By Ron Halbrook
Social Drinking the Lure of Respectable Sin
For The Truth’s Sake, intoxicating drinks should be totally avoided. Some folks admit the sinfulness of drunkenness, a lesser number oppose reveling, but very few recognize the wrong of social drinking. Alcohol and other drugs may be subject to limited medicinal use (1 Tim. 5:23), but when used for the pleasure of their intoxicating effects are dangerous and sinful. It is often supposed that every occurrence of the word “wine” in scripture refers to an intoxicating drink, but as Young’s Analytical Concordance says the Bible term means “wine, grape juice,” “what is pressed out, grape juice” (p. 1058). The use of wine in each separate context clarifies whether the reference is to an intoxicating or non-intoxicating drink. For instance, Jesus did not contribute to reveling and debauchery in John 2:1-10 by making a liquor (150 gals!), but He made the freshest and purest grape juice ever tasted by man. “It is utterly impossible . . . to imagine Jesus being present in a tipsy crowd, to say nothing of aiding such carousing by his first miracle” (R.C.H. Lenski, John’s Gospel, p. 197).
1 Pet. 4:3 condemns as sinful (1) the debauchery in “excess of wine” or the drunken stupor, (2) “revelings” or intoxicated party making, and (3) “banquetings.” Banquetings is translated from a word which means simply “drinking,” without reference to amount. It is drinking parties but not drunken parties. R.C. Trench, an authority on Greek terms, said in Synonyms of the New Testament that banqueting is drinking “not of necessity excessive,” though it is related to drunkenness and reveling because it is the first step which gives “opportunity for excess” (p. 211). This, then, is the cocktail party drinking, sipping the intoxicant, “having a few drinks with the boys,” social drinking! Such practices belong to the old life of sin, not to the will of God.
Why is this so important? We must be always “sober” in watching for Satan’s attempts to destroy us through temptation (1 Pet. 5:8). Sober “signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants” and therefore clear-minded, in full control of one’s senses, powers, and judgment at all times (see W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. IV, p. 44). “The effects” of alcohol begin “after the consumption of 1 or 2 beers or 1 or 2 cocktails,” as doctors have pointed out (see James D. Bales, The Deacon and His Work, p. 33); the American Automobile Association textbook Sportsmanlike Driving points out that “the `higher’ centers of judgment and reason are impaired” starting after “the first drink” (pp. 67-68). All Christians, certainly elders, deacons, and their wives, should be “vigilant” or “sober” in abstaining from wine with its intoxicating effects (1 Tim. 3:2, 11). Mental, moral, spiritual alertness is essential if we are to resist Satan.
Social drinking should never be found among God’s people; when it is, it must be repented of and put away or else the church must purify itself by disciplinary action (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6).Alien sinners need to repent of all sinful use of intoxicants, along with every form of evil, and to be baptized in water for the remission of sins in the blood of Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Truth Magazine XXII: 37, p. 604
September 21, 1978