In the first part of this study, we examined excessive alcohol consumption in the light of Scripture, and found drunkenness to be a grievous sin with grave consequences. In the concluding part of this expository study on alcohol consumption, we shall look at the issue of moderate alcohol consumption from the biblical point of view.
Even though drunkenness is a sin that is condemned throughout Scripture, moderate alcohol consumption is not forbidden in the Bible (except in very special circumstances, which will be discussed later). The moderate consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages was considered a normal part of regular meals and feasts in biblical times. The cultivation of vineyards was widespread and considered a normal part of the agricultural life of God’s people. Wine-presses for the production of wine from grapes and pomegranates were equally widespread in biblical times. Increased production of wine was considered a blessing and a favour from God, as reduced production was considered a sign of divine displeasure. Besides, wine was considered a special gift from God to gladden the heart of man.
Genesis 27:25 Then he said, Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you. So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.
Genesis 27:26 Then his father Isaac said to him, Come near and kiss me, my son.
Genesis 27:27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
Genesis 27:28 May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.
Genesis 27:37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?
Deuteronomy 7:13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 11:13 And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 11:14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.
Joel 2:23 Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
Joel 2:24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
Joel 2:25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
Joel 2:26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Psalms 104:14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth
Psalms 104:15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
Proverbs 3:10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
In the Old Testament, God expected his people to pay tithe from the wine they produced. If wine production and consumption were evil and sinful, would God expect tithes to be paid from such?
Deuteronomy 12:17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present,
Deuteronomy 12:18 but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.
Deuteronomy 14:22 You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.
Deuteronomy 14:23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
Apart from the fact that God’s people were expected to pay tithe of their wines, God actually mandated his people who lived far from Jerusalem to convert their yearly tithe to money and use the money to buy wine and strong drink and whatever else they desired, to consume in his presence.
Deuteronomy 14:24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there,
Deuteronomy 14:25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses
Deuteronomy 14:26 and 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 14:27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
Yes! God mandated his people to use their yearly tithe money to buy wine and strong drink for their personal consumption in his presence! If drinking alcohol is a sin, would God have given such commandment to his people? Does God support sin? How dare some of us think and act as though we are holier than God?!
Ecclesiastes 7:16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
When Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God (who was the pre-figuration of Christ) met Abram on his way back from battle, he blessed Abram and gave him bread and wine. This is a foreshadow of the communion meal of today. God’s priest would not have given the patriarch wine if the drinking of wine was sinful.
Genesis 14:17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)
Genesis 14:19 And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
Genesis 14:20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand! And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Moving to the New Testament, we have ample evidence of the non-sinful nature of moderate alcohol consumption. The very first miracle Jesus performed was the turning of water to wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee!
John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
John 2:2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
John 2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine.
John 2:4 And Jesus said to her, Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.
John 2:5 His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.
John 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
John 2:7 Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
John 2:8 And he said to them, Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. So they took it.
John 2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom
John 2:10 and said to him, 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 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Why would Jesus turn water into wine for people to drink if the drinking of wine was sinful? And he gave them the best wine ever, as attested to by the governor of the feast! Would Jesus sanction evil by turning water to wine for people to drink? Think about this!
And to cap it all, Jesus himself drank wine! And it wasn’t non-alcoholic wine, because the concept of non-alcoholic wine as we know today was unknown in biblical times. Every wine produced and drank in Bible days was alcoholic. That was why the Lord taught the necessity to store new wine in new wineskins and old wine in old wineskins. With new wine, the fermentation process that produced alcohol was still active, and gaseous products of the chemical reaction would result in swelling and distention, which would cause an old wineskin that was dry, taut and inflexible to burst. However, a new wineskin (from fresh hide) that was still flexible and expandable would stretch to accommodate the gaseous distention from fermentation, and would preserve both the wine and the wineskin. That was what the Lord Jesus taught people, inorder to preserve both their wines and wineskins! Would Jesus teach people how to preserve their wine if the consumption of wine was sinful?
Matthew 9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.
Matthew 9:17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.
Even new wine as described in the Bible was alcoholic, and had the potential to make people drunk if taken without moderation. When the disciples were inspired by the Holy Spirit and started speaking in strange languages on the day of Pentecost, people thought they had taken new wine immoderately and had become drunk!
The Acts 2:12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, What does this mean?
The Acts 2:13 But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine.
The Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.
The Acts 2:15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.
Jesus drank wine and some people (like some over-righteous ultra-conservative Christians of today) accused him of being a drunkard because of that! Of course, the Lord could never have drunk wine excessively or without self-control, being the epitome of righteousness and having lived a sinless life while on earth. However, it is instructive to know that the Lord drank wine while on earth, and it wasn’t non-alcoholic wine!
Matthew 11:16 But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
Matthew 11:17 We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.
Matthew 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon.
Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.
Jesus even knew the difference between old and new wine and appreciated the worth of old wine. Only a connoisseur would know and appreciate the value of old wine over new wine!
Luke 5:39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, The old is good.
The Lord and his disciples drank wine as part of the Passover feast. It was from the bread and wine of this feast that the Lord’s supper was instituted. Furthermore, the Lord looked forward to drinking wine with his disciples again in the Kingdom Age! So, even in heaven, wine is not forbidden!
Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body.
Mark 14:23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
Mark 14:24 And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
Mark 14:25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
The wine of the Lord’s supper taken at the church in Corinth was alcoholic wine. It’s only alcoholic wine that can make people drunk if taken excessively. Some believers in Corinth took the communion wine immoderately and got drunk thereby. You don’t get drunk on non-alcoholic wine, however much you take it!
1 Corinthians 11:20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.
1 Corinthians 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
1 Corinthians 11:22 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.
If the moderate taking of alcohol was sinful, why would God allow alcoholic wine to be taken at the Lord’s supper? Some people say it’s only at the Lord’s table that alcoholic wine is permitted. There’s just no scripture for this, simply because all the wine consumed in the Bible were alcoholic. There was no such thing as non-alcoholic wine in biblical times!
1 Timothy 5:23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
In the passage above, Paul advised Timothy to take a little wine for the sake of his stomach and frequent ailments. Now, we all know Paul wasn’t talking about non-alcoholic wine here. He was clearly referring to alcoholic wine. He was recommending a little wine for medicinal purposes, just as some pharmaceutical syrups today and most African herbal preparations contain some alcoholic mixture. Would the Apostle Paul recommend a little wine for Timothy if drinking alcohol was sinful? Would Paul have recommended a little adultery, or a little stealing or a little lying for any reason?? Of course not!
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
In the passages above, we see the Apostle Paul admonishing deacons and elderly women not to be slaves or addicts to “much wine”. The emphasis here is on “much wine” and being addicted to it. They can take little wine or take wine in moderation, but should not be addicted to it. However, they were not forbidden to taste wine!
Finally, let me state here categorically that there was only one class of people in the Bible who were absolutely forbidden from drinking wine or tasting any thing that came from the vine tree, including its fruit or seed. This was those who took the special Nazirite vow in the Old Testament. Such people were expected to abstain entirely from wine, to avoid cutting their hair, and to refrain from coming near the dead, throughout the period of their special vow. Examples of Nazirites in Scripture included Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist.
Numbers 6:2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD,
Numbers 6:3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried.
Numbers 6:4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.
Numbers 6:5 All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.
Other than Nazirites during the period of their special vow, no other group of people in the Bible were mandated by divine law to completely abstain from alcohol. The Scripture never condemned the moderate drinking of alcohol. What was consistently condemned in both the Old and New Testaments was drunkenness, occasioned by excessive and immoderate consumption of alcohol.
In conclusion, apart from those who took special Nazirite vows, nowhere in the Bible is alcohol consumption completely forbidden. Wine was a legal and legitimate produce of God’s people from which tithe was dutifully paid and received by the priests. God even commanded his people to use their tithe money to purchase wine and strong drink and consume them in his presence. Jesus turned water to wine and even drank wine himself. Alcoholic wine was used in the Lord’s supper throughout the New Testament. We draw the conclusion then that Scripture is only against excessive alcohol consumption that leads to drunkenness. As long as God’s people drink wine moderately and give thanks to God for it, it’s perfectly alright with God.
Some people may choose not to drink alcohol at all, based on their conscience. That’s alright, and to God be the glory! However, they should not judge those who consume it moderately as sinners. Personal likes and dislikes should never be used to make laws to judge one another in the body of Christ. Whatever is not expressly condemned by Scripture is not a sin. The attitude of believers to one another in respect to moderate alcohol consumption should be as stated by Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.
Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
Romans 14:2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
Romans 14:3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Romans 14:6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Romans 14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;
Romans 14:11 for it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
Romans 14:12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
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