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July 17, 2011
Dying For A Drink – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 20:1

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

More From This Series


Take your Bibles and follow along this morning. Proverbs 20:1. I’ve entitled my message this morning, Dying for a Drink. Listen to the words of the wise writer of Proverbs 20:1. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever it is led astray by it is not wise.” Skip over to Proverbs 23, and read with me verse 19. “Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way. Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.” Go on down that chapter to verse 29, and we have before us here probably the most comprehensive and compelling description of the adverse effects of alcohol to be found anywhere in the Bible.
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine. Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last, it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies in the midst of the ocean or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying, ‘They have struck me but I was not hurt. They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake that I may seek another drink?'” Well, we trust God will guide us and charity will govern us as we come to consider this subject this morning.
I may have told you before about the young preacher who was called to his first pastorate in a traditional church in Kentucky. He began his ministry in the first Sunday by preaching against smoking. But at the end of the service, the elders come up to him and said, “Young man, you must realize that a third of your congregation make their money growing tobacco.” Not realizing that, the young man promised the elders that he would bear that in mind for the future. And so the second week, the young pastor preached against drinking. The elders promptly, ominously informed him as soon as the sermon was done, “Young man, you have to realize that in this church, there’s a third of the people who distill whiskey.” Not realizing that, the young man promised to bear that in mind for the future. The third week, he preached against gambling, thinking that was a safe bet, but he was wrong.
As soon as he had finished preaching, a posse of elders came up to him and told him on known certain terms that, here in Kentucky, and especially in this congregation, a third of the people raised Thoroughbred horses. The young man took it under advisement, and so the fourth Sunday rolled around. Finally getting the message, the young pastor, fresh out of sermonery, stood up and announced that his sermon for that morning would be the dangers inherent in deep sea diving in international waters. Every preacher and every pastor knows that temptation, and I feel that temptation this morning. There are certain subjects and certain topics that are so debated and sometimes so divisive that you simply want to tiptoe around them and move on to something less explosive.
But such an evasive maneuver is not an option for an expositor or a preacher who’s committed, one, to teaching the whole council of God. Two, who believes in the purity of scripture; that is that the Bible speaks with conviction and clarity about issues. Three, who wishes to teach his people to do some hard thinking about tough issues and not to settle for easy conclusions, and four, whose ministry is expository in nature; therefore, he cannot escape certain themes. He cannot duck certain texts. I want you to know, and I think you already know this about me, that I’m committed to all four of those realities, and therefore I want, in an ongoing series in Proverbs this morning, to look with you this morning and next Sunday morning on the subject of alcohol, it’s use, and its abuse. I’ve called it Dying for a Drink.
If the use of wine is not to become an abuse of wine, the Book of Proverbs tells us that wisdom is required, and we need to know God’s wisdom on this particular subject. By speaking about the use of wine and the abuse of wine, I want to say two things by way of introduction. By way of introduction, it must be said that when it comes to the abuse of alcohol, all Christians are in total agreement. Drunkenness is a sin. Drunkenness is a violation of God’s law. It’s forbidden for any one of us this morning, as Christians, to get drunk. The book of Ephesians says, in 5:18, it’s an imperative in the Greek text. It’s a command, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” It can’t be any clearer. I could give you other texts. I’ve got many to get to, so that will suffice. There’s a straight, bull-faced, bare-fist command that you and I cannot drink alcohol to the point where we get drunk.
It’s a violation of God’s law. John MacArthur’s helpful here. He defines what is excess. He says, “Drunkenness is the colliding or the disruption by alcohol of any part of a person’s mind so that it affects his faculties. A person is drunk to the extent that alcohol has restricted or modified any part of his thinking or acting. Drunkenness has many degrees, but it begins when it starts to interrupt the normal functions of the body and the mind.” Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is drunkenness a sin?” I did this week? Okay, drunkenness is a sin. Why? Because it affects the mind. It disrupts a man’s ability to think coherently and act properly; therefore, drunkenness inhibits my ability to worship God in my living. I’ve got to worship God with all my mind; therefore, I cannot allow some substance to cloud it and disable my ability to act rightly, righteously, and rationally.
Secondly, it’s a sin, because drunkenness is a substitute for being filled with the Holy Spirit. If I want to be controlled by anything or anyone, as a believer, it would be coming under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn’t put up with a man or a woman who drowns their sorrows or their senses in alcohol. I don’t have time to turn to these, but I’ll throw them in your direction, just to reinforce that this is an encourageable sin in the eyes of God’s word. A drunkard was put to death in the Old Testament, and I think when we talk about a drunkard, we’re talking about someone who has an habitual lifestyle of drunkenness. According to Deuteronomy 21, verses 20 through 21, there is a stubborn rebellious son who evidences his aggression and his anger in bites of drunkenness, and he must be put to death for the good of the Israeli society.
That’s how serious and sobering this subject is. In the New Testament, we’re not under the law to that extent. We are not a theocracy. We are the church within democracies, theocracies, whatever. Nevertheless, within the church, if a professing Christian falls into drunkenness, he must be dis-fellowshipped from the church if he doesn’t repent. According to 1 Corinthians 5:11, we’re told not to fellowship with a brother who is drunken, which seems to imply that there can be, sadly, occasions in the life of Christians when they do fall foul to this. But if they repent, then come under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and submit their lives of fresh to Jesus Christ, that can be overcome and overlooked. But if they’re unrepentant, and this is habitual lifestyle, for the sake of the holiness of the church and the good of their relationship with God, they must be put out.
According to 1 Corinthians 6:10, if someone, even someone who’s professing to be a believer, if someone stays in a lifestyle of unrepentant drunkenness, 1 Corinthians 6:10 tells me that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. So this is a serious issue, isn’t it? I think there are no qualms and no quarrels this morning among us that, as a body of Christians, we all agree, when it comes to the abuse of alcohol, drunkenness is a sin. Now, here’s the second thing I want to say by way of introduction. This is where I might want to tiptoe, but I’ve got to just deal with the text and my understanding of it. By way of further introduction, it must be said when it comes to the use of wine or alcohol, not all Christians are in agreement as to whether there can be a moderate use of wine or other alcoholic beverages. It is a fact this morning. You cannot debate it.
It is a fact this morning that there are many Christians, both in the United States and across the world, who believe strongly in temperance, that is the moderate use of alcohol, never to a point of access, and there are those Christians who believe in abstinence. There should be no use of alcohol under any circumstance, and Christians are divided over this issue. I would have you know, they’ve always been divided over this. In fact, my study of history, helped here by Mark Noll, tells me that if you were in 1630, and you asked John Winthrop, the first governor of Puritan, Massachusetts, what the Bible best says in terms of the Christian’s attitude towards alcoholic beverages, he might reply with Psalm 104 in verse 14 and 15, “Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle and the plants from man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man.”
Puritan, New England. The time of our pilgrim fathers was not [inaudible 00:11:28], where abstinence was the lifestyle of Christians. In fact, the pilgrims on Mayflower brought many casks of beer and rum for their community life in New England because, around the 17th century, Protestant Puritans saw nothing wrong with the moderate use of alcohol. Now, things have changed. If you move forward 300 years, and you ask Billy Sunday what he thinks of a Christian drinking alcohol, he might go to Proverbs 20:1. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” Now, listen to these words from Mark Noll. “Most believers before the 1800 regarded the moderate use of alcoholic beverages, particularly beer and wine, as a privileged blessing from a gracious God. A significant minority still do. A few believers before 1800 saw drinking as a sinful blight with which no Christian should ever be associated. Now that is the majority opinion.”
I just want to give you a perspective on this before we even get to the text. If you study church history, sometimes the temperance position has been in a minority, and the abstinence position has been the majority. Today, I would think it would be safe to say in broad evangelicalism, abstinence would be in the majority. Temperance would be in the minority. But the point to see is this, simply, that each position has been in a majority or minority position at different times in church history. You and I may have thought, coming into this sermon this morning, that the church has spoken with United voice in this issue, but that would be incorrect. We are always in danger, as Christians, when it comes to disputable issues and incendiary issues like this, of oversimplifying the subject or universalizing our perspective. I’d recommend two things for oversimplifying the subject or universalizing your perspective. One, study church history, and number two, take a trip abroad.
You’ll see that this is a debatable issue among Christians. The interesting thing is, as we come to the Book of Proverbs, the Book of Proverbs seems to be undecided on this issue. You say, “Pastor, where do you get that will?” Let’s go to Proverbs three, verses nine and ten. Proverbs three, verses nine and ten, and what I want to show you here quickly is that the Book of Proverbs when it comes to the issue of wine, and I believe that’s fermented wine, and I’ll try and prove that to you in a minute, when it comes to fermented wine, that is intoxicating wine, the Book of Proverbs sees it both as a blessing and a curse. Look at Proverbs three, verse nine. “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” The promise there is that, if you obey God and be a good steward of your possessions, God will bless you.
One of the evidence of his blessing would be that your vats would be filled with new wine. Fermented wine seems to be a blessing in that context, but then we go back over to Proverbs 23 and Proverbs 20, Proverbs 20:1 will do as, “Wine is a mocker strong drink as a brawler, and whoever has led astray by it is not wise.” Here we see the danger of alcohol, and here we see it being presented as a curse, something that makes a fool and a fighter out of a man. The Book of Proverbs does not anywhere, explicitly, tell me they either see it exclusively as a blessing or see it exclusively as a curse, and so it raises a question, doesn’t it? I think it’s a question you want me to answer. It’s a question I have sought to answer across my Christian life, and it’s this. Is wine or alcoholic drinks a blessing to be enjoyed or a curse to be avoided? Let me put it in a more simple form and bring it into the New Testament context.
Should a Christian drink or should a Christian not drink? I’m going to put you out of your misery, because you’ll want to know what my answer to that question is, right? I was thinking of leaving it until next week, but I know I need to put you out of your misery. You’ll ask me anyway. Here’s where I’m at, and I speak for myself, and you’ll understand why I say I speak for myself, my own conscience, my own understanding of God’s word. My study of scripture has led me to a position I call voluntary abstinence. From the day I get saved, I committed never to drink alcoholic beverages, but I don’t believe that the Bible mandates that of me. That’s why I call it voluntary abstinence, because I’m going to show you this morning that there is no way, and I stand by that statement, there is no way you can prove to me, from God’s word, that fermented wine is something that the Christian or the believer is prohibited from taking.
There is not a text in scripture that teaches that, and I hope to prove that to your conscience this morning, but here’s the point. When I talk about voluntary abstinence, here’s what I’m saying. Here’s the two ideas behind it. Nowhere does the Bible out rightly condemn drinking or command Christians not to drink wine. Nowhere. But secondly, while the Bible does not prohibit a Christian from drinking, all things considered, I believe that the dangers of using alcohol, especially in its present forms, and I’ll get to that next week. All things considered, I believe the dangers of using alcohol far outweigh the potential benefits, and therefore I voluntarily abstain, and I believe that’s good for me. I commend that to my family, and I commend that to you. I don’t mandate it. I wouldn’t write it into the bylaws of any church that I pastor, but I would advocate and present to your conscience the benefits of voluntary abstinence.
Listen, here’s something I want you to think about from my perspective. While the Bible does not command me not to drink, neither does it command me to drink. In the light of that choice, I have chosen not to drink for expedient reasons. Paul says, “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful. Not all things are [inaudible 00:18:23].” As I’ve said, when I consider all the factors, and I’ll get into this next week when I give you a rationale for voluntary abstinence, I’m going to argue to you that when I consider all the issues and all the implications of drinking alcohol, the problems far outweigh the solutions and the curses far outweigh the blessings, and therefore that’s where I’m at this morning. Now, having said that, and this is a long introduction, but it’s a very volatile subject, and I’m going to try and keep myself out of as much trouble as I can.
That’s probably not enough for some, and that’s probably too much for others. What I mean by that, it’s not enough for some, because many of you believe this morning that the Bible actually commands abstinence, and so my position’s not enough for you. Then, it’s too much for others, because some of you believe you have a God-given liberty to drink, and therefore I’m trying to restrict the Christian’s liberty. Well, I’ll seek to answer those. All I’d ask of you is this. Try not to draw all of your conclusions until I’ve drawn all of mine. The position that I’m taking is a position that Spurgeon took. Let me quote Spurgeon. “I abstain from alcoholic drink in every form, and I think others would be wise to do the seam, but of this, each man must guide himself.” Spurgeon is advocating abstinence, but not as a mandate. As a wisdom decision. That’s where I’m at this morning.
Now, we have one other thing to get out of the way. This is important, because I have to assume some of you may have bought into this idea, or maybe some of you have been taught it. I want to challenge the idea that when the Bible speaks about wine, both in the old and New Testament, it’s speaking about unfermented grape juice that’s just impossible to hold. When the Bible speaks about wine, it is speaking about fermenting unfermented wine, that which has the potential and the potency to intoxicate. I’ll give you a couple of reasons why I believe that, so that when you hear me quoting wine and you go, “Pastor, we’re talking about grape juice,” no, we’re not. I’ll give you three reasons why that’s not true. Number one, there are basically four words, two in the Old Testament, two in the New Testament, that are used interchangeably for the issue of wine.
If you study those, and I don’t want to spend time on this morning, if this is an issue for you, I can get you resources. If you study the meaning and the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words, it seems an un-controvertible fact to me that when we are talking about biblical wine, we’re talking about fermenting or fermented wine, not some ancient form of Welsh’s grape juice or some light cider. I mean, if you think about that, if that was the case, then why would those cm words be used both in the Old and the New Testament in the context of believers being challenged not to drink to excess, to a point of intoxication, to a state of drunkenness? If it’s grape juice, you can drink it all day long. When Paul says, “Be not drunk with wine,” he’s talking about fermented wine, isn’t he? Or else there wouldn’t be the potential to get drunk with it, so it’s fermented wine.
Remember that when the grapes were crushed, because of a lack of refrigeration and preservative processes, the wine in the New Testament and the Old Testament began the ferment immediately. It was always in a state of fermentation, and with aging, there were different degrees of that fermentation, but I just want you to settle it in your mind. It’ll help you understand where I’m coming from when I quote certain verses that, as far as I’m concerned, the primary in general use of these words in the Old and New Testament is that we are speaking of wine that is fermenting or wine that is actually fermented, and wine that can make you drunk. Now, that said, we’re going to say three things. I was hoping to cover two of them this morning. My guess is one, but we’re going to look at the delight surrounding wine. The Bible presents wine as a pleasurable provision from God.
Fermented wine, intoxicating wine, and I hope I can show you that’s the case. If I can show you that, you’ll understand why I have come to position that I cannot mandate the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the life of the Christian, because I cannot find a justification in the biblical text. Then, we’re going to look at the danger of wine. We’re going to look at the delight surrounding it. We’re going to look at the danger surrounding it, and I wish we could get there this morning because I’m in danger when I finish this point. Some of you are going to weigh in and think, “Well, the pastor is just highlighting how good it is to drink,” and I wanted to get to a point to balance that very quickly with, drinking alcohol is a very dangerous game. It’s fraught with all kinds of problems and temptations, and we’ll get there. So again, don’t draw your conclusions until I draw all of mine.
Then we’ll look next week, too, at the decision surrounding wine. I’m going to give you four reasons why I believe that voluntary abstinence is the best thing for you and your family, but all I’m going to do is commend it to you. I can’t command it. So let’s look at the delight surrounding wine, and this will be good for us. It may be tough, but it’ll be good for us, because I believe the majority of fundamentalists, Baptists have been brought up with this idea that wine is evil, and alcohol is the devil’s brew. Do you know what the puritans used to say? Amazingly, in New England? Wine is from God, and drunkenness is from the devil. It’s an interesting perspective, but it fits into this idea of the delight surrounding wine. Follow me here. Despite the many warnings about the dangers of wine, and I think we’re all familiar with those, because our pastors and those who have mentored us are very quick to turn us to them.
So we tend to know Proverbs 20:1 and Proverbs 23, but despite all of those warnings, you and I need to know that drinking is not totally forbidden in scripture. In fact, this might surprise us. In some occasions, it’s even commanded. Not commanded but commended. Now, I took you to Proverbs 3. Let’s go back to it. Do we see an example of this in the book of Proverbs? Proverbs 3, verses 9 and 10. “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase, so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” Here the Book of Proverbs presents the drinking of wine, and I’m arguing for fermented wine. Here it’s being presented in a favorable light. In fact, folks, do you see that we are reading something in the context of the possible blessing of God upon a family and upon a farm?
Here we have a promise that God will bless the people of Israel with new wine upon the condition that they honor him with the first fruits of the harvest. Wine, in this case, is not a symbol of evil and not sourced in hell. Fermented wine, in this case, is a symbol of God’s goodness, sourced in heaven. Israel was not only a land flowing with milk and honey, but do you remember they brought great bunches of grapes from Eshcol. It was a land fertile for vineyards and wineries. In fact, have you ever thought about the fact that in John 15, God describes himself as a vine dresser, working a vineyard, producing wine, spiritual? This is certainly a symbol, and it’s certainly an issue that God is not embarrassed to identify himself with. The point I’m making here is that the creator of life will reward the true worshiper, according to Proverbs 3, verses 9 and 10, by sustaining his life with bread and wine, which was part of the stapled diet of the Israelite.
What we have here is a case and a context, where the making and the taking of fermented wine was good and to be enjoyed as a gift from a good and happy God. The wider context of God’s word reinforces that thought. Let me just take you to a few verses that will show you that the light surrounding wine, from a biblical perspective. Let’s go back to Genesis Chapter 27:28. Genesis 27:28. Isaac is blessing Jacob here. Here’s what we read. “Therefore, may God give you of the Jew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of green and wine. May God give you green and wine.” Go up to Deuteronomy 7:13. We’re in a context where Moses is reminding the chosen people of Israel of their covenant obligations to God. Disobedience will be rewarded with punishment. Obedience will be rewarded with blessing. I want you to see here, Deuteronomy 7:13.
“And he will love you and bless you and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of the land, your green and your new wine, and the oil, and the increase of your cattle, and the offspring of your flock in the land which he swore to your father’s to give.” Let’s go to the psalm that I quoted, that might represent the position of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Puritan Massachusetts, Psalm 104:14. Unless you can make an argument that the wine in these verses in question is grape juice, here we have a series of verses that seem to be connecting wine, even fermented wine, as a blessing from God and a gift from heaven. Psalm 104:14. “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his fierce shine and bread which strengthens man’s heart.”
One other verse in the Old Testament would be Ecclesiastes 9:7. “Go eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.” Just think about that. Both here in Ecclesiastes and in Psalm 104, there is a delight surrounding the use, the proper and proportionate use of wine. Let me give you one other example over in the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul’s dealing with an [inaudible 00:29:44] theology that’s affecting the church. It’s a form of a sadism that tells the Christian that there’s some things you shouldn’t touch, some foods you shouldn’t eat, some things you shouldn’t drink, and Paul says that those that teach this are speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. They’re forbidden to marry and commanding Christians to abstain from foods.
Which he goes on to say, “Which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it’s received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” You said to me, “Pastor, but he’s just mentioning food. He’s not mentioning drink.” Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. Does that not mean that God doesn’t have to supply us a drink? When Paul talks about the animals and the food chain that’s to be found in the world, it’s including the whole issue of eating and drinking, and it’s all to be received as a gift from God. It can be sanctified with prayer. Here’s what you need to note, especially in the context of what I’ve just read in 1 Timothy 4. Considering what we have just read in the Old Testament, the Jew nor the Christian is an aesthetic.
That is, we don’t believe that the material world is evil, in and of itself. It has certainly been cursed. We’re certainly dealing with things in terms of the deterioration of the earth because of the fall of Adam and the judgment of God, but we do not believe that material things, in and of themselves, are evil. We do not believe, as Christians, that holiness is promoted by denying ourselves material pleasures. In fact, if you go over to Colossians 2, this same kind of of theology was affecting the Colossians, and they were being told, “You know what? There’s certain things you’re not meant to touch, taste, or handle.” It was an early form of [inaudible 00:31:41], which had a sub category of a sadism, and they will be told, “You know what? If you want to be a full Christian, a mature believer, don’t eat certain things, don’t drink certain things.”
And Paul says, “What’s that got to do with your spiritual life and Jesus Christ? All that stuff makes null and void the cross, cuts across the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the imputed righteousness of Christ, the benefits and fruits of our union with Jesus Christ.” Paul is saying you do not make yourself holy by abstaining from some material things, and I think we just got the bird out in mind, because when you come to the Old and New Testament, you’ve got to understand their worldview. They were moral materialists. They understood that God has given us all things to enjoy, even the fruit of the vine, and it is not evil. And so here we see the delight surrounding wine. Let me take that further a little bit, and then we’ll wrap up.
As I’ve kind of gathered that all together, I think there are two uses of wine, predominantly speaking in the Bible. One, there was a recreational use, and two, there was a remedial use. Wine had a recreational use. It was part of one’s enjoyment of life and the receiving of God’s good benefits. We read that in Psalm 104, verse 14 to 15, of how wine will gladden the heart of man, and what you need to understand there, that that text is telling us, that wine was given by God to enhance man’s enjoyment of life as a gift from him. In a sense, it was an elixir of life. Obviously, it was more than grape juice, because you can drink grape juice all day long, and I’m not sure it’s going to gladden your heart. I don’t think grape juice gives you a buzz like fermented wine does, right? That’s what the text seems to be saying, so I’m just trying to deal with the text.
I would like to ignore that text, and so would you like me to ignore it, but it’s there. There seems to be a recreational use of wine. Added to that, you mustn’t forget, and I mustn’t overlook the fact that at the wedding at Cana, Jesus made everybody cheer when he turned the water into wine, fermented wine. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ drank fermented wine. I’ll tell you why I believe that. Number one, because in Luke 7:33, his enemies accuse him of being a drunk. Now, we know that that’s not true. They were exaggerating. They were smearing the good character and reputation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we read in Luke 7:33, for John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say he has a demon? The son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a wine bibber. A friend of text collectors and of sinners.”
I don’t believe for one moment the Lord Jesus Christ ever got drunk, but if you think about the implication of those words, how in the world would they even be able to charge him with that if all he ever did was drink grape juice? You understand what I’m saying? It seems to me that Jesus drunk fermenting and fermented wine, never to a point of excess, and I believe that in John 2, when he displayed that first miracle at the beginning of his ministry, the wine that was produced was fermented wine. It was not grape juice, as some commentators like to argue. Let me give you a couple of reasons why I believe that. Number one, in John 2:10, here’s what you read. John 2:10. You know the story of how they’d been drinking. They ran out of wine. The Lord Jesus fills a number of vessels with water, turns it into wine. They start to drink that, and it’s good wine.
And so the master of the house comes to Jesus and says, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior, you have kept the good wine until now.” I want you to notice the verb there. “Well drunk.” I’ve consulted a number of writers on this. Daniel Wallace is a Greek scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary. In fact, his grammar in Greek is being used at many schools, including my own at Masters. The verb there translated, “Well drunk,” he says, is almost always used of getting drunk. Now, here’s the point. This party was a party where there was free-flowing fermented wine. This is a context. We’re not told if they were drunk. We’re just told, “This is a context where people were drinking, and they could get drunk.” We’re in a context where the wine is flowing. They have drunk well. That’s the verb.
What you need to notice here is that, when the master says of the Lord Jesus wine, that was good wine, there’s no way, if you think about it, that that could have been grape juice, because the reason a man brings out the poorer, more inferior wine later is because the good wine, that was drank earlier, has numbed the senses of the revelers a bit, and therefore the host can get away with giving them inferior wine. If the guests had freely [inaudible 00:37:28], why would they consider Jesus wine the best if it was grape juice? Then, finally, and I know this is hard to swallow, but I’m dealing with the text of God’s word. I’ve spent three days studying it this week. I have learned things that none of my pastors ever taught me, because I think in many churches that I grew up in, we wanted to duck and dive of this issue, but the Greek words that are used here in John 2 are used in Ephesians 5:18 for wine that has the potential of making you drunk.
The same word that’s used in Ephesians 5:18, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess,” is the same word used for the wine in John 2:10. So it seems to me that wine had a recreational use in the Old and New Testament. In the Jewish and the Christian cultures, it was an accepted form of social activity. In fact, let me just reinforce a couple of things on this matter of drinking fermented wine. I’ll give you one other argument that I think you and I need to think about. Should you believe that Christians are mandated not to drink, then I have a question for you, as I had a question for myself. Why, then, were Christians able to get drunk at the large table at Corinth, bringing the judgment of God upon that church, where some of them were taken prematurely in death because that was such an offense to Jesus Christ, the head of the church?
We know that in those days they act in a communal context, and at the end of that communal meal, they shared bread and wine as a remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know, historically, that the Passover meal involved fermented wine. There were four cups, and although the readings of Luke and Mark don’t tell us about wine in the Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples partook of, it talks about the cup, and we just have to assume because history bears the sight that in that cup, at the last supper, was fermented wine. That’s what the Jews drank at Passover. Here, we have, in Corinth, the situation where Christians got drunk. How did they get drunk if the wine that Christians can only drink is grape juice, unfermented, non-intoxicating beverage? Although it’s a bad example, it’s a good example of the fact that Christians and Jews drank fermented wine in recreational, social contexts.
Here’s the second use, and we’re done. Wine had a remedial use. If you study the word of God, you’ll see that wine was often used as a tonic or as an anesthetic. Do you remember in one Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy, “Use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”? Timothy was told to take wine for his stomach, because wine aids the digestive track. In the ancient world, it was a kind of laxative. In Proverb 31:6, we’re told, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter.” This seems to indicate, says Norman Geisler, that strong drink was used as a sedative or painkiller for the dying, and that wine was also used to calm the nerves of those who were deeply bereaved during deep distress. When you’re in pain, you might readily take from your doctor Valium to ease your pain. A few centuries back, would you have been willing to drink rum or whiskey to ease your pain?
Because it has that ability, and in the Bible it was used that way at times. In fact, in 2 Samuel 16:2, we’re told that wine would refresh those who became exhausted in the desert. Then, one final example is Luke 10:34. The Good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the man that was beaten, right? Helped heal his wounds. The point is simply this; wine, fermented wine, in the old and New Testament was used as a laxative, a painkiller. Contrary to popular fundamentalist opinion, there is no outright censorship of the use of intoxicating wine in the Bible. I’ll argue that you still shouldn’t touch it, but I can’t tell you with an honest face that the Bible tells you you can’t drink it. Here’s a couple of implications. I want you to write these down and think about them. Talk to me about them. Talk to each other about them. Here’s a couple of implications.
Number one. Chief among them, it is the reality that the Bible does not mandate total abstinence for Christians when it comes to intoxicating drink. Nowhere in the Old and the New Testament is the believer told to abstain from all wine at all times. As we will see next week, the warnings are directed to strong drink and the access of use of alcoholic beverages. Number two, nowhere in the New Testament do we find the practice that not drinking wine was a condition for church membership or church leadership. We must, therefore, be careful when it comes to tests of fellowship, not to build a wall where Christ has a door. Number three, and this is a serious reflection. To state that drinking alcoholic wine on any occasion is a sin, it seems to me implicates the Lord Jesus Christ with sin, and I would not want to be wearing those shoes, kicking that stand.
Then, finally, and we’ll balance this all next week, but for those who do take a moderating position, we need to admit, of their position, that it has biblical reason and historical precedence in that many Christians across the ages have taken a position of temperance. We tend to use the word temperance as an abstinence movement. Remember when the abstinence movement called itself the temperance movement? That’s a misuse of that word. If your temperate, it means you use something in a very qualified, limited way. The real temperance movement are those that use alcohol in a limited way. If that’s a friend you have, if that’s their position or someone you know, that’s your position, engage them on it. Talk about it, as I will argue next week for the abstinence position, but admit or seriously reflect upon the fact that the Bible doesn’t seem to mandate abstinence.
Jesus, both drank, and made for the wedding guests that came, fermented wine. The New Testament didn’t have any rules and regulations about it either in terms of membership, and history has, example after example, of Christians drinking wine moderately. In fact of the Scotch-Irish, my people, I was interested this week to learn that when they came to America from Londonderry in the north of Ireland, it was said of them, quote Mark Noll, in his article in Christianity Today, says this, that Derry Presbyterians from Northern Ireland never give up a pint of doctrine nor a pint of rum. Interesting quote. Did you know that Martin Luther even converted part of his monastery into a brewery? In fact, it is said of the reformation, he says this, “I did nothing. The word did it all. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s word. Otherwise, I did nothing. While I slept and drank Wittenberg beer with Philip and Amsdorf, the word of God weakened them all.”
Well, don’t draw your conclusions until I’ve drawn all of mine. I commend my study to your study. I pray that we’ll be governed by desire to know the truth, that in our interactions with each other we’ll be governed by a principle of love and understanding towards each other, but I would conclude before I pray and we’ll be done that, maybe if you’re here this morning and you say, “Pastor, you’ve got to get to the next part, the danger, because I know all about it. I am a slave to alcohol. This drug is ruining my life, my marriage, my children, and God has awakened my conscience. It’s not only doing that. Because it is a sin, it has me estranged from God, separated from him, and if I was to die this morning, I would not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” my friend, I want you to know that the same Christ who can turn water into wine, can turn sinners into saints.
He can take away your thirst for that. He can break the back of its addiction. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead can explode in your life in an act of new birth when God causes you to be born again. As you come to the cross, repent of your sin, not just your alcoholism, but all your sin, and come to Jesus Christ as the only savor. God will forgive your sin, and the power of the Holy Spirit will transform your heart and transform your home, and Jesus Christ will give you living water, and you’ll never thirst again. There’s a friend of mine working this morning in Rhodesia, Africa for CEF. His name is Alan Graham. Alan Graham was caught in the slavery of alcoholism. He staggered out of a drinking club one night, not far from where I lived, into a tent where a gospel mission was taking place.
He was in a bit of a stupor, but when he sobered up the next morning, he said to himself, “I’ve got to go back tomorrow night and really listen to what that guy was saying.” The preacher was a Pentecostal pastor from Belfast, led him to faith in Jesus Christ. When he come into work, where he and I worked, he told the guys that he had got saved, and he had given up alcohol. He was going to live a whole different way, and the guys all said, “Never,” and they started laying bets. “We’ll give him three days. We’ll give him four days, five days, six days, seven days,” and if you went into the toilets in the factory, all the guys were laying their bets on how long Alan would live the good life. Well, nobody collected, because it was the real deal. God saved him, gave him a thirst and hunger for righteousness.
He’s serving Jesus Christ today, among the African kids of Rhodesia, seeking in that [inaudible 00:48:45] heat in that impoverished country to win them to Jesus Christ. He’s bringing the life-giving water of the gospel to that desert, and that can happen to you. This morning, after I’ve prayed, we’re going to sing two verses of a hymn, and I want you to reflect on the words that we’re going to sing. When we’re done, if God causes you to come forward while we’re singing, that’s fine, but when we’re done singing, I’m going to be here at the front. We’re going to have counselors available. If you’ve got a problem you’d like counseled, concerning, we’d love to do that. If you’d like to know Jesus Christ this morning, like him to break this addiction you have to alcohol by his transforming power and saving grace, it would be our privilege to share something of that with you.