Drinking and Drunkenness (Eph 5:18a )

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
Sermon Series: Ephesians

Sermon Manuscript …

Drinking and Drunkenness

What is the Christian to do about drinking alcohol?–Ephesians 5:18a

 

Today is a rare day–there are some days in the life of the preacher, though bold and confident in God’s Word and completely reliant upon the Holy Spirit, that in the process of preaching God’s Word, in my humanness I am even more weak, fearful and trembling.  Today is that day, as Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:3, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.”

Today’s message is one of the most difficult topics to tackle in our culture, and the potential for immature reaction is high.  So before we even begin, I want us to agree to two commitments.  In the midst of talking about communion, Christians drinking wine and some even getting drunk, Paul calls the Corinthians to a proper focus–that whether we drink wine or don’t drink wine, whether we eat meat sacrificed to idols or don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols, that all we do, we do to the glory of God.  You know the verse, but I want you to agree in your heart before the Lord even before we begin.

Commitment #1  Drink to the glory of God

Paul is not talking about water in this verse, so please read with me out loud 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  Obviously each of us here enjoys certain freedoms that other believers do not enjoy.  Some of us play cards, some of you may not.  Some of us eat meat, a few, sadly, only eat vegetables.  Some enjoy Easter egg hunts, others think they’re pagan.  Some enjoy listening to Kenny Chesney, Maroon 5, the Doobie Brothers, Boston, Beethoven or Faith Hill, where others only listen to Jeremy Camp, Newsboys, Casting Crowns or Big Daddy Weave–whoever?  Some dance for fun and exercise, some can’t dance, still others won’t.  And there are some here who may drink a glass of wine or have an occasional beer, and others would never.  Before we even begin, we must reaffirm our commitment to each other, even though we differ with our freedoms.

Commitment #2  Accept one another

Affirm in your heart a crucial commitment towards others here.  Let’s read what Paul says in the context of gray area issues in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”  And read with me this strong warning about loving each other in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  How dare we divide up, separate from someone Christ died for over whether they drink or don’t drink a certain beverage?  How dare we abuse, hurt, criticize each other over these kind of issues.  Now let me remind you of my commitments today.

#1  To determine what the Bible says

My goal is to teach you what the Bible says–I normally invest a minimum of 24 hours of study into every sermon, and my goal is to study the original language first before I ever read what anyone else has written or said in order to determine the author’s intended meaning.  Every passage has only one interpretation–God only meant one thing, to one people, at one time in history.  My commitment is to determine what was the author’s intended meaning first, then apply that truth to today.

I am not here to support one particular Bible teacher’s view, or a certain theological camp’s view, or any particular seminary position–I am here each week to teach you what God says, regardless.  My job is not to agree with Piper or RC or Spurgeon, my commitment is to agree with Paul or Peter, and ultimately the Holy Spirit.  My second commitment is . . .

#2  To seek to be clear, practical and objective

I have invested over 40 hours in this study, and I have to tell you I have not read so much bad teaching by relatively good teachers in a long time.  There is no time to correct all the error, so my goal will be to clearly teach what the Bible obviously says, and I will try to do so with limited bias.  My position today does not reflect a personal bias, personal practice or habit of mine, but I have to tell you I do have a bias.  Do you know what it is?  I hate legalism, external Christianity, extra-biblical rules, and standards which people hold to support their own self-righteousness.  Jesus hated it, I hate it and I won’t tolerate it.  Whether you eat or drink, you do so for God’s glory and not because you are better than anyone else because you do or because you don’t.

When it comes to the clear commands of Scripture, I am a dogmatist.  Love, worship, serve, give, display Christ, walk in the Spirit, depend and obey–when it comes to those areas outside the Scripture, personally I do not care anymore.  I think they are a waste of time and a distraction from our mission to live, share and show off the Gospel to this world.  Again let me affirm my life mission–I am here to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible, and anything that distracts from that makes me twitch.

Now I understand you are not all as focused as I am–I understand you get bothered by choices other Christians make.  But I want you to know where I am at–as long as you are pursuing your obligations as described in the clear commands of Scripture in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, if I see you hunting Easter eggs, listening to country western music, playing poker, rooting for UCLA, dancing for fun, having a glass of beer or a glass of wine, personally my position is this–I don’t care.  When compared to Christ dying for my sins, people going to hell without Christ, the Church exalting Christ, Christians doing good deeds in the world in order to glorify God, Christians growing more like Christ–all those other issues just don’t matter to me.

But I can hear you saying, “Chris, why are we even talking about this?  Are you worried about someone spiking the egg nog this Christmas?  Is there a lot of drinking that goes on during the holiday season?  Do the people of FBC drink a lot–is that it?”

No, the truth of why we are teaching on drunkenness and drinking is simply this–we are teaching through the book of Ephesians, and Paul now has introduced the topic of drunkenness in Ephesians 5:18.  Turn there in your Bibles and follow along in your outline.

God told us what He did for us in chapters 1 to 3, and now in chapters 4 to 6 He tells us how we will live as a result.

In 4:1 we will walk worthy–live life as a continual act of worship

In 4:17 we will walk uniquely–live differently than the world lives

In 5:2 commands we walk lovingly–live sacrificial like Christ did

In 5:8 walk as light–pointing to the Gospel, and now

In 5:15 walk in wisdom–making the most of every opportunity

Walking in wisdom includes three strong contrasts–verse 15 to 18, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, not unwise but wise.”

Verse 15, not foolish BUT understanding, verse 17, and today a wise walk includes not getting drunk, BUT be filled with the Spirit.  Look at verse 18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, BUT be filled with the Spirit.”

Are you ready for the answer?  What does the Bible teach about drunkenness and drinking?  Like the first paragraph of a newspaper article, let me cut to the chase, let me sum up, go for the throat–say it all, simply and directly.  Ready?

1 Drunkenness is sin and has terrible consequences–don’t do it, ever!

2 Drinking has been a Christian practice for 2,000 years

It is a freedom some may partake in and others may not–Christians need to accept those who can’t and those who can.  And those who partake must accept the serious responsibilities that come with their freedom.  We are done, let’s pray–point number one.

#1 Drunkenness

Ephesians 5:18 is the third strong comparison found in the wise walk.  The command “to be filled with the Spirit” is in great contrast to “not being drunk with wine”.  Be filled and don’t be drunk are both commands, therefore a wise Christian will be filled with the Spirit, and an unwise Christian will be drunk with wine.  Just like eating is not sin but gluttony is, drinking is not sin but drunkenness is.  What does the Bible say about drunkenness?  Whenever  Scriptures  speak  about  drunkenness,  it  is  always  associated with  terrible  events–for  example:

Noah became drunk and uncovered himself in the tent.  This eventually led to Canaan being cursed (Genesis 9:21).

Lot became drunk and his daughters committed incest with him (Genesis 19).

Nabal became drunk and God took his life (I Samuel 25).

Elah became drunk and was murdered by Zimri (I Kings 16).

Belshazzar became drunk and his kingdom was torn away from him (Daniel 5).

The Corinthians became drunk at the Lord’s Table and the Lord took Christians home to heaven (I Corinthians 11).

Drunkenness is always associated with disaster.  Why do people drink?  Depression, to escape, they think it’s cool, it accelerates emotions.  But when the text says, ”Be not drunk with  wine,” the primary issue of this statement is a religious one.  There was at Ephesus a religious community that believed that to be really in touch with the gods you had to drink yourself to a euphoric state in order to really be one with the divine.  People say similar things today.  To really be in touch with God you must use drugs or alcohol–it’s a trip.

So  the  real  issue  here  at  Ephesus  was  a  religious  issue.  One historian said this concerning the Greek culture in which Paul wrote.­ “The great god of Greek mythology was a god named Zeus.  He gave birth to a son, Dionysius, who became the god in control of the earth.  As Dionysius was in control of the earth, he began to develop a religion–the religion of ascendancy.  This religion taught that human beings could arise to a level of divine consciousness brought about by ecstasy and emotion.  It was a religion characterized by wild music, dancing, madness, ecstasies, and sexual perversions–all induced by drunkenness!  And so Dionysius became known as “the god of wine.” (MacArthur, #5)

Remember, the temple worship in Ephesus included acts of immorality in order to excite Artemis to produce a full harvest–all of this activity began with drunkenness.  Plato, the historian, said regarding this time–“That while those abominable ceremonies in the worship of Bacchus (Dionysius) continued, it was difficult to find in all Attica a single sober man!”  Therefore, when Paul says, “Do not get drunk with wine,” he’s not dealing with a social or moral problem, but a religious one.

In order to walk wise and experience God, don’t seek a false substance that’s counterfeit–don’t go move toward excess or escapism, “but be filled with the Spirit.”  The verb here for “do not be drunk with wine” is a continual command–“stop getting drunk, and don’t ever get drunk with wine.”

Why not, Paul?  He continues in verse 18, “For that is dissipation,” or “that is foolishness,” or excess or escape.  Some translations interpret this as “dissipation”, “foolishness”, “excess”–and all are descriptions of the foolery of getting drunk for a religious purpose.  Dissipation is the condition that results from being drunk.  The Greek word “dissipation” describes a condition in which a person cannot save himself or control himself.

To put it in a word picture for you, the adverb of this word is used in Luke 15:13 when speaking about the prodigal son, “The younger son . . . went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”  Dissipation is loose living.  Lenski, the commentator, says–“’Dissipation’ describes the condition when mind and body are dragged down so as to be incapable of spiritual functions.” (Lenski, 618)

Drunkenness involves a loss of self-control.  The same word is used in Titus 1:6 to speak of an elder’s children who are “not accused of dissipation and rebellion.”  The condition of a drunk person is they have lost control–they are being controlled by something else (alcohol).  This condition results in loss of understanding, speech, walk, brain reflexes, timing, balance etc.  You have probably seen this when observing a drunk person.  So Paul says, far from communing with the gods, to be drunk is dissipation.  Associated with loose living, it speaks of a wild, undisciplined and destructive lifestyle.  What a counterfeit to true joy—it’s dissipation.

All Bible-believing Christians agree that drunkenness is sin.  The Bible is abundantly clear that drunkenness is a sin (Deuteronomy 21:20; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Matthew 24:29; Luke 12:45 and 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3).  The matter is so serious that no priest was to drink alcohol while performing their duties (Leviticus 10:9; Ezekiel 44:21), though they could consume wine while not working (Numbers 18:12, 27, 30).  No king was to drink while judging law (Proverbs 31:4-5), an elder/pastor cannot be a drunkard (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), and that no drunkard will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21).

Sins associated with drunkenness include incest (Genesis 19:32-35), violence (Proverbs 4:17), adultery (Revelation 17:2), mockery and brawling (Proverbs 20:1), poverty (Proverbs 21:17), hallucinations (Isaiah 28:7), murder (2 Samuel 11:13), gluttony and poverty (Proverbs 23:20-21), vomiting (Jeremiah 25:27 and 48:26, Isaiah 19:14), staggering (Jeremiah 25:27; Psalm 107:27; Job 12:25), madness (Jeremiah 51:7), loudness combined with laughter and then prolonged sleep (Jeremiah 51:39), nakedness (Habbakuk 2:15; Lamentations 4:21), sloth (Joel 1:5), escapism (Hosea 4:11), depression (Luke 21:34), and staying up all night (1 Thessalonians 5:7).

Paul is repeating Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”  So Paul says, if you want to be filled with the Spirit, don’t seek its counterfeit–drunkenness is a counterfeit to the real thing.  Drunkenness is sin–it is a sin that has terrible consequences.  It is the reason so many have such strong feelings about it.  Just live with a drunk, be raised by a drunk, or be married to a drunk and you will have a passionate aversion to all drinking in any form.  Drunkenness is not an option, Christian, whether in the privacy of your own home or out in public–no matter, drunkenness is sin.

Ephesians 5:18 is telling us don’t ever give up control of yourself to anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit.  God commands us not to get drunk with wine, because it is what non-Christians do.  It is what you used to do and should not do.  First Peter 4:3 to 4 says, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation.”

Drinking alcohol to the point of drunkenness is sin.  And it is not alcoholism—not, “I am an alcoholic.”  No, biblically you are a drunk.  Alcoholism is a term invented to make being a drunk sound like it’s not your fault.  It makes it sound like a disease to excuse your sin.  The Bible calls addiction to alcohol drunkenness, and it’s not a disease, it’s a sin.  God’s Word says it’s a sin, therefore it is a sin.

Listen, if it were a sickness, it is the only disease . . .

that is contracted by an act of the human will

that requires a license for distribution

that is bottled and sold

that produces revenue for government

that is promoted by millions of dollars of advertising

which has no bacterial or viral cause.

It is not a disease, it is a sin!  So what should I do if I am a drunkard or can’t stop getting drunk?  There could be some here today, and you may know of someone you want to give this message to.  Men, women, or students–what should they do?  How can they stop?

First  Admit drunkenness is sin

Ephesians 5:18 commands do not get drunk with wine.  Proverbs 23:29 and 30 say, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long over wine.”  Admit your drunkenness is sin.

Second  Decide now to never drink again

God wants you to walk away from drunkenness now and decide never to drink again.  You may feel too weak to make that commitment, but remember Philippians 4:13 promises you can say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  And in Hebrews 13:5 God promises, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Third  Establish new friendships and accountability

One reason why many can’t seem to stop drinking is because all the friends they keep still drink.  It’s crucial for you to make new friends because I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”  Develop believing friends who will hold you accountable if you are willing, like Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  So, James 5:16 reminds us, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

Fourth  Balance grace, consequences and blessing

God will forgive you if you fail, but remember the consequences of failure will harm you and others.  So let the blessings of obedience (love, joy, peace) motivate you to live sober.  Don’t ever forget that healthy Christians refuse to allow any kind of addictions to remain unchecked in their lives.

And before you begin to look down on drunkards, remember the Lord does not want any Christian to be enslaved to anything.  Titus 3:3 reminds us that, “We once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures.”

First Corinthians 6:12 tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but [circle this] I will not be mastered by anything.”  No Christian should be addicted to coffee, sleeping pills, food, chocolate, nose spray or In N Out burgers.  A mature Christian should not allow themself to be controlled by anything that will harm their body, cloud their thinking, or hinder their testimony for Christ.

Take a moment for self-evaluation–yes or no?  How do we know when drinking has become a problem?  Answer the following questions–if you answer one yes you may be addicted, two yes you’re probably addicted, three or more yes you’re definitely a drunkard (replace drink with coffee, pills, candy, chocolate or In N Out).

1 Do I crave a drink at a specific time each day?

2 Do I gulp my drinks and sneak extras?

3 Do I drink to relieve feelings of inadequacy?

4 Do I drink to escape worry and to dispel the blues?

5 Do I drink when overly tired in order to get a grip?

6 Is drinking affecting my peace of mind?

7 Is drinking making my home life unhappy?

8 Do I prefer to drink alone?

9 Do I require a drink the next morning?

10 Do I miss time at work or am I ineffective on the job because of my drinking?

11 Is there anything I take into my body that has control over me?

#2  Drinking

Drunkenness is sin–period.  What about drinking?  Listen to the Reformation leader, Martin Luther, speak about doing away with beer in particular, and alcoholic drinks in general.  He says, “Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused?  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”  Whoa–I didn’t know that.  What have God’s people done since the birth of the Church about this issue of drinking alcoholic beverages?

First  A history of drinking

Let me share some disturbing history with you.  Historically, God’s people have greatly enjoyed alcohol.  In the European world, one of the most Christian drinks was beer.  Saint Gall was a missionary to the Celts and a renowned brewer.  After Charlemagne’s reign, the Church became Europe’s exclusive brewer.  When a young woman was to marry, her church made a special bridal ale for her, which is where we derive our word brid-ale.  Pastor John Calvin’s annual salary package included upwards of 250 gallons of wine to be enjoyed by him and his guests.  Martin Luther explained the entire Reformation as “…while I sat still and drank beer with Philip & Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.”  Luther’s wife Catherine was a skilled brewer, and his love letters to her when they were apart lamented his inability to drink her beer.  When the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock, the first permanent building they erected was the brewery.

One author writes this:  “As feminism grew in America during the turn of the 20th century the women’s suffrage and prohibition movements were the practical results of a feminine piety that came to also dominate the church as more women became pastors and the church became more feminine.  Some denominations began to condemn alcohol itself as sinful and the Methodist pastor Dr. Thomas Welch created Welch’s grape juice to replace communion wine only in 1869.  The marriage of Christianity and feminism helped to create a dry nation that put out of business all but the largest brewers who were able to survive on near beer and root beer which explains why today American beer is largely mass produced, watered down, light on calories and feminine in comparison to European beers.”  Yeah, but what does the New Testament teach?  Let’s look at . . .

Second  Some key Scriptures on drinking

When the Bible addresses those qualities the church needs to see in its leadership, one of them concerns drinking.  Turn to 1 Timothy.  God’s Word does not command elders or pastors or deacons or older women to abstain from or give up drinking because they may cause a brother or sister to stumble or offend them.  That was not in the thinking of Paul toward leadership at all.  On the contrary, the Bible says . . .

Elders are:  1 Timothy 3:3, “not addicted to wine,” and in Titus 1:7, “the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine.”  Deacons, in 1Timothy 3:8, “likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine.”  Then Titus 2:3 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine.”

In the first century, if you were to walk by a house where the elders of your church were meeting, and they were all drinking wine, you would not be offended.  Let’s be biblical people–drunks don’t make good elders, but drinking wine did not disqualify a man from being a pastor or even raise a question about his leadership in the first century.  The literal rendering of this trait is, an elder must not be one who sits alongside his wine.  An elder is not to be one who is always having, needing or craving a drink, or one who is addicted to anything.  But true godly elders/pastors of a church could drink wine.

Another direct reference to New Testament drinking is to Timothy’s health problems in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”  Paul literally commands Timothy to not drink only water, and commands him to use wine here.  Timothy was practicing abstinence, and Paul said it’s affecting your health–maybe because the water was bad, or Timothy had stomach problems, or Timothy was anxious with all his responsibilities and difficulties, so Paul commands him to use some wine.

There is no evidence they understood germs at this time, but they did understand that wine helped.  By using wine for medicinal reasons, Paul is not encouraging social drinking–but this passage does show us that the Bible does not demand total abstinence.  Paul himself drank, since he says in 1 Corinthians 9:4, “Do we not have a right to eat and drink?”

Another reference to drinking wine is directed at Jesus.  In Luke 7:33 to 34 Jesus says, “John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!”  Jesus admits to drinking wine in this verse.  Obviously our Lord did not get drunk, nor was He gluttonous–but the words in this verse have reference to wine, and tell us our Lord did drink wine (otherwise there would have been no sense in comparing himself to John the Baptist, nor any basis for their accusation).

Plus it seems odd to think that Jesus would make the best miraculous wine that was ever created, but not drink it.  When Jesus did His first miracle and changed water into wine at a wedding in Cana, the headwaiter said this in John 2:10, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.”  Typically at weddings, after everyone was feeling warm, then the host would bring out a cheaper, watered-down wine when no one would be able to tell the difference.  This diluted wine was used to make the wine last longer and be less expensive—savin’ a shekel.  But Jesus is at a party where wine is being served–it seems hypocritical for Jesus to make amazing wine for others to drink if He Himself did not drink.  Or how would it be for Him to make wine for others, but genuinely feel it is wrong for His followers to drink wine?

This is where Bible teachers go wrong because of bias–some have said grapes were made into a paste, then made back into a grape juice.  But there is no historical evidence that was done in the first century.  Others say terms like new wine and mixed wine in the Bible speak of non-alcoholic wine.  But new wine can still intoxicate, according to Isaiah 24:7, Hosea 4:11, and Joel 1:5.  And mixed wine refers to special wines where different wines are mixed together or are mixed with spices, and does not refer to wine cut with water (Psalm 75:8, Song of Songs 8:2).

God speaks about pouring out the wrath of His mixed wine on His enemies, which does not mean He will dilute justice (Psalm 75:8).  The only time such a practice is mentioned in the Bible is in regards to merchants who cut wine to rob customers (Isaiah 1:22).  The Bible speaks of grape juice (Numbers 6:3), and if God meant to speak of non-alcoholic wine he would have used that word to avoid confusion.  So does the Bible forbid drinking of alcohol?  The answer is no.  I’ve read most of what has been written on first century alcohol usage, and much of it is modern invention, not biblical interpretation.  Some people who rightly see the evils of alcohol try to manipulate the Bible to command against it.  But you cannot make the Bible forbid drinking alcoholic wine without misinterpreting the Bible.  So how should we respond?  Do not respond this way . . .

Third  Errant responses to drinking

One–Prohibitionists wrongly teach all drinking is a sin, and that alcohol itself is an evil.

Yes alcohol is abused, but again, Martin Luther said this:  “Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused?  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Along with the teaching to elders, deacons, women and the example of Timothy, and most of all Jesus Christ, we Christians need to follow the Scripture over our preferences and traditions.  And the Bible says in Psalm 104:14 to 15, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, 15 and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart.” All drinking is not sin, and alcohol itself is not evil.

Two–Abstentionists wrongly teach drinking is not sinful, but that all Christians should avoid drinking out of love for others and a desire to not cause anyone to stumble.

The Scripture warns this approach actually is more descriptive of a false teacher than of a Bible-believing Spirit-filled genuine Christian.  First Timothy 4:1 to 5 warns, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”  Restricting foods, even beer and wine, is more like a false teacher than a genuine Christian.  What does Paul say about drinking wine?  First Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Fourth A biblical response to drinking

Biblicists rightly teach drinking is not a sin, and that Christian conscience and circumstances must guide each person.  Wine is spoken of as both good and bad in the same passages.  In 1 Samuel 25, Abigail prepares two jugs of wine for King David (verse 18), then later her soon-to-be dead husband, Nabal was drunk with wine (verse 37).

Apart from feasting, alcohol in Scripture is rightly used for communion (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18), medicinal purposes (Proverbs 31:6, 1 Timothy 5:23), and Old Testament worship (Numbers 28:14).  We choose not to use it in communion out of love for brothers and sisters who used to be drunkards.

The Scripture speaks of wine being an indication of God’s blessing in Proverbs 3:9 to 10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”  Also in Ecclesiastes 9:7, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart.”  And then in Deuteronomy 14:26, “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.”

At biblical churches, leaders should ask that everyone act according to their conscience and circumstances when it comes to alcohol consumption.  Please study Romans 14 and 15, and 1 Corinthians 8 to 10.  Because of past sin, some who have had problems with alcohol may need to abstain for fear of stumbling into old sinful habits.  Those who enjoy alcohol with biblical moderation must use discernment when providing hospitality for others who may have conscience or addiction issues.

Though I have only touched on issues of freedom, it is clear from the Scripture there is a biblical responsibility in the practice of freedom.  Great caution needs to be exercised in group gatherings since there is a danger of causing someone to stumble.  Though unintentional, in any group setting there is pressure for some who are not free in their conscience to drink, thus violating their conscience and causing them to stumble, which is sin–a serious issue.

Plus in social gatherings there is more of an opportunity to give offense, for younger, untaught believers to be confused, disturbed, and distracted from what is truly important.  You who are free need to be responsible to curb your freedom for the sake of others.  You don’t need to sneak a beer, but you should not flaunt your freedom either.  And I know for a fact, all your friends are not as free as you.  Do not make assumptions.  Do not be flippant about this, causing someone to stumble–in this case, to drink is sin for them and sin for you.

In the midst of discussing those who can exercise freedom and those who can’t, Paul says in Romans 14:21, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.”  Keeping your freedoms to yourself, and exercising some level of caution in public is generally a good approach.  You who are not free to drink need to accept others who are free.  Let ‘em drink their beer or wine or whatever–you are not more righteous for not drinking, and they are not more righteous for drinking.

Drinking is expensive, and a lot of it tastes like turtle spit.  So what?  If you see a Christian drink, be careful–it may not be their drink, and you never know when someone is drinking a near beer.  But you say, “It can affect you, it’s costly, and it is addictive, Chris.”  Let me ask all of you, “How many of you enjoy coffee?  Do you need it?  Crave it?  Spend lots of money on it?  ($5 at Starbucks)  Does it affect your behavior with or without it?”  Then who are you to judge those who drink a wine?  How hypocritical we are at times.

Though some act like they are, biblically there are no professional weaker brothers.  There is no spiritual gift called, “I’m offended.”  To remain that way is to live contrary to the Gospel.  It is to live legalistic, to live as if your righteousness makes you better than others.  You need to repent–you are a Pharisee, and you know how Jesus Christ feels about Pharisees.  So what does God’s Word say?

1 Drunkenness is sin and has terrible consequences–don’t do it, ever!

2 Drinking has been a Christian practice for 2,000 years.  It is a freedom some may partake in and others may not.  Christians need to accept those who can’t and those who can.  And those who partake must accept the serious responsibilities that come with their freedom.

Let’s pray.  With your heads down, allow me to challenge you.

1 Drunkenness is sin and you need to get help right now if you can’t stop drinking–talk to someone today.

2 Beware of self-righteous religion.  Drinking or not drinking doesn’t make you more righteous.  Only Christ can make you righteous.  You are not saved by your own righteousness, and you do not live by your own righteousness.  The only reason you are not in hell right now is this–for the Christian, Jesus took the punishment on the cross for your sins and gave you His perfect righteousness, or for the non-Christian, the only reason you are not in hell right now is God is patient and is giving you a little more time to repent and depend only on Him to forgive you for your sins.

Plus, you’re not mature because you choose not to drink or you choose to drink.  You’re mature because you follow God’s Word in dependence upon the Holy Spirit who puts Christ on display through you.  Beware of thinking you are more mature or godlier because you enjoy or forsake certain freedoms like drinking.

3 Obedience to Christ’s commands is universal for all Christians, but do not universalize your preferential choices for others.  If you send your kids to public school, that doesn’t mean all Christian kids should go to public school.  If you have a passion for adoption, it doesn’t mean everyone else will have the same passion to adopt.  If you choose not to drink, that doesn’t mean everyone else must follow your lead.  If you choose to drink that does not mean everyone else is dumb if they don’t.  In matters of obedience, let us depend and obey–in matters of freedom, accept each other’s differences.


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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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