Part 3 – Abstain? Moderation?
Part 3 – Abstain? Moderation?
What does the Bible have to say about alcoholic consumption?
THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST
FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE DAY OF PENTECOST
This period of time began with the virgin birth of the Messiah of the Jews, who is called Jesus Christ, God incarnate. When He was 30 years old, He began His public ministry. He chose twelve disciples to accompany Him and began teaching concerning a new kingdom that involved a new way of life that was to come. He lived a sinless life, was rejected by the Jews, crucified on a cross, paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world, forgave these sins, rose from the dead after 3 days never to die again, was witnessed or seen by many after His resurrection as He abode on earth in His glorified body for 40 days, and then ascended into heaven.
I’m sure drinking alcohol during this period of time will reveal to us Jesus’ mindset towards it. It wouldn’t be a reach to say that if Jesus abstained, then both the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist would say well, if this is Jesus’ mindset, then we don’t have to go any further, right? And the converse is true just as well. If Jesus’ mindset was that drinking alcohol in moderation was considered protocol, then this approach would be approved of. Do you agree with this reasoning? Let’s find out what was Jesus’ view concerning alcohol consumption.
And to remind you one more time.
A non-dispensationalist will look at the instances in which drinking alcohol was mentioned throughout the Bible and will choose those Scriptures that support the perpetuation of the practice of abstinence, whether from the Old Testament or the New Testament.
A dispensationalist will look at the instances in which drinking alcohol was mentioned and will confine the scriptural declarations of this practice to the dispensation at hand. If abstinence was suggested, then fine. If abstinence was not suggested, then fine.
We’ll begin by looking at Scriptures from the book of John.
John the Baptist was prohibited from drinking alcohol throughout his entire life. Why was this the case?
J. JOHN THE BAPTIST, A NAZARITE
Suggested Reading: Luke 1:5-23
Luke 1:9, 11, 13 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
This story revolves around two people, a man named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, who were advanced in age and had no children. Their prayer to God for a child was given reassurance by an angel named Gabriel, who met Zacharias in the sanctuary of the temple, where he had entered in order to burn incense.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
The angel told him that his wife would bear him a son whom they would name John. He would be someone that would make ready the Jewish people to be receptive toward the coming of the Messiah. He would not be allowed to drink wine nor strong drink and would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Why was he prohibited from drinking wine or strong drink?
Commentators believe the reason for this was because he was called to be a Nazarite. A Nazarite was either a man or woman who exhibited greater strictness and zeal in religion than others. Some followed this path for a short period of time, such as for 30, 60, or 100 days while others in the cases of Samson (Judges 13:5, 12-14) and Samuel (I Samuel 1:11) were dedicated by their parents to be Nazarites for their entire life. They spent much of their time in the study of the law, were bound to certain religious observances, performed acts of devotion, and taught others.
Some of the conditions of their calling were as follows.
They were required:
- To separate themselves from drinking wine and strong drink.
- To not shave their head (a symbol of strength and abundant vitality.
- To not cut their beard.
- To not come near any dead body.
- To not attend a funeral.
- To not eat unclean food.
If their vow was not for life, then after it was fulfilled, the restrictions would be removed, one of which would be for the allowance to resume drinking wine or strong drink.
Let’s proceed to the next book of the gospels, the book of Luke.
Did Jesus drink wine from time to time, or when the opportunity arose for Him to do so, did he choose to abstain? What do you think?
K. JESUS DRANK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Suggested Reading: Luke 7:19-35
John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus, asking whether He was the Messiah or not. During this time, Jesus healed many of the infirmities and plagues of the people. In response to John’s disciples, He told them to go back to him and tell him what they had seen.
Following this, Jesus spoke to the people about who John the Baptist was. There were many in attendance who had repented and believed his testimony concerning Christ and were subsequently baptized by him in water. There were others present at the time, such as the Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected John’s testimony. After which, Jesus gave a dissertation concerning what the men of this generation were like and how He was perceived by them.
Luke 7:34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
Deuteronomy 21:20-21 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
He further told them that John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine but was characterized by some as being empowered by a devil. Likewise, Jesus said concerning Himself that He did eat bread (fine foods) and drank (alcoholic beverages). However, He was accused by some of being a glutton (one who eats too much) and a winebibber (a drunkard), which according to the book of Deuteronomy, were capital offenses punishable by death. Another name that was given to Him was that of being a libertine. A libertine was one who opposed paying strict attention to what was right and proper as characterized by those who abstained from wine and certain kinds of foods.
It’s pretty obvious that Jesus ate fine food and drank alcoholic beverages. Are you surprised? Some would respond by saying yes, he did drink alcohol, but later on, in his life, he had a change of mind having decided rather to abstain. Others would say that He really didn’t drink wine at all but grape juice.
Let’s stay in the book of Luke and take a look at some Scriptures that some believe clearly indicate that Jesus quit drinking wine.
Near the end of his time on earth, did Jesus decide to abstain from drinking wine?
L. I WILL NOT DRINK THE FRUIT OF THE VINE
Suggested Reading: Luke 22:14-23
Jesus is with the twelve apostles preparing to eat the Passover lamb. As a pretext to these passages, I wanted to present to you the manner in which the Jews kept the Passover. Multitudes of Jews would come to Jerusalem to partake in the Passover, either with family, friends, or both. One of their number or of their group would be designated as the “proclaimer” of the feast. According to McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, the ceremonies of the feast took place in the following order.
- The Passover feast was celebrated in the evening. As they reclined on couches, the proclaimer pronounced a blessing “for the day and for the wine” over a cup of wine, which was mixed with water. The cup was passed around, from which each person drank.
- Everyone washed their hands.
- The table was set with the paschal lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the dish known as the Charoseth. This is a sauce made of dates, figs, raisins, and vinegar, which was designed to commemorate the Jew’s bondage in Egypt.
- The celebrant or proclaimer would then dip a portion of the bitter herbs into the Charoseth and eat them.
- The dishes involving the Charoseth were then removed.
- A cup of wine was placed on the table. Questions were allowed to be asked by any bystanders in relation to the feast.
- After, the cup of wine was passed around to drink.
- The Charoseth dishes were brought back, at which time the proclaimer restated the blessing, which was mentioned earlier, followed by thanksgiving. Then, Psalms 113 and 114 were read.
- The hands were washed again.
- Following this, the proclaimer blessed and broke one of two loaves or cakes of unleavened bread. Each person took portions of the bread, along with the bitter herbs, and dipped them into the Charoseth, and ate.
- The flesh (meat) of the paschal lamb was now partaken of.
- Another blessing was invoked, and the third cup of wine, known as the “cup of blessing”, was passed around and drunk from.
- The fourth cup of wine, known as the “cup of the Hallel”, was passed around, accompanied by the recital of Psalms 115-118.
- The fifth cup of wine known as the cup of the “great Hallel”, was passed around being accompanied by the recital of Psalms 120-137.
Luke 22:16-18 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
I’m sure that Jesus and His disciples followed the ceremony of the Passover. They would partake of the Passover Lamb and probably drink wine that was mixed with water. This was the custom of the day, which was thought to be the best way of drinking the best wine. However, it was during this particular Passover that He told them that He would no longer eat of the Passover lamb and drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come. Why did He say this?
Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
This appeared to be a clear sign that Jesus had a change of heart in regard to drinking alcohol, right?
He took bread, broke it, and passed it around saying, that this was representative of His body. Likewise, the cup was also passed around with the pronouncement that this was representative of His blood which would be shed for them. What did this signify?
This signified that Jesus would no longer be able to eat of the Passover Lamb and drink of the fruit of the vine because He would be the fulfillment of that which the Passover Lamb and the fruit of the vine is a type of. He would suffer on a cross as a sacrificial lamb satisfying the justice of God by bearing the sins of the whole world in His body while being separated from God the Father and sustained by the Holy Spirit along with providing forgiveness (removal of the record) for them.
The cup of wine is representative of His physical death, the shedding of His blood that would be followed by his descent into hell, His resurrection on earth after three days, His ascension into heaven, and the sending of the indwelling Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that commemorated the arrival of the inward kingdom of God on the earth. Thus, the partaking of the bread and wine should be commemorated from time to time in remembrance of His suffering (the payment for sin) and death on the cross.
The final gospel we will go to is the book of John. This is where Jesus’ first miracle took place.
Why did the marriage at Cana run out of wine?
M. THE MIRACLE AT CANA
Suggested Reading: John 2:1-11
Jesus is attending a marriage in the village of Cana being accompanied by His mother. Apparently, during the wedding celebration, all of the wine had been drunk. Why was there no more wine to drink? Was it because everyone drank too much? Was it because they miscalculated the amount needed in regard to the number of people that showed up? Was it because of some other reason? Typically, a Jewish wedding would last for a week. Someone, in this case, known as the governor, would be in charge of the food and drink provisions. This could simply have been a case of a lack of oversight.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
His mother, aware of the need for more wine, urged Him to address the matter. Seeing that there were six empty water pots nearby, each possibly holding between 20-30 gallons of liquid, Jesus instructed the servants to fill all of them with water and bring them to the governor of the feast.
9…the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
When the governor tasted the wine, he commended the bridegroom saying that usually at weddings the good wine was given out first followed by wine of lesser quality but in this case, according to him the best wine was saved for last.
A question to consider is this. If Jesus was concerned about changing the water into wine because more of it would be available to consume which might result in some of the partakers becoming drunk, then why didn’t He say something to His mother that this would be inappropriate for him to do so? If some of the wedding guests got drunk, would Jesus be the one held responsible?
Well, we’re ready to provide a summary and take another look at what the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist would say in regard to whether a Christian should be allowed to drink in moderation or be mandated to abstain.
A Brief Summary
- John the Baptist did not drink wine or strong drink, because he was a Nazarite for life. Luke 1:5-23
- Jesus ate fine foods and drank alcoholic beverages. Luke 7:19-35
- Jesus is no longer going to eat of the Passover Lamb and drink of the fruit of the vine because He will be the fulfillment of that which the Passover Lamb and the cup of wine is a type of. Luke 22:14-23
- Jesus turned six waterpots of water possibly as much as over 100 gallons into wine at the wedding of Cana. John 2:1-11
Based on the Scriptures looked at from the time Christ lived on the earth what might the teachings be concerning alcoholic consumption by the dispensationalist?
A dispensationalist would not use any of the ideas concerning drinking alcohol as mentioned in this age as a basis for supporting or not supporting this practice in the Church Age because the scriptural basis for drinking alcohol is determined differently in each dispensation. The dispensationalist would say that during this period of time Jesus drank wine from time to time in moderation. He didn’t appear to have any leaning toward embracing abstinence as indicated by the turning of water into wine for the benefit of those who attended a wedding at Cana. He was clearly seen by those of the religious hierarchy as having partaken of fine food and wine. Furthermore, His declaration of no longer being able to eat of the Passover Lamb and drink of the fruit of the vine was because He would no longer be able to participate in the Passover Feast because soon, He would be crucified on a cross. And by the way, it was customary to drink wine (grape juice turned into an alcoholic beverage by a process known as fermentation) not only during most meals but also at the Passover meal.
Based on the Scriptures looked at from the time Christ lived on the earth what might the teachings be concerning alcoholic consumption by the non-dispensationalist?
If your leader/Bible teacher is a non-dispensationalist, he/she would say that Jesus didn’t change water into wine, but that the water only tasted like wine because it was served after all of the initial wine had been drunk. (John 2:1-11) They might also say that Jesus didn’t drink wine, but grape juice, wine mixed with water. (Luke 7:19-35) Lastly, they would conclude that wine (including any type of alcohol) is not to be drunk under any circumstances because Jesus said that He would no longer eat of the Passover Lamb and drink of the fruit (grape juice) of the vine. (Luke 22:14-23) The non-dispensationalist view on abstinence was initially shaped by verses taken from the Old Testament. This perspective or mindset forms the basis as to how verses that are taken from the Age of Christ’s Incarnation are to be interpreted.
Are you beginning to get an understanding as to why the teachings of any church are such and such?
Are you beginning to understand why there are differences of opinion from one church to another in respect to their view on any particular biblical topic?
I am presenting this study because you should know the why behind the teachings of those by those in the leadership of the church you are attending. In some churches, you will not receive this kind of in-depth teaching on any biblical topic. Or if you do, it will only be on the perspective they adhere to. I believe that we as Christians should be able to make up our own mind concerning what we choose to believe, the exception would be in relation to foundational absolute doctrines of the faith.
Before we proceed to the next dispensation, which is called the Church Age, I would like to briefly present to you a story that is reflective of this idea of abstinence. By October of 1919 the Volstead Act, which gave the federal authorities the power to stop the manufacture, [sale,] or importation of "intoxicating liquor"11 became law in the entire USA. This declaration prohibited the sale of any liquor whose alcoholic content was more than .5%. Believe it or not this prohibition remained in effect for almost 14 years.
Many of the proponents of Prohibition were women that were very religious who saw this law as a means to address disease and disorder. They were convinced that alcohol was a deadly threat to the health and virtue of American womanhood – not, perhaps, entirely erroneously, since papers of the time were full of stories of battered wives and broken marriages.12
One of the many consequences of this prohibition was that illegal bars opened up everywhere. This benefitted to the surprise of many the nation’s gangsters, who realized that Prohibition provided for them an opportunity to make a lot of money. Over time, it became apparent that most of those in Congress drank alcohol, albeit secretively. In March 1933, just weeks after he had been inaugurated, President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act permitting the sale and consumption of beer with no more than 3.2% alcohol content.13
I brought this up to say that in this case the people of the USA were not given the choice to abstain, but were being forced to abstain because of Prohibition. The government decided as to whether the manufacture, sale, or importation of liquor would be allowed. For those who broke the law and got caught, they faced severe penalties.
For some churches, this same mindset is still being perpetuated. The leadership declares to its members that they abstain from drinking alcohol which in effect means they are prohibited from drinking it. And it’s possible if they are found out to be drinking even in moderation, they might be asked to either abstain or leave the church.
So, what should guide the Christian as to whether they should abstain or not? I’m sure that you would say, the Scriptures, the Bible, and I would agree. I would also add by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit.
However, as we have become aware, the teachings by the leadership of various churches are not clear cut as to biblical issues. Why not, because it depends on the Scriptures, they use to support their arguments. Where does this leave the Christian who wants to make a more informed decision in relation to this or any biblical topic? I would say do your due diligence to study the topic at hand along with engaging in continual prayer to God the Father for guidance and clarity by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We’re about to embark on the final chapter in this study. Are you ready? Let’s go.
11Dominic Sandbrook. “How Prohibition backfired and gave America an era of gangsters and speakeasies” 2012, 05 January 2014 <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/aug/26/lawless-prohibition-gangsters-speakeasies>.
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