Summary: An article from James & Dave’s Bible Page: What does the Bible REALLY teach about drinking alcohol?
"The saloon is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow. It promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends misery.... It is God’s worst enemy and the devil’s best friend."
-Billy Sunday (1)
When I was sixteen years old, I received the tragic news that a certain member of my family, to whom I was very close, was dying of alcohol-induced liver cancer. I vividly remember visiting him in the hospital, not prepared for what I would see when I walked into the room. What was once a big, robust man was now essentially a skeleton covered with ghostly, pale skin, barely able to speak.
I had only been a Christian for a few months. Even before I came to Christ, I never was much of a drinker, mainly because I just didn’t like the way it tasted. However, when I saw what years of drinking had done to my above mentioned relative, my decision never to touch alcohol was set in stone. As I studied the Scriptures over the years, I learned that I had made the right choice.
The issue of alcohol has always been a controversial one within the Christian community. Did Jesus make, or advocate the use of, intoxicating wine? Is having an occasional drink really that big of a deal? These are certainly valid questions that committed Christians have asked over the years.
In looking at the overall teaching of the Bible, as well as observations made in my own life over the years, I firmly believe that total abstinence is by far the best policy. I am not a prude, nor is this message intended to be legalistic or condemning. On the contrary, I want to share a truth with you that is very liberating. God’s Word has been compared to a map showing us where the "land mines" in life are. Beverage alcohol is one of those land mines.
BIBLICAL USE OF THE WORD "WINE";
It is important to remember that in Bible days, the word "juice" was not widely used. It only occurs once in the entire Bible (Song of Solomon 8:2.) Wine was a general term for any grape juice product-even when it was still in the grape clusters (Isaiah 65:8.) Even in pre-prohibition America, nonalcoholic grape juice was often referred to as "grape wine." Their are nine Hebrew, and four Greek words translated "wine" in the Bible (to study this further,see William Patton’s classic book "Bible Wines or Laws of Fermentation and Wines of the Ancients.") Generally, it is easy to see from the context of individual Scriptures which form of wine is being referred to. For example, in the Book of Proverbs, alcoholic wine is referred to as a mocker and a deceiver that leads to violence (20:1-2), poverty (23:21), sorrow (23:29-30,) immorality(23:33,) insecurity (23:34,) insensibility (23:35,) and is even compared to a poisonous snake! (23:32)
On the other hand, abstinence from wine and other intoxicants is presented as a great virtue. God honored Daniel for refusing the King’s wine (Daniel 1:5, 8, 16; 10:3.) John the Baptist’s greatness in the eyes of God was directly linked to the fact that he drank no wine or strong drink (Luke 1:15.) Even as He was dying, Jesus refused the wine that was offered Him to deaden His pain (Mark 15: 23.)
In Ephesians 5:18, we are told to "be not drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit." Note the contrast: Being drunk with wine is in total opposition to being filled with the Spirit.
If we look at the most strictly literal translation of this verse, it reads "Be not entering into the act of being drunk with wine, but be continually entering into the process of being filled with the Spirit."The context of the verse goes deeper than just "Don’t get drunk." It is telling us not to even enter into the act of drinking intoxicants.
JESUS AND WINE
What then, about the wine that Jesus made at the marriage feast? Was it alcoholic?The Greek word used here is "oinos," a variation of the Hebrew word "yayin."This word can refer to grape juice in any stage, either fermented,or unfermented.
Regardless of your opinion of casual drinking, I’m sure most of you will agree that drunkenness is definitely a sin. In light of this, would Jesus contribute to drunkenness?
At the time Jesus had arrived at the feast, the guests had "well drunk"of whatever they were drinking (V.10.) Jesus knew well the solemn warnings of Habakkuk 2:15,"Woe to him who gives his neighbor intoxicating drink." (Note: If it is a sin to put alcohol to our neighbor’s lips, would it not also be a sin to put it to our own?) With this in mind, we can be sure that the beverage Jesus made was a refreshing, nonalcoholic grape drink. To do otherwise would have been totally incompatible with His nature.