Promise Drinkers (Part 3)

PMT 2013-08b by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Below is a study on biblical evidence of the righteous partaking of wine. 

We are studying the question of wine drinking in terms of the Christian ethic. May a Christian drink wine, or any alcoholic beverage? I believe that Christian may partake of wine in moderation. In the last article I demonstrated the fermented quality (and consequently the inebriating potential) of the wine of the Bible. I will now set forth several Biblical evidences of its righteous employment.

We see alcoholic wine allowed in Scripture from several different perspectives.

1. Righteous Example. In Genesis 14:18 Melchizedek gave yayin to Abraham in righteous circumstances. There is no evidence of any divine disapprobation in this episode. (See also Neh. 5:16-19.)

2. Sacred Employment. The Scripture teaches that both yayin (Ex. 29:38ff) and shekar (Num 28:7) were used for offerings to God. This is important for two reasons: (1) These (alcoholic) beverages had to be produced for worship and (2) they were acceptable as offerings to God. If alcoholic beverages were unsuitable for human consumption, why were they acceptable in divine worship?

3. Positive Blessing. God’s Law allowed yayin and shekar to be purchased with the Tithe of Rejoicing and to be drunk before the Lord. “You shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine (yayin) or strong drink (shekar), for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household” (Deut. 14:26).

In fact, the psalmist attributes to God the production of yayin, which makes man’s heart glad (Ps. 104:14-15). Surely God’s provision has in view a righteous employment of alcoholic beverage. Furthermore, Scripture speaks of the satisfaction of life as illustrated in the eating of bread and drinking of yayin with gladness (Eccl. 9:7).

4. Spiritual Symbolism. The rich symbolism of God’s redemptive revelation makes bold use of fermented beverages. The blessings of salvation are likened to free provision of yayin: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come , buy and eat. Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1).

Kingdom blessings are symbolized by the abundant provision of yayin: “`Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, `when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows see…; I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; …they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them” (Amos 9:13-14). Elsewhere we read: “In this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees” (Is. 25:6). Clearly, wine–even carefully aged wine — is viewed as a symbol of God’s blessings.

5. Christ’s Witness. Interestingly, our Lord Jesus Christ miraculously “manufactured” an abundance (John 2:6) of wine [yayin] for a marriage feast. This wine was deemed “good” by the headmaster of the feast (John 2:10) — and men prefer “old [i.e. aged, fermented] wine” because it is good (Luke 5:39).

Having “manufactured” wine in His first miracle, it is no surprise that the Lord publicly drank it. This put a clear distinction between Him and the ascetic John the Baptizer: “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, `He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, `Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinner!” (Luke 7:33-35).

6. Prohibitional Silence. Scripture nowhere gives a universal command on the order: “take no wine at all”. In fact, select groups that forgo wine are worthy of mention as acting differently from accepted Biblical practice, e.g. the Nazarites (Num. 6:2-6) anything and John the Baptizer (Luke 1:15). Others are forbidden to imbibe wine only during the formal exercise of their specific duties, e.g. priests (Lev. 10:8-11) and kings (Prov. 31: 4, 5).

All prohibitions to partaking wine involve prohibitions either to immoderate consumption or to abusers: “Be not drunk with wine” (Eph. 5:18). “Do not be with heavy drinkers” (Prov. 23:20). “Do not be addicted to wine” (I Tim. 3:8; Tit.2:3). “Do not linger long over wine” (Prov. 23:30).

Conclusion

When all is said and done, we must distinguish the use of wine from its abuse. Sometimes in Scripture gluttonous partaking of food is paralleled with immoderate drinking of wine (Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:21). But food is not universally prohibited! Sometimes in Scripture sexual perversion is paralleled with drunkenness (Rom. 13:13; I Pet. 4:3). But all sexual activity is not condemned! Wealth often becomes a snare to the sinner (I Tim. 6:9-11), but the Scripture does not universally decry its acquisition (Job 42:10-17)! Each of these factors in life is intended by God to be a blessing for man, when used according to His righteous Law.

It would seem abundantly clear, then, that the Scriptures do allow the moderate partaking of alcoholic beverages. There is no hesitancy in Scripture in commending wine, nor embarrassment in portraying its consumption among the righteous of Biblical days. Wine is set before the saints as blessing and gladness (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:14-15), even though it may be to the immoderate and wicked a mocker and curse (Prov. 20:1; 23:29ff).


Helpful studies

God Gave Wine (book)
by Kenneth Gentry
For more information or to buy: click here
If you do not want to read more or buy it: click here.

This book is an updated and greatly expanded revision of my original work, The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages. (Oh, how I wish I had titled it: The Wrath of Grapes!) It defends a moderate use of alcohol on the basis of biblical exegesis. It respects the problems of various kinds of alcohol abuse and responds to various concerns about alcohol consumption. Helpful for all Christians considering the issue from either side of the question. Deals with all the major Bible passages touching on the subject.

Wall of Misconception: Separation of Church and State (book)
by Peter Lillback
For more information or to buy: click here

In Wall of Misconception, Peter Lillback examines our nation’s historic understanding of and the founding fathers intention in the relationship of our Constitution to matters of faith, ethics, and morals, taking into account the historical and biblical context as well as the concept s relation to today’s culture.

This is both the layman’s and professional’s definitive guide to the separation of church and state and, indeed, the separation of God and government. How often have you heard it stated on TV, in the press, or by an acquaintance that the wall of separation between church and state are words taken right out of the US Constitution?

In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution — what is popularly referred to as the establishment clause —  the only part of the US Constitution that even deals with religion and faith contains no reference whatsoever to a wall of separation, or, for that matter, any sort of wording including the phrase separation of church and state. The only words in the US Constitution concerning this topic are found in the First Amendment, where it is written: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

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