By Carl McMurray
In our previous article we dwelt with what I have referred to as “moral arguments” condemning the use of alcohol as a beverage in any amount. We repeat that we feel there is a need for more teaching on this matter since we have ourselves witnessed an unclear sound from those sometimes filling the role of teacher and preacher. If these ones are not going to instruct a lost world in how to put off service to Satan and clothe themselves with Christ, who is going to do the job? This situation of a growing acceptance of “social drinking” in the church of God needs an exact application of Ephesians 5: 1011. We need to be “. . .trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them.”
In addition to the principles presented in my last article, please consider what the Scriptures say directly to this subject. Before doing so, however, decide within yourself the answer to one question. Does God contradict Himself? As you read His word, will you find places where He condemned an action in one place, and then commended the very same action elsewhere? If your answer was yes, you have no need to read any further. Your God is a God of confusion (1 Cor. 1:33) and it will do no good to read and study because your God makes mistakes and in so doing is no better than man. If, however, you agree with me and answer no, consider the end result of that attitude. There is no value in argument or running from passage to passage as if contradictory doctrines were being presented. If we find a single passage that gives a clear answer (true to its context) on any subject, that is all there is to it. If other Scriptures appear to say different, it is because we are using them out of context, misunderstanding all that is involved, or both. We say all this simply to draw the attention of some to the fact that God would not condemn something and commend it at the same time. And that is exactly what some have Him doing when they try to justify drinking (even a little) by the Scriptures. Please notice:
Proverbs 20:1. Here wine is called a “mocker.” This is defined as to deride,(1) or make a mockery.(2) God warns then that this wine is that which will deceive men and make them foolish. This is the same kind of language you might use with your child in explaining to him why he should not experiment with drugs. He is condemning the drink.
Proverbs 23:29-35 is a picture of the one who is mastered by this drug. Notice especially vv. 31-32 where he says, “Do
not look on the wine There was a type of “wine” which these people had access to (unfermented juice) which was considered a blessing and strength to the body. The wine in this passage (fermented) however, is warned against in such plain language that it cannot be mistaken. Though it is attractive to eye and palate, it has a power that can deceitfully overcome us. Can we honestly believe that the Father inspired this clear warning but the Son would not heed it? Instead, He created about 150 gallons of alcoholic brew in John 2: 1-10. This is what I meant when I said that if it appeared there was a contradiction, we must be misunderstanding something. Certainly it seems that in almost every discussion on the subject I have been a party to, there was a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about the several ways that those people had available to them to keep fruit juices unspoiled and unfermented all year long. All their d6wine” was most assuredly not alcoholic.
Proverbs 31:4-7 is worthy of note. The world looks to Christians for their example (realizing it or not) as people of Solomon’s time looked to their king. How shall we expect others to put off carnal appetites when we strive to walk as close to sin as we can. 1 Peter 4:17 gives the idea that God is going to deal first (or more strictly) with those who have more knowledge. He expects Christians to be leading people to that which builds them up (1 Pet. 2:12), not that which may enslave them. Which does drinking accomplish?
1 Timothy 5:23 is a passage often misused. Rather than point to the fact that Timothy was told to drink “a little wine” (in which case there is much evidence to the fact that it may have not even been fermented), why not answer the question of why did an apostle had to order him to drink it? Why was he drinking strictly water, if the practice was as acceptable as some try to make it seem? Could he not have been holding to the highest ideal of godliness, setting an example in his conduct (1 Tim. 4:12), paying close attention to himself (1 Tim. 4:16) so as not to take chances with his salvation or anyone else’s? This is all aside from the fact that the “wine” we’re speaking of in this context was more in the realm of our cough syrup (if it was alcoholic) than our fortified shelf variety Ripple. There is no justification for drinking in this passage.
Galatians 5:21 condemns not only drunkenness but also revellings or carousings. Note that this is not being drunk but simply partying with the aid of intoxicants. Those that practice such, whether drunken or not, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 4:3 addresses the entire spectrum of drinking and condemns it all! (1) Drunkenness, that is, an excess of wine or strong drink to the extent of losing judgment or control. (2) Revelling, i.e. partying with aid of drink. (3) Banquetings, drinking without reference to the amount. Another definition would be drinking, not necessarily of excess.(3) This is simply “social drinking.”
We make our point again in conclusion. Would God teach and warn against that which has such power to master us, then turn right around and allow it on other occasions? Yes, even more than allow it, provide it (Jn. 2: 14 0), and command it (1 Tim. 5:23). Can we see that there are different kinds of “wine” in the Scriptures, just as there are different “breads,” “meats,” and “spirits.” That wine, and that which is described as “strong drink” (having an alcoholic content), which has the power to intoxicate, is plainly warned against.
I am aware of at least one church of Christ (so-called) that presently serves an alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper, so do not believe that this is not a growing problem. I wonder what is taught to new Christians who eat at this table about wine with their meals at home and beer at their get togethers. Drinking is such a widespread problem that we have had visitors to our worship refuse to partake of the Lord’s Supper until later, after being assured it was unfermented juice. This one, who was not even a member of the church at the time, was aware of the danger in even a little drink. He is a member of A.A. and can see what many brethren keep themselves from seeing.
No form or amount of drinking (social or otherwise) is compatible with truly Christ-like behaviour in our socieV today. It is wrong brethren, and the only answer for it is confession and repentance.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 22, pp. 677-678
November 15, 1984