Alcohol and the Bible
Did Jesus Really Make Wine And
"The saloon is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow. It
promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends
misery.... It is God's worst enemy and the devil's best friend."
-Billy Sunday Ļ
When I was sixteen years old, I received the tragic news that a certain
member of my family, to whom I was very close, was dying of
alcohol-induced liver cancer. I vividly remember visiting him in the
hospital, not prepared for what I would see when I walked into the room.
What was once a big, robust man was now essentially a skeleton covered
with ghostly, pale skin, barely able to speak.
I had only been a Christian for a few months. Even before I came to
Christ, I never was much of a drinker, mainly because I just didn't like
the way it tasted. However, when I saw what years of drinking had done to
my above mentioned relative, my decision never to touch alcohol was set
in stone. As I studied the Scriptures over the years, I learned that I
had made the right choice.
The issue of alcohol has always been a controversial one within the
Christian community. Did Jesus make, or advocate the use of, intoxicating
wine? Is having an occasional drink really that big of a deal? These are
certainly valid questions that committed Christians have asked over the
In looking at the overall teaching of the Bible, as well as observations
made in my own life over the years, I firmly believe that total
abstinence is by far the best policy. I am not a prude, nor is this
message intended to be legalistic or condemning. On the contrary, I want
to share a truth with you that is very liberating. God's Word has been
compared to a map showing us where the "land mines" in life are.
Beverage alcohol is one of those land mines.
BIBLICAL USE OF THE WORD "WINE";
It is important to remember that in Bible days, the word "juice" was not
widely used. It only occurs once in the entire Bible (Song of Solomon
8:2.) Wine was a general term for any grape juice product-even when it
was still in the grape clusters (Isaiah 65:8.) Even in pre-prohibition
America, nonalcoholic grape juice was often referred to as "grape wine."
Their are nine Hebrew, and four Greek words translated "wine" in the
Bible (to study this further,see William Patton's classic book "Bible
Wines or Laws of Fermentation and Wines of the Ancients.") Generally, it
is easy to see from the context of individual Scriptures which form of
wine is being referred to.
For example, in the Book of Proverbs, alcoholic wine is referred to as a
mocker and a deceiver that leads to violence (20:1-2), poverty (23:21),
sorrow (23:29-30,) immorality(23:33,) insecurity (23:34,) insensibility
(23:35,) and is even compared to a poisonous snake! (23:32)
On the other hand, abstinence from wine and other intoxicants is
presented as a great virtue. God honored Daniel for refusing the King's
wine (Daniel 1:5, 8, 16; 10:3.) John the Baptist's greatness in the eyes
of God was directly linked to the fact that he drank no wine or strong
drink (Luke 1:15.) Even as He was dying, Jesus refused the wine that was
offered Him to deaden His pain (Mark 15: 23.)
In Ephesians 5:18, we are told to "be not drunk with wine...but be
filled with the Spirit." Note the contrast: Being drunk with wine is in
total opposition to being filled with the Spirit.
If we look at the most strictly literal translation of this verse, it
reads "Be not entering into the act of being drunk with wine, but be
continually entering into the process of being filled with the
Spirit."The context of the verse goes deeper than just "Don't get drunk."
It is telling us not to even enter into the act of drinking intoxicants.
JESUS AND WINE
What then, about the wine that Jesus made at the marriage feast? Was it
alcoholic?The Greek word used here is "oinos," a variation of the Hebrew
word "yayin."This word can refer to grape juice in any stage, either
Regardless of your opinion of casual drinking, I'm sure most of you will
agree that drunkenness is definitely a sin. In light of this, would Jesus
contribute to drunkenness?
At the time Jesus had arrived at the feast, the guests had "well
drunk"of whatever they were drinking (V.10.) Jesus knew well the solemn
warnings of Habakkuk 2:15,"Woe to him who gives his neighbor intoxicating
drink." (Note: If it is a sin to put alcohol to our neighbor's lips,
would it not also be a sin to put it to our own?) With this in mind, we
can be sure that the beverage Jesus made was a refreshing, nonalcoholic
grape drink. To do otherwise would have been totally incompatible with
ALCOHOLISM AND ADDICTION
We often hear the term "alcohol and drugs." This is a false distinction,
because alcohol IS a drug. It is one of the most abused narcotics in the
world. I have personally witnessed, and many of you have as well, how
strong the addictive bondage of alcohol can be. I have known a number of
people whose lives were shattered by alcoholism. I have often wondered
how much different their lives might have been if they had just said "no"
to that first drink. No "social drinker" thinks that they can become an
alcoholic, just like no one who casually experiments with cocaine,
heroine, or other drugs thinks about the possibility of becoming an
addict. The old adage about an ounce of prevention certainly holds true
here. It is far better to stop a problem before it starts, wouldn't you
say? God does not want us in bondage to ANYTHING, whether it be alcohol,
tobacco, drugs, or any other vice (1 Corinthians 3 :17; 9: 27; 1
Thessalonians 4:4.) As a teenager, I heard a simple, but profound
statement that has always stuck with me: No one ever became an alcoholic,
who didn't take the first drink.
really totally abstain from alcoholic drinks? Or does God tell us we can
In the 1800ís and early 1900ís
the church in America took a bold stand for total abstinence. People
read research about the word "wine;" Bible studies showed the
truth about alcohol. The result was Prohibition with its great benefits.
But the prohibition amendment was repealed, and the church began to
weaken its conviction against alcohol. Today some pastors say,
"Whatís wrong with a six pack? Why get hung up on a little wine
at a wedding?"
The Bible is the same
"yesterday, today, and forever." What godly Bible teachers
said in the past is true today. Dr. Robert Teachout, A Semitic scholar
who, in 1979, wrote his doctorate on The Use of Wine in the Old
Testament, stated, "Alcohol is never approved by God in any
amount for the obedient Christian."
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, author of Wine
in the Bible, 1989, says, Drinking Alcohol is...a moral issue. It
is...a transgression of Godís law."
FACTS TO KNOW
1) The Bible does teach total
abstinence from alcohol. Both the main Hebrew word for wine and the
Greek word for wine can mean either fermented grape juice or
intoxicating wine. The English word wine originally had two meanings
also - unfermented juice or alcoholic drink.
2) In the Bible, verses to show God
approves of wine are speaking about unfermented juice. Verses that
expose the evils of wine are speaking about intoxicating wine.
3) The Bible says alcoholic drink is
evil. It is not just the amount one drinks that makes drinking a sin.
God condemns the drink itself. (Prov 20:1 KJV) Wine is a mocker, strong
drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
4) God does not lead us into evil; He
delivers us from it. He does not teach us to practice evil in
moderation. Jesus did not make, use, approve, commend, or tell us to use
5) God made man to have fellowship
with Him. Alcohol goes directly to the brain, the communication center
of the body. It interferes with Godís purpose for mankind.
There is more Scripture condemning
the use of alcoholic beverages than will be found on the subjects of
lying, adultery, swearing, cheating, hypocrisy, pride, or even
1) Genesis 9:20-26 - Noah became
drunk; the result was immorality and family trouble.
2) Genesis 19:30-38 - Lot was so
drunk he did not know what he was doing; this led to immorality
3) Leviticus 10:9-11 - God commanded
priests not to drink so that they could tell the difference between the
holy and the unholy.
4) Numbers 6:3 - The Nazarites were
told to eat or drink nothing from the grape vine.
5) Deuteronomy 21:20 - A drunken son
was stubborn and rebellious.
6) Deuteronomy 29:5-6 - God gave no
grape juice to Israel nor did they have intoxicating drink in the
7) Deuteronomy 32:33 - Intoxicating
wine is like the poison of serpents, the cruel venom of asps.
8) Judges 13:4, 7, 14 - Samson was to
be a Nazarite for life. His mother was told not to drink wine or strong
9) 1 Samuel 1:14-15 - Accused, Hannah
said she drank no wine.
10) 1 Samuel 25:32-38 - Nabal died
after a drunken spree.
11) 2 Samuel 11:13 - By getting Uriah
drunk, David hoped to cover his sin.
12) 2 Samuel 13:28-29 - Amnon was
drunk when he was killed.
13) 1 Kings 16:8-10 - The king was
drinking himself into drunkenness when he was assassinated
14) 1 Kings 20:12-21 - Ben-Hadad and
32 other kings were drinking when they were attacked and defeated by the
15) Esther 1:5-12 - The king gave
each one all the drink he wanted. The king was intoxicated when he
commanded the queen to come.
16) Psalm 75:8 - The Lordís anger
is pictured as mixed wine poured out and drunk by the wicked.
17) Proverbs 4:17 - Alcoholic drink
is called the wine of violence.
18) Proverbs 20:1 - Wine is a mocker,
strong drink is raging.
19) Proverbs 23:19-20 - A wise person
will not be among the drinkers of alcoholic beverages.
20) Proverbs 23:21 - Drunkenness
21) Proverbs 23:29-30 - Drinking
causes woe, sorrow, fighting, babbling, wounds without cause and red
22) Proverbs 23:31 - God instructs
not to look at intoxicating drinks.
23) Proverbs 23:32 - Alcoholic drinks
bite like a serpent, sting like an adder.
24) Proverbs 23:33 - Alcohol causes
the drinker to have strange and adulterous thoughts, produces
willfulness, and prevents reformation.
25) Proverbs 23:34 - Alcohol makes
the drinker unstable
26) Proverbs 23:35 - Alcohol makes
the drinker insensitive to pain so he does not perceive it as a warning.
Alcohol is habit forming.
27) Proverb 31:4-5 - Kings, Princes,
and others who rule and judge must not drink alcohol. Alcohol perverts
28) Proverbs 31:6-7 - Strong drink
could be given to those about to perish or those in pain. Better
anesthetics are available today.
29) Ecclesiastes 2:3 - The king tried
everything, including intoxicating drink, to see if it satisfied. It did
not. (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
30) Ecclesiastes 10:17 - A land is
blessed when its leaders do not drink.
31) Isaiah 5:11-12 - Woe to those who
get up early to drink and stay up late at night to get drunk.
32) Isaiah 5:22 - Woe to
"champion" drinkers and "experts" at mixing drinks.
33) Isaiah 19:14 - Drunken men
stagger in their vomit.
34) Isaiah 22:12-13 - The Israelites
choose to drink; their future looks hopeless to them.
35) Isaiah 24:9 - Drinkers cannot
escape the consequences when God judges.
36) Isaiah 28:1 - God pronounces woe
on the drunkards of Ephraim.
37) Isaiah 28:3 - Proud drunkards
shall be trodden down.
38) Isaiah 28:7 - Priests and
prophets stagger and reel from beer and wine, err in vision, and stumble
39) Isaiah 28:8 - Drinkersí tables
are covered with vomit and filth.
40) Isaiah 56:9-12 - Drinkers seek
their own gain and expect tomorrow to be just like today.
41) Jeremiah 35:2-14 - The Rechabites
drank no grape juice or intoxicating wine and were blessed.
42) Ezekiel 44:21 - Again God
instructed the priests not to drink wine.
43) Daniel 1:5-17 - Daniel refused
the kingís intoxicating wine and was blessed for it along with his
44) Daniel 5:1 - Belshazzar, ruler of
Babylon; led his people in drinking.
45) Daniel 5:2-3 - The king, along
with his nobles, wives, and concubines, drank from the goblets which had
been taken from Godís temple.
46) Daniel 5:4 - Drinking wine was
combined with praising false gods.
47) Daniel 5:23 - God sent word to
Belshazzar that punishment would be swift for the evil he had committed.