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The Wine that Mocks: One Christian’s Take on Alchohol Part II

July 11, 2008

In Part I, I discussed one view of alcohol that the Bible proposes, and far from the shouts of sin and debauchery that certain factions within the church suppose, there is clear evidence that wine is viewed in positive light.  I’m also fairly convinced, as I indicated in my last post, that this wine did indeed contain alcohol.   

However, the Bible also presents a number of instances where followers of God are warned about the dangers of abusing wine and “strong drink” and while these instances are much less than the positive affirmations of wine, they are strong warnings indeed– ones that every believer should heed.

In the Old Testament, we find the strongest warnings against the immoderate use of alcohol in Proverbs and Isaiah:

Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise” (Proverbs 20: 1-3)

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason?
  Who has red eyes? Those who linger over wine, those who go looking for mixed wine” (Proverbs 23:29-30)

In Isaiah, God pronounces woe [a warning of judgment] on those who “chase wine”:

“Woe to those who rise early in the morning in pursuit of beer, who linger into the evening, inflamed by wine.  At their feasts they have lyre, harp, tambourine, flute, and wine.  They do not perceive the LORD‘s actions, and they do not see the work of His hands” (Isaiah 5:  11-12).

To summarize, in Proverbs, the writer calls those who “stagger” from the mocking wine and brawling beer unwise.  The words mocking and brawling are descriptive adjectives that accurately (I think) describe the effects of over indulgence.  Have you ever heard of people who drink too much Tequila and get ticked off and want to fight?  Well I hear it’s a psychological thing, but I find it interesting that Proverbs cites similar effects.  Can too much alcohol blur reality for us?  I know that it has in my life.

Proverbs also states that those who go “looking” for wine (I hope you’re seeing how even the negative warnings only condemn the abuse) will find sorrow, conflict, wounds, and woe.  I find this too to be frightingly true.

In Isaiah, God pronounces judgment on those that pursue drinking all day.  This is not your game of poker with a few beers type drinking.  This is taking it to the limit,  And God hates it…but why?  Well the answer is clear in the last  part of the verse:  they forget Him.  Now, these are people who are already believers (supposedly), but when they drink in this way, they are casting off restraint and alienating themselves from the voice/presence of God.

In the New Testament, Paul and the other writers warn repeatedly against the sin of drunkenness.  Rather than list the many warnings (I Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-11; Galatians 5; etc.), I will mention the one that gives us the clearest expression of why I think God hates drunkenness so much.

“Do not be drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 )

Do you ever ask yourself why God determines certain things to be sinful?  I think most of them are pretty clear, but there are those few grey areas, and I think drunkenness may be one of these.  So I like to ask why with God and I think that is okay.

I don’t think God declares something sinful out of preference.  Sometimes humans make rules just to have them.  I make some rules in my classroom as a teacher, simply because I prefer a certain way of doing things.  I’m not so sure God is like that.  It seems that God has good reasons for doing what he does, and they usually involve protecting us!

So what’s the deal with drunkenness?  Paul answers that pretty clearly his Ephesians reference and it parallels the Isaiah reference.  Drunkenness is a counterfeit for the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.  The single greatest thing God wants to do in our life is fill us to overflowing.  He wants our lives to be intoxicated with his presence.  This reference in Ephesians is staggering when you think about it.

When a person gets drunk, they “loosen up.”  They are not inhibited by fears or concerns.  They sometimes get “jolly.”  They laugh.  They will talk to anyone.  They express themselves truly and honestly.  A person who has had too much to drink will have no problem telling you what he/she thinks of you.  Problems go away– a peace of sorts.

But, it’s all temporary.  It vanishes in the morning.  The fears return.  The problems return.  The fun ends.  But on top of that, other problems occur.  Losing inhibitions can mean temporarily severing your conscience.  It could mean ending up in places you wouldn’t want to end up normally. 

So Paul says, don’t choose this!  Instead, be filled with the Spirit:  Too tight?  Loosen up by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Let fears and doubts vanish because the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit.  Be filled with TRUE joy (eternally).  Express the truth in love and with gentleness.  Have peace that doesn’t go away when you wake up in the morning.

In other words, the Holy Spirit wants to do in you what alcohol can only pretend to do temporarily.  And your life will be connected with God and in touch with His presence so that you won’t “forget the Lord’s actions, and not see the work of His hands.”

So why does God call drunkenness sin?  Because it temporarily cuts us off (from our end) from the presence of the Lord, and at that point we are living contrary for the very reason God created us– to live intimately in His presence and take part in His divine love!

As this post has also become lengthy, let me end with this:  It’s obvious that the Bible has strong warnings concerning the abuse of alcohol, and that the Holy Spirit wants to fill us in such a way that the effects of alcohol would pale in comparison to the effects of His indwelling presence.

HOWEVER, does that mean we should ignore the other motif in scripture concerning the blessing that alcohol can be?  I don’t think this would be a more “Christian” decision.  And yes, I really believe that in certain contexts, it can be a blessing.  I think what we need is a perspective of balance.  In part III, I will discuss this and some of my personal decisions, reflections, and choices.

Drink deeply…of the presence of God.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2008 6:41

    Well said! And well studied!

    I did a post a few years ago, It all comes back to discipleship, where I talked about this issue. You are much more thorough than I was. I just made a broad statement of what the bible teaches, without citing verses.

    Again, great job, Jonathan.

    Blessings in Christ.

    Tim

  2. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 11, 2008 7:07

    Thanks so much Tim…and thanks for stopping by!

    You’re right about discipleship…it’s all about a community of believers.

    Blessings to you.
    Jonathan

  3. July 12, 2008 1:33

    You right. Thanks for the post, very encouraging

  4. Matt Bohlman permalink
    July 14, 2008 2:13

    Ok…you got me… that was me. Good posts J.G.

    • Ron Dopf permalink
      June 28, 2011 10:06

      Dear Matt Bohlman,

      Have you been part of the Internet Degree Program? If so, I need your help with PST365.

      Please email me if you can help. Thank you and God bless!

  5. Matt Bohlman permalink
    July 14, 2008 2:16

    Hey where is my comment! Are you filtering me?

  6. Jesus permalink
    July 14, 2008 2:17

    Yes… I did make some smashing good wine at that wedding. I dare say I had a sip of it myself…not much mind you but just enough to take the edge off 🙂 Now when I inspired Paul to proclaim that my followers should not be drunk with wine but rather filled with the Spirit, I did NOT mean that my followers should stumble around in a spirit-induced drunken stupor in which they are acting in a manner that would lead one to think they were intoxicated up their spiritual eyeballs in ole jack, johnny or captain morgan. Sooo silly… no, no, I am talking about INFLUENCE! I am saying don’t let the course of your life be influenced by wine but be influenced in all your judgments by the Spirit. You are not allowed to “drive while under the influence” but I do give you permission to live ….under the influence of my Spirit. I call it a D.U.S.
    *Shalom

  7. Confused Matt permalink
    July 14, 2008 2:19

    Oh- well there it is…it didn’t show up the first time. I’m going to put my beer down now

  8. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 14, 2008 7:38

    Yo Matt,

    Thanks for commenting. I actually have to approve comments for first time users and I guess because you put different names, I had to approve, so that is why it didn’t show up. So, I will just leave these two…:)

    I agree with Jesus above…tell him thanks for commenting. I also do not think that the filling of the spirit will be like a “drunken” state.

    However, I find the analogy falls flat if the parallels to the spirit are not similar in a number of degrees. The presence of the Holy Spirit should fill our lives to the point where we are uninhibited to follow his leadings. And please reread my parallel of drinking to things like joy.

    The difference is one is a counterfeit and temporary, and one is the real thing and eternal. That’s why I think Paul made the connection that he made. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, I know there this thing called being drunk…and it might be good for a little while..but you will make stupid decisions…and the fun will end. Why don’t you try some of this instead…why don’t you drink as much as you want of the Holy Spirit.”

    Peace.

  9. Matt permalink
    July 14, 2008 8:17

    “The presence of the Holy Spirit should fill our lives to the point where we are uninhibited to follow his leadings.”

    Yes I like the way that sounds. I concur…I do think the Holy Spirit wants us to experience His joy with a “bottoms up” attitude.

  10. joyce permalink
    September 18, 2008 5:58

    Thank you for a well researched and thought out response. Too many posts are stating that “it was grape juice” or “water was tainted back then.” Well, I think you can substitute alcohol just as easily for food. Gluttony. As you stated, it’s when we forget HIM, things we do become a problem. I don’t know what to do about the issue of smoking that causes lung cancer… because I never smoked and it would not be a fair arguement.
    Thank you.

  11. Gouranga permalink
    May 10, 2009 10:07

    Good set of posts. I have recently been researching this a bit. I have my beliefs on the subject (which are pretty much in line with yours) , but I do not think it wise for me to just sit on my beliefs and not test them praying on the matter and by discussing with other Christians.

    I really think to a point, it is a matter of choice. Obviously, drinking to the point of being drunk is not permitted. Within the range of none and drunk, though if a huge gray area. I have a good friend who cannot have JUST 1 beer. If he has one, he has 15. For him the answer is none ans he does not consume any alcohol. I can sit down and have 1 or 2 beers and that is it. I just enjoy it (and yes like you I mean REAL beer).

    Personally, I think the obsession with alcohol (both pro and con) is an American thing. Other countries I or my wife have been to do not obsess over it as much.

    From scripture I get a couple points to it. First alcohol in moderation is fine. Second, drinking to the point of being drunk or being measurably impaired is a bad thing and sinful. Third, God will not accept “I was drunk” as an excuse for other sinful behavior.

  12. Thomas permalink
    September 14, 2009 4:22

    very nice post…

    all alcaholic beveraqges are cause peaple become drunkers..

    I know many people drink beer and become loose their consious and omiting

  13. David permalink
    August 11, 2011 5:31

    I realize this was written several years ago, however, I have struggled with much the same, “Love for beer” and being a Christian myself. I googled “Christians and Alcohol” today and came across your blog. I don’t even know if you still check this site, but I wanted to tell you that this page specifically touched my heart. Your writing is very inspired and deep. Thank you!

  14. May 29, 2012 10:06

    Good comments. Cheers!

  15. Keith permalink
    September 10, 2012 6:15

    Thanks for posting your well thought out thoughts! While reading this it made me think of a song by the David Crowder Band called intoxicating, it illustrates perfectly what you are saying about how we should be intoxicated by the spirit of God. Not sure what music you enjoy, but it might be worth a listen!

    Anyways, this is something I’ve gone back and forth on for ages. When I turned 21 I had this problem a lot of the time simply because I either A. didn’t have anything important to do the next day, or B. wasn’t driving. During college a room mate of mine convinced me to stop, and I did it just because I’d rather not deal with the drama, and since scripture had cases against it, he kind of said, well if you have to really think that hard about it, wouldn’t you think it’s something that you’re justifying to do because you really enjoy it? Sort of playing it off as hedonism lol. I honestly wasn’t aware of scripture besides Jesus turning water into wine that it was used in a positive light, so I thank you for this brother 😀

    And similar to the “David” that posted in 2011, I googled I love beer and I’m a Christian. Glad we have this amazing resource to keep our minds open 🙂

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  1. Book Review: Alchohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence (Part I) « You can take everything I have..

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