By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Is it permissible for a Christian to drink alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine in moderation, in view of Luke 7.34, John 2:1-11 and Romans 14:21?
Reply: The above Scriptures are used by some (including even members of the church) to prove that it is right to drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Their conclusion is based upon assumption.
Luke 7:34 is referred to in an effort to prove that Jesus drank wine. The context of this verse is that Jesus had compared the Jews to children who played games in the market place (v. 32). They were hard to please. They criticized John the Baptist for the way he lived, and charged him with having a demon (v. 33). Then to further illustrate their childishness, he quoted them as saying: “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, friend of publicans and sinners” (v. 34).
It must be considered first that the charge made against Jesus in Luke 7:34, that he was “a gluttonous man and a wine bibber,” was false. It was a lie concocted by his malicious enemies. He was not guilty of either charge. Had he been what they said he was, he would have violated every Old Testament teaching that prohibited the drinking of alcoholic beverages (Prov. 20:1; 23:20,21, 29-33; Isa. 5:11,22; etc.). The word “glutton” is defined by Webster: “excess in eating and drinking.” He defines “a glutton” as, “one given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking” (Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, p. 523). The Oxford Universal Dictionary renders the term “winebibber” “given to wine” (Greek-English Lexicon, p. 443). Thus the charge made against Jesus was nothing short of blasphemy.
The enemies of Jesus also accused him of eating with publicans and sinners, implying that he was devoted to their sinful indulgences. Knowing these charges to be false, no refutation was necessary. Unable to answer his teaching, they attacked his character. Jesus closed his reference to their charges by simply saying, “And wisdom is justified of all her children” (v. 35). Jesus offered the hope of salvation to all who would obey him, even those with whom his accusers would have nothing to do. Some did accept him, thus wisdom was thereby justified by “all her children,” those guided by divine teaching.
But it is argued, that although Jesus was not gluttonous and a wine bibber as charged; nevertheless, he must have drunk intoxicating wine in moderation. His accusers were aware that he ate and drank wine, even though the charge that he did so to excess was false, we are told. This is only a supposition without proof. Jesus lived a pure life upon this earth; he was without sin, and there is nothing that even implies that he indulged in drinking intoxicating beverages. Such action was not compatible with his character and teaching.
John 2:1-11 is referred to as proof that Jesus drank intoxicating wine. It is an assumption, that because Jesus performed a miracle at a wedding feast and turned water into wine, that we are therefore authorized to drink intoxicating wine. In the first place, it cannot be proved from the Greek word oinos itself the amount of alcohol content. Young’s Analytical Concordance simply defines the word “wine, grape juice.” Since the question of whether or not Jesus drank intoxicating wine cannot be settled by the word oinos, we must turn to other considerations. Certainly Jesus would not endorse by his action that which is forbidden throughout the Scriptures, as we have observed. He gave us a perfect example to follow (1 Pet. 2:21f) and we can be assured that he would not have part in any indulgence which would promote the misery and shame that alcoholic beverages have caused among mankind. It is inconceivable that, if he were on earth today, he would drink wine as we know it today. Nor can we conceive of a person who wants to follow Jesus engaging in the act.
Paul wrote in Romans 14:21, “It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything whereby thy brother stumbleth. ” Here is a principle set forth to guide the children of God. We should forego any privilege that will cause someone else to sin. In view of what the Scriptures teach on the use of wine and intoxicants, neither does this verse justify their use even in moderation. And, even if one thinks he can drink in moderation without harming himself, he should think about what he may lead others to do. Indeed, “social” drinking (drinking in moderation) is not a good example and is not becoming of a Christian whose life should be beyond reproach. Christians cannot be too cautious about their influence in a world where sin is the normal state. Paul admonished, “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
There is nothing in the Scriptures included in the question, nor in any others that will justify a Christian to drink alcoholic beverages. The medicinal use of alcoholic contents is another matter and not the subject of our consideration here.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 21, p. 649
November 5, 1987