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  What's the Bible Really Say about Alcohol?

"1995's hot political football in Walton County was the alcohol issue. What's the Bible really say about drinking?" The writer of this question has chosen to remain anonymous, perhaps an enviable position at this moment.

The Bible is pretty specific in its commands of who should not drink. Rulers and those taking a Nazarite vow are forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages, the former because they might not rule wisely (Proverbs 31.4-5), the latter because they have taken a specific vow (Numbers 6.2-3). Priests are forbidden to drink wine before they enter the sanctuary (Leviticus 10.9), and there are two officers of the church who should not be "given" to alcoholic beverages (that is, they should be neither alcoholics nor drunkards), these are the deacons (1 Timothy 3.8) and the bishops (Titus 1.7). Further, those who have "been given over to" or are addicted to alcohol are prohibited from drinking, as is indicated in 1st Corinthians 7.12. However, as for the rest, the Bible seems quite tolerant.

From the earliest times the consumption of alcohol has been the norm for those of our Judeao-Christian heritage. Noah is credited as being the first to plant a vineyard for the production of wine. Since that time the use of alcohol is pretty well assumed throughout most of the stories in scripture.

It is true, many of the stories, perhaps even most of then, that speak of alcohol speak to the abuse of it, however nowhere in scripture is there a direct command for the average person not mentioned above to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. In fact, exactly opposite is the case in Proverbs 31.6-7, "Give strong drink to one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more." This prescription is given to those who've had a really bad day/week/life.

In the New Testament it is clear wine was the norm for celebrations as well as for meals. The Passover feast was served with four ceremonial cups of wine, and Jesus himself miraculously made wine from water at a wedding in Cana. For those who insist he made a non-fermented wine, note the Greek word oinos is used, which is clearly an alcoholic beverage as opposed to either gleucos which is unfermented juice or oinos neos, new wine.

However, Christians have long been taught that our actions must not be a "stumbling block" or a hindrance to others. Paul writes of this on several occasions, even going so far as to say, "It is good not to . . . drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble" (Romans 14.21). However, Paul is warning about imbibing in places where people who might take offence would take notice of your actions. Paul also says, "Why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks?" (1 Corinthians 10.29-30).

The bottom line is this, if consuming alcohol is problematic, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, then one should not drink. Indeed, according to Paul, "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean [sinful, evil] in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean" (Romans 14.14). On the other hand, if having a glass of wine with dinner, etc., is not a problem, then scripture allows for this as well.

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