What does the bible say about: libations, or the consumption of alcohol. Noah was accused of being a drunk. Jesus turned water into wine, and wine flowed freely at the Last Supper. But why do Christians refuse to drink alcohol/wine?”
In dealing with this question it should be stated first that within the larger Christian community there are varying opinions and positions on the consumption of alcohol. It’s hard to determine whether this is due more to cultural influences or to genuine biblical convictions. As a pastor, I would like to believe that all followers of Jesus carefully and prayerfully approach such subjects, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to what is right. However, as a pastor, I’ve had to deal with enough carnage in people’s lives to know that many times men and women make decisions with little or no thought to what God wants or what His word teaches.
The one position that does seem to be universally agreed upon in the Christian community is that we shouldn’t get “drunk.” Whenever someone makes that statement they almost immediately follow it up with a partial quote of Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine.” Never mind that in the context of Ephesians 5 the author, the Apostle Paul, isn’t even dealing with alcohol, but is instead building a case for a complete surrender to the Spirit of God.
But that does raise a point that followers of Jesus need to consider in their decision of whether to consume alcohol or not, and that is this, what is the definition of drunk? In other words is “drunk” falling down, passing out, hugging your commode? Please excuse my crudeness, but is that drunk? Most of us would say, “Sure, that’s drunk. But which drink got them to that point, the third, or maybe the eighth? It’s probably hard to know for sure. And do you have to get to that point to be “drunk?”
All 50 states agree that .08 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) makes you too impaired to operate a motor vehicle, but is that what drunk is? And by the way, would you feel comfortable if you or a loved one were riding with someone that would blow a .07 BAC?
What about your thought processes being only slightly clouded or your reflexes only slightly slowed, is that “under the influence?” I’ve known plenty of people who probably wouldn’t have considered themselves “drunk,” but they made a decision under the influence of alcohol that they regretted in the morning.
My point is that “drunk” is very hard to define, and if we all agree that as followers of Jesus we shouldn’t get “drunk,” then we would do well to give serious consideration as to what that means.
Now, in dealing with the specific question above that was asked by someone regarding the consumption of alcohol I should point out a couple of things. To begin with, the person that submitted the question states that, “Noah was accused of being a drunk.” The implication of that statement seems to be that Noah was a godly man, but he would drink, so it must not be okay.
First, Noah wasn’t “accused of being a drunk.” Genesis 9:20-21 states that he planted a vineyard, drank of the wine and became drunk. There is no indication that this was an ongoing practice for Noah. The event in question took place after the flood, sometime after they came out of the ark. In reading the account of what happened, you get the impression that what happened was unusual.
Second, the Bible doesn’t hide the imperfections of its heroes. All men and women are sinners. The fact that God didn’t “zap” Noah on the spot for getting drunk doesn’t mean that God was pleased with Noah’s actions.
The person who submitted the question also states that, “Jesus turned water into wine, and wine flowed freely at the Last Supper.” Again, the implication of those statements is that this is proof that consuming alcohol is okay.
It is true that at the wedding in Cana Jesus turned water into wine, (John 2) and wine was served at the Last Supper, (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 23) but what needs to be kept in mind however is that in the Bible the word “wine” doesn’t always mean that it was alcoholic. The Old Testament uses three different Hebrew words and the New Testament uses two different Greek words that are all translated with the word “wine,” but some of them refer to alcoholic wine, some to non-alcoholic wine, and some to fresh grape juice. (Isaiah 65:8 even refers to wine while the grapes are still on the vine!)
In our culture today the word “wine” automatically means alcoholic wine, but that hasn’t always been the case. And so when we read about wine in the Bible we can’t just assume it’s talking about alcoholic wine. Certainly at times it is, but only the context can tell you for sure, and even then, at times it can be hard to know with absolute certainty if it was alcoholic.
The point is, if we’re going to try to use the Bible as justification for consuming alcohol we need to be sure that we know the context of the passage before we use it to support our position. And I’ll add this, as far as I can tell anywhere in the Bible where wine is mentioned, and the context clearly and obviously reveals that it is referring to alcohol, it does so in a negative or derisive way. That may not “prove” that drinking alcohol is wrong, but it is certainly worth noting, and should give all of us reason to pause before invoking the Bible as justification for consuming alcohol.
Finally, in dealing with the heart of the question submitted, “Why do Christians refuse to drink alcohol/wine?” As stated above, many Christians do consume alcohol, but perhaps at least part of the reason many followers of Jesus have chosen to abstain is because in light of the amount of pain, suffering, violence, death, and loss that has been experienced in this world due to the use of alcohol, many followers of Jesus have decided that, even if they don’t think the Bible clearly condemns it’s use, it’s just better to steer clear. Besides, for me, Coke Zero tastes better anyways.