What Does the Bible Teach About…Alcohol? (Parts 1 & 2)
To Drink or Not to Drink – Part 1
NOTE: Q. = A discussion question / A = possible or suggested answers or responses
TEXT: Ask for volunteers to read the following scriptures when called upon to do so:
Q: Why do people you know drink alcohol?
Q. What are things that people have done while they are drunk that they’ve regretted?
Today we want to look at three issues:
1) What does the Bible say about getting drunk?
2) What does the Bible say about alcohol-related activities?
3) Should you drink alcohol?
I. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GETTING DRUNK?
[HAVE VOLUNTEERS READ THESE SCRIPTURES OUT LOUD:]
Ephesians 5:18 (the scriptures above seem to condemn drunkenness as a lifestyle; but in this scripture, Paul expressly forbids getting drunk…ever!)
I think we can all agree that based on just these four scriptures, and there are scores of them, the Bible forbids drunkenness or even getting drunk.
II. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ALCOHOL RELATED ACTIVITIES?
Please turn to Romans 13:13: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.”
Paul uses several words here that have relevancy to what goes on in many drinking establishments.
Let’s define each of them:
1. “Rioting” (kōmos):
Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Lexicon defines this word as follows: “a revel, carousal / a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry.”
Q. What relevancy does this prohibition have to modern-day practices? I.e., does this sound familiar to activities that accompany alcohol consumption today? And how does the Bible view these activities?
Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Lexicon defines this word as follows: “a place for laying down, resting, sleeping in a bed, couch the marriage bed or adultery cohabitation, whether lawful or unlawful, i.e., sexual intercourse”
The obvious connotation is that when drinking to excess, people are given to dropping their sexual inhibitions.
Someone read Habakkuk 2:15-16.
Do you think that alcohol over-consumption can lead people to do things they might never do if they were not controlled by alcohol? Is this kind of activity the kind of fire believers should play with?
Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Lexicon defines this word as follows: unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence
Stife: contention, strife, wrangling
Concerning the first definition: Two people who began attending our church who struggled with alcohol abuse and its results me straight out in exactly the same words: “Pastor, there’s only two reasons the people I know go down to Ed’s and the other bars downtown, and that’s to ‘get drunk and get laid.”
Concerning the second definition: Almost all crime of passion, fights, arguments and most murder and violence is somehow alcohol related.
Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Lexicon defines this word as follows.
excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit: zeal, ardor in embracing, pursuing, defending anything
zeal in behalf of, for a person or thing
the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal
an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy
The idea here is how emotions are inflamed when people are drunk.
After Paul’s warning in Romans 13:13 to not walk in these ways (not practice them), he goes on to say in verse 14: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)
Look now at Galatians 5:19-21 – “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, DRUNKENNESS, REVELLINGS [kōmos, the same word translated “rioting” in Romans 13:13], and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Look also at 1 Peter 4:3 – “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings [kōmos, the same word translated “rioting” in Romans 13:13 and “revellings” in Galatians 5:21], banquetings [Grk potos is similar to kōmos, but would mean “drinking parties” today], and abominable idolatries.”
Q. Putting aside the questions of whether alcohol is allowed in the Bible for believers or not for now, what present day practices do these scriptures address, and what should be our attitude towards such practices.
A. Clubbing, partying, drinking to excess, drinking contests, wild parties, wine tasting that leads to intoxication. What should our attitude be towards them?...See Ephesians 4:17-24.
III. SHOULD BELIEVERS DRINK ALCOHOL?
The question is not “Does the Bible allow drinking alcohol?” – You can come to your own conclusion by reading some the articles below:
“Alcohol – What the Bible Really Says” (Pro) at http://www.gci.org/series/alcohol/bible.
The Bible and “Use of Alcoholic Beverages: The Bible, Intoxication, & Sobriety” (Con) at http://www.gospelway.com/morality/drinking_alcohol.php
Sticky Conversations: point and counterpoint on a variety of issues. Below are two articles on the question: To Drink or Not to Drink?:
Tim Harlow’s article (pro): http://christianstandard.com/2012/10/in-matters-of-opinion-beer/
John Calwell’s article: (con): http://christianstandard.com/2012/08/to-drink-or-not-to-drink/
Let’s assume for the moment the Bible does allow alcohol consumption in moderation. The question we want to ask is “Should a Christian drink alcohol?” following: That will be the subject of next Thursday’s study.
What Does the Bible Teach About…Alcohol?
To Drink or Not to Drink – Part 2
Last week we looked at two things:
1) What does the Bible say about drunkenness?
2) What does the say about alcohol relating activities, like drunken partying and bar hopping?
We saw that the Bible unambiguously condemns these activities. But whether a Christian can drink alcohol at all or if he or she SHOULD even if it is permitted are different matters. That’s the subject of today’s study.
Before we begin, it should be pointed out that the Bible is not 100% clear that all alcohol which is consumed in moderation is wrong. Now, there are many clear condemnations of “strong drink” (which we call “hard liquor” today).Remember that wine in Bible days had a much lower alcohol content. Most scholars believe the amount of alcohol in wine in Bible days was about equal to the alcohol content in beer today.
“Strong drink,” on the other hand, was alcoholic drinks with a much higher alcoholic content. Nowhere in the Bible is strong drink approved of. Even many upstanding Greeks and Romans condemned strong drink because there was pretty much one purpose for strong drink—to get drunk, which, we have already seen, is uniformly and unambiguously condemned by scripture. So there’s no doubt that the Bible condemns strong drink, alcohol consumed primarily with a view of getting inebriated.
It’s not so clear with the word “wine.” Some Christians desperately want exact clarity, which causes them to take hardened positions on moderate alcohol consumption. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not.
The word wine is the Greek word oinos and various Hebrew words translated wine were sometimes used for any fruit of the vine. So the word wine could refer to anything from unfermented grape juice, grape jam…or fermented, alcoholic wine.
When the word wine is coupled with strong drink, it is ALWAYS spoken of in a negative way or condemned, indicating that drinking alcoholic wine for the purpose of getting drunk is clearly wrong. But when not associated with strong drink or specifically with getting drunk or with riotous activity, sometimes the references to wine are clearly positive, sometimes they are clearly neutral and sometimes they are clearly negative.
Some believe that the positive references to wine must be talking about non-alcoholic products of the vine and the negative ones refer to alcoholic wines. But there are several places where it appears that alcoholic wine is definitely referenced in contexts in which the Bible seems to allow or encourage it. We won’t take the time to look at them today, but two of the links to online articles I gave you last week give the “Pro” side of the alcohol debate and you can examine them yourself. (E.g., Proverbs 31:4-7; 1 Timothy 3:3, 8 Titus 1:7; Psalm 104:15; Matthew 9:17; Luke 1:13-15 compared with Matthew 11:18-19 and Luke 7:33-34)
So even if you hold a strong conviction against alcohol personally, we need to be cautious about judging Christians who drink it moderately and responsibly. With that said, let’s think about the question: Should YOU drink alcohol? I am not trying to answer this question for you. I’m asking you to take the things we’ll discuss today and come to your own conclusion in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.
I. WHAT DO THE BIBLE PROHIBITIONS TELL US?
Here are some facts about certain people forbidden from drinking alcohol either temporarily or permanently in the Bible: In the Old Testament, the PRIESTS were strictly forbidden to drink either wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle to minister before the Lord (Leviticus 10:9). When a person took the NAZARITE vow, part of his or her vow was to abstain completely from all forms of alcohol for the duration of their vow.
KINGS and PRINCES were forbidden from drinking wine or strong drink – Prov. 31:4-5
Q. These represent people who were doing spiritual service or in leadership. In the case of the Nazarites, the Nazarite vow was a vow of total commitment to God. Even if God allows alcohol, what do these scriptures teach us about the use of alcohol and it’s relation to leadership and/or spiritual service?
II. THE ALCOHOLIC CONTENT ISSUE
John Caldwell said this,
Most people in the ancient world drank alcohol. The Egyptians and Babylonians were manufacturing beer 3,000 years before Christ. But here’s something you need to know. Alcohol use changed radically in AD 700 when Arab chemists discovered how to distill alcohol, which led to the ability to produce highly potent concentrations. Thus the wine and beer produced previous to that was, for the most part, very low in alcoholic content. You could get drunk, but you had to drink a lot to do so.
However, today, if you buy a bottle of whiskey, liquor, or even wine, the natural fermentation is bolstered by the addition of distilled alcohol. New wine in biblical days had very little alcoholic content, and even aged wine had a low amount compared to today’s standards.” (From http://christianstandard.com/2012/08/to-drink-or-not-to-drink/)
Q. What might this tell us about drinking alcohol?
A. Even if you believe you have the liberty to drink beverages with low amounts of alcohol hard liquor are not acceptable.
III. THE TESTIMONY QUESTION
Barry Cameron says the following:
I have yet to hear from anyone who drinks how alcohol enhances anything or blesses anyone. Max Lucado said, “One thing for sure, I have never heard anyone say, ‘A beer makes me feel more Christlike . . . Fact of the matter is this: People don’t associate beer with Christian behavior.”1 I’ve yet to see how it improves someone’s testimony or makes anyone a more effective witness for Christ. Quite the contrary, like Shaun White mentioned above, or Richard Roberts, Oral Roberts’ son, who was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, driving under the influence, the result doesn’t enhance your testimony. Rather, it takes away from what testimony you had. (Source: http://www.crossroadschristian.org/blogs/blog/12806077-can-a-christian-drink-alcohol#.U3oTRcHBJPD.facebook)
Q. Some doctors now say there is some health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of wine (but not other alcoholic beverages). We can concede that. But aside from any supposed physical benefit, can you list both any benefits as well as drawbacks or problems social, in families or personally of alcohol consumption? Do you think any supposed benefits outweigh the bad, or vice versa?
What light do you think 1 Cor. 6:12 and 1 Cor. 10:23 throw on this issue?
IV. THE STUMBLING BLOCK FACTOR.
Listen to another quotation by John Caldwell
Let me ask a simple question: Why should you drink? If you never take the first drink, you’ll never become addicted. If you don’t drink, even if you could handle it, you won’t be a stumbling block to those who can’t handle it (and I believe Paul said something about not causing your brother to stumble). And if you don’t drink, you won’t be supporting an industry that has caused untold heartache for millions of people.
Rom. 14:21 says “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”
Q. In light of Caldwell’s quotation and Paul’s words in Rom. 14:21, even if a person feels the liberty to drink moderately, is this something that you should openly avow, show on your Facebook pictures, openly flaunt, etc.?
I don’t think we can make a convincing case that alcohol is totally opposed in the Bible But often our liberty should be limited to achieve higher goals in my own life or to have a greater impact on others. What is God telling YOU about this issue?