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Alcohol

by Pastor Rick Rogers

Key Verse: Proverbs 20:1

Intro: The use of alcohol as a beverage is a major problem throughout the world, including the USA. Alcohol is responsible for appox. 66% of all fatal accidents; 70% of all murders; 50% of all rapes; 60% of child abuse and child molestation cases; and commits more people to the mental hospital than any other cause!

I. BIBLICAL POINTS TO PONDER

A.    Biblical Words:

1.  Heb. yayin is grape drink, wine – alcoholic and non-alcoholic
2.  Shekar is unmixed wine, or strong drink
3.  Tirosh refers to fresh grape juice, called new or sweet wine
4.  Grk. Oinos corresponds with the Hebrew yayin above
5.  Sikera corresponds with the Hebrew shekar above
6.  Gleukos corresponds with the hebrew tirosh above

B.    Biblical Background:

1.  Wine, including fermented, was used in earlier times to purify water that was stored in cisterns and wells. That was a major use of it! It was mixed with water at a very low ratio, consisting of the lowest ration of (3 parts water to 1 part wine-which was the lowest acceptable ratio; this produced a drink that was 2.5-2.75% alcoholic) up to (20+ parts water to 1 part wine). Thus, it was a sub-alcoholic beverage, which is why pastors and deacons are "not given to wine," I Tim. 3:3; 8; Titus 1:7. In Prov.23:29-31 it speaks of those who "tarry long at the wine." This purification is not necessary in modern times--we have chlorine, sodium chlorohydrates,...

2.  Wine today is different than Biblical wine. "Strong drink...unmixed wine..." in Biblical times was only 3-11% alcohol. Those who drank this form of alcohol were considered barbaric! Distillation, which increases alcohol content, was not discovered until A.D. 1500. Modern wine has 9-11% alcohol; 80-100 proof whiskey and brandy has 40-50% alcohol; Biblically and culturally, these would have been unthinkable!

Consider: Dr. Norman Geisler writes this: "Christians ought not to drink wine, beer, or other beverages for they are actually strong drink and forbidden in Scripture. Even ancient pagans did not drink what Christians drink today."1 The Bible condemns strong drink (remember, 3-11% alcohol?) which covers virtually all alcohol popular today. No Biblical defense can be used to support the consumption of alcohol!

C.    Biblical Examples of Alcohol Use:

1.  Gen. 9:20-24, Noah becomes intoxicated, and helps promote the first homosexual activity recorded in Scripture.

2.  Gen. 19:30ff, Lot's daughters encourage Lot to become intoxicated and commit incest, causing Lot to be father and grandfather of the same children.

3.  Esther 1:10ff, King Ahasuerus displays lewd, immoral behavior with his drinking companions and asks his wife to do unacceptable things. (Let's give Queen Vashti much credit-she said no, which cost her position in the kingdom!)

4.  1 Sam. 25:25; 36ff speaks of wicked Nabal, the drunken, vile husband of Abigail. Lest we judge Abigail harshly, likely the parents chose her mate-and she couldn't leave him!

Consider: I simply wanted to look at a few references to alcohol and it's result as stated in the Bible. Are any of these cases an example to follow? Do they demonstrate godliness? Which do you want to be-a homosexual? Fornicator? Immoral? Rude, lewd and "son of Belial?" That is the company you keep with alcohol! Is there anything commendable in these circumstances? NO!

D.    Biblical Warnings (Remember, we are speaking of Biblical wine and strong drink-that which is much weaker than alcohol today).

1.  Is. 5:11, "Woe to them that rise early in the morning, [that] they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, [till] wine inflames them!" inflame: of, pursue}.

2.  Rom. 13:13, "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in reveling and drunkenness, not in immorality and wantonness, not in strife and envying." {honestly: or, decently}.

3.  Gal. 5:19-21, drunkenness is a work of the flesh.

4.  Eph. 5:18, don't be drunk with wine, but be filled (controlled) by the Spirit.

5.  Rom. 14:21, don't cause others to stumble.

6.  I Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19-20, we are God's temple; we belong to God!

7.  I Cor. 6:12, we are not to be brought under the power, or authority/control, of anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

8.  I Cor. 6:10, those who are drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Consider: This is kind of a problem; when is a person a drunkard--once or habitually? Why don't they inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?

E.    Biblical Questions: what about the passages that seem to condone the use of alcohol?

1.  Remember foremost that the terms were different in biblical times than now!

2.  Isn’t drunkenness condemned, not just partaking of alcohol, Deut. 21:20-21, 1 Cor. 5:11, 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19ff? Yes.

3.  What about 1 Tim. 5:23, Pro. 31:6, Luke 10:34? Does this justify alcohol? Yes. It is clear that alcohol (by biblical definitions!) was used for stomach problems, a sedative, and as an anti-septic. Wine was also used as a water purifier, as water would have bacteria as it was stored in cisterns.

4.  Didn’t Jesus turn water into wine at the wedding of Cana in John 2? Yes. Again, the type of beverage is not the problem, but the alcoholic content of the beverage! Certainly Jesus would not have made wine powerful enough to intoxicate the guests (cf. Jn. 2:8ff; Isaiah 5:11, Habakkuk 2:15).

5.  In 1 Cor. 11:21, the believers were drunk at the Communion Table, which some say would indicate that there was real wine used in the Communion service. However, they were condemned to sickness and some to death, and not commended for it! And the drunkenness was not necessarily due to the Communion Service, but from the love feast which preceded it.

F.    Biblical Decision: should the believer drink alcohol today?

1.  Will drinking alcohol glorify God? 1 Cor. 10:31
2.  Will drinking alcohol exemplify my Christian testimony?
3.  Will drinking alcohol cause another to sin? 1 Cor. 8:13
4.  Could drinking alcohol enslave me? 1 Cor. 6:12
5.  Will drinking alcohol benefit me? 1 Cor. 6:12
6.  Will drinking alcohol defile my conscience? 1 Cor. 8:7-10
7.  Would drinking alcohol provide a positive or negative example for my children? Deut. 6:7-8
8.  In Bible times, beverages were few; we don’t have that problem today.
9.  In Bible times, water was not pure. Today, it is (or most likely is!)
10. When an activity is doubtful, should you do it? Romans 14:23
11. There are anti-ceptics and other pharmaceutical drugs which care for medical problems which are far superior to wine.

Consider: Dr. Geisler states, "New Testament wine was basically a water purification method. It was not an unsafe liquor; it was a safe liquid. But in America purifying water with wine is unnecessary, and plenty of non-addictive beverages are available."2

II. PRACTICAL POINTS TO PONDER

A.    Personal Life:

1.  Liver, kidney, stomach and intestine damage; kills brain cells, decreases sex drive, may lead to coma, heart failure, causes cancer, creates loss of control, …

2.  May lead to addiction, even if one begins as a "social" drinker. Consider the following account of what a six pack of beer costs: "Young people, that first beer may carry a cost far higher than the $5.00 you pay for a six pack. Let me tell you what it cost me:

bulletA career in the Air Force, because after six years I wanted to drink beer instead of report for duty
bulletAn accounting career because I stole from my employer to buy beer
bulletA close relationship with my parents and sister because they don’t drink
bulletA son and daughter. They refused any contact with me for 11 years. I last tried to talk with them in October 1997, and they want no part of me.
bulletA close relationship with my wife and another son because my wife doesn’t drink
bulletFriends. I used and abused them until they had enough and cut me off
bulletA secure future. I’m 53 with no savings, assets or insurance
bulletMy driver’s license
bulletMedical care. I fear what a doctor may find.
bulletMy self respect. I’m a loser and there’s no reason to be sober.

Thirty-three years ago when I drank my first beer, I had dreams and plans. I had no idea that I’d become a common laborer and a drunk in 1998. Before you start drinking, think where it may land you in 33 years … Believe me, it’s not worth it."3

B.    Society Life

1.  Estimated 10,000,000 problem drinkers or alcoholics in the U. S. adult population
2.  Alcohol related deaths may run as high as 200,000 per year
3.  Alcohol abuse and alcoholism cost the U. S. about $50,000,000,000. In 1975 alone!
4.  One half of traffic fatalities and one third of traffic injuries are alcohol related
5.  A high percentage of child abusing parents have drinking problems
6.  A high correlation exists between alcohol and robbery, rape, assault, homicide and
domestic violence; and more than one third of suicides involve alcohol.
7.  Taxpayers spend $11.00 to offset each $1.00 paid in liquor revenue.4
8.  It is estimated that one out of every ten people who take one drink will become an alcoholic! Is it worth the risk?!

Conclusion: It is quite obvious that God does not desire the Christian to partake of alcohol. Though in some texts wine or strong drink were used in favorable terms (Num. 28:7, for a drink offering; Prov. 31:6, when used as medicinal/pain killer; Ps. 104:15, where the wine is sub-alcoholic and demonstrates the blessing of God for sustenance), it must be studied, taken into context, and consider the differences and purposes of wine then and now. This is vital!

There were two groups that were specifically stated in Scripture that voluntarily abstained from alcohol – the Nazirites (Numbers 6:3-4) and the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:1-11). It would seem as if this was a commendable decision!

It does not seem logical for a Christian to partake of alcohol in light of the biblical evidence, personal and social harm that may result, and the negative impact on one’s Christian testimony. Many defend the partaking of alcohol, and ridicule those who promote abstinence. I would close with these warnings:

"Who hath woe? 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." Proverbs 23:29-30

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." Proverbs 20:1.

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God," Romans 14:12.

End Notes:
[1] Norman Geisler, “A Christian Perspective on Wine Drinking,” Bibliotheca Sacra January – March, 1982, p. 51
[2] ibid., p. 54.
[3] “That First Beer cost man his family, Career” in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Thursday October 8, 1998, Section F
[4] Quoted in Geisler, p. 52.
 
        "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matt. 24:35        

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