The drinking of beverages which contain alcohol, and therefore make one drunk, is an old, old practice. In the Bible, we find it first mentioned in the 9th chapter of Genesis, where Noah, a righteous man, became drunk and lay naked in his tent. This good man had his sense of right and wrong dulled by the evil effects of drinking. In the 19th chapter of Genesis, we read of another righteous man, Lot, who was overcome by the evil effects of alcohol. While drunk, he had sexual relations with his own daughters! Again, a good man lost his sense of right and wrong when under the influence of alcohol. The writer of Proverbs warned: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
Some will try to support their sinful habit of drinking by going to the Bible. They will point to passages in the Bible speak of drinking wine as a good thing (Genesis 14:18; Amos 9:14; Zechariah 10:7, etc.). However, we find many other passages which condemn the drinking of wine (Genesis 9:20,21; 19:30-35; Leviticus 10:8-10; Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; 31:4,5; Daniel 1:8; Isaiah 5:22; 28:7; Habakkuk 2:15). How can the drinking of wine be both commended and condemned? Does the Bible contradict itself? If it does, then it cannot be the Word of God!
Right here, let me say emphatically, the Bible is the Word of God and does not contradict itself. Thus, a correct understanding of the word “wine” in the Bible depends upon the meaning of the words which are translated “wine” in our English Bible. The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language. And we find there are eleven different Hebrew words which are all translated “wine.” Being first written in Greek, the New Testament, contains two different Greek words which are translated “wine” in our English New Testament.
In his book, Bible Wines, William Patton quotes the Bible scholar, Moses Stuart, who correctly says: “…whenever the Scriptures speak of wine as a comfort, a blessing, or a libation to God, and rank it with such articles as corn and oil, they mean, they can only mean, such wine as contained no alcohol that could have a mischievous tendency; that whenever they denounce it, and connect it with drunkenness and reveling, they can only mean alcoholic or intoxicating wine.”
The word “wine” simply refers to that from which it is made: the juice of the grape. Whether it means fermented wine, which could make one drunk, or unfermented wine, which would not make one drunk, depends upon the context. For example, Isaiah 65:8 says: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’ So I will act on behalf of My servants In order not to destroy all of them.” The context makes it clear unfermented wine is the meaning. The cluster refers to the grapes which are still on the vine. It is not logical to think they could be fermented, and, therefore, intoxicating, while the juice is still in the grapes on the vine.
The Bible is filled with warnings of the dangers of drinking intoxicating wine. The wise man wrote, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things And your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink’” (Proverbs 23:29-35).
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the wicked rulers of his day: “And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink: The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink…” (Isaiah 28:7). The prophet, Habakkuk, said: “Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk So as to look on their nakedness” (Habakkuk 2:15)!
In the New Testament, there are many strong condemnations of drunkenness. In 1 Corinthians 5:11,13, Paul wrote: “I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one…REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul lists the sins of which the Corinthians had been guilty before they became Christians. Drunkards are listed along with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, extortioners, and revilers. Those who are guilty of these things, “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Some have argued that it is all right to drink if one does not get drunk. However, Ephesians 5:18 says: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, the verb which is translated: “Do not get drunk” (Be not drunk, KJV) actually means, “Do not begin to be softened” with wine. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines this verb as: “to make drunk, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb, marking the process of the state expressed in methuo), to become intoxicated….” In other words, Paul is saying, “Do not even begin the process of becoming drunk.” (See also Luke 12:45 and 1 Thessalonians 5:7). So, the process of becoming drunk begins with the first drink. Hence, one is forbidden to take even one drink of an alcoholic beverage.
It is a well-known fact that people do many evil things while drinking. Hundreds of people are injured and die every day in automobile accidents which are caused by drunk drivers. Many violent crimes are committed by those who have been drinking. Drinking alcohol contributes to many of the major health problems facing us today such as heart disease and cancer.
If one desires to be pleasing to God, they will not drink any alcoholic drink, in any amount, for any purpose, at any time! Remember, the process of becoming drunk begins with the first drink. Those who are guilty of drunkenness cannot go to Heaven!