Firm Foundations Five (51 of 55) What About Alcohol?

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What About Alcohol?

Alcoholic beverages in the Bible and modern day alcoholic beverages are not the same. Wine in the Bible served a different purposes and was often a necessary part of culture. The Bible is consistent that any drink containing alcohol, if consumed, should be with caution because it has the potential to make you come under its influence. Drunkenness in the Bible is sin. Believers are not to be drunk or participate in activities where it takes place.

Wine Culture During Bible Times

  • The word for “wine” in the Bible has several words in the original languages that can mean a drink that is unfermented, fermented or both. Therefore it is sometimes hard to discern certain passages, so we must pay careful attention to context, the historical culture and compare scripture with scripture.
  • Biblical wine was often made through mixing water with fermented grape juice or a paste made from boiled grapes. If it was boiled then its alcohol would be gone. If the fermented juice was mixed with water, it diluted the alcohol content. Either way, the alcohol content was decreased or removed, which would help prevent drunkenness. The alcohol content today is often higher than it was in the Bible because of the distillation process.
    Proverbs 9:1–6
  • Wine was added to water to sanitize it. During the fermentation process certain acids are produced that kill bacteria. Therefore, when this paste (without the alcohol) or fermented juice was added to water it would make the water safe to drink.
  • Water could have been added to increase the flavor and to make the limited supply of fermented juice or paste last longer. Grapes, like any other crop, were seasonal and limited, so water was added to make more. Today, there is an unlimited supply of alcohol and it is readily available for most people.

Drunkenness In the Bible

  • Alcoholic drinks are personified as a mocker and a person who is raging. A person who is deceived by drinking these drinks and becomes intoxicated is not wise.
    Proverbs 20:1
  • We should avoid drunkenness and those who constantly drink. It can lead to laziness and eventually poverty. We shouldn’t let our hearts envy sinners, but be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
    Proverbs 23:17–21; 1 Corinthians 5:11
  • Alcoholic drinks can be deceiving, dangerous and deadly. Drunkenness causes emotional, social, physical and mental problems. It can cause you to lose self-control and become enslaved.
    Proverbs 23:29–35
  • Drinking alcoholic drinks and becoming drunk can cause you to forget what is right and to make bad decisions and judgements.
    Proverbs 31:4–5; Isaiah 5:11–12, 22–23; 28:7–8
  • Drinking alcoholic drinks and becoming drunk opens the door for you to commit other types of sins that you normally wouldn’t commit if you were sober. It allows other people to sinfully take advantage of you. It puts you in state where you can’t glorify God because you don’t know what is happening.
    Genesis 9:20–21, 24–25; 19:31–38; Habakkuk 2:15
  • Drunkenness is a sin. Drunkards are unrighteous people who habitually sin through drinking alcoholic drinks and becoming drunk. The Bible clearly says that this type of person will not inherit the kingdom of God. Before salvation, this may have been your way of life, but as a believer you have been washed, sanctified and justified and can no longer walk in this manner.
    Galatians 5:19–21; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11
  • Believers are told not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This means that we shouldn’t let wine or any other substance alter our consciousness through intoxication, nor should we think there is special communion with God through this state of mind. Instead we should be filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning that we are consciously allowing our lives to be controlled by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
    Ephesians 5:18–21; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Peter 4:1–6; 2 Peter 2:19
  • Relying on alcohol for our feelings, comfort, or anything else is dangerous and replaces abiding in Christ. We should become dependent on nothing but God alone.
    John 15:1–11

Answers To Tough Questions

  • What does it mean to be drunk? It means the alcohol that has entered your body affects you to the extent of dulling your senses and mind causing you to lose control of your faculties and behavior. The more you drink, the more you are under its influence and the less control you have.
  • Can believers drink alcoholic beverages? Maybe, the Bible does not say that it is a sin to take a drink of a beverage that contains alcohol, but the Bible warns against drinking fermented drinks with high alcohol content (strong drink) because it has the potential to make you drunk. Each person will have to be fully convinced in his own mind.
  • Can we drink wine for medical purposes? Wine and grape juice both have medical benefits. In extreme cases, the Bible even recommends this. Many of the same medical benefits of wine can also come from drinking unfermented grape juice. Therefore, it would be safest to drink grape juice to avoid drinking too much and causing more health problems and sin through being drunk.
    Proverbs 31:6–7; 1 Timothy 5:23
  • How can I avoid becoming drunk? One way to guarantee never being drunk is to completely abstain from alcoholic drinks. There are plenty of Bible examples of people who completely abstained from alcohol, especially those in leadership positions.
    Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 29:4–6; Judges 13:4, 7, 14; Proverbs 31:4–5; Luke 1:13–15

Review Questions

  • Is wine in the Bible and modern day wine the same? Why?
  • Why was water added to wine?
  • What does the Bible teach about drunkenness?
  • Believers are told to be filled with what?
  • What is one way to avoid being drunk?

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