Summary: A detailed look at a major battlefield of Christian liberty

Most battles (including in the church) throughout history were fought by two opposing forces who firmly believed they were right, and the other was wrong, so much so that they were willing to kill to hold and propagate their beliefs.

Every human being has confirmation biases of selective thinking because people often look for what confirms their beliefs (be they truly correct or incorrect), and ignore, undervalue, or not look for, information or facts that could contradict those beliefs due to the subconscious fear of conflict brought about by cognitive dissonance.

Brilliant biblical scholars throughout history have looked at the same Scriptures and interpreted them very differently. That has happened since the beginning of time and why we have so many denominations and specific identifying beliefs.

Those who disagree with a person’s confirmation bias most often use backwards reasoning and inductive logic to argue their side and then label the person that disagrees with them as a heretic, full of the devil, perverting, twisting and eisegeting the Scriptures, spouting doctrines of demons, a liar, false prophet, etc, etc, etc.

One of the biggest areas of contention within the church is whether or not it is acceptable for a Christian to drink alcohol. Some people adamantly insist that Jesus drank alcohol, and others adamantly insist that He did not. The truth is that the arguments for and against are based on a great deal of speculation.

Below are some facts about alcohol and specifically wine, that a Born-Again Christian should know to make an informed choice, as well as questions that need be honestly addressed before a person decides if they want to drink alcohol (moderately of course!).

What is Alcohol and how does it affect the Human Body?

Alcohol is a generic term for ethanol (C2H50H) which is a clear and highly flammable liquid and is produced by the fermentation of many natural foods including various fruits, such as grapes, or pomegranates. Even orange juice will have a slight amount of alcohol in it caused by fermentation. (Note: From this point forward I will refer to ethanol as alcohol)

By medical definition, alcohol is a drug and is the most common and dangerous used drug in the world followed by tobacco, cannabis, and caffeine. All drugs have the potential for unhealthy and harmful outcomes when used. The consumption of it is the number one drug problem in the United States and accounts for over half of the murders, drownings, suicides, family break-ups and highway fatalities. It is highly addictive, and the human body reacts to it like a toxic poison because it kills cells. It was never intended for human consumption. It will take a grave toll on a person’s health. Some people have a genetic propensity for alcohol use disorders and mental health risks. Alcohol can change mood and behavior as it makes it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Alcohol interferes with how the brain communicates with the various systems of the body and can affect how it works. It is a depressant and can cause mental health and emotional injuries such as low self-esteem, loss of memory, poor judgment, confusion, clinical depression, anxiety, progressive lethargy, temporary euphoria, slurred speech, dementia, disorientation, loss of body function, dangerous uninhibited behavior, such as unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and even suicide.

Alcohol, in any quantity, can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to multiple diseases such pancreatitis, which is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion; diabetes; liver disease including steatosis (fatty liver), hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, as well as heart disease, such as high blood pressure, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stomach ulcers, and several types of cancers such as of the mouth, throat esophagus, liver, and breast.

In high quantities, it can cause vomiting, coma, and even death from shutting the respiratory system and destruction of the liver. Drinking alcohol will increase a person’s chance of being injured or killed in an automobile accident or by falling, burns, violence, sexual assault, severe trauma and even homicide.

Women of childbearing age who drink alcohol in any amount are in danger of causing damage to their reproductive systems especially around the time of conception because they risk damaging the chromosomes of an egg preparing to leave the ovary which will cause mental and physical developmental defects of the baby, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including brain damage as well as the increased risk of miscarriage or even stillbirth.

Although dietary guidelines and legal definitions exist there are no legitimate standards to determine just how little alcohol a person can drink to be considered under the influence because it will metabolize differently in each person based on such things as their size, age, gender, general health, genetic propensity and whether they have eaten or been drinking water as well. For some excessive alcohol consumption could be just a sip as a single drop enters their bloodstream and begins its depressive effects and physical impairments.

The Bible Definition of Wine

The word “wine” in the Bible sometimes refers to the new or fresh juice of the grape as well as fermented wine containing the drug alcohol. There are a number of Hebrew words commonly translated as wine. The most common word is “yayin” and is generally understood to be grape juice that could be intoxicating, but there are some exceptions (Isa 16:10). The word “shekar” means strong drink, intensely alcoholic – could be wine or beer; “tirosh” means fresh unfermented grape juice; just squeezed out, (new or sweet); “chemer” is a thick, sticky syrup of mashed grapes (Gen 40:11-12; Isa 65:8); and “asis”, which is fresh grape juice, new, sweet wine that is poured into the winepress. There is no clear agreement on the exact meaning of fermented or unfermented from the Hebrew words as these words are frequently used in both positive and negative ways, so it is important to understand the usage of the word in context to help illuminate their meaning.

The primary words used for wine in the New Testament are the Greek words “oinos” and “gleukos.” The Greek word “oinos” is the most common word for both unfermented and fermented wine. It is also used metaphorically of the evils ministered to the nations by religious Babylon, (Rev 14:8; 17:2; 18:3) and of the contents of the cup of divine wrath upon the nations and Babylon (Rev 14:10; 16:19; 19:15). By studying in detail, the context of the word “onios” in Scripture the appropriate meaning can be surmised such as a verse might say old or new wine (Luke 5:37–39; Mk 2:22) to clearly define the meaning in context.

The Greek word "gleukos" denotes a sweet boiled non-alcoholic grape juice syrup called “must” or completely unfermented wine. The word is used only once in Acts 2:13.

The word “winepress” (Gk “lenos” and “hupolenion”) denotes a vat or trough for the treading of grapes to bring forth grape juice as well as other fruit juices such as apple and pomegranate juice. They could hold from 25 to 100 barrels of juice. Grapes were crushed between two cylinders set far enough apart that they did not crush the seeds.

Ripe grapes left on the vine, or out in the sun in vats, dry up and become raisins. Grape juice is not purified of its natural leaven by fermentation when turned into wine. Grapes that are crushed into juice will begin to ferment without the addition of any yeast. Fresh grapes carry albumen in the lining of the skin and in the envelope of the seeds of the grape which contain yeast, molds, and bacteria, as well as yeast on the outside of the skin. The decay of albumen causes the multiplication of the yeast and releases a chemical enzyme capable of breaking down the grape sugar into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.

The way unfermented grape juice was preserved was by either filtering or boiling the juice to remove or kill, the yeast that would cause alcohol fermentation, as well as turn it into vinegar over time. It was then poured into jars that were tightly sealed with caps covered in tar pitch or beeswax and could preserve it for years and years.

Naturally, the fermented wine has a low alcoholic content and never forms a strong alcoholic liquor obtained by distillation that was first invented in the Middle Ages. There is no evidence that wine in Bible times was as strong as it is today. Making strong fermented alcoholic wine required great skill to add just the right amount of sugar, yeast, gluten, and water in ideal temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees, otherwise, the fruit would rot, turn sour, acidic, and go moldy as a result of the natural process of decay.

The Hall of Shame

The Old Testament is replete with stories warning of the consequences of drinking alcohol and the disastrous results of being the recipient of God’s wrath and the ridicule of the people.

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end, it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart udder perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink" (Prov 23:29-35 ESV).

The word “woe” means deep distress or misery and is used most often in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol.

“Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” (Is 5:11).

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!” (Hab 2:15).

The first mention of wine in Scripture is connected with drunkenness, sin, shame, and a curse (Gen 9:21-25). Noah faithfully listened to, and obeyed, God while being ridiculed by the people as he built the Ark which saved his family from the destruction of the Flood. When the flood waters resided, Noah decided to plant a vineyard and make wine which resulted in him becoming intoxicated and brought disastrous results on himself and his family (Gen 9:20-27).

The two daughters of Lot made their father drink alcohol until he became drunk; then they committed incest with him (Gens 19:30-38).

Belshazzar, in a state of drunkenness, committed blasphemy with the sacred vessels from the Jewish temple. That very night he was killed as a fulfillment of prophecy, and the Assyrians took his kingdom (Dan 5:1-30).

The children of Israel drank alcohol and stripped naked to worship the golden calf while Moses had face to face time with God (Ex 32:6, 25). This ended in a horrible massacre.

God told the Prophet Jeremiah that He would fill “every jar” in the land with “wine” to destroy a nation (Jer 13:12–15) because of their pride and refusal to listen to God’s word. God also spoke to the Prophet Micah to warn the people of lying and false preachers who condone the drinking of wine and strong drink (Micah 2:11). Elah was murdered by Zimri while he was drunk (1 Kings 16:9-10).

Drinking alcohol leads to stubbornness, rebellion, and gluttony by young men; and brings dishonor to parents (Deut 21:20). The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol leads to violence (4:17). A wise person will not drink wine or liquor because it is a mocker and deceiver that leads to violence (20:1-2), poverty (21:17; 23:21–20) produces woe, sorrow, contentions, babbling, wounds without cause, and redness of eyes. (23:29-30). It hurts everyone who drinks it, and it bites like a poisonous snake (23:32). It fills men’s minds with adulterous and impure thoughts and produces vain talk, “every idle word,” of which must be accounted for at judgment (23:33). It brings on insecurity (23:34) and insensibility, which paves the way for every evil and dangerous acts. It is habit-forming as one drink always calls for another (23:35). It is not for Kings, nor presidents, nor officials to drink (31:4-5).

Jesus the Benevolent Bartender

Jesus, along with Mary, was invited to a Wedding as guests at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11). When they arrived, the other guests had "well drunk" of whatever they were drinking (2:10). Mary noticed that the stone jars of wine “onios” had run out and told Jesus (2:3). Mary then commanded the servants at the party to do whatever Jesus asked them to do (2:5). Jesus told them to take the six empty jars and to fill them completely to the top with water, not grape juice, which totaled anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons (2:7-8).

When the entertainment director tasted the wine, he was amazed how good it was and said to the Groom "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10 ESV).

As previously pointed out the word “onios” can refer to grape juice at any stage, either fermented or unfermented. The word "good" or “best” signifies wine that fresh and sweet and could be drunk in large quantities without harm (i.e., wine that had not had its sugar content destroyed through fermentation). The "worse" wine means a poor quality that could have been diluted. It is also significant that the word "good" is “kalos” in Greek which means morally excellent, valuable or virtuous.

The Manifest Gory of Jesus

Jesus chose to perform His first miracle at this wedding. By His transforming power, He caused water to acquire a new form. He showed Himself to be the God of nature by doing this. In the Old Testament, at the beginning of Moses' miracles, there was the turning of water into blood (See Ex 4:9; 7:20). By turning water into wine as the first of His miracles, Jesus was showing the difference between the Law of Moses and the law He was to preach - the law of love.

The curse of the Law turns water into blood - the blessing of the Great News turns water into wine. Wine represents His Spirit. Water represents the spirit of mankind. This wine was unfermented, pure with no decay. Marriages can maintain their purity and avoid decay as husband and wife open their self up to being filled with Holy Spirit on a daily basis.

The wedding miracle was to "manifest forth His glory" (John 2:11) in such a way as to create personal faith and confidence in Jesus as God, the Son, who is holy and righteous and came to save people from their sin (Matt 1:21). Jesus supernaturally created the same juices of the grape out of the water and not through the natural process of His created order. It was a divine act of new creation. This act declared His honor, glory, and sovereignty over the world. It was a prophetic symbol that He had the spiritual power to transform sinful people into children of God. (John 3:1-15). Because of this miracle, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

Jesus is sovereign and omnipotent. He most assuredly knew the terrible physical and emotional effects of alcohol on the people He came to give His life for. He knew that alcohol is an addictive and depressant drug that attacks the brain cells and destroys them.

Here are a few observations and questions to ponder in order to rightly translate the text and determine both the contextual implication and moral likelihood of what kind of wine Jesus supernaturally made.

If the “onios” was alcoholic and the guests were already full and drunk with wine isn’t it likely that they would not be ready for another 180 gallons of it?

If the wine Jesus miraculously made from water was the destructive drug of alcohol, then didn’t He sin and cause all who were there to sin as well? Why would He promote and encourage its use? Wouldn’t that call into question His deity, wisdom, goodness, compassion, and love?

Why would Jesus disobey the Father's moral commands to not "gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly (Prov 3:31 NIV) and put at risk His righteousness and primary mission by make intoxicating wine as His very first "miracle" in order to show forth His deity and "manifest His glory" (John 1:14, 2:11) and to persuade people to believe on Him as the holy and righteous God, the Son, who came to save the lost and redeem them from sin? Isn’t that totally inconsistent with the rest of the Bible?

Regardless of how one translates this text, it is clear that Jesus supernaturally created wine out of water. However, there is simply no definitive biblical evidence that proves Jesus supernaturally created alcohol at the wedding and contributed to a drunken party as a benevolent bartender.

The Partying Pastor

The religious leaders of Jerusalem frequently attempted to libel and falsely accuse Jesus of many things such as being possessed by a demon, being a winebibber, drunkard, glutton, and breaking the Sabbath (Mark 3:3-5), as well as blaspheming God (which He could not because He is co-equal with God, the Father (John 1:1-18).

In one particular day of teaching and preaching Jesus said that John the Baptist “came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating (Gk: “esthio” – eating to live) and drinking (Gk: “pino” – receiving refreshment (See also Matt 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39; John 4:14, 6:53-54,56, 7:37; 1 Cor 10:4, 1 Cor 11:29; Heb 6:7; Rev 14:10; 16:6). The people said 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds" (Matt 11:18-19 ESV).

Jesus used hyperbole in His analogy comparing John, who was not possessed by a devil, to Himself to make a point to the people that, just as with the false and unfounded accusations against John, He was not a glutton and a drunk, and there was simply no way to please the narrow-minded, arrogant religious authorities. Even when He supernaturally healed a person or raised someone from the dead, they accused Him of many crimes against God. No matter what He said or how big a miracle, they would try to find proof in Scripture that He was wrong and they were right. Jesus associated with drunkards and prostitutes, but that does not mean He was one. It is important to note that Jesus did not use any word translated as wine when He said He came eating to live and drinking for refreshment.

The Last Supper and the Fruit of the Vine

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after the blessing, it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt 26:26-29 ESV; also Mark 14; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11).

The Lord's Supper was instituted when Jesus and His disciples were eating the traditional Passover meal (Matt 26:26-29). The Passover law in the Old Testament prohibits the presence, and use of leaven, yeast, or any fermenting substance (Heb: “seor") and anything (Heb: "chaameets”) containing any fermentation was forbidden (Ex 12:4-20; 13:7). God gave these laws because fermentation symbolized decay, corruption, and sin (Mat. 16:6,12; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). Bread was to be free of leaven (yeast), which is a type of sin. Fermented wine would not be free of leaven. The symbol of Jesus blood would rightly be free from the leaven of yeast that causes alcohol fermentation. It is illogical to posit that corrupt and decaying grapes would symbolize the perfect, sinless blood of Jesus.

The Old Testament never mentions wine or grape juice, or any drink, in connection with the Passover ceremony (Ex 12) because fermented drink was never to be used in the house of God. The priests were not allowed to worship God while drinking beverages that could intoxicate.

"Do not drink wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statue forever throughout your generations" (Lev 10:9 KJV).

Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the new covenant (Heb. 3:1; 5:1-10). It seems inconceivable that He would violate His own laws when He came to "fulfill the law" (Matt 5:17 KJV). He clearly understand the Biblical passages which command not to "look not upon the wine” when it is fermented (Prov 23:31 KJV) and that condemn intoxicating wine as "a mocker" and "raging" (Prov 20:1 KJV). He understood the warning to those "that gives his neighbor drink and makes him drunk" (Hab 2:15 KJV).

Orthodox Jews did not drink fermented wine or eat fermented bread (Ex 12:15,19-20; Deut 17:3-4). At the time of the Exodus and forward, during Passover, the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs were the only symbols mentioned. Some scholars believe that the cup was added after the Jews returned from Babylon and it appears that Jesus alluded to this tradition on the night He was betrayed.

Jesus said He would not “drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt 26:29 ESV – also Mk 14:25; Luke 22:18). Jesus used the “fruit of the vine” as a symbol of His new covenant.

To drink the “fruit of the vine” is an expression used in the Old Testament in referring to drinking the juice of the grape. When the butler told his dream to Joseph, he said: “Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand" (Gen 40:11-12 ESV).

The "fruit of the vine" comes from the Greek word "genema" which by analogy means ‘produce’ or fruit and translated as "fruit of the vine" (Mat. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18-KJV). It signifies fruit juice that is produced from the grape in a natural state just as it is gathered. “Fruit” is the produce and wine is a by-product. The word is also used referring to “the fruits of... righteousness" (2 Cor 9:10) The Greek word "oinos” is used for wine pressed from the grape.

The “fruit of the vine” would most likely be pure, unchanged juice from grapes that are freshly squeezed off the vine and would not be fermented or alcoholic wine. The Bible calls the juice of a grape freshly removed from the vine “new” wine; “Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster” (Is 65:8 KJV). Fermented wine is not the fresh product of the grapevine. It would be logical to surmise that there was fresh wine at the Last Supper, but it is a mistake to assume that the wine was fermented.

Whether or not the “fruit of the vine” was fermented, Jesus did not drink or partake of the cup used at Passover. Jesus did not drink the “fruit of the vine” while nailed to the Cross. He was first offered “oinos” and myrrh, (Mark 15:22-23); then later, sour wine or vinegar, “oxos” and gall (Mat. 27:33,48) which He turned down. When Jesus said, He was thirsty He received vinegar (oxos) and then said: "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30 ESV).

In every instance, Jesus made reference to the cup He did not use the word “oinos” or “gleukos.” Nowhere in the Bible is the word “oinos” used for wine in regards to the Last Supper. Jesus, God the Son, compared His pure teachings to wholesome new wine (Matt 9:17) and fulfilled the law in every requirement (Matt 5:17) including the laws governing the Passover. The “fruit of the vine” represented the incorruptible blood of Christ and would logically be represented by juice that was an emblem that represented nourishment and life (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

The Corinthian Communion

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth chastising them for “profaning the body and blood” of Jesus (1 Cor 11: 27). They had turned the observance of the Lord’s Supper from a solemn occasion to a potluck buffet where people were overeating the food brought to share with those who were without, and drinking so much wine they were getting drunk (Gk “methuo), leaving others hungry and thirsty.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.” (1 Cor 11:20-22 ESV)

Paul had previously instructed them to put away spiritual yeast which was the fermenting agent of "malice and wickedness," because Christ is the “Passover Lamb” (1 Cor 5:6-8 NIV). Now, he had to remind them that the true meaning of gathering together was for the partaking of communion and what the correct use of the elements were.

“In the same way, also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:25-26 ESV)

It must be noted that Paul did not say what was in the communion cup. Throughout church history, it is well documented that unfermented juice of the grape has been used in communion. It would be a violation of the Passover law in the Old Testament to use fermented wine when it was prohibited, along with the presence and use of leaven, yeast or any fermenting substance, in the Lord’s Supper, because it was a symbol of sin and decay and inconsistent with its true meaning and purpose. The Lord’s Supper is no place for gluttony and alcohol.

The unleavened (uncorrupted, unfermented) bread used in Communion represents the pure body of Christ. Jesus added the cup with the “Fruit of the Vine” to represent His incorruptible blood to proclaim His death and power to redeem every human being and forgive all their sins.

"Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19 KJV)

The Holy Ghost Party at Pentecost

On the day of Pentecost, the Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The crowd of people were all amazed at what was happening, and some proclaimed in apparent surprise, “These men are drunk with new wine” (Acts 2:11-13). The Greek word here for wine is “gleukos” and, as previously pointed out, was unfermented new grape juice. The people mocked and made fun of them because they appeared and acted seriously inebriated on just unfermented grape juice. This seems to indicate that the disciples were known for their abstinence from alcohol.

The Bible extols the Believer not to be “drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the spirit” (Eph 5:18 KJV). The word “excess” in Greek is “asotia” means wasteful, reckless, and amoral behavior. Christians are called to be sacred vessels who are willing to be continually filled daily with the power of the Holy Spirit and not with intoxicating beverages.

The Myth of Moderation

When discussing the drinking of the drug alcohol within the church the battle lines that are most often drawn concern the partaking of an occasional drink in moderation, and more specifically the drinking of wine. The Scripture verse most often quoted to support the moderation mantra is:

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil 4:5 KJV)

The word translated “moderation” in the verse above is “epieikes,” which means to be fair, equitable, patient, considerate, gentle, and reasonable in Greek.

“Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.” (NLT)

“Let your gentleness be known to all men.” (NKJV)

The moderation myth is intellectually dishonest. It is not used anywhere in the New Testament in reference to drinking an alcoholic beverage or any other substance. Moderation is an excuse to ‘moderately’ indulge in anything such as caffeine, food, illegal drugs (alcohol is considered an illegal drug in most states for people under 21 years of age), tobacco, etc.

Science has shown that moderation with an addictive drug is impossible. If the taking of heroin was legal, would moderate amounts not be harmful in anyway? The moderate drinker is naive if they do not recognize the peril of eventually becoming addicted themselves. The only absolute cure against the threat of alcoholism is not to take the first drink. Moderate drinking equals moderate intoxication. A person who is trying to control and moderate their intake of alcohol is actually already under its control.

The Medicinal Masquerade

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” (1 Tim. 5:23)

Timothy was a true shepherd who understood the legion of Scriptural admonishments to avoid alcohol and did not want to partake of wine (“onios”), which, as previously pointed out, could have been either fermented or unfermented grape juice, even if it was watered down for medicinal purposes, so he only drank water. There are many historical references that wine was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world which led to the many church interpretations over the centuries that the reason Timothy had to be directed by Paul to drink a very tiny amount (Gk: “oligos”) of wine was for the medicinal effects to counter the bad water of the day.

However, be that as it may, Timothy had been reminded earlier in the letter that leaders in the church were to be “blameless”… “temperate”… “sober-minded, of good behavior “not given to wine…” and have a “good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7 NKJV).

The words “Sober-minded” are translated from the Greek words “nephalios” and “sophron” when combined mean in context to be vigilantly temperate showing self-restraint regarding the drinking of wine. To date, there is no scientific evidence that ingesting a small amount of alcohol has any long-term health benefits. There has not been any scientific randomized trials where part of a group drinks zero alcohol, another group drinks in small amounts, and another drinks more heavily to prove that alcohol has health benefits. It is a scientific myth that wine is good and has positive effects, or protective qualities, in reducing cardiovascular, or any other, disease.

Drinking alcohol is not equivalent to eating food as it is necessary to sustain life. However, that fact does not justify overeating or “gluttony” which is thoroughly condemned in Scripture (Deut. 21:30; Prov 23:21, Matt 24:38). The Bible does not condone the drinking of alcohol to sustain life, but it does condone eating.

The Temple of God

"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor 6:19-20 KJV)

The physical body of a Born Again Christian is the Temple (Gk: “Naos” - Holy of Holy's) of God, His permanent dwelling place. The Bible implores the Believer not to defile or corrupt (Gk “phtheiro) it (1 Cor 3:17). The legion of adverse effects of alcohol on both the brain and organs of the body leaves no doubt as to the ability of alcohol to defile and corrupt it.

Joy and Merriment?

The juice of grapes was considered a basic staple and necessity of life. It was part of meals (Gen 14:18; Judges 19:19; 1 Sam 16:20; Isa 55:1). An abundance of wine was considered a blessing of God (Gen 27:28; Deut 7:13; Amos 9:14). The people drank wine during celebrations and times of rejoicing (2 Sam 13:28; Est 1:10; Ps 104:15; Eccl 9:7; 10:19; Zech 9:15; 10:7). As previously discussed it is important to define what Hebrew word for wine is being used in a specific verse to clarify its meaning in context.

The writer of Psalm 104 wrote a hymn celebrating the wisdom, generosity, glory, and greatness of God and His creation. One verse mentions wine “yayin” that can cheer up and make glad the heart:

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart.” (Ps 104:14-15 ESV)

King Solomon, after looking back over his life and examining what was important, and what was not worth the time to worry about because everything was in the hands of God, concluded that people should eat their “bread in joy and drink” their “yayin” with a good or “merry” (Heb: “towb”) heart because they will eventually die and “there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Eccl 9:1-7 ESV).

Death Comes to All

In the book of Proverbs King Lemuel shared a poem that his mother taught him. She told him that “it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov 31:1-9 ESV).

The Hebrew word for “wine” used here is “yayin.” The words “strong drink” is “shekar” which could refer to an alcoholic intoxicating beverage such as beer or wine, or to a sweet, unfermented drink or cider made from Dates or Palms. Solomon had declared that “shekar” would cause loud trouble and that “yayin” would cause people to mock and scoff at those who drank it (Prov 20:2).

Lemuel’s mother taught him that she also thought that it was not a good idea for a king or ruler to drink an intoxicating beverage because of the problems it would cause in their decision making. However, she shared her belief that the depressing effects of alcohol would be good for one who was desperately afflicted with misery and a heavy heart (Heb: “marah nephesh”). To her, it was a good idea to give wine “yayin” to those who were in painful agony and going to die (Heb: “abad”).

The True Source of Joy for the Royal Priesthood

Christians are “set apart to God” (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 2:17-19). The Lord told Aaron that “shekar” and “yayin” were prohibited from the priests (Lev 10:9–11), who were set apart to God when they went into the Tabernacle to perform their sacred functions, which was God’s dwelling place in the wilderness. The Lord also commanded that those men or women that chose to separate or distinguish themselves from others by making a temporary or permanent “Nazarite” (Heb “naziyr”) vow of consecration to God’s service, not drink either of them as well (Num 6:2–6; see also Judges 13:3–5; Luke 1:15; 7:33).

Born-Again Christians are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood” just as the line of Aaron, and a “holy nation”, consecrated like a Nazarite, a people for his own possession” that have been bought and paid for so that they “may proclaim the excellencies of him who called” them “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV).

The Born-Again Christian is to come out from the world and “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet 2:9-12 NIV).

It is undeniable that, despite a very few seemingly positive mentions of drinking wine in the Bible, the drinking of Alcohol throughout history has had a preponderance of deleterious effects on the human body and the relationships of family, friends, and enemies.

Every Born-Again Christian is in active spiritual warfare with an enemy that is always looking for a place, opportunity, or stronghold to attack and render them ineffective, which alcohol provides (Eph 4:27). No army that drinks alcohol can hope to win a battle (1 Kings 20:13-21). This why the Bible strongly condemns the use of alcohol for strictly social reasons (Prov 20:1; 23:30; 1 Peter 4:3) and gives emphatic warnings in the New Testament against the use of wine (Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:7).

The Bible commands the Born-Again Christian to be temperate (1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Titus 2:2). The word “temperate” or “sober” comes from the Greek word “nephaleos” which means “sober, temperate, and abstaining from wine. Abstinence assures better knowledge of God (Deut 29:2-6).

It is very apparent that the Bible does not condone the drinking of alcohol by a Born-Again Christian, but rather implores abstinence (Rom 14:21; 1 Thess 5:22). Jesus is to be their only source of true happiness and joy.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV)

Leadership

The Bible specifically implores those in leadership to be blameless, vigilant, self-controlled and sober-minded and not be “given (GK: "paroinos" - staying or tarrying near) to wine” (1 Tim 3:3) or “not (GK” “me’) given” (GK: “prosecho”), which means to not at all pay attention, apply oneself, or adhere to wine of any kind (1 Tim 3:8) so that he will not “fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Tim 3:7).

As stated previously, alcohol is created by the fermentation of fruit and is a result of chemical decomposition and decay which is a result of the Fall when sin entered into the world. It is a mental depressant and suppresses the senses. In light of that fact, why would a Born-Again Christian want to partake of something that dulls and depresses the senses to have a real good time, or to unwind, or “enjoy” their food?

Every Born-Again Christian is holy and set apart as a Priest in the service of God and is to offer up spiritual sacrifices to Him (1 Cor. 1:2; Gal 6:16; Eph. 2:17-19; 1 Peter 2:1-5). Leaders in the church are to examples which are “be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (1 Pet 5:3; 1 Tim 3:2, 11; Titus 2:2 KJV).

If a Born-Again Christian truly desires to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God and their neighbor, they should desire not to intentionally do, or say, anything that could cause another to stumble, or bring shame to the cross of Christ. Drinking alcohol could cause others to stumble and damage the influence of their witness. Having the attitude of humility is how the Born-Again Christian is to live their life. They are to be an example of holiness to others and ready to stand before the Lord. It is their behavior and witness which will help lead others to Jesus and glorify God in all that they do (Phil 2:3).

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” (Rom 14:20-21 ESV)

It is far better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the deepest sea than do or say anything that could cause another to stumble (Luke 17:1-2).

I have presented what I believe to be cogent and common sense arguments that any shepherd would be confronted with because they are held responsible for leading and guiding his flock.

It simply does not make any sense to me why a Born-Again Christian, whose body is the dwelling place of God, would want to partake of something that the Bible says bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. As i have pointe out, alcohol is a poison and depressant which numbs the senses. It can cause another to stumble, bring reproach to the Cross, and even ruin a family.

It is inconceivable to me that the Christ, the Holy Creator of all things would create, condone and endorse something that is both a poison and a depressant, which has ruined and destroyed the physical and mental health of millions upon millions of lives and families for centuries.

In light of the many exhortations in Scripture to avoid the effects of alcohol, it seems clear that the Born-Again Christian should avoid it so as not to cause another to stumble, or numb the senses. They are to come out from the ways of the world and be separate from the world as a holy and royal priesthood and be “intoxicated” with the Holy Spirit rather than with wine. The peace of Jesus that passes all understanding should be enough to calm and relax anyone who needs to have a good time, unwind or enjoy their food, and not a mood and mind altering substance.

The Bible commands the Born-Again Christian to resist temptation and be “sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and foothold to attack and render the Born-Again Christian ineffective.

Every human being has the free will to do anything they want, but not everything is advantageous for them (1 Cor 6:12-20). People ultimately choose their own eternal destiny and are responsible for decisions and choices made. However, they should not use the Bible to rationalize their Laodicean liberty or justify their choices and behavior masquerading as ‘moderation,’ which is actually just moderate intoxication, that it does not condone in any manner, shape or form, no matter how much one might twist the Scriptures like a pretzel to validate their suppositional conformation bias.

Ultimately, there are no absolute concrete answers in the New Testament regarding a lot of specific behaviors, so it takes the heart of a shepherd to pastor and lead his flock towards those things that would draw them closer to Jesus and lead them farther away from the ways of the world.

As a shepherd, I prefer to err on the side of caution lest I cause another to stumble who could have a biological propensity towards alcoholism or any other potential vise. The Bible tells the Believer it is better to be intoxicated with the Holy Spirit than with wine. In light of the many exhortations in Scripture to avoid the effects of strong drink, it would seem prudent to refrain from, and avoid, the things of the world, which includes alcohol, so I will never condone its use. That is my bias, and I am sticking with it!