PART 4 Abstain? Moderation?
PART 4 ABSTAIN? MODERATION?
What does the Bible have to say about alcoholic consumption?
THE CHURCH AGE
FROM THE DAY OF PENTECOST TO THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
Jesus promised the disciples after He left this earth that He would send to each of them the Holy Spirit, who is another member of the Trinity that would come and dwell within them. On the day of Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled. From that time on, the disciples’ mission would be to proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who is deity, came to the earth to die on a cross as a substitute for mankind, thus paying the penalty demanded by another member of the Trinity, God the Father for all of the sins that were committed by the entire world, past, present, and future. This payment opened the door for sinful man to have an opportunity to enter into heaven immediately at physical death, provided they repented of their sins to God the Father and professed belief in his Jesus Christ as to who He is and what He has accomplished. Acts 26:20
When any person repents to God the Father and believes in Christ, they will receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:30; Ephesians 2:8), who will provide spiritual gifts, divine power, and the opportunity to experience a new way of life that is based upon a new way of thinking, which is delineated in the scriptural sections of the New Testament (e.g., some passages in the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation). Some of these new believers might also receive an office leadership gift, which is a gift that is a calling to a leadership position in the church (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers). The collective purpose of such is for the perfecting (mending, repair, or correcting all that is deficient) of the saints, the work of the ministry (the work of Christian service), and the edifying (to cause to grow strong) of the body of Christ so that every member might become mature or fully grown.
For the last time, remember this.
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.
A dispensationalist will look at the instances in which drinking alcohol was mentioned and will confine the conditions of this practice to the dispensation at hand. If abstinence was suggested, then fine. If abstinence was not suggested, then fine.
The first section we will look at is taken from the book of Romans. In the church at Rome, there were many Christians that were habitually committing overt sin. Two sins are mentioned that have to do with excessive drinking. One is called rioting (heavy drinking and sexual immorality), and the other is named drunkenness. Let’s take a look and see what these verses have to say.
Did the apostle Paul suggest to these believers that the solution to addressing these sins was to abstain from drinking alcohol?
N. NOT IN … DRUNKENNESS
Suggested Reading: Romans 13:11-14
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
Paul is addressing the Christians at Rome, saying that it is now time for some of them to wake up from their lethargic, nonaggressive, lazy Christian life. For their future glorification, the transformation of their bodies at the Rapture into perfect bodies with the new nature14 draws closer.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting or drunkenness, not in chambering or wantonness, not in strife and envying.
These believers needed to begin to choose to stop doing things that were done in darkness by dressing themselves in the weapons of light. Their life should exhibit a fitting manner of behavior and not behavior that exhibits rioting (heavy drinking and sexual immorality), drunkenness, chambering (whoredoms and prostitution of any kind), wantonness (sodomitical practices - anal or oral copulation with members of the same sex15), strife (litigations), and envying (furious altercations).
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
The solution to not continuing to be engaged in these types of behaviors was to put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ? This means to assume His interests. In what sense? In other words, to let His mind be in them. What is Christ’s mind?
Christ’s mind refers to the new thoughts that He has unveiled to us in some sections of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation. It means to learn to think with divine viewpoint as it relates to who God has made us be in every area of our life. Instead of thinking about how to gratify the desires of the flesh or trying as hard as we can to not commit these sinful actions, we are instructed to think with God’s Word for every area of human weakness. If we do this, then we will not be engaged in overt sinful actions that have their basis in the corrupt propensities of the depraved nature, but rather, we will be cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.
Please stay in the book of Romans, where we will learn about whether a believer should abstain from drinking alcohol in respect to a fellow believer that has a weakness in this area.
If a fellow believer has an issue with alcohol, then should we abstain so as not to tempt them?
O. WHEREBY THY BROTHER STUMBLETH
Suggested Reading: Romans 14:1-21
Romans 14:1-2 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
The early churches were made up of Gentiles and Jews, many of whom (the Jews) continued to obey the mandates of the Mosaic Law. Therefore, there were several issues that needed to be addressed. The first had to do with eating certain foods and consuming certain beverages. Some in the church (the Gentiles) ate whatever they wanted to, while others (the Jews) ate only vegetables.
Acts 15:19-20 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
This came to a head when the Jews and Gentiles met on the first day of the week for worship, the agape feast, and the breaking of bread (communion). What is an agape feast? The agape feast was an expression of the typical meal of the church. Apparently, the Gentiles would bring meat and drink to this feast that contained blood in them. Because many of the Jews still observed the dietary laws of the Mosaic Law, they were repulsed by these offerings and refused to continue to attend. The resolution was for the Gentiles to not bring the meat of animals that had been killed by means of strangulation because some of the blood would still remain in them. They were also prohibited from bringing wine that had blood mixed in with it. Wine mixed with blood was often drunk during the sacrificial feasts of idolaters and when making covenants.
Romans 14:5-6 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord;…
Another issue that was needed to be addressed had to do with esteeming certain days of the year more than others. Some of the Jews in the church considered certain days (e.g., the 7th day Sabbath, the feast days, etc.) to be more important than the other days of the year. The Gentiles, however, believed that each day was to be esteemed the same. The solution was that the Jews were allowed to observe any days they desired as long as they didn’t mandate that the Gentiles do the same. The Jews were also made aware that these observances could not serve as the basis for salvation or sanctification (spiritual growth).
Romans 14:14-15 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
There was one more issue that needed to be addressed, which had to do with the eating of meat that was offered in sacrifice to pagan idols. Apparently, some of the Gentile believers would attend pagan temples in order to partake of the free food that was made available to them from the animal sacrifices that were offered there. In some cases, the pagan priests would take some of the food (meat) from the pagan temple and bring it to the public markets for anyone to buy.
When some of the believers, who had attended these pagan rituals in the past had decided to no longer participate because of their conversion to Christianity, saw some of their fellow believers going to the temple and partaking in these feasts, they considered what they were doing as wrong and began to judge them, thus committing sin. The solution to this situation was twofold. First, none of the believers should go to the pagan temples and partake of these sacrifices because in doing so, what they were actually participating in was the worship of pagan deities. Second, if a believer purchased meat in the marketplace or attended a feast that was located outside of the pagan temple at which meat was offered, they should, in this instance, not ask any questions as to where the meat came from.
With what we have just learned, do you believe that based on any of these recommendations, a Christian should abstain from drinking alcohol if they became aware that a fellow believer has an issue with it?
Where I would like you to turn next in your Bible, if you have it handy, is to the book of 1 Corinthians. This presents an exciting story in that it reveals to us that the wine that was partaken of in this instance was not grape juice.
Some Christians overindulged in drinking and eating, when the Lord’s Supper was observed during the celebration of the agape feast. Due to self-indulgence by some as to their intake of food and wine was a declaration made by leadership that wine was no longer allowed to be partaken of at communion?
P. ONE IS HUNGRY, AND ANOTHER IS DRUNKEN
Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:18-34
The Corinthians observed what was called the Agape or “Love Feasts” that involved the meetings of church members to gather together for a social meal on the first day of the week, the day following the 7th day Sabbath. Some commentators stated that initially, these feasts were held daily, but as time went on, they were changed to once a week. What was the purpose of these feasts? These feasts were instituted with plans of mutual relief or charity to the poor.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
In this instance, the more affluent members of the church came and ate with their own crowd. Some of them were so hungry that they decided to eat and drink what they brought for themselves instead of waiting for everyone to arrive. As a result, they wound up overeating and overdrinking, eventually becoming inebriated. When the poor arrived, there was nothing left to eat or drink.
Following the sharing of the agape meal, it was customary to partake of the Lord’s Supper, at which time the elements of the bread and wine would be partaken of. Instead of the poor looking upon the partaking of the elements from a spiritual perspective, they looked upon them for physical nourishment.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
33 Wherefore, my brethren when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
What was the solution to the problem? The answer to the problem was twofold. First, if anyone was starving that had ample food and drink at home, then that is where they should eat and drink. After which, they should attend the feast and bring some food and drink for the less fortunate. Second, they were to wait until all had arrived and received their food and drink before any consumption of food or drink was to take place.
1 Corinthians 11:26-28, 30 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
As far as the partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an inappropriate manner, this was a serious offense. Paul’s instruction was that before anyone partook of its elements, they should examine their own motives or state of mind; otherwise, the result could be receiving discipline from the Lord that could involve either the loss of physical strength due to disease or the possibility of physical death. For as often as they ate of the bread and drank of the wine, they evidenced a visible sermon that proclaimed "the message of the Cross", that is, the reality of the Lord's death, and also the certainty of His return (until He comes16).
Here’s a question to consider. Was there enacted a prohibition to not bring any alcoholic beverage to the agape feast?
The next book to go to is the book of Ephesians. This will tell us what the remedy is for alcohol addiction.
If a believer is addicted to alcohol consumption, then what do the Scriptures tell us as to what they should do in order to be able to overcome this obsession?
Q. BE NOT DRUNK WITH WINE
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit
There were some believers that were being continually controlled by the consumption of wine. The only way to address this behavior was for the believer to choose to be frequently maintained or filled with the Holy Spirit. What this doesn’t mean is our life should be controlled by allegiance to church activities. It means that he/she should learn how to be controlled by one of the members of the Trinity, this being the person of the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It means that the Holy Spirit fills the believer with Himself. It means when the Spirit fills or controls us; we will experience His presence (power) and manifest His fruit (e.g., love, joy, peace, …). This fruit is a divine love, a divine peace, a divine joy, etc., and not a human love, a human peace, or a human joy, etc. How does a believer become filled with the Spirit?
This involves a daily process called renewing one’s mind. Hopefully, through the teachings of those in leadership along with our own study of the Word of God, we learn how to think differently in our mind concerning those habitual areas of weakness that occur in our life (e.g., self-centeredness, low self-esteem, jealousy, regrets, etc.).
So, as we have learned, there is only one way to break the bondage of addictions for those in the Christian assembly who are enslaved by them and that is to teach them how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Learning how to be filled with the Holy Spirit should be the goal of every believer and the focus of those in the church who have been given an office leadership gift (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers).
Let’s go next to the book of 1 Timothy, where we will take about whether someone that was appointed to a particular position of authority in the church was obligated to abstain from drinking alcohol.
As far as the qualifications for someone to be appointed for the responsibilities of a deacon, were they prohibited from drinking alcohol?
R. DEACONS…NOT GIVEN TO MUCH WINE
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
The qualifications of a deacon (one who had charge of the temporal affairs of the church) were that they:
- Be grave (one who inspires respect by his conduct and deportment17).
- Not be double-tongued (saying one thing and meaning another.
- Be honest and unhypocritical (saying one thing to one person and something entirely different to another18).
- Not be given to much wine (indulges in the use of wine in small quantities19).
- Not be greedy of filthy lucre (money should not be the price for doing wrong; money should not be sought on occasions where none is due; should make the acquisition of the glory of God his/her prime object, and not money).
The book of Titus, which is where we will go next, will tell us whether a bishop or pastor should abstain from drinking alcohol.
What about a bishop or pastor, were they allowed to drink alcohol?
S. BISHOP…NOT GIVEN TO WINE
Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
Paul is addressing Titus, who is abiding in Crete, to do that which he had appointed him, which was to ordain elders in every city. Some of the qualifications of an elder are that they:
- Be blameless (conduct and actions should be seen as having no ground for accusation).
- Not be self-willed (will take his people's suggestions and criticisms, and makes sure he does not always get his own way20).
- Not be soon angry (one who is not inflamed on every opposition).
- Not be given to wine (not be addicted to wine).
- Not be a striker (not given to fighting).
- Not be given to filthy lucre (not greedy of shameful gain; not making the gospel a means of gain).
There we have it. Let’s summarize what we have just learned about drinking alcohol in the Church Age.
- Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (the mind of Christ; divine viewpoint) and you will not be thinking about rioting (thoughts involving heavy drinking and sexual immorality) or drunkenness (setting the mind on drinking excessively). Romans 13:11-14
- Three issues were being dealt with.
First: God gave the Mosaic Law to the Jews. Everything about it pointed to the coming Messiah.
Food and drink became an issue when the assembly came together for the agape feast because of the Jewish dietary laws. So, a compromise was presented. The Gentiles were told not to bring food and drink that had blood in them.
Second: The observance of certain days by the Christian Jews according to their customs was allowable. The Gentiles, however, were under no obligation to attend to any of these occasions.
Thirdly: Sacrificial meat was prohibited from being eaten in a pagan temple, where it was offered in sacrifice to false gods. However, if anyone purchased meat in the market places or if it was served somewhere outside of a pagan temple, then don’t ask any questions about it, just eat and enjoy it. Romans 14:1-21
- If anyone was starving for food and drink and had ample means at home, then that is where they should eat and drink. After they are done, they should bring food and drink for the less fortunate. Most brought alcoholic beverages of some sort as the water was considered as being contaminated. When they arrived, they were to wait until everyone else had shown up and received food and drink before eating and drinking what was before them. 1 Corinthians 11:18-34
- Addiction or any of the cravings of the flesh can be subdued by means of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the renewing of the mind. Ephesians 5:18
- The deacons (those who had charge of the temporal affairs of the church) were allowed to indulge in the use of wine in small quantities.21 1 Timothy 3:8
- The bishops (elders or pastors) were allowed to drink alcohol, albeit in moderation. Titus 1:7
We have reached the dispensation or age in which you and I currently live. What will be the conclusions by the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist in regard as to whether the teachings from the pulpit to the congregation concerning alcohol consumption should be that they should abstain entirely or be able to drink in moderation? Are you ready to find out?
What will be the perspective of the leader/Bible teacher of the assembly who is a dispensationalist?
A dispensationalist would use the Scriptures concerning drinking alcohol from this dispensation as the basis for supporting or not supporting this practice in the Church Age. He/she would say that during this period of time, the solution for dealing with drunkenness would be to put on the mind of Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:18) Furthermore, he/she would declare that fermented wine as well as other alcoholic beverages, were drunk during the agape feast. While there might have been an occasion where overeating and overdrinking did occur, this was addressed by means of instruction and not with abstinence. (1 Corinthians 11:18-34) Finally, both deacons and pastors were allowed to indulge in the use of wine in small quantities.22 (1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7) Therefore, it’s pretty obvious that Christians should not be mandated to abstain from drinking alcohol but should be allowed to partake of it, albeit in moderation.
What will be the perspective of the leader/Bible teacher of the assembly who is a non-dispensationalist?
If you are a non-dispensationalist, then you would interpret the verses that were looked at in this dispensation based on those Scriptures that were used from the Age of the Gentiles, the Age of the Jews, or the Age of the Hypostatic Union that supported abstinence. These verses that support such be those that will evidence the ills of excessive alcohol consumption such as:
- The alleged inappropriate sexual engagement between Noah and one of his sons. Genesis 9:20-27
- The prohibition set forth by God for Aaron and his sons to not enter the tabernacle inebriated, lest they die. Leviticus 10:1-10
- Wine being a mocker. Proverbs 20:1
- King David’s instruction to his son Solomon. Proverbs 23:19-33
- Jesus drank grape juice, wine mixed with water. Luke 7:19-35
- Jesus saying that He would no longer eat of the Passover Lamb and drink of the fruit of the vine. Luke 22:14-23
- Deacons and pastors should abstain because of the potential for excessive use of alcohol to occur with all of its adverse effects both internally and externally. As such, they would instruct to abstain. 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7
So, there we have it. I believe that this has been a pretty substantive study in response to the subject of alcoholic consumption. Where does this leave you? What I mean is, now that you have been informed about this topic, what should be your response be concerning it? I will address this in the next closing section that follows.
There are many biblical topics like this that churches have entirely different opinions on. If you are attending an assembly and hear the pastor talking about a biblical topic and find out that the basis for their view is by taking a verse or verses from the Old Testament, then the pastor is a non-dispensationalist. This tells you that any verses that are looked at on any biblical topic that is taken from the book of Acts, the Epistles, the book of Revelation, along with some Scriptures from the four Gospels, will be interpreted according to the perspective that has been deduced from a verse or verses previously looked at from the Old Testament. Likewise, if when you hear the pastor teach on a topic, and the verses that are used to support the perspective are taken from some passages of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation, then the pastor is a dispensationalist.
I hope that this study has enlightened you as to the why there might be different teachings on the same topic in various assemblies. What does this mean for you, the reader?
First of all, my hope is that you have become more informed on this topic than you were before you read this study. Obviously, if your original view on this topic, whatever that might be, remains the same, then there is no concern. However, let’s say that before you read this book, you were told to abstain from drinking alcohol by the teaching from those in leadership, and now, after reading this book, you are convinced that a believer is allowed to drink alcohol, albeit in moderation. What are you to do?
You have a couple of choices. You can continue to abstain and not let your new view be known. I have, on a number of occasions over the years, tried to follow this avenue. However, when a discussion would come up about a biblical topic upon which my view had changed, I would express this and explain why I had done so. I’m of the belief that it is better to be truthful than deceitful. Your view will be found out at some point by someone in the assembly anyway. So, why not be proactive instead of worrying about the pastor finding out. As for myself, in most cases, the outcome was unfavorable for me. But nonetheless, honesty is the best policy.
If you have a good rapport with one of the church leaders, I would go to them and discuss the matter. In my early years of ministry, I used to categorize doctrinal topics as major and minor. What I came to realize is that for many churches, whatever their doctrinal platform is, they considered it to be major. Any deviation from a particular belief system is seen by them as believing in false doctrine. For some church leaders, there is very little allowance made by them concerning doctrinal deviation.
If it’s found out that a particular member has expressed a change of mind on a doctrinal view, this could have serious consequences. If they are a pastor, they would probably be asked to reconsider their position or leave the church. If the church in question has only one pastor but is a branch ministry of a world-wide ministry, then its’ probable that someone will be sent from headquarters to discuss this theological difference. If they are a church member, then likely the pastor might ask them to reconsider their position or leave. If they are allowed to stay, but it is known that they haven’t changed their mind, then chances are they will never be used in any type of leadership capacity. I would suggest that this is the way most churches would handle this.
Over the years, I have conducted many Bible studies along with teaching on varied biblical topics. If I taught on a biblical topic usually, I would teach it from opposing views and allow the members to make up their own minds, unless the message was about a foundational absolute doctrine. I have even allowed individual members of the church to teach from the pulpit whose view on a biblical topic differed from mine.
If some leaders heard what I just said, they would probably cringe. Listen, I believe that if any believer loves the Lord, they will not only learn and grow, but they will read Christian books or listen to teachings from leaders that are not from the church they are attending. In some cases, their view on a biblical topic will change, and in other cases, it will not. Hopefully, those in leadership will not freak out when they find out that a member has a change of mind on a biblical topic, but you know what I have to say without hesitation, they will. I hope you have enjoyed this study as much as I have enjoyed preparing it. GOD BLESS!
14Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 05 Jan. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
15Dictionary.com, 05 Jan. 2014 ˂http://dictionary.reference.com>.
16Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000, 05 Jan. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
18UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 01 Feb. 2014
19Barnes’ Notes. Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 08 Feb. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
20The Bible Exposition.
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