Adapted with Permission from Pastor Dick Benjamin's Notes By Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Summary: Are alcoholic beverages permissible for a Christian? What about moderate social drinking for Christians? We will see that there is a position which is merely "permissible" and an entirely different, superior one that the Bible calls "beneficial" and "constructive". Your conclusions about those two positions will help you take your personal stand on the ages-old question: Should Christians drink alcohol?
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
•• This Bible study is designed to show from a Scriptural standpoint that the superior decision for Christians is to choose not to drink intoxicating beverages. For the purpose of discussion, I will concentrate on the biblical references to wine.
As a personal aside, the Scriptures convinced me to quit drinking alcohol in 1971. I "went on the wagon", I "took the pledge", as the old sayings go, and I have not regretted that biblically-motivated decision even once since then.
I. Wine had various levels of fermentation or alcohol content.
A. New wine, in many instances fresh grape juice.
Deuteronomy 11:14; 12:17; 14:23
B. Fermented grape juice.
C. A hard liquor.
•• My intention in this lesson is to deal with intoxicating wine. There is no confusion about fresh grape juice.
II. There are many positive references to wine in the Bible, including:
A. Genesis 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High.
B. Psalm 104:15 ...wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
C. Proverbs 31:6 Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish. (Offered to Jesus at Calvary)
D. Luke 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
E. I Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
III. There are many negative references to wine in the Bible, including:
A. Genesis 9:21 When [Noah] drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
B. Genesis 19:32[Lot’s two daughters said,] “Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father." The resulting offspring of this incest began the Moabite and Ammonite nations, traditional enemies of Israel.
C. Leviticus 10:9 [Instructions to Aaron and his sons the priests] You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.
D. Proverbs 20:1Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
E. Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel — not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer.
IV. Jesus turned water into wine.
•• The account does not show or refer to either Jesus or His disciples drinking the wine.
V. Intoxicating wine may not have been used at the Last Supper.
Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18
•• All three accounts use the expression “fruit of the vine”. Nothing can be conclusively proven here as to the alcoholic content, or lack thereof, in the beverage used.
VI. Requirements are established for elders and deacons.
•• Note: in the requirements for both elders and deacons above, the key word is "not" — "not given to much wine ... not indulging in much wine". Some have twisted these words around to suggest that Paul is endorsing "some" wine, just not "much" wine. But the emphasis is clearly on the "not", rather than it being a suggestion that moderate drinking by Christians was being endorsed.
VII. Choose the “beneficial” and the "constructive" over the “permissible”.
A. The biblical premise:
1. 1 Corinthians 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me" — but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me" — but I will not be mastered by anything.
2. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 "Everything is permissible" — but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible" — but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
B. “Permissible” in the realm of food.
I Timothy 4:4-5 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
C. “Beneficial” and “constructive” in the realm of food.
Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
D. “Permissible” concerning the drinking of wine.
I Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
E. “Beneficial” and “constructive” concerning the drinking of wine.
Romans 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
VIII. Statistics condemn alcohol abuse. [Note: this bible study was written in 1992. The numbers may have changed some over the years, but the principles remain the same.]
A. In 1987, one of every four Americans said that drinking had been a problem in their homes. Four of every ten Americans (41%) report having suffered physical, psychological, or social pain as a result of someone else’s drinking (Prevention Express magazine, September 1991).
B. In ten years, 59,000 Americans died in Vietnam. In ten years, 235,000 Americans died on U.S. roads from accidents involving drunk drivers (Dave Roever video).
C. There are 25,000 murders and suicides a year in the U.S. that are influenced by alcohol. One half of all people arrested have a drinking problem (Encyclopedia Americana).
D. Among native Americans, most tribes consider alcohol and other drug problems to be their most important health issue.
E. State trooper George Dahl in Bethel, Alaska, says, “There is no serious crime without alcohol.”
F. In Alaska in 1987, 58% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol related.
G. Alaska’s child sexual abuse rate is six times the national average. 78.9% of perpetrators of sexual abuse and 63.3% of the perpetrators of incest were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense.
H. Among the health problems increased by alcoholism are liver damage, some heart diseases, stomach ulcers and gastritis, malnutrition, cancer of the mouth, esophagus or stomach, brain damage, and damage to a developing child in the womb. The lives of alcoholics are typically shortened by 10 to 12 years.
1. There are positive references to wine in the Scriptures.
2. There are negative references to wine in the Scriptures.
3. We must discern between that which is merely permissible and that which is beneficial and constructive.
4. Let us not selfishly seek our own good, but the good of the many.
WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS NOT DRINK ALCOHOL?
1. Say “NO” because you may justify social drinking as permissible, but it is most assuredly not beneficial, not constructive — not to ourselves, not to our families, not to society.
2. Say “NO” to avoid the ever-present potential of offending or stumbling others. That would be a sin. If I were to choose to be a social drinker and my example led others to do the same, with harmful consequences, then my drinking alcohol as a Christian would have become an occasion of offense and stumbling to them. That alone is reason enough for me to choose continual abstinence from intoxicating drinks.
3. Say “NO” because alcohol is a serious social and public health problem. As the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:13f), Christians should determine not to be part of the problem, but rather part of the solution by choosing the safe path of abstinence from alcohol.