Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On The Use Of Alcoholic Beverages

Some would say the use of alcoholic beverages is forbidden by God. This view has no historic validity either in culture or in the practice of the Church. The most common scripture used to promote this view is

"Wine is reckless, liquor rowdy; unwise is anyone whom it seduces." Proverbs 20:1

Those who might promote the God-mandated-abstinence view for all Christians usually also hold to the tenet that the scriptures are "literally true" and should be taken at face value. The literal reading of this proverb discusses the seductive nature of alcoholic beverages. The face value here is that over-indulgence or alcoholism can occur. The same scripture in the KJV reads,

"Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise."

The face value here is the same in that being led astray by the over consumption of such is not wise. One can debate the face value of this passage were it not for the fact that the Church, the Apostles and Jesus himself used alcoholic drink as a beverage and for medicinal purposes. Nowhere in scripture, save for some religious exercises of abstinence for a season of fasting, is such forbidden by God.

Jesus himself was the best winemaker who ever lived as proven by the account of the Wedding of Cana. Ignorance of history, culture, the Church and ignoring the face value of the account, leads some to assert that the wine served at the wedding was simply juice and not fermented,
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

The faulty and historically inaccurate assertion that the wine Jesus made was not fermented, is ignorance of the culture of the day. Grape juice was not served at wedding feasts. Typically, the best tasting wine was served first and when the celebrants were well on their way to feeling the effects of such, the poorer quality wine was served,

9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “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!”

Not only did Jesus make fermented wine for consumption by the
celebrating wedding party, but the scripture says doing so was a sign of His glory:

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Can advocates of the God-mandated-abstinence view have it both ways? They say that God forbids the drinking of alcohol then when the scripture shows God in the flesh supplying the forbidden drink they must reinterpret the facts to prove their point. "Oh, the wine that Jesus served was not fermented." Only in this way is their faulty view consistent.
It seems they start with a belief premise then attempt to prove their premise. This is faulty biblical exegesis.

To abstain from alcoholic drink can be a good and honorable thing for purposes of soberness, problems with addiction, or spiritual fasting, but Apostle Paul has very strong words for those who would create a doctrine which commands food and drink regulations that God does not. Paul instructs on the so-called "forbidden consumption" doctrine. He actually calls such doctrines the "doctrines of demons" one

"...commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." 1 Timothy 4:3

Paul also states that a Bishop must

"not be given (addicted) to wine." 1 Timothy 3:3

Notice that Paul does not say a Bishop must not drink wine. He says a Bishop must not be addicted to wine. Wine was part of the culture of the region and of the church. The church came out of Judaism and worship at the temple. Christians were a sect of Judaism. The liturgical structure of the gatherings on the new Lord's Day were patterned after the synagogue. The use of wine was a traditional given. When and where did the new Jewish Christians make the announcement,

"Okay people listen up! I have an announcement! I know we have used wine in our ceremonies at the Temple and in our homes for hundreds of years and I realize the properties of wine and strong drink have been a great help to all of us in time of illness. We of course know that Apostle Timothy has had a little stomach trouble from time to time and that a little wine for his stomach's sake has helped- Tim, good to see you today- but we can no longer use it. From this day forward all alcoholic beverages are forbidden by God. We are asking all Christians to just drink juice. So if you are planning any family get-togethers or celebrations like weddings and such, you may need to make a few adjustments. Of course we have traditionally used wine at gatherings to "cheer people's hearts" but juice can be kind of cheery too, don't you think? Just use your existing wine pots to store your juice. Just don't store it too long or that will defeat the purpose. Simeon, we will pray that you will find another line of business as we realize that your six generation vineyard and wine store is your living, but maybe the juice thing will catch on in the city as well, although the Pharisees and the Sadducees may take a little convincing. We know how they like their fermented wine! And the temple priests...well...don't get me started. But all in all I think it is a good change don't you?"

And from that day forward they all juiced?

Here is the simple teaching of the faith of the Apostles concerning food and drink including the use of alcoholic beverages:

" All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any...all things are lawful for me but not all things edify...therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

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