- Love and Liberty
And Wine That Maketh Glad The Heart Of Man
Though some Christians take the stance that the consumption of any alcohol whatsoever is sinful, they are going beyond the Word of God and setting their own rules in place of God’s. Any Christian may choose to abstain from even the moderate consumption of wine (or beer), and no one should try to convince him to do otherwise. On the other hand, the Christian that chooses to avoid wine is wrong to hold all other Christians to his “personal standard” and to consider them to be sinning when they partake in something that God’s Word does not forbid.
Clearly, drunkenness is a sin. Drunkards will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Drunkenness is the result of over-drinking and losing self-control. However, the repeated warnings against drunkenness, themselves, show that God permits the consumption of alcoholic beverages, because God does not forbid overdoing something that is a sin to do. Think about that. As pointed out by Bob Enyart here, God does not warn us against too much fornication, or too much stealing, or too much bearing false witness against our neighbor. But he does warn us against being “given to much wine” (Titus 2:3), tarrying “long at the wine” (Proverbs 23:30), being mocked and deceived by wine (Proverbs 20:1), indulging in an “excess of wine” (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Peter 4:3) and causing your weaker brother to stumble by drinking wine in his presence (Romans 14:21).
Some make the claim that ancient wine had minimal alcohol content, but wine has always been wine. Noah is the first person known to have consumed wine and his over-drinking caused him to lose self-control. He was observed unclothed in his tent and this led to negative consequences for his family. The daughters of Lot knew that wine could be effective at getting someone to lose self-control and they used that knowledge to accomplish their perverse goal. The simple fact is the many biblical warnings against drunkenness would not make sense if there was minimal alcohol in the wine referred to in the Bible, or that it was basically grape juice. The world did not know how to prevent the fermentation of grape juice until 1869 when Thomas Welch used Louis Pasteur's pasteurization process to do so.
While warning against the potential abuses of wine, the Bible makes many positive statements about wine drinking. Deuteronomy 14:26 implies that it is a good thing to drink wine and strong drink to the Lord: “And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household.”
Psalm 4:7 compares joy in the Lord to an increase of wine: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”
Psalm 104:14-15 identifies God as the creator of wine that makes a man’s heart glad: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.”
Honoring the Lord with one’s resources is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine: “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Prov 3:10) The Lord prepares a banquet with well-aged (fermented) wines for his people: “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” (Isaiah 25:6)
There are other passages in the Bible relevant to this topic. The provision of wine is considered a blessing from the Lord in the following verses: Genesis 27:28, Deuteronomy 7:13 and 11:14, Joel 2:19, 24 and 3:18, Amos 9:13-14, Isaiah 55:1, Jeremiah 31:12, and Zechariah 9:17. The lack of wine is viewed as a judgment from God in the following passages: Jeremiah 48:33, Lamentations 2:12, Hosea 2:9, Joel 1:10, and Haggai 2:16.
Wine is connected with the blessings of God so often in the Bible, it seems that people are on dangerous ground for considering the moderate consumption of alcohol to be evil. It is undeniable that the abuse of alcohol has resulted in ruined lives and countless deaths, so this is an issue that Christians should be concerned with. However, the fact that some people abuse something that the Bible considers to be a gift from God does not mean that we should reject the gift, only its abuse. Fornication is an abuse of a gift from God, but rarely will you find people calling for a complete prohibition on sex.
The Apostle Paul warned against making up rules, including what you can and cannot eat or drink, and imposing them on others in the name of the Lord. Self-imposed religion is of no value to God. “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men (emphasis mine)? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:21-23).
In all things, we should seek to be biblical. Traditions and Christian subcultures can affect our thinking more than we realize. Christians tend to compile rules that go beyond what is written in the Word. When others go beyond these man-made boundaries, they are sometimes looked at as “the weaker brother.” In reality, the weaker brother in scripture is the one who places unnecessary chains on others thinking they are unholy if they do not abide by their rules. There may be very good reasons for some people to avoid alcoholic beverages, even in moderation, but we must not demand of others what God has not demanded from them.