A Study of Drinking Alcoholic Beverages

By Michael Garrison

Few among us would not be aware that the number one drug problem in America, and probably the world, is alcohol. “Although cocaine is the most publicized drug of our day, the most widely used drug in the U.S. is alcohol” (Lloyd Shearer, Parade Magazine, May 10, 1987). In the years of 1976 and 1978, 71 percent of Americans said they drank some type of alcoholic drink (Parade Magazine, Dec. 24, 1989). This was down some by 1989, but alcohol consumption is still a major problem!

God has repeatedly warned us against the use of beverage alcohol. Despite these warnings, many lavishly spend millions of dollars on this harmful drug and under its influence commit any number of serious crimes from robbery to murder. Also, many marriages are broken up as a direct result of the husband or wife’s alcohol consumption.

In Isaiah 28:7, the prophet wrote: “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” Note the various results of drinking alcoholic beverages: “have erred”; “are out of the way”; “err in vision”; and “they stumble in judgment.” These are most serious, because they separate people from God!

In Leviticus 10:9-11, God, through Moses, gave some commandments to Aaron and the other priests of the Law of Moses: “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.”

We note that one who imbibes alcoholic beverages will not be able to put a difference between what is holy (right) and unholy (wrong). One who uses alcoholic beverages will not be able to teach God’s people (or others) God’s law. Yet, even with this warning, some of God’s priests still transgressed God’s law. Some just will not listen and obey God!

In Luke 21:34, Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” Jesus is warning his disciples about being ready for the destruction of Jerusalem at this place, but the warning can be applied to us who await his second coming. The word “surfeiting” means “overindulgence, esp. in food or drink” (Webster’s). So, Jesus’ disciples should be careful not to be gluttons or drunkards! Will we hear what he says to us?

Those who are Christians should know that all of us are priests before God. Peter told us that we “. . are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). The apostle John said that Jesus “hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Rev. 1:5).

In the Old Testament, we learned that priests were not to drink wine nor strong drink lest they err and not be able to teach God’s law to the people. How can some think it is acceptable for Christians, priests of God now, to use various alcoholic beverages? How can we show people the way of Truth and righteousness with a beer can, glass of wine, or other alcoholic beverage in our hands? Let us set a good example to all!

But, after all this, some may be thinking, “A little alcoholic drink can’t hurt.” Does this reflect Truth? In Ephesians 5:18, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write, “And be not drunk with wine.” The word “drunk” here, “signifies to make drank, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb [“expressing the beginning of an action,” Webster’s], marking the process of the state expressed in No. 1)” which is “to be drunk” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine). So, we see God condemns even the process which leads one to be drunk!

In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 8, Christians are told to be “sober.” This means “free from intoxicants” (Vine). How can any Christian think it is acceptable to drink any alcoholic beverage? God has clearly shown us that it is not right in his sight. Temperance and self-control are vital to lives of Christians. In Galatians 5:19-23, we have a list of the works of the flesh and of the Spirit – drinking and alcoholism would come under the works of the flesh, not of the Spirit; therefore, they are sin!

Dr. Melvin Knisely, head of the South Carolina Medical School team researching alcohol and its effects on people, gave up drinking alcohol. He said, “There is no such thing as an innocent cocktail.” He explains that “Alcohol, even in moderation, speeds up the destruction of nerve cells and initiates senility earlier in the life of any drinking man – or woman.” He continues, “Alcohol . . . forms an adhesive substance in the blood which cuts off blood cells from their oxygen supply. The trapped cells die, affecting the heart, liver, and brain” (Parade Magazine, Sept. 12, 1971).

Another consideration is that modern alcohol differs greatly from that of Bible times. Natural fermentation (the only kind in Bible times) allows only 5 to 8 percent alcohol (see Archaeology and Bible History, J.P. Free, p. 352). This was the strong drink condemned in the Bible. See Proverbs 23:29-35; 31:4-6.

Is alcoholism a disease? Brother Billy James wrote, “Alcoholism is now being looked at less from a viewpoint of being a disease to more of addiction. Since it is noncommunicable and self-induced, it is an addiction, not a disease, even though the word ‘disease’ is used accommodatively” (Pause-Ponder-Profit, Dec., 1974).

Dr. Max Rafferty, formerly of Troy State University, wrote in the Birmingham (Alabama) News (July 29, 1979) that he does not believe “that alcoholism is a disease. (A disease is caused by germs, viruses or organic deterioration, and is involuntary. None of these things are true of alcoholism.)” These men expressed the Truth well!

It is true that alcoholism can lead to disease – cirrhosis of the liver, for example. But, fornication or adultery can lead to veneral disease, but we don’t refer to adultery or fornication as a disease. We call it sin – because God’s word calls it that. So, we must refer to drinking or alcoholism not as a disease, but as sin. The problem, is a moral, more than a medical, one.

The sin of drinking and alcoholism can be overcome by a sincere desire to obey God’s will. “It is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Prov. 31:4-5). When one drinks even a small amount of alcoholic beverage, his judgment and reactions are impaired. Then he forgets the law of God and the laws of the land. Let us flee alcoholic beverages!

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 13, pp. 387-388
July 4, 1991