Monday, July 13, 2009

Biblical Principles Condemn Alcohol

The previous article, Alcohol Condemned in the Bible, looked at direct biblical commands to not drink beverage alcohol. Biblical principles also condemn alcohol.

1. The Bible says those deceived by wine are not wise (Proverbs 20:1). We are commanded to be wise (Ephesians 5:15; etc.).

2. The Bible teaches us to guard our influence and not lead others astray. You may be able to hold your liquor. There are still at least two problems with that. First, you are supporting an evil industry that has brought untold heartache to the world. Second, someone else will look at you and say, “That is the best man I know. If he can drink, then so can I.” And that may be someone whose life will be ruined by drink.

3. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Alcohol destroys that body.

4. The Bible says you are to love God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Our minds are altered and damaged by alcohol. Beverage alcohol is a recreational, mind altering drug. Every drink kills brain cells and dulls your judgment. When it comes to beverage alcohol, its very use is abuse. We should love and serve God with clear minds.

5. The law of love, as A. T. Robertson called it, teaches us not to drink (Romans 14:19, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:9).

6. Scripture proclaims believers in Jesus Christ to be kings (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). Kings are not to drink lest they pervert justice (Proverbs 31:4-5).

7. God commended the Rechabites for not drinking wine (Jeremiah 35).

8. Don’t abuse your Christian liberty (1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23).

9. The Bible often gives the appalling results of alcohol. It tells of Noah, Lot, and others getting drunk and the terrible consequences.

10. Is it biblical for a believer to support the alcohol industry that has wrecked so many homes and lives?

11. Drinking is expensive. By not drinking you can save a lot of money that you can use for more noble purposes.

12. Biblical wisdom and truth would compel us to recognize the incredible damage alcohol does to society. Alcohol contributes greatly to traffic accidents and deaths, unwanted pregnancies, fetal alcohol syndrome, the spread of sexually transmitted disease, all types of criminal behavior, cirrhosis of the liver, destruction of brain cells, cancer, addiction, breakup of homes, and on and on.

13. About one out of nine drinkers becomes a problem drinker. Never take that first drink and I guarantee you will never become an alcoholic. With those odds in mind, would biblical principles allow you to play “Russian Roulette” with your life and the lives of those you love?

14. From the overall teaching of the Bible, do you really believe God condones the recreational use of a mind altering, dangerous drug? Whether it is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs, the answer is obviously, no. In case there is any question, prescription drugs should only be used for medical problems; their recreational, unnecessary use can be just as wrong and dangerous as the recreational use of alcohol.

15. Countless lives have been saved from ruin by teaching abstinence from alcohol. What is the worst that can happen to you by not drinking? Abstinence works every time it is used. Not drinking is safe, and it is wise.

16. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a serious problem. Jesus said, “whoever commits sin is a slave to sin“ (John 8:34). With beverage alcohol, it is easier to not start, than to start and then struggle to stop. God’s plan A is for us not to sin in the first place (1 John 2:1). As it is, you will have plenty of problems in life. But I can save you from many of the self induced ones. You can save yourself and others a world of heartache by just staying away from alcohol.

When it comes to biblical principles, alcohol is kind of like the issue of slavery. The Bible does not directly say, “Thou shalt not own a slave.” But clear biblical principles certainly teach against slavery. Whether or not you accept that the Bible directly speaks against alcohol, the Bible clearly teaches against it.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. -Proverbs 20:1
At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. -Proverbs 23:32

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, July 13, AD 2009.

Alcohol Condemned in the Bible
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book


  1. Makes sense to me. A few questions...if people in biblical times saw wine as a staple, did they serve it to children? If so, how much were children allowed to drink? A goblet? A cup? A half-cup? How did they avoid having drunk children? selahV

  2. SelahV,
    Good to hear from you. To answer your questions:

    Wine was a staple in biblical times. But the commonly used wine was not the strong intoxicating drink that many think of today. A later post will detail the methods they used to preserve unfermented, or non-alcoholic wine. It was actually easier for them to keep unfermented wine than it was for them to keep fermented wine.

    Your questions point out one of the great weaknesses in the position of those who think everyone drank high alcohol content wine in Bible times. They also point out a problem with the moderate drinking view. How much is moderate? How much is too much? Can kids drink? When God commends wine in the Bible, there is no restriction on its use and no restriction even on children enjoying it. Why? Because the common wine was safe for adults and children. On the other hand, intoxicating drinks are condemned (Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35).

    For any who are new to this subject, let me point out that during Bible times both biblical and non-biblical literature used “wine” generically. The words for wine referred to many types of wine, intoxicating and non-intoxicating.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Jesus didn't own slaves, smoke marijuana, abuse presciption drugs, or use cocaine. He did drink alcoholic beverages. He even used one as a symbol during the last supper. I know you think it was grape juice, but that argument just doesn't hold water. Too much evidence to the contrary.


  4. Robert,
    The Bible never says Jesus drank alcoholic beverages. To believe so is an assumption or interpretation on your part.

    Suppose someone said, “I saw Pastor Smith eating and drinking at a restaurant.” Would it be fair to assume he was drinking intoxicating beverages? The biblical words for wine were much like our modern day English words: liquor, cider, drink, punch, brew, egg nogg. They can be either a non-intoxicating drink or an intoxicating drink.

    Since the Bible doesn’t specify the kind of wine, I’ll even admit that my belief that Jesus did not drink alcoholic wine, is an interpretation. Are you willing to admit the same concerning your view? Of course, I believe there are other compelling reasons to believe Jesus did not drink or make alcoholic wine.
    David R. Brumbelow

  5. No I am not willing to admit my view is an interpretation. The Bible does specify the type of wine. It is your view that the term is ambiguous. Most other scholars take the words at face value.

    You can say that my belief is based on an interpretation, like saying I believe the sky is blue is an interpretation. The evidence is Overwhelming.

  6. Robert,
    Your view is an interpretation, whether you admit it or not.

    In addition, you also say that at the Last Supper they used alcoholic wine. While the biblical words for wine are generic, the Bible never even uses the word wine in connection with the Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper; it uses either “cup” or “fruit of the vine.” Yet you insist this is also alcoholic wine. I think your bias is showing.
    David R. Brumbelow

  7. It is not a bias when it is based on factual, historical information. You say the Biblical words are generic. The major majority of the scholarly community say they are not. Sounds like you are displaying your bias.

    Just to be honest, I don't drink. I've never touched the stuff. I choose not to drink. I have no bias to support. What I am arguing for is sound Biblical interpretation which can not be done when we add or take away meaning. We must base our beliefs on sound Biblical interpretation, not base interpretation on our beliefs.

  8. Robert,
    You tend to interpret certain biblical passages about wine to mean alcoholic wine. I tend to interpret them as meaning non-alcoholic wine. We are both interpreting Scripture in this respect. So yes, I am saying we are both biased. I admit my bias, you refuse to admit yours. But there are good, solid reasons for my interpretation; some I’ve already listed, some I will mention later.

    There is a long list of quotes proving that the biblical words for wine were used generically. Those quotes cover the Bible, Septuagint, extra-biblical writings during Bible times, Christian, Jewish, non-Christian, modern. I’ll be listing some of them as time goes by.

    By the way, the book, Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence, lists a number of the ancient quotes showing that the words for wine are generic. There are many more such quotes.

    You are wise, my brother, to not drink.
    David R. Brumbelow

  9. David,

    I know we will never agree on what the Bible says on this subject so I will leave you with this. I come to scripture with a desire to know what it says. I read critically. I dig deep taking into consideration context and historical facts. Then I make a decision based on what I have found.

    You come to scripture with an idea, a preconcieved notion about how things should be. You search scripture to support what you believe to be true. Naturally, you find support for your beliefs, but leave out huge chunks of pertinent information that does not support your belief. You discount it clinging only to the support for the theory you came to the Bible to prove.

    I do respect your theory. I just have a problem with your using scripture as a prooftext. It is so much more than that.

  10. To those who may not know, Robert and I have debated each other before on this topic. My goal is to one day convert him to my point of view :-).

    I do freely acknowledge that not all scholars agree with my point of view; but then scholars don’t all agree on many issues. In days to come I will be giving examples of a number of scholars who do support my view.

    Robert, at least we do agree on not drinking. I look forward to seeing what you and perhaps others may have to say about future posts on this subject. Have a great day.
    David R. Brumbelow

  11. Debate is a good term. I would imagine that I did a lot worse than that at times. I have pledged to be more gracious to those who disagree with me. Thank you for treating me well. I will still support wholeheartedly what the Bible says. So, just so you know, unless the Bible changes, my beliefs will remain the same. My hope is that people will plug into life in Christ and use the Bible as a tool to come closer to Him. The Bible is alive. It is not just a prooftext.

  12. David, I abstain. I once did not. In fact, I searched the scriptures and used every one of the arguments and interpretations, and rationale that moderationists use today to support my position to drink alcohol. This was just before I became a Christian. I also struggled with what I had believed before I became a Christian AFTER I became a Christian because I did not see what God showed me as I began to deeply study the entire Word of God and the examples He gave in Scripture of people who abstained.

    I totally agree with Peter Lumpkins book and urge everyone to read it. He did not change my mind. He did not persuade me. He confirmed what God had already shown me in the reading of His Word through His Spirit.

    I have lots of friends who do not agree with my understanding of this issue. The majority of them drink or have family members who drink. That does not change one iota the love I have for them, or the fellowship we enjoy with one another. God's grace provides me with peace with all of this. I pray God's mercy on those who drink due to alcohol's influence and consequences. I know quite well what it can do.

    Thanks for answering those questions. I pretty much thought that was the way you'd answer them. But wanted to make sure. selahV

  13. Robert,
    I agree that we should be able to discuss and debate in an agreeable manner. More Christian blogs need to do so. I promise to be kind and civil, unless you start winning the argument :-).

    You mention being loving to those who drink, and to those who disagree with your views on drinking. That is important. I think some of our opponents in this alcohol debate think that we obnoxiously, hatefully, publicly reprove anyone we see drinking. That is just not the case. As you point out, we can have strong convictions, yet still have great fellowship with those who disagree.

    A word of explanation: I am keeping the comments on moderation. That means if you make a comment here it will not be published till I get back to my computer. I often do not have access to it. No, I don’t have these gadgets that allow me 24 hour access. I’m too old and poor for that kind of stuff.

    So, if you make a comment, please be patient. I’ll get to it eventually. And so far, I’ve published all comments.

    To learn more about this blog go back to the first post. Thanks for checking out Gulf Coast Pastor.
    David R. Brumbelow

  14. David,

    I thank you for your commitment to make thing civil. It has been very hard for me to keep such a committment in other places. There are some real boneheads on both sides. I ask that you pray for me so I will not be tempted to reciprocate when I am verbally attacked.

  15. Well, now I will no longer be able to say I’ve never refused to publish a comment. I encourage you to comment and I’m willing to have folks disagree as long as you keep it civil. I think I’ve already demonstrated that.

    But now there have been a couple of anonymous comments challenging me on alcohol. Identify yourself, and I’ll likely respond to your comments. But if you want to challenge and disagree, I think you should be willing say who you are. Also, it gets confusing as to whether several anonymous comments are from different people or the same person.

    I’ve been perfectly willing to own, and be responsible for, my comments; I encourage you to do the same. Otherwise, your comments will probably not be published on Gulf Coast Pastor.
    David R. Brumbelow

  16. If the Bible condemns the drinking of Alcoholic wine, why is it not prohibited in it's entirety in 1 Tim. 3 for Elders and Deacons? These are the leaders of the church. It is also clear the passage is speaking of alcoholic drink in context. Just about every reference to wine in the Bible is alcoholic. There are two distinctions, strong drink, and wine. Strong drink was undiluted wine, and many say was still below the alcoholic content that modern wine is. Second was wine which was diluted strong drink and used more as a staple to purify water, etc. The Bible no where condemns the drinking of alcoholic drink altogether. All your reasons listed are arguments that speak of it being a good idea not to drink, but you cannot go beyond scripture. I think the only argument might be a subjective one, and that is supposedly since strong drink in the Bible is almost always spoken of in a bad light, and since that same is supposedly lighter in alcoholic content (we just don't know for sure) then that would put almost all modern wines and alcoholic drinks in the "strong drink" category and therefore spoken of in a bad light in scripture. I think Eph. 5 adds another principle that could speak to motive for drinking and to subjective amounts drunk. We are not to be drunk, but be "filled" with the Spirit. The context speaks of being under the "control" of the Holy Spirit rather than a substance such as wine. So if one person drinks because they need it to relax, and that one glass brings their body under it's influence, then they are going beyond what scripture would allow for them.

  17. Daniel,
    The Bible does condemn alcohol in it’s entirety. See the article at this site on this subject.

    The Bible does command Bishops (Pastors, Elders) not to drink. It commands them to be sober (nepho - literally “wineless”).

    You say, “Strong drink was undiluted wine.” Why? The Bible does not say so. Strong drink (Shekar) was a drink made of fruit juice other than grapes, and could be either alcoholic or nonalcoholic, in this sense just like ancient wine.

    You say wine was used to purify water. No, it was not. Scripture never says so. I have never found one ancient reference to wine being used to purify water. This seems to be a modern “urban legend.” Neither will you find modern camping or survival books recommending today the use of wine to purify water.

    You should reconsider your view of being in favor of taking drugs for recreational purposes. After all, that is exactly what drinking is.

    You may want to read the other articles at Gulf Coast Pastor under the heading of “Alcohol.” They would answer some of your concerns. The book, “Ancient Wine and the Bible” goes into much greater detail giving documentary evidence concerning your questions.
    David R. Brumbelow


What do you think?