Monday, July 6, 2009

Alcohol Condemned in the Bible

Today many are saying that while the Bible condemns drunkenness, it never condemns the moderate use of alcohol. They say that good Christians can be biblically free to enjoy a glass of wine, or a beer on the weekends. Well, does the Bible condemn beverage alcohol? Of course it does. It condemns it both directly and indirectly.

The Old Testament tells us not to drink.Proverbs 23:29-35 gives a detailed description of fermented, intoxicating wine and its effects. King Solomon is the divinely inspired writer. And Solomon, the smartest man in the world, said not to even look on that kind of wine (v. 31). What kind of wine? The kind he is describing, the intoxicating kind. Don’t even look at it. That is a direct command against beverage alcohol.

By the way, unfermented wine does not fit the Proverbs 23 description. At the last, non-alcoholic wine does not bite like a serpent and sting like an adder (Proverbs 23:32). That is why God commends some wine (the unfermented kind) and condemns other wine (the fermented, poisonous kind).

There was not a word for “alcohol” in Bible times. So, what did Solomon do? He described an alcoholic drink by its characteristics and effects. Proverbs 20:1 also condemns this kind of wine.

The New Testament tells us not to drink.1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 commands us to be “sober.” It even contrasts drunkenness with sobriety. Any amount of alcohol make us less than sober. Moderately drink, and you will be moderately sober. Alcoholics Anonymous will be glad to explain to you that sober means no alcohol in any amount.

The New Testament (NT) portion of the Bible was originally written in the Greek language. One of the NT Greek words translated sober (or watchful) is “nepho.” W. E. Vine says of nepho, “Signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants.” -Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee; 1997, p. 1057.  Nepho literally means "wineless." 

God’s Word commands us to be sober (nepho) in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; 2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8. Some have curiously argued that nepho has nothing to do with drinking, it simply means sober minded or sound minded. The reply is obvious. How can you be sober minded, how can you have a clear head, when you are drinking in any amount? Sober means sober; therefore it means no intoxicating drugs. “Sober” may not only refer to beverage alcohol, but it certainly includes it. What a contrast to those who brazenly say that God wants Christians to enjoy the “buzz” that is given by alcohol. 

God commands us to be sober, not half sober. The first drink of alcohol ends your sobriety. The first drink of alcohol adversely affects your judgment and your reaction time. A Defensive Driving instructor said, “The first drink affects your judgment. Therefore if you have taken any amount of alcohol, you are unqualified to judge whether you are able to drive.” This instructor freely admitted to drinking. So, even one who was a social drinker, recognized the immediate effect alcohol has on the mind.

How can anyone drink a recreational, intoxicating, mind altering drug and then claim that they are obeying the command of God to be sober? Alcohol has caused untold damage, death, and heartache in this world. Stay away from alcohol like you would stay away from a venomous snake.

Whether or not you agree that the Bible directly condemns alcohol, hang on. Later we will look at the biblical teaching, or biblical principles (and they are numerous) against beverage alcohol.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor; July 6, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
Biblical Principles Condemn Alcohol
Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book

See other articles on alcohol in lower right margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels). 

3 comments:

  1. I think this approach to what totality of scripture teaches about wine amounts to a lexical shell-game. If it looks bad for my position, I'll define the word in one way, if it looks good for my position, I'll define it the other. Why is it that in Church History, it wasn't until the massive growth of the social gospel movement in the mid-to-late 1800s that Total Abstinence from alcohol was elevated to a tenet of the faith?

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  2. G. F.,
    I stand by my comments about the Scriptures in Proverbs 23 and the NT commands to “be sober” as directly condemning beverage alcohol. More evidence will be provided later.

    There has been opposition to drinking throughout church history, but it is true that as far as we know it was not until the late 1700s and early 1800s that the church began to rise up in significant opposition to drinking. But then much the same could be said about the church’s opposition to slavery. I’m glad the church (at least much of it) finally got it right on both issues. I’m glad the Southern Baptist Convention has it right on both issues. I also think the SBC basically has the right perspective on the social gospel.
    David R. Brumbelow

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  3. David...I think you're right. selahV

    ReplyDelete

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