Poking the Proverbial Bear in the Eye (Again): Christians and Alcohol, Yes or No?

Tov Rose    , ,   -    1152 Views

Yes, I am going to poke the bear in the eye again!

What I am calling for is balanced teaching on Christians and Alcohol, because there is severe lack of it in Christian circles and has been since Prohibition took hold of the church during WWI. What started out as a good thing became biased pseudo-Theological and unbiblically imposed morality without telling the other side of what the Bible teaches--the positive things it says about true followers of God and the blessings of alcohol.

For example:

1. Wine is a blessing from God for wise and obedient living.

Proverbs 3:9-10 states that when we honor the Lord with our wealth and with the firstfruits of our land, “then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Repeatedly wine is listed among the abundant blessings God promises to Israel if they keep His covenant (Deuteronomy 7:13; 11:14; 33:28).

2. The loss of wine is evidence of God’s curse.

Moses warned God’s people that if they disobeyed the voice of the Lord, many curses would overtake them. They would work in their vineyards but never taste the wine (Deuteronomy 28:39). Foreign nations would rob them of their crops, including their vineyards (v.51). On several occasion God dries up the wine of his disobedient people (Hosea 9:2; Joel 1:10; Amos 5:11; Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13; Hagai 1:11). Twice God curses the land of Moab drying up their winepresses (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 48:33).

3. Wine is an acceptable sacrifice to give to God.

Wine and other intoxicating drinks were poured over sacrificial offerings on the altar as drink offerings (Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:5,7,10 18:12; 28:7,14; Deuteronomy 18:4; 1 Samuel 1:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Ezra 6:9; 7:22; Nehemiah 5:11; 10:37,39; 13:12). Even the Levites received wine for themselves from the tithes given by the worshipers (Numbers 18:30).

4. God gives us wine to settle our stomachs.

Paul counsels his son in the faith, Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). This home-remedy for poor digestion has actually been confirmed by modern studies. Fermented drinks like beer, sherry, or wine are powerful stimulants of gastric acid secretion, and caneven speed up the emptying of the stomach. Red wine also contain polyphenols that trigger the release of nitric oxidewhich relaxes the stomach wall, thus optimizing digestion.

5. God gives us wine to lighten our hearts.

Wine “cheers God and men” (Judges 9:13). The psalmist praises God for his provision: “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” (Psalm 104:14-15).

6. Abundant wine is one of the blessings of the age to come.

On the day God swallows up death forever and wipes away every tear, the Lord “will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, or aged wine well refined” (Isaiah 24:6). On that day God will again be God to all the clans of Israel, He will restore their fortunes, “they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine” (Amos 9:14), “they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil” (Jeremiah 31:12). God promises to restore to Israel the years that the swarming locust has eaten: the threshing floors will be full of grain and “the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (Joel 2:24-25).

7. God invites His people to celebrate in His presence by drinking wine and strong drink.

Year after year the Lord’s people brought a tithe of their crops to Jerusalem. There, where God made his name to dwell, He said they should eat the tithe of their grain, oil, meat, and even their wine. This regular feast in God’s holy presence was instituted so that they might “learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23).

Others had a longer journey to Jerusalem so they sold their crops, took the money with them, and purchased goods for the feast when they arrived. Listen to the very liberal and celebratory words God speaks to them: “spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household” (Deuteronomy 14:26). Whatever you desire, whatever you crave—even if it is wine or strong drink—buy it and bring it to the worship feast.

God says the same thing about the age to come. In that day, Israel’s oppressors will never rob them of grain or wine again, “but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary” (Isaiah 62:9).

8. Wine can be very appropriate for celebrations.

The bride who sings in the Song of Solomon says, “He brought me to the banqueting house,” (or literally translated, his “house of wine”), “and his banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). In Hebrew tradition, wine was very popular at weddings. We see this in the wedding feast Jesus attends in Cana. There, for His first miracle, Jesus miraculously produced more than one hundred and twenty gallons of fine wine for the wedding feast (John 2:6-11).

That day at the wedding in Cana, before the festivities began, the groom’s father would likely have held high a cup of fine wine and spoke a cheerful blessing over the new couple. When Jesus multiplied that wine in Cana, He was, in effect, multiplying that blessing of joy and happiness for the bride and groom.

9. Jesus banqueted with wine to demonstrate the joy of the nearness of the kingdom of God.

One of the marks of Jesus’ ministry was table fellowship. Jesus is often found eating in other’s homes or hosting meals. These instances of table fellowship left a deep mark on those who observed them or participated in them. These were not merely times to share food, but were platforms for Jesus to challenge social norms and make profound theological statements about himself and the kingdom of God.

What were these moments of table fellowship like? The Gospel of Luke offers us many glimpses. These were far from casual meals. Repentant sinners impacted by Jesus’ message would hold great feasts, and together Jesus and his disciples would recline with tax collectors and other notorious individuals (Luke 5:29). Jesus would even host his own banquets (Luke 15:2). These joyful feasts were settings where Jesus would call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32), where men publicly turned from sin (Luke 19:1-9), and where Jesus spoke of the joy of the angels when even one sinner repents (Luke 15:7,10). The meals might even be interrupted with sobering moments of remorseful weeping as Jesus declared sinners forgiven (Luke 7:48). Some were miraculously healed (Luke 14:4).

During these times, eager listeners would sit at His feet to hear His words (Luke 10:39). He would rebuke hypocrisy and empty religion (Luke 11:37-52), teach about genuine humility and honor (Luke 14:7-11), and challenged the social norms that divided rich and poor (Luke 14:12-14).

And yes, these would be feasts—often feasts accompanied with wine—and yes, Jesus drank. “John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine,” Jesus told the crowds. But “the Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:33-34). Many scholars believe John the Baptist was a Nazarite from birth. The angel Gabriel told John’s father, “he must not drink wine or strong drink” (Luke 1:15). John was a man of the wilderness; he and his disciples would often fast (Matthew 9:14; Mark 1:6). But Jesus, by contrast, was known for his joyful feasting, so much so He even gained the unjust reputation of “a glutton and a drunkard” from his critics (Luke 7:34).

On the heels of the banquet at Levi’s home, Jesus asked the questioning Pharisees and scribes, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” (Luke 5:34). The bridegroom of God’s people had come. The kingdom of God was at hand. This was no time for mourning, but celebration.

10. Jesus chose wine to represent his blood.

During Jesus’ last Passover meal, several cups of wine were shared among the disciples (Luke 22:17-18,20). Right after the meal, Jesus picked up a cup of wine, gave a word of thanks to His Father, and then said, “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” (Matthew 26:27-29). Paul called this cup of wine “the cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16) and “the cup of the Lord” (v.22).

By faith in His blood, Jesus is our atonement (Romans 3:25). By drinking His blood we have eternal life (John 6:53). By His blood we are justified in God’s sight (Romans 5:9), we have peace with God (Colossians 1:20), we are redeemed and made God’s own (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Revelation 5:9), brought near to Him (Ephesians 2:13), ransomed from our futile ways (1 Peter 1:18-19), cleansed of all sin (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5), and sanctified (Hebrews 13:12). By His blood our consciences are cleansed (Hebrews 9:14) so we can have the boldness to draw near to God in the Holiest Place (Hebrews 10:19).

And of all the things Jesus chose to represent his blood to us, he used wine.

Pop a Cork for the Kingdom
Bottom line: if you don’t like wine, don’t drink wine. If you are recovering alcoholic, certainly don't drink it! I am not giving you permission to do it!

If you enjoy wine, enjoy it to the glory of God—responsibly and with great joy.

If you don’t drink wine—and there are many Biblical reasons to abstain from it—do so with the attitude that wine is a blessing from which you are abstaining.

If you drink wine, remember wine is a celebratory drink, and as Christians we have every reason to celebrate.

And yes: alcoholic beverages back then could make you drunk and many were even more potent than many brands today. Jesus did not turn wine into grape juice. That teaching is not only unbiblical, it severely curtails and misrepresents the power of his miracle and the Jewish traditions he was fulfilling (about which most Christians are ignorant). Also, many of Jesus' miracles fulfilled Jewish traditions, which if you don't know, you are missing out.


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