and the Bible
Daniel Whitfield © 1999 Alcohol
in the 90's
10 million Americans, 10% of all adult drinkers, are estimated to be alcoholic.
One family in three is estimated to be affected in some way by a drinking problem.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that each
year alcoholism and alcohol abuse in the United States cost society from $40 to
$60 billion, due to lost production, health and medical care, motor vehicle accidents,
violent crime, and social programs that respond to alcohol problems. Others have
estimated costs to be $100 billion per year. In the United States, 97,000 deaths
annually are related to excessive drinking. One-half of all traffic fatalities
and one-third of all traffic injuries are related to the abuse of alcohol. One-third
of all suicides and one-third of all mental health disorders are estimated to
be associated with serious alcohol abuse. And the toll doesn't limit itself to
adults. It has been estimated that there are over 3 million problem drinkers between
the ages of 14 and 17 in the United States.
alcohol has had a devastating effect on society in general and millions of unfortunate
families in particular. Consequently, it is not surprising that many people, Christian
and non-Christian, take strong stands against alcohol. Consider the following
quotes taken from a recent sermon:
. . . has [left] a trail of blood across America today.
is defiling our nation.
Christian denominations prohibit or discourage the use of alcohol altogether,
and those which don't proscribe its use caution against drunkenness. The Bible
has 17 warnings against the abuse of wine and strong drink and 19 examples of
its abuse. Churches are cautioned in 3 epistles not to select leaders who are
"given to drunkenness" or "given to much wine."
preponderance of evidence has been sufficient for many people to conclude that
the use of alcohol is a sin. The assumption is frequently made that the Bible
supports such a position. Which leads us to the question, is a prohibitionist
stance, a scriptural
position or a cultural preference?
is often difficult for people, both in and outside of the church, to discern what
practices are scriptural and what practices are cultural. However, the distinction
is an important one. We are directed to reject cultural (worldly) standards for
scriptural standards of behavior.  Jesus was
critical of the Pharisees for multiplying rules and requirements for people to
follow, while setting
an even more exacting standard for the believer.  We should
attempt to stay on the path of righteousness and avoid falling into the ditch
on either side, neither imposing cultural mores as scriptural mandates, nor dismissing
scriptural principles in favor of cultural preferences.
example, there is no warning in the Bible against dancing, but several denominations
teach strongly against dancing. Is this censure a scriptural principle or a cultural
preference? Many who teach that dancing is inherently evil would claim their position
to be scriptural. However, the case is not easily made. It is much more likely
that this aversion to dancing is a cultural preference. Opposition to dancing
on cultural grounds is not a problem, as long as it is not presented as a scriptural
principle or Biblical imperative.
the other hand, there are numerous passages in the Bible which speak against adultery,
Exodus 20 being the most popular. Many argue that Biblical standards of sexual
morality are not relevant to modern society. This case is not easily made, either.
There is no expiration date on the Ten Commandments. As one preacher said, the
new morality is just the old immorality. Conservative Christians have rightly
opposed the reclassification of adultery as a cultural preference. The Bible is
very clear on this issue.
enough about sex and dancing. This inquiry focuses on alcohol. Christianity seems
to be schizophrenic when it comes to alcohol. Despite the documented evidence
of the damage alcohol has inflicted on society, some segments consider moderate
use of alcohol to be completely acceptable while others consider any use of alcohol
whatsoever to be sinful. The question presents itself: which position is scriptural
and which is cultural? Or perhaps both are cultural and there is a third scriptural
answering this question, our primary focus of inquiry will be the Bible itself.
We will look at all the references to wine and strong drink in the Bible and we
will examine the life of Jesus. We will also look at the common arguments that
arise in a discussion on this topic. All quotations are from the New International
Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.
of Scriptural References to Alcohol
search of the Bible (using KJV and the New International Version) reveals 228
references to wine and 19 references to strong drink. The following table is an
attempt to organize these references into categories in order of frequency. A
complete list of all the verses has also been compiled (105KB).
accepted as normal part of culture||58||1|
wine of his wrath, etc.)||32||1|
|Wine called a
blessing from God||27||0|
|Use in offerings
|Loss of wine an
example of a curse from God||19||1|
|Examples of abuse
|Vows of abstinence||15||6|
is better than wine)||5||0|
|Rules for selecting
deference to weak consciences||1||0|
247 references to wine and strong drink in the Bible can be divided into 3 broad
categories: positive references, negative references, and neutral references.
We will first summarize these categories and then examine them in detail.
Summary of references to
wine in Scripture
the negative side, there are 17 warnings against abusing alcohol, 19 examples
of people abusing alcohol, 3 references to selecting leaders, and one verse advocating
abstinence if drinking will cause a brother to stumble. Total negative references:
40, or 16%.
the positive side, there are 59 references to the commonly accepted practice of
drinking wine (and strong drink) with meals, 27 references to the abundance of
wine as an example of God's blessing, 20 references to the loss of wine and strong
drink as an example of God's curse, 25 references to the use of wine in offerings
and sacrifices, 9 references to wine being used as a gift, and 5 metaphorical
references to wine as a basis for a favorable comparison. Total positive references:
145, or 59%.
what could be considered neutral references, there are 33 symbolic references
("the wine of His wrath," etc.), 21 references to vows of abstinence, 4 references
to people falsely accused of being drunk, and 4 references which don't seem to
fit a category. Total neutral references: 62, or 25%. Positive
references to wine in Scripture
by far the most numerous type of references to wine in the Bible (58 references,
24%) are casual references to wine as an integral, commonly accepted part of the
culture. No value judgment is attached to it, anymore than people in our culture
would attach a value judgment to a choice of iced tea or Diet Coke with a meal.
These references show that in the minds of the writers of the Bible, no stigma
was associated with casual use of alcohol. Nowhere, in these references or elsewhere,
is it even remotely suggested that it is considered a sin.
as many times (47 references, 19%) an abundance of wine is used as an example
of God's blessing and a lack of wine is used as an example of God's curse. In
these references, wine is included along with with milk, wheat, corn, children,
oil, sheep, cattle, fowl, rain, silver, and gold as blessings that come from God.
Note that silver and gold are included on this list of examples of blessings from
God, even though Paul says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." This seems
to indicate that it is not money itself which is evil, but rather that the evil
comes from the behavior of those who have elevated money beyond its proper position.
We will address the application of this principle to wine later.
are 25 references (11%) to instructions or examples of the use of wine in offerings
and sacrifices. These references seem to establish conclusively that the Bible
does not consider wine to be inherently evil, otherwise how could it be used in
sacred rituals? Coupled with the fact that Jesus himself chose wine as an essential
part of communion, we are forced to conclude that representing alcohol as inherently
evil is not a scriptural position.
finally, nine times wine is mentioned as a gift (along with things like bread,
cattle, and sheep) and five times in the Song of Solomon it is used as a basis
for favorable comparisons, such as "thy love is better than wine." Neutral
references to wine in Scripture
verses in this category don't seem to contain any particular positive or negative
connotation. They don't characterize wine as being good, but neither do they contain
warnings about the dangers posed by wine.
are 32 symbolic references to wine, used primarily in reference to acts of God or human
behavior that is similar to the effects of wine.  Most of them
could be used as examples of the prevalence of the everyday use of wine, since
symbolism frequently draws from familiar images, but it seems more appropriate
to consider them as neutral.
21 references to vows of abstinence can be separated into two categories: partial
abstinence and total abstinence. The Levitical priests were prohibited from drinking
wine before going into the temple to perform their duties. However, it is clear
that they weren't required to abstain completely since offerings of wine were
included along with grain and other goods to financially support the priesthood.
the Nazarite vow included a vow of total abstinence from wine and strong drink,
along with other signs of being set apart, such as not cutting the hair. This
vow was taken by few people and was certainly not something expected of the average
person. The other example of total abstinence is the sons of Jonadab, who made
a vow to their father that they would never drink wine. Jeremiah attempted to
persuade them to drink wine, but they remained true to their vow. According to
the commentaries, the sons of Jonadab were used by Jeremiah as an example of faithfulness,
a quality which the nation of Israel had lost.
summary, the vows of abstinence recorded in the Bible were special cases that
did not apply to the general population. They are included in the neutral category
because abstaining from alcohol for the sake of a vow does not imply that the
common use of alcohol is a sin, any more than a vow to not cut the hair implies
that cutting hair is a sin.
are four references to people falsely accused of being drunk: three for Hannah
and one at Pentecost. These could possibly be considered negative references,
but since there are so few their placement is not important. There are also four
references that don't seem to fit a category at all. This number is also too small
to significantly affect the outcome. Negative
references to wine in Scripture
but one of the 40 negative references to alcohol in the Bible concern the abuse
of alcohol. There are 17 warnings against abusing alcohol, 19 examples of people
abusing alcohol, and three guidelines for selecting leaders. The 3 references
to selecting leaders caution that those who abuse alcohol should not be selected
as leaders. They use the phrases "not given to much wine," "not given to drunkenness,"
and "not given to wine." These references indicate that total abstinence is not
required or expected of leaders. 
on the content and number of positive references to alcohol and these 39 negative
references, it seems that the scriptural position is an emphasis on moderate use
of alcohol with a caution against drunkenness. In light of what the Bible actually
says about alcohol, it is surprising that so many conservative Christians treat
a prohibitionist position as a scriptural position. However, before we reach any
final conclusions we must give full consideration to the remaining reference to
wine. The weaker
remaining reference to wine has to do with the weaker brother or a weak conscience.
Before we discover the Biblical definition of a weak conscience, answer the following
question: How would you define a weak conscience? Or perhaps: Describe the behavior
of a person who has a weak conscience.
the Bible we find an interesting (and perhaps surprising) relationship between
conscience and legalism. The references to people whose conscience is not working
properly describe, not people who fail to realize they are sinning, but people
who think they (or others) are sinning when they aren't.
reference to eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul says:
anything sold in the market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The
earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." If some unbeliever invites you to
a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions
of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice,"
then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience'
sake the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should you
be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness,
why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 1 Corinthians 25-30.
man who has problems with his conscience is the one who is worried about eating
the meat, not the one who realized there is no sin in eating the meat.
Romans uses the
term weak faith rather than weak conscience, but the principle is
him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters. One
man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak,
eats only vegetables. Romans 14:1-2 Verses
3 through 4 caution each of the men not to condemn the other, good advice for
us all to remember.
perhaps the most severe passage, Paul tells Timothy that people whose consciences
have been seared will abandon the teaching of the faith and start to teach a legalistic
Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow
deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical
liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people
to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be
received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything
God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:1-4.
also contains a scathing passage on this topic.
the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe,
nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus
we find that the weaker brother is the one who sees prohibitions where God has
not placed them. Legalism is actually the result of a weak conscience,
not a strong conscience developed from spiritual maturity. With that interesting
detour, let's return to the remaining reference to wine.
is better not to *.*
is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause
your brother to fall. Romans 14:21. What
is to be said of this scripture? It is in the Bible and is as valid as any of
the other 246 verses that refer to alcohol. It cannot be ignored or avoided on
the grounds that 246 to 1 are great odds. It must be faced squarely and all implications
duly considered. Our goal here is to find truth, not to justify a particular bias
toward a specific conclusion.
verse is divided into two parts: 1) a list of things that should be avoided and
2) why they should be avoided. Let's take the second half first.
will cause your brother to fall." If we take a look at the context of this verse,
we discover that causing a brother to fall does not mean causing him to drink
wine. It means to cause him to violate his conscience by imitating an action that
he believes in his heart is wrong.  If a weaker
brother thinks that drinking wine is a sin, but he sees us drinking wine and decides
to drink some himself, still believing in his heart that it is sin, according
to this chapter we have caused him to stumble. This is what the verse says we
must not do.
must be noted that some people have taken this verse in the King James version,
which uses the word "offended,"  and have
interpreted offend to mean "an insult or affront". Based on this interpretation,
which is not supported by the context, they have used this verse to say "If you
know I am opposed to any use of alcohol and you drink alcohol in spite of that,
you have offended me in violation of Romans 14:21." However, an honest reading
of the entire chapter makes it clear that verse 21 doesn't say that we have offended
a brother if a self-righteous Pharisee feels insulted that we would transgress
his/her legalistic concept of Christian behavior. We have offended our brother
only if we cause him to violate his conscience by imitating actions he believes
in his heart are wrong.
the most prevalent interpretation of this verse is more reasonable, frequently
using a scenario similar to: Christian A picks up a six-pack of beer in the store
and buys it. Christian B sees A in the checkout line with the beer. Christian
B has been taught from his youth that beer is the drink of the Devil and to drink
it under any circumstances is sin. However, he is emboldened by the example of
Christian A to buy some himself and drink it, even though he is still convinced
in his heart that what he was taught at his mother's knee is true, that drinking
beer for any reason is a sin.
prohibitionists advance this scenario as the type of situation Romans 14:21 is
talking about. They conclude that a responsible implementation of the verse is
never to buy or drink alcohol on the off chance that a weaker brother might imitate
and consequently violate his conscience. But, before we consider the matter settled,
let's examine the verse further to see if this interpretation is reasonable. There
are three specific actions we are told to avoid if they would cause our brother
to stumble. They are:
much in the way of maneuvering room in this verse, is there? If it isn't covered
in #1 or #2, then #3 wraps it up quite neatly. Let's go back and pick up the list
at the top, addressing the eating of meat which we have thus far skipped over
in our inquiry on alcohol.
is the doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist church that eating meat is wrong.
Many people don't agree with this doctrine of the SDA church, but the Adventist
denomination is still considered a Christian denomination. Therefore we must consider
the Adventists our brothers. According to the interpretation of Romans 14:21 we
are currently considering, if there is a chance that an Adventist will see us
at McDonalds wolfing down a Big Mac and think in his heart, "Hey, sure it's a
sin, but just one can't hurt," and get one himself, we have caused him to stumble.
There doesn't seem to be any way around this conclusion if we are going to honestly
apply this verse in a consistent fashion.
application of the verse poses a problem for those who take the Bible seriously.
If we truly believe this interpretation to be the accurate one in reference to
wine, we are faced with the mandate of turning to a completely vegetarian diet
in order to avoid causing a brother to stumble.
consider #3, doing "anything else that will cause your brother to stumble." Some
denominations believe that watching plays and movies, any kind of drama,
regardless of rating, is a sin. Will we all agree to never attend a movie or play
again, and to watch only the news and educational programs that don't involve
dramatizations on the television? If not, what happens when someone who believes
it is a sin decides to attend a movie because he saw us doing it? Some denominations
believe it is a sin to wear makeup. Will we all agree to forgo makeup? Some denominations
believe it is a sin for women to cut their hair or wear jeans. Will we all conform
to this regulation on the off chance that we might be imitated by someone who
really thinks she shouldn't? What about wearing shorts, mixed bathing, wearing
jewelry, buying anything on Sunday, playing cards, playing dominos, listening
to James Taylor, using Celtic words for bodily functions instead of Latin words,
the list goes on and on.
we can see, practically every part of our culture which we take for granted is
considered a sin by some segment of Christianity. But it is unlikely that those
who insist that the proper implementation of Romans 14:21 is total abstinence
from alcohol are willing to alter any other aspect of their behavior in deference
to weaker brothers who have problems with things they do every day.
interpretation of Romans 14:21 seems almost impossible to apply consistently.
Perhaps we should search for a more reasonable interpretation, that if you know
some one who believes something is wrong but is tempted to do it anyway, you should
abstain for the sake of that person. Otherwise, we would have to live in constant
apprehension that some completely innocent action might be imitated by a complete
stranger and thus find us in violation of this verse. Analysis
of Scripture: Conclusions
consideration of this final verse in reference to wine, it still seems that the
scriptural position is an emphasis on moderate use of alcohol with a caution against
drunkenness. One wonders how so many conservative Christians came to treat a prohibitionist
position as a scriptural position. Now that we have summarized the references
to wine in the Bible, let's turn our attention to those references in the life
of Jesus. The Example
ultimate role model for the Christian is Christ, himself. 
At no time should a Christian feel uncomfortable following the example of Jesus.
When a doctrine develops that causes us to ignore or even repudiate the example
of Jesus, or to imply that Christians cannot use the behavior of Jesus as a reliable
guide, it is time to question the doctrine. In connection with our current inquiry,
it cannot be ignored that several of the references to wine in the Bible involve
Jesus. To suggest that any use of wine is a sin would be to suggest that Jesus
sinned. This fact is so obvious that it cannot be ignored by even the most ardent
prohibitionists. However, other "facts" have sprung up to deal with this problem.
Was it really wine?
The most popular
"fact" presented in defense of this seeming contradiction is that the wine of
the Bible was non-alcoholic. In other words, the contention is that when the Bible
says "wine" it really means "grape juice." If this were the case, why the 17 warnings
against drunkenness and the abuse of wine in the Bible? How did the partakers
of the Lord's table at the church of Corinth get drunk on grape juice? Why would
Paul say, "Be not drunk with wine?"
say that it may have been alcoholic, but the alcoholic content was so low that
it doesn't compare with the wine of today. The same questions apply to this revised
"fact." Whatever the alcoholic content of the wine of Bible times, it was at a
sufficient level for there to be a need for warnings against drunkenness. And
what of the 20 references in the Bible to people actually getting drunk? The only
reasonable conclusion is that when the Bible says "wine" then that is exactly
what it means. The
Wedding at Cana
the problem of taxonomy settled, let's proceed to the first mention of Jesus in
connection with wine, John 2:1-11. The scene is a wedding celebration. The party
has been drinking wine to the point that the host has completely run out and is
on the verge of being embarrassed. From a comment made later in the account, we
know that the guests have not restricted themselves to a few discrete sips in
a toast to the bride. It is clear that they have been doing some serious celebration
because they have reached the point where they will not recognize the difference
between a good wine and an indifferent wine. In other words, they are at least
tipsy. It is under these conditions that Mary asks Jesus to do something about
we examine Jesus' response, consider for a moment the response of a prohibitionist
in this predicament. First, it is doubtful that he would be at a wedding reception
where wine was flowing freely. Second, it is doubtful that he would stay if the
drinking was as concerted as is indicated in the story. But if he did, what would
be his probable response when asked to provide more wine for already tipsy guests?
It is unlikely that he would agree to replenish the supply, by means natural or
however, not only replenished the supply, he made an additional 120 to 180 gallons!
 Not only
does this behavior contradict everything we have ever heard from prohibitionists,
it causes us to re-evaluate the conventional understanding of the proper limit
of drinking. 
Jesus a Drunkard?
The second reference
to wine in connection with Jesus comes in the form of a false accusation from
Pharisees, recorded in Luke 7:33. Jesus maintains that the Pharisees wouldn't
be satisfied regardless of what he did. John the Baptist had evidently taken a
vow of abstinence and they had accused him of having a demon. Jesus evidently
took no such vow, but ate and drank openly and freely, so they accused him of
being a glutton and a drunkard. If Jesus was a prohibitionist, the charge of being
a drunkard would have been too ridiculous for such astute twisters of the truth
as the Pharisees to have advanced. Jesus evidently drank wine to the extent that
his enemies thought they could discredit him by spreading rumors that he was a
drunkard. The Lord's
third reference to wine in connection with Jesus is the sacrament he instituted
during Passover, the Lord's Supper, as recorded in Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23,
and Luke 22:17. In all three references, the word wine is not mentioned. Instead
it says, "He took the cup." Because the occasion was the Passover, we know that
the cup contained wine. If use of wine were truly sinful it is unlikely Jesus
would have used it as a foundational and ongoing ritual of the New Covenant.
The Example of Jesus: Conclusion
In summary, we
have examined three references to wine in the life of Jesus. We discovered that
the ultimate role model for the Christian did not condemn the use of wine in celebration,
that he evidently drank wine as a regular part of meals, that he had little regard
for the criticism of the legalistic religious leaders of his day, and that he
made wine a primary symbol in the New Covenant.
verses from the life of Jesus reinforce the impression gleaned from the 247 references
to alcohol found throughout the Bible. There can be little question that the scriptural
position on alcohol is an emphasis on moderate use of alcohol. Considering the
life and example of Jesus, it becomes even more puzzling why so many conservative
Christians came to treat a prohibitionist position as a scriptural position. Before
we conclude our examination of this topic, let's consider other points raised
by many prohibitionists. Alcohol
and the Conservative Christian Sub-culture
advocates of a prohibitionist position are found in conservative Christian denominations.
In these denominations it is not uncommon to hear sermons against any drinking,
usually accompanied by statistics like the ones that opened this inquiry. The
tragedy of these statistics remains, regardless of the analysis of the Biblical
position. It could be these statistics that lead many prohibitionists to grope
for justification in imposing as a Biblical mandate what has been discovered to
be a cultural preference. But,
things are different now.
maintain that alcohol is causing much more damage to modern society than ever
before, that technology has allowed the effects of alcohol to become vastly more
destructive than in Biblical times. Because of this increase in social damage,
they argue that total abstinence is the only responsible position. First, we must
admit that this justification does not remove the position from the realm of the
cultural to the realm of the scriptural. In addition, this claim raises an obvious
question. Where is the evidence that shows that a smaller percentage of the population
abused alcohol in Biblical times? It is doubtful that such evidence is available
or even exists at all. It is quite likely that such claims are no more than assumptions.
this is a dangerous argument because it opens the door to relativism. It goes
back to the question of scriptural vs. cultural principles. Sin is a moral entity,
not a cultural one. The final arbiter for the definition of sin is the Word of
God, not personal reaction to the excesses of our society. Most conservative Christians
would agree with the statement that if something was a sin in Jerusalem 30 AD,
it is a sin now. In fact, they use this position to oppose attempts to rewrite
the Word of God to accommodate cultural decadence. Some people want to eliminate
sins from the list due to cultural changes, seeking to legitimize adultery, fornication,
homosexuality, and other sins by claiming that the Bible is not relevant to modern
social mores. Conservative Christians have rightfully resisted these attempts.
if we truly believe that sin is moral, not cultural, then not only must we resist
the temptation to drop our favorite sins from the list, we must also resist the
temptation to add our current cultural problems to the list. We must admit that
the converse of our axiom is also true: if something is a sin now, it was a sin
in Jerusalem 30 AD Since the Bible doesn't suggest that all use of alcohol was
a sin during Biblical times, how can it be now? Adding sins to the list is strongly
discouraged in the New Testament.  Jesus was
much more critical of religious people adding prohibitions to the burden of the
common man than he was of sinners. He never called prostitutes, adulterers, or
drunkards 'vipers'. Other
maintain that almost by default our culture abuses alcohol instead of using it
in a responsible manner, and that the resulting tragic problems in our society
justify treating a cultural prohibition as if it were a scriptural position. This
logic does not seem to be compelling, but let's give it a look. We can examine
some other modern social problems and see what would happen if we applied this
same tactic. As was mentioned earlier, money is
listed (along with children and wine and other things) as a blessing from God,
even though Paul said, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."  Certainly
our culture abuses money and that abuse causes countless tragic problems in our
society. However, we don't respond to the abuse of money in our society by preaching
total abstinence from money. Instead, we teach scriptural principles for the responsible
use of money.
abuse of sex in this current culture causes enormous social problems. The statistics
are overwhelming, with 25% of children in the U.S. born out of wedlock. The incidence
of sexually transmitted diseases has reached epidemic proportions. AIDS is currently
killing 6,000 per year. Homosexuals are demanding special rights. However, we
don't demand a total ban on sex of any kind. To the contrary, we teach scriptural
principles of responsible sexual behavior.
we see that in the cases of money and sex, the church maintains a scriptural position.
Perhaps the time has come for the church to return to an equally mature and reasonable
approach in its teaching on alcohol. Some would question the efficacy of a dogmatic
prohibitionist stance. Who is the audience of such an appeal? Non-Christians who
don't have cultural taboos against responsible use of alcohol will view it as
another example of the attempt of "those religious fanatics" to control the lives
of other people. Christians with a broader view of the scriptural position on
alcohol will dismiss it as legalistic nonsense generated by the spiritual descendants
of the Pharisees. Christians with a prohibitionist position will agree. Ultimately,
it seems that such a stance is little more than preaching to the choir.
Alcohol and the Bible:
is the Biblical teaching on the use of alcohol? That was the question we sought
to answer in this inquiry. Based on the 247 references to wine and strong drink
in the Bible, based on the life of Jesus, and in light of the common arguments
that arise in a discussion on this topic, we find a simple (and, perhaps to some,
surprising) answer. The Bible has several warnings against drunkenness, but only
one caution against the responsible use of alcohol in celebration and with meals.
That caution is to be careful, when you are in fellowship with Christians with
a weaker conscience, that you
don't cause a brother to stumble. A total prohibition against the use of alcohol
is conspicuous largely by its absence, particularly to an individual from a conservative
do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious
festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day. Colossians 2:16
[Click on the number to return to the text.]
The Academic American Encyclopedia, online edition, Grolier Electronic Publishing,
Danbury, CT, 1993 and Microsoft's Encarta.
A position which advocates total abstinence from alcohol for all but medicinal
purposes (like Nyquil).
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's
will is his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2.
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are
not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:4
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
He, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength
into the cup of his wrath. Revelation 14:10.
I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and
his holy words. Jeremiah 23:9.
At least, not by Paul. What is expected of leaders by the SBC is another matter,
But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not
from faith, and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Romans 14:23.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother
stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Romans 14:21 KJV.
Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1. To this
you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that
you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found
in his mouth." 1 Peter 2:21-22.
The account says that Jesus made 6 jars, which, according to the commentaries,
hold from 20 to 30 gallons each.
This re-evaluation is left as an exercise to the reader.
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are
not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:4 Jesus replied, "And you
experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they
can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke
In the section Analysis
of Scriptural References to Alcohol.
1 Timothy 6:10.
A conscience that sees prohibitions where God has not made them; a conscience
that feels judgement where God has not judged.
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