Bible on Wine

“…. if “wine” in the Bible is always non-alcoholic (i.e., grape-juice). This guest article, arguing that this is not the case, is by Rev. Jai Mahtani of Bethel Protestant Reformed Church, Chicago.

1) The Bible’s first reference to “wine” is of an alcoholic beverage; Noah became drunk through it (Gen. 9:21). Non-alcoholic grape-juice cannot intoxicate.

2) No one can get drunk with too much grape-juice, but we read in Ephesians 5:18: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” It is significant that God’s Word never declares, “Do not drink.” Instead, we read, “Do not be drunken.” Scripture does not forbid the use of alcoholic beverages, but it forbids the abuse of them.

3) The Lord Jesus drank (alcoholic) wine. In Luke 7:33-34, Christ contrasts Himself with John the Baptist for whereas John, as a Nazarite, drank no wine, Jesus did drink wine. Christ’s lawful and well-known use of wine became the occasion for His enemies’ lie that He was a “winebibber,” that is, a drunkard or a wino. It is as plain as day, from the mouth of the Lord Himself, that He drank the wine that John abstained from drinking, that is, an alcoholic beverage. Christ even miraculously produced wine at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-11).

4) The qualifications for elders and deacons in I Timothy 3 include “not given to wine” (3) and “not given to much wine” (8). Similarly, Titus 1:7 requires that an elder be “not given to wine.” Office-bearers are warned not to drink too much wine; they are not admonished not to drink too much grape-juice. Should a church disqualify/discipline an office-bearer if he has a liking for grape-juice?

5) Grape-juice is not medicinal as fermented wine is. Thus Paul advises Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (I Tim. 5:23).

Although wine is a good gift of God and it is lawful to drink it, we must be equally mindful of the Bible’s warnings against excessive drinking (Prov. 20:1). We also condemn underage drinking, drinking and driving, etc., as well as overindulging in food, since Scripture speaks as much against gluttony as it does against drunkenness. Drunkenness is often mentioned in the Bible in connection with fornication and “partying.” It is right up to date in its condemnation of the twenty-first century nightclub scene: “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” (I Peter 4:3).

Finally, the most fundamental principle is to do all things to the glory of God! When this motivates us, we will live out of the love of God and show our love for our fellow men. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31; cf. Matt. 5:16).

Rev. Mahtani

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“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11