Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1967
NUMBER 38, PAGE 3b,5b

The Bible And Today's Moderate Drinking

Dick Blackford

In a previous article entitled "THE NO PATTERN' THEORY-SOME SAD RESULTS", we noted many things which appeared in weekly bulletins of the Exodus Bayshore Church of Christ in West Islip, N. Y. Among those things was an article written by Dwain Evans in which he attempted to prove that it was not wrong for Christians to drink alcoholic beverages. All Christians need to study carefully on this matter since it has come to the point that some preachers are advocating that it is not wrong.

The desire of some Christians to engage in a moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages is usually "justified" by certain scriptures taken out of context and not studied thoroughly. Even in the face of the facts that one out of every fifteen who begin social drinking ends up an alcoholic, that thousands are killed each year in auto accidents caused by drinking (besides social problems and juvenile delinquency), some Christians will argue that moderate drinking is their privilege and they make much of: (1) Paul telling Timothy to "use a little wine for the sake of your stomach"-I Tim. 5:23. (2) A deacon must not be addicted to much wine-I Tim.3:8. (3) The older women were not to be slaves to drink-Titus 2:3. (4) Christ's example in making wine at the wedding of Cana-Jno. 2:1-11. These are the four arguments used by brother Evans in his article.

In studying this subject of "strong drink", certain facts must be recognized.

"The Biblical phrase 'strong drink' really means light beverages because there was nothing in Bible times which corresponded to the strong drinks of today. Natural fermentation produces a maximum of only about 14% content of alcohol, since a high alcoholic content kills the yeast cells which produce it. To obtain a higher percentage of alcohol, freezing or distillation must be used, processes not known in ancient times for beverage making. Actually wine and beer in ancient Palestine contained not over 5 or 8% alcohol because of the limitations of the natural sugar content in grape juice and the malt which was used. This constituted the 'strong drink' of the Bible. Certainly far greater responsibility rests upon those who use strong drink in our society where proof liquor* is obtainable, than upon those who used alcoholic beverages in ancient times when only 5 or 8% liquor was to be had. We may conclude from the very nature of the situation that the Bible condemns the strong liquors of our day" (ARCHAELOGY and BIBLE HISTORY by Joseph P. Free, pp. 352).

To understand the arguments given above let us refer back to the Greek. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures), the Greekword oinos is used to translate both tirosh (grape juice) and yayin (wine). Thus the word "wine" in the N. T. can mean either grape juice or wine depending on the context. (See Eph. 5:18-"wine" and Rev. 19:15 ARV "grape juice").

Now let us refer back to brother Evan's arguments (above) in numerical order.

(1) The Greek word oinos' can mean either wine and as far as I know, no one objects to the medical use of alcohol especially in ancient days when medicines were limited and wine was weak. However, it is my understanding that doctors now discourage modern day wine for medicinal purposes by prescribing much better medicines which have been produced.

(2) The wine of today is not used for the same purpose as was the wine of the N. T. About the only reason intoxicants are used today is to become intoxicated or to "live it up", to "get that 'good' feeling", "to put one on", etc. All of these reasons are wrong and not justified even if taken in moderation. If drunkenness is condemned (Gal. 5:21), why should a Christian be drinking that which is unnecessary and yet which he knows may lead to unquestionable wrong? Christians are admonished not to influence others to sin (Rom. 14:12,13; I Thess. 5:22). I wonder if brother Evans knows of any Christian who ever exerted a good influence while drinking.

(3) It is a fact that many people took wine (the ancient kind) in their old age for medicinal purposes. They were admonished not to be enslaved by it.

(4) "Between 106 and 160 gallons of wine were made, according to Meyers Commentary. The fact that this large amount of wine was brought in during the latter part of the feast in a small country town furnishes no basis for either: 1. Excessive drinking was allowable, or 2. The oinos in this case grape juice. In the light of the whole Old Testament condemnation of wine (and the N. T. condemnation of drunkenness, DB), it certainly would appear that the beverage was grape juice. It is sometimes objected that this is referred to as "good wine" (Jno. 2:10), indicating an alcoholic content. Upon examination, however, we find no hint that its goodness was in its high alcoholic content. Ernest Gordon comments, 'When the creative hand of the Lord made wine for the guests we may be sure that it was superlative even to corrupted tastes... It isn't likely they would call Christ's wine anything but good"' (IBID., pp. 354-5).

Thus we can see that the New Testament in no way gives sanction to moderate drinking except for medicinal purposes. I do hope that no one has been deceived by the liberalism practiced by this congregation.

"Look not thou upon the wine when it is red... at the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder" (Prov. 23:31,32).

* Proof liquor in the U.S. is "that alcoholic liquor which contains one half its volume of alcohol... "See under "proof spirit" in Webster's New World Dict., 1964 Ed.).

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