Many folk will tell you the Bible condemns the consumption of alcohol. Many churches have taught for years that drinking is a sin. Some teach that the wine in the Bible was really grape juice, not a fermented alcoholic drink. Right up front, I tell you drinking is sinful – for some, but not for all. And no, the wine in the New Testament is not grape juice, it’s wine. Let’s see, in part, what the Bible tells us – as saints of God.
The English word “wine” occurs 37 times in the New Testament (KJV). 33 of those (scattered throughout the 4 Gospels, Romans, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, Revelation) are the Greek word oinos, which is a direct derivative of the Hebrew word for intoxicating wine, yayin. 2 more occurrences are found in Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus, wherein the qualifications of Bishop are given - a double use of a Greek word, paroinos, which is a compound word taken from para (to be near) and oinos. One of the other 2 occurrences of the English word is inferred by the scribes to make the sentence make sense in English – Luke 5:39 and the other is in Acts 2:13, where the term “new wine” refers to a more intoxicating wine (gleukos) than oinos.
Note – all of the New Testament references to wine warn about being drunk and advise us not to abuse it nor our freedom to consume it. These warnings are because our Maker knows our frailties. How many people do you know who “can’t handle their liquor”? Many people abuse alcohol and don’t think they do – just like folks who swear. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.
Note also that in John 2, where Jesus performed His first recorded miracle, people were getting drunk when the wine ran out. They weren’t drinking grape juice. When He turned the water into wine, it was declared by the wine steward to be the best wine of the evening – whereas most hosts served cheap stuff once people were under the influence.
Thirdly, note that folks had no refrigeration and grape juice would ferment quickly if left in its natural juice state. Wine, fermented on purpose, would keep much longer.
Here are some scripture passages that reveal God’s will on this topic, based on a review of the word, “drink”:
Leviticus 10:8 – 11 God forbids priests who are performing ministry to drink wine or strong booze during the time they are ministering. The big unspoken implication is that they could drink these when not performing their ministerial duties; else the Word would not have made this specific prohibition.
Judges 13:1 – 7 God details the prohibition of drinking alcohol for Nazerites. Again, if the non-abusive drinking was prohibited to all God’s people, He would not have made this specific prohibition.
Song of Solomon 8:1 – 3 In this love song, God shows the proper use of alcoholic wine. Note the Hebrew word for wine in this verse is yayin, which means “wine (as fermented); by impl. intoxication:–banqueting, wine” and not merely grape juice as some say.
Isaiah 5:21 – 22 and 29:9 – 14 God shows that drinking booze can be a trait of proud, arrogant men.
Amos 9:11 – 15 God promises to bless His people and one of the blessings bestowed upon them is the wine of the vineyards He will give them; and they will drink the wine.
Romans 14:19 – 23 God shows us to be careful in what we do – including drinking – as regards our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. But this is not a general prohibition against drinking alcohol.
1 Timothy 5:23 This is the famous verse where Timothy is advised to drink a little wine (goes back to the same Hebrew word used in the Song) for his stomach.
Now here are some more scripture, based on the word, “wine” (always using yayin):
Genesis 9:20 – 24 God shows how wine can be abused and man suffers the consequence.
Genesis 14:17 – 20 The high priest Melchizedek set forth bread and wine (yayin) before weary travelers.
Exodus 29:38 – 41 God prescribes the use of wine (yayin) as part of a required sacrifice. He would not use something in this manner if the thing (wine) was sinful in all its use.
Leviticus 23:10 – 14 God again requires wine be a part of a sacrifice.
Numbers 6:18 – 21 Once a Nazerite has completed his service, he may drink wine.
Numbers 28:7 God requires wine and strong drink be used in sacrifice.
Psalms 104:14 – 15 God gives us wine to give us happiness.
Proverbs 20:1 Booze is to handled with great care, as many will be taken into excess.
Ecclesiastes 9:4 – 7 Wine is to be enjoyed as part of the fruit of our work.
John 2:1 – 10 Jesus creates wine for a wedding celebration. Why would He do this if the reasonable consumption of wine was sinful?
Ephesians 5:17 – 21 The famous verse tells us not to be drunk with wine, but filled with the Holy Spirit. This shows that it is being drunk that is sinful, rather than merely drinking a glass of wine.
1 Timothy 3 Qualifications for bishops and deacons – don’t be a drunkard. Again – not a word about “do not drink”.
There are many verses that warn about the dangers of excessive drinking. These ought to make every saint careful about drinking. But it’s the heart – have a drink to enjoy life, don’t drink to excess nor allow the alcohol to influence you or make a brother stumble. See Romans 14:14 – 23. And back up to Romans 14:1 – 13 to see how we should not look down on a brother who has a different view on eating or drinking. A shorter view of this point is found in Colossians 2:16 – 17.
Let the Word of God be your guide about this – and every subject; not the word of any man. Life is too important to rest on man’s opinion. We have the word of God and the mind of Christ. Let us live in such a way as to make this present world know we don’t belong to it – we belong to Jesus!
In His grip,