By Larry Ray Hafley
From Missouri: A sister in Christ has written asking several questions. We shall take up each one and comment separately. Actually, her first question is the heart of her queries.
1. ADo you believe it is a sin to drink a glass of wine?” If the wine is what is presently known as an alcoholic beverage, then, yes for me to drink it would be a sin. And it would be a sin for our inquirer since she stated that her husband’s “drinking a glass or two of wine. . . really bothered me for a while and still does to a certain extent.” “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). This does not mean that a thing is right just so we believe it is right; rather, it shows an act that is right in itself becomes sin if we do it while thinking it is wrong. Do not violate your scruples, your conscience. It is the last vestige of restraint between morality and those “who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness” and eagerness.
Further, it is a sin for our querist because she wonders and worries over “what kind of influence it might have on the children.” My dear sister, you tell me “what kind of good influence” it could have on the children. Will it lead them to greater trust and faith in God? Will it induce them to study the Bible? Will it prompt them to eschew evil? Will it cause them to rise up and call their mother “blessed?” Will it direct them into “the way of sinners” or “the paths of righteousness” which? Will it deter them from lusts, base behavior, and alcoholism? You tell me. You ponder “what kind of influence it might have on the children,” and then tell me if you find anything in drinking that will be for their ultimate and eternal good.
2. “Why did Jesus turn the water into wine at the marriage feast if he didn’t mean for them to drink any of it?” No one argues that Jesus “didn’t mean for them to drink any of it.” Jesus transformed the water into wine so they could drink of it. However, our questioner reasons from a false premise.
She assumes and presumes that “wine” always contemplates an intoxicating beverage. “. . the contention of some of my correspondents that the Greek oinos, always meant fermented and intoxicating liquor is totally inaccurate, and only. arises from ignorance, or prejudice” (Don DeWelt, Paul’s Letters To Timothy and Titus, p. 304). “The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine; nor drugged wine; nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land.
The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape. We use the word wine now to denote the kind of liquid which passes under that name in this country-always fermented, and always containing a considerable portion of alcohol-not only the alcohol produced by fermentation, but added to keep it or make it stronger. But we have no right to take that sense of the word, and go with it to the interpretation of the Scriptures… An argument cannot be drawn from this instance in favour of intemperate drinking… Nor can an argument be drawn from this case in favour even of drinking wine such as we have. The common wine of Judea was the pure juice of the grape, without any mixture of alcohol, and was harmless. It was the common drink of the people, and did not tend to produce intoxication” (Barnes Notes On The N. T., p. 272).
(1) Sometimes the word for wine, oinos, refers to a non-intoxicating beverage. (2) It may refer to a fermented beverage that could only become harmful if consumed in great and immediate quantities. (3) Admittedly, oinos (Hebrew, yayin) may have reference to “strong drink.” In Genesis 9:21 it produced a state of drunkenness in Noah. The context must determine the nature of the wine. In Isaiah 16:10, Jeremiah 40:10, and in Revelation 19:15, “wine” is used to describe the juice of the grape. The same word is used to designate liquor, but even here we observe that “The liquors of this land in the strength of their intoxicating properties differ so widely from the light wines of Palestine that even the most moderate use of them seems immoderate in comparison” (J.W. McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel, p. 118).
3. “Why was Timothy told to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake if it was a sin? Again, one must grant that this wine is comparable to our modern day wine that is intoxicating, but this we are not willing to grant. Paul here prescribed wine for medicinal, not social purposes. Drugs may be taken in medicinal form that would be sinful to imbibe socially. One who uses this passage should cease to drink water and drink very little wine. Ever know of one who gave up water (Drink no longer water. . .) while he tried to justify his drinking by this verse? Neither have I.
But if it be objected that Paul here admonishes “drink no longer water only or exclusively” (Cf. NASB), then the water is to be mixed with the wine. This would further dilute any intoxicating powers it might possess. Be it remembered, though, that this wine is not what we think or conceive as wine today.
4. “I am trying to think of where the passage is that says for the woman not to be given to much wine wherein is excess. (The verse in mind is undoubtedly Titus 2:3-LRH). Doesn’t this indicate she can drink a little?” When Peter said that brethren did not run with “the same excess of riot” with the world, did he thereby imply that they engaged in a little riotous behavior? Right above, he had mentioned “excess of wine.@ If this permits a little wine, why does not Aexcess of riot@ allow a little riotous activity (1 Pet. 4:3, 4)? When Paul said, ALet not the sun go down upon your wrath,@ are we to suppose he permitted wrath from sunrise to sunset? When elders and deacons are shown to be men who must not be Agreedy of filthy lucre,@ does this justify a lust for ill gotten gain just so it is in moderation?
Let us not see how closely we can live like the devil while claiming life in the Son. This disposition seems to motivate those who want to drink Aa little.@ It is contrary to the tone, tint, and tenor of the New Testament. ABe ye holy; for I am holy@ (1 Pet. 1:16). AWine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise@ (Prov. 20:1). ALook not thou upon the wine when it is red . . . at the last it biteth like a serpent@ (Prov. 23: 31, 32).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:45, p. 4-5
September 19, 1974