” before the Lord instead of pouring it in?

The leadership should avoid it
Agur, another wise man mentioned in Proverbs, advises those in authority to keep away from wine since it may influence them to abuse their position (Proverbs 31:4-5.) We’ve all heard phrases like “drunk as a judge.” Who would want help or advice from someone who smells like a brewery?

This is obviously true for those engaged in the Lord’s work too. If we want to stay alert to His will then we ought to keep well away from alcoholic drinks (Luke 1:15; Leviticus 10:9-11; Numbers 6:3.) Drinkers may consider boozing preachers to be down-to-earth, but they are unlikely to seek them out when they need help. What disgrace is brought to the name of Christ by such people! They may consider themselves to be smart, but instead they are deceived fools.

All Christians have the great privilege and responsibility of representing Christ in a fallen world. How many souls may have been lost to drink through the example of Christians who will not avoid alcohol? How many young believers have been encouraged to drink and ended up in a backslidden state? See Romans 14:21 for Paul’s insight on this matter. That convert we place a glass of wine before might have recently escaped the chains of alcohol.

Following Jesus’ example
Without exception, whenever we speak out against believers consuming alcohol, those who think they know what the Bible teaches are sure to say, “Well Jesus drank wine.” How quick they are to do what He did! Jesus said, “I will not drink henceforth the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29.) Christians ought to wait for the new wine rather than intoxicate themselves with the produce of the alcohol industry.

Conclusion
We have covered other aspects of alcohol in a previous study entitled “Well, Jesus drank wine, didn’t He?“. We hear much about how certain believers ‘only have a glass of wine at a meal,’ but such people are few and far between. On asking a Christian why he did not drink non-alcoholic wine (pure grape juice), his reply was, “It doesn’t have the same effect.” Very revealing!

As Christians we do not obtain or sustain our joy from a glass, instead “The joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10.) We do not need the heartache, illness, and cancer alcohol produces, for we aim to please God by staying as healthy as possible (1 Corinthians 6:9-13.) Simply stated, we do not need to drink.

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