Every year, countless Americans are affected by wine and alcohol. For many, alcohol has little bearing on their lives. They may be social drinkers, or not drink at all. But I don’t know too many people who haven’t been affected by it at some point in their lives.
One summer when my family and I were traveling back to our home from a visit to my grandparents, our minivan was hit by a drunk driver in a tiny Cavalier. He was going 80 mph plus. It knocked us through the intersection to the other side in the field upside down.
Everyone I know has a story. Most of them are not positive. Some of them may be funny, at least on the face of it. So when we deal with matters of holiness, how do we deal with alcohol?
Sins of the Past
America has its own story with alcohol. It’s one of the “demons” that still plague our nation. Prohibition brought us the 18th amendment outlawing alcohol and causing Americans to hide their booze or go to speakeasies while NASCAR came into being through the runners of moonshine.
Just a short time later, a lesson in trying to legislate morality, the 21st amendment repealed the prohibition act. People could once again enjoy their alcohol. It’s not like they stopped during prohibition anyway.
These records will forever be etched into our national memory. There are many different views on alcohol. Some people don’t think it’s a big deal while others who are drastically affected by it have a no-nonsense policy.
A Sensitive Topic
Because many people are involved with alcohol, it has become a sensitive topic in many circles. I come from a conservative background, so in most of my circles, alcohol is viewed negatively. As I have laid out before, the process of making holy personal decisions goes as follows:
First, ask God to give you insight as you study any matter or issue. Next, study the Scriptures and find verses and principles dealing with your topic. Next, evaluate your findings. Then, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you direction. Finally, do whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to do with that issue.
When I preached about alcohol in my Pentecostal church, many of the members took issue with my sermon. I declared when I was described to you below, and many of them had a problem with me not calling alcohol out. But I followed what Scripture says.
Alcohol will be a sensitive issue if you are drinker because of what conservatives say about it. It will be sensitive if you are not a drinker because someone has affected your life through its abuses. Everyone has an opinion.
What the Bible Says
Christians want to seek the Lord through the Scriptures and discover his views. Alcohol’s been around for centuries, mentioned first in the Bible as Noah planted a vineyard after the Flood, made alcohol, and got smashed.
Even in the Bible, there were several negative effects of Noah’s decisions. One of his sons did something the Bible looks down on with great anger. The other two sons found themselves Honorable in the way they handed the issue.
Let’s start with the positive aspects most people don’t talk about. First of all, the Bible references “new wine” or “sweet wine” as a good thing. God’s kingdom, the new heavens and the earth era, and happiness are all described with new wine.
Wine was often a part of many cultures in the Bible. The Israelites were not strangers to wine and strong drink, more like beer with greater alcohol content. Many times the wine drunk throughout Israel was watered down.
This wasn’t to keep people from getting drunk. You could still get drunk if that was your aim. People watered it down to make it last longer. So when people talk about Jesus drinking and making wine, it wasn’t what we think of today.
Wine was not an issue in the Bible other than the warnings given concerning its effects and dangers. But as with many aspects of ancient life, alcohol is generally not viewed in a bad light.
But there is a negative side to alcohol. I just mentioned the warnings about its effects and dangers upon a person. Proverbs 27:29-35 may be one of the strongest warnings in Scripture concerning alcohol.
In the New Testament, debauchery and drunkenness are declared sins. You can get close to drunk and be drunk before you can stop. The Bible has warnings of all kinds concerning alcohol. Here’s a helpful reference list for your studies about what the Bible says:
- Warnings against Alcohol (Proverbs 20:1; 23:21, 29-35; Judges 13:4; Isaiah 5:11, 22; 28:7; Luke 21:34; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Titus 1:7; 2:3)
- Prohibitions against Drunkenness (Genesis 9:21; Romans 13::13; 14:21; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18)
- Situational Prohibitions against Drunkenness (Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Proverbs 31:4-5; Habakkuk 2:15)
- Positive Scriptures about Alcohol (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:13; 14:26; Psalm 104:14-15; Proverbs 3:10; 31:6-7; Isaiah 25:6; 1 Timothy 5:23)
What It Doesn’t Say
The Bible speaks positively and negatively about alcohol. But while it gives warnings about its dangers and speaks positively of the new wine, it stops short of commending you to never drink alcohol. The only group of people who couldn’t drink alcohol was the priests (Leviticus 10:9).
I have never had alcohol. Some people think that’s sad and others think it’s commendable. I only care with the Spirit thinks. As a pastor, I don’t want anyone to wonder if I’m thinking straight or making unwise decisions.
All leadership is important, and without trust a person can’t lead. But I consider spiritual leadership more important than other forms of leadership. This was the choice I made for myself. I pass judgment on no one who doesn’t have the same view.
The Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol. Like everything else in this world, an object can be used for godly or sinful purposes. Even godly things, like the temple implements for worship could be used profanely.
What about the Wedding at Cana?
I am often asked about Jesus making alcohol as a miracle at the wedding of Cana in John 2:1-10. Why would he make alcohol if it’s such a bad thing. I never said it was a bad thing.
The account of Jesus making wine at the wedding of Cana has alcohol as an object. Jesus is not dealing with the issue of alcohol. When you only see wine in John 2, you miss the message of this sign Jesus performed.
Let me give you a quick rundown of what this account is all about.
- The situation: Jesus is visiting a wedding in which the wine was about to run out. His mother enlists his help to make more wine for the feast.
- Principle #1: Jesus supernaturally provides all our needs and protects us from scorn. The bridegroom of the wedding was responsible for making sure there was enough wine for the seven-day feast. By making more than enough wine to finish the feast, Jesus protects his reputation. He also provides where this bridegroom had fallen short.
- Principle #2: Jesus transforms wickedness and evil into good. The water he changed into wine came out of mikvah jars. These were ceremonial jars used for washing the physical and spiritual crud off of people. By turning the water into wine, he took nasty bathwater with spiritual wickedness and changed it into pure wine.
- Principle #3: Jesus makes a brand-new thing out of an old wicked thing. This symbol of dirty water turning to wine shows how Jesus miraculously transforms the old self into the new, Christ honoring self. He takes an evil, dirty, useless substance that was thrown out into a clean, drinkable substance.
Using alcohol to teach these principles is almost like Revelation using the end times to show visions of Jesus as Victor and Overcomer along with his saints.
How do we respond to the Bible and its views on alcohol? We must deal with the text and Spirit. We may like the way the world deals with alcohol. The world doesn’t care about it. And they don’t care about how you use it until you hurt yourself or someone else.
God has higher standards for those called by his name, representing him, and looking to him for godly living. The best response is one that prayerfully and thoughtfully glorifies Jesus. Even among Christians, there will be conservative and liberal views. But the right view for you is what the Holy Spirit specifically tailors to you.
Please prayerfully and biblically consider the issue of alcohol for your life. Make godly decisions based on what the Spirit expects of you. Know what God wants from you so you can please him in everything you do.
I hope this has been a helpful look at alcohol from a biblical standpoint. Perhaps I have given you food for thought. Perhaps you disagree with me. But know where you stand before you are tempted to fall into sin. Leave a comment and describe any other helps you can offer those dealing with this issue.