It is no exaggeration to say that alcohol abuse is a serious problem in the United States and in the world. The Psychiatry and Wellness Internet website informs us that alcohol is like any other sedative-hypnotic drug that acts on the brain as a barbiturate and can cause physical dependence for those who consume enough of it over a period of time. It can cause a number of harmful symptoms with negative consequences. These include psychological defenses of denial, rationalization, minimizing the problem, projection of blame, personality changes, and disruption of life. Anyone who has lived with or knows an alcoholic can attest to this. An alcoholic is one for whom drinking has become harmfully important and repetitive. Alcoholics view a bottle of alcohol as a love object, the consequence being infidelity to other love objects such as spouses and family members. In essence, alcohol addiction is the alcoholic’s jealous god. Alcoholics who “quit” often should be reminded of Mark Twain’s remark: “Its easy to quit smoking-I’ve done it a hundred times.” The fact is: Alcoholism is fundamentally a pitiless process that responds poorly to rationality, compassion, and concern.
The Psychiatry and Wellness website goes on to tell us that the excuses alcoholics make when confronted are endless. Here are some examples: “Problem, what problem?” “I’m not that bad,” “It wasn’t my fault,” “All I want is a little relief,” “I’m not hurting anybody but myself,” “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” “I’ve got to be me,” “You knew this when you married me,” “I have to drink for my work,” “You’re not so pure yourself,” “Trust me-I know what I am doing,” “I can stop any time I want to,” “I’m not nearly as bad as other people,” I have to drink to drown my sorrows,” “Now is not a good time to stop,” “It will never happen again,” “Nobody is going to tell me what to do,” “I’d be OK if it weren’t for you,” “This is the thanks I get,” “I don’t have time to get help,” and “I’ll handle it myself.”
In spite of the fact that 2,300 anti-drunk laws have been passed since 1980, the latest statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paint a grim picture. In the year 2000, there were 16, 653 alcohol related fatalities-one every 32 minutes. During the same period, 310,000 were injured in alcoholic related accidents-one every 2 minutes. Alcohol fatalities add up to 43 per day, 305 per week, and 1309 each month. The fact is: Traffic fatalities are the countries greatest single cause of death from ages 6 to 33, almost half of these related to drunk driving. And surprisingly, almost one-third of all pedestrians 16 years or older killed in traffic accidents were intoxicated.
It seems that more and more youngsters are also drinking. For example, forty-seven percent of boys and twenty-eight percent of girls in grades 10-12 say they drink. Nineteen percent of boys and seventeen percent of girls, grades 8-9 drink, and seven percent of boys and four percent of girls, grades 6-7, drink. Seventy-four percent of these youngsters say that drinking is a bigger problem in schools than sex and other drug use. So there is no question that the abuse of alcohol is a major problem for both youngsters and adults.
Many Churches Oppose
the Drinking of Alcohol
Many churches vigorously oppose the drinking of alcoholic beverages. They feel it is sinful to do so, and often refer to the Bible for proof. What does the Bible really say about drinking alcoholic beverages? Certainly, sincere Christians would want to know exactly what it teaches.
Is the drinking of alcoholic beverages sin? What is sin? Here is the Bible definition: “Whosoever committed sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Is there, then, a commandment of God that forbids the drinking of alcoholic beverages? The answer is no. Drinking alcohol beverages in moderation is not a violation of the Law of God, but the overindulgence or abuse of alcohol is a violation, and is a sin? There is a difference between moderation and abuse. The abuse of alcohol is a sin because it violates the Tenth Commandment. The Apostle Paul tells us: ” . . . I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). Lusting is the same as coveting according to Paul. But what is coveting? Specifically it means to have an inordinate (immoderate of unregulated) desire for what belongs to another. But the Apostle Paul said it was the same as lust. What is lust? Lust is an intense longing or craving for anything. Can this include the harmful, uncontrolled desire to consume alcoholic beverages? Yes, indeed! So while the abuse of alcohol is a sin, moderate use is not. We shall soon see the Bible proof.
What Does the Bible Say?
For one thing, when the Bible refers to the use of alcohol in a positive manner, it always refers to moderate use, never to the abuse of it. A good example is given in Genesis 14:18. Here we see Melchizedek, King of Salem, presenting wine to Abraham. Who was this King of Salem?
Paul tells us:
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” (Heb. 7:1-4).
The identity of Melchisedek has been an enigma to many scholars. The reason is because they refuse to acknowledge what Paul really says in the above passage. Notice, Melchisedek is without father or mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, made like unto the Son of God. This cannot refer to any human being. In Hebrews 7:17, Paul tells us that Christ is of the same order (rank) as Melchisedek. Who, then, in ancient times appeared to Abraham in the form of Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God the Father? The answer: None other than the One who became Jesus Christ. However, what is important for the purpose of this article is that Christ gave Abraham wine. So, Christ in the form of Melchisedek did not prohibit or condemn the drinking of alcoholic beverages.
During His ministry one of the first miracles Christ performed was turning water into wine. This is recorded in John 2:1-10. Some insist, however, that this was not wine but grape juice. In a book entitled, The Bible Has the Answers, authors Henry Morris and Martin Clark, pages 222-224, tells us that Jesus probably did not make wine. They quote Deuteronomy 32:14 to prove that the “pure blood of the grape” refers to grape juice, and that this is what Jesus must have made. Reference works, however, show us that the phrase “pure blood of the grape” is figurative and refer to red wine that is fermented. The Greek word for wine used in John 1 is oinos, which Morris and Clark insist refers to both wine and grape juice. The usage of the word oinos in the New Testament proves otherwise. For example, Jesus was not given grape juice when being crucified, but wine mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:23). It was intended as a painkiller. Grape juice would have done nothing to alleviate the pain. Jesus was accused of being a “winebibber,” not a “grape juice bibber” (Matt. 11:19) People are not criticized for drinking grape juice, but they are for drinking wine. Paul told the Romans that in order not to offend weak brethren, it was best to avoid drinking wine (Rom. 14:21). It is unlikely that church brethren could have been criticized for drinking grape juice. Paul instructed Christians not to be drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18). One cannot get drunk on grape juice. He also instructed Timothy to use a little wine for his often infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23). It is unlikely grape juice could have helped one’s infirmities to any degree. The above texts all use the word oinos, clearly showing that the word refers to alcoholic beverages. New wine simply refers to freshly made wine that has not yet aged. The reader should keep in mind that Jesus Christ was perfect. He did not sin. Since He set us the example (1 Pet. 2:21), Christians need not feel guilty if they moderately imbibe in alcoholic beverages.
Even Old Testament passages show that God approved the moderate use of wine. During the Old Testament period Israel was God’s physical nation. But the people did not remain faithful to His Way of Life. As a result the nation was punished and finally driven into national captivity. Notice this text: “For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (Hos. 2:8). This text proves that God originally blessed Israel with abundance, wine being one of His gratuities.
The Right Use of Alcohol
Many Bible examples demonstrate the positive results for using alcoholic beverages correctly. It was even encouraged at the Feast of Tabernacles. For the journey to attend the feast in Jerusalem the Israelites were instructed:
And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household. (Deut. 14:23-26)
In the book of Judges, a parable is used which symbolizes wine as a blessing. “Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?” (Judges 9:12-13). Under certain circumstance wine can be beneficial. We read for example: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Prov. 31:6-7). In the book of Ecclesiastes we find: “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things” (Eccl. 10:19). The book of Psalms tells us that as God blesses the earth, “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Ps. 104:14-15).
The New Testament gives examples regarding the use of alcohol. We may recall the accusation made against Jesus. “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34). Notice the parallelism here. Drinking is equated with the accusation that Jesus was a winebibber. That wine was used at the Passover is seen by Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11. In Mark 14:23-24 we read: “And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” Paul instructed the Corinthians how to take the Passover properly. This was because they were confused. He told them: “When ye come together therefore into one place, [ye cannot eat] the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken” (1 Cor. 11:20-21). The Corinthians were not aware they should assemble together and that the bread and wine should be taken at this time in an orderly fashion. What is significant in the account is that one was hungry and another drunken. The Passover service that Jesus instituted did not consist of a meal. The symbols were changed to bread and wine. One could not get drunk on grape juice. While the Corinthians did not understand the order of the service, they did know that wine was called for on the occasion.
The Wrong Use of Alcohol
There are plenty of Bible examples that illustrate the wrong use of alcohol. Abstinence advocates often use these for proof that drinking is wrong, but fail to mention the positive examples listed above. Indeed the wrong use of alcohol can have a serious impact on society and is presently doing so. So let us examine a number of the Scriptures that show the wrong usage.
The first example is found in the Genesis, chapter nine. After the Flood we read:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. (Gen. 9:20-25)
While the Bible uses euphemistic language to describes this event, various commentators, and no less an authority than the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, regard this act upon Noah as one of incest or sodomy. The word “son” often refers to a descendent rather than to the immediate son. It is likely, therefore, the curse was placed upon Canaan because, as Noah’s grandson, he was the one who perpetrated this act.
The next example of the misuse of alcohol is described in Genesis 19. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his daughters, for fear of dwelling in the city of Zoar, resided in a cave in the mountains.
And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day. (Gen.19:31-38)
Lot was a righteous man (2 Pet. 2:7-8), and the incest could never have occurred had he not abused alcohol. As many other Bible passages demonstrate, this incident illustrates the result of the wrong use of alcoholic beverages. It seems that sometimes the price that has to be paid goes on endlessly.
A number of the proverbs warn against the abuse of alcohol:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever [reels, staggers] thereby is not wise. (Prov. 20:1)
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. (Prov. 23:20-21)
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. (Prov. 23:29-32)
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. (Prov. 31:4-5)
The prophet Isaiah also warned against the abuse of alcohol. He wrote: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” (Isa. 5:11). “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!” (Isa. 28:1).
It is mark of character to use alcoholic beverages properly. Some people cannot, as they lack the necessary self-control to do so. They would do better not to drink at all rather than to be unable to exercise the necessary discipline. Paul made it plain that those who bear responsibility in the Church must exercise proper control in the use of alcohol. Regarding elders in the Church, he wrote: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. . . “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous” (1 Tim 3: 1, 3:3). “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre” (Titus 1:7). Regarding lay-members, Paul wrote: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3).
This human life is an experience in building character. Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong, then to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. Man is a free moral agent, able to make choices. God allows many things that can be misused. Alcohol is one of them. What needs to be recognized, however, is that the Bible does not condemn the right use of alcohol. But certainly has plenty to say about the wrong use. The same could be said about food, sex, etc., or any number of other things. While it may not be advisible for some people to drink, the Bible cannot be used for support of this notion. The Bible does not condemn or prohibit the proper use of alcoholic beverages.
Christians are admonished not to indulge their lusts. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). Jesus warned about this very thing when He said: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21:34). The Apostle Paul, in an outspoken manner, wrote: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Temperance is the key. Temperance is not abstinence. “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things . . . ” (1 Cor. 9:25).
What Prophecy Reveals
Various Bible prophecies clearly prove that alcoholic beverages will be used during the Millennium. This is the time period after Christ returns, when the saints will be resurrected to rule with Christ on the earth for 1,000 years. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
Jesus foretold His return when He said: “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). Jeremiah the prophet described the return of Christ and the blessings bestowed upon Israel when he wrote: “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jer. 31:12). This same time period is described the book of Zechariah: “For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids” (Zech. 9:17). “And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD” (Zech. 10:7). “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them” (Amos 9:14 NKJV).
If indulging in alcoholic beverages is wrong, why will it be used in the coming Kingdom of God? Obviously God does not feel the way prohibitionists do. What is plain is that like many other things, God has given alcohol for man’s use as a blessing. But it must not be abused. Prohibitionists readily see the Scriptures that condemn the abuse of alcohol, but fail to consider the texts that say the opposite. To have a proper understanding of this important topic there must be a willingness to be honest and to accept all the Scriptures that apply to the subject. The abuse of alcoh ol is one of the great curses found in the nation and in the world today, but used properly it can and could be a blessing.