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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, July 06 2023

Is it alright to drink alcohol?

The Bible permits the drinking of alcoholic beverages, but God has commanded us not to use alcohol in excess or for wrong purposes.

United Church of God

There is so much heartache and suffering brought about by excessive drinking and resultant alcoholism that the decision not to take alcoholic drinks at all is a sound position to take.

The Bible teaches that it’s the misuse of alcohol that is a sin (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3). We therefore know it is all right to take alcohol in moderation. Judges 9:13 says, “wine . . . cheers both God and men.” Psalm 104 presents alcohol use in a positive light: “And wine that makes glad the heart of man” (verse 15). It’s also noteworthy that Christ’s first public miracle was turning water into a fine quality wine (John 2).

Christ instructed Christians to take wine as part of the Passover service (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). In the context of this instruction, Paul corrected some of the Corinthian Church for getting drunk at the Passover (1 Corinthians 11:21). Clearly, they were using fermented wine in the observance of the Passover, or it would not have been possible for them to become inebriated.

People with an inherent proclivity toward alcoholism should not use alcohol, even in moderation. And, as mentioned above, because of the enormous amount of suffering brought about by the excess drinking of alcoholic beverages, those who choose to abstain have made the decision with good reasons in mind.

But there are those who maintain that original Hebrew and Greek words translated wine in the Bible do not mean fermented wine but non-intoxicating grape juice.

There are thirteen Hebrew and Greek words for “wine” in the English translation of the Bible. How can we know which one means fermented wine?

To find the answer we should go to the Bible itself. By comparing its usage, the Scriptural meaning of wine can be defined.

One of the original Hebrew words for wine is “yayin.” This word is first used in Genesis 9:21 where Noah “drank of the wine and was drunk.” This wine caused drunkenness – something that grape juice could not do.

In Genesis 14:18 we read where Melchizedek (priest of the most High God) “brought out bread and wine.” Melchizedek gave wine – yayin – to Abraham.

And Amos 9:14 speaks of the coming millennium when people will “plant vineyards, and drink the wine – yayin -- from them.” They will drink the same kind of wine by which Noah, through over indulgence, became drunk. “Yayin” always means fermented wine.

In the New Testament, one original Greek word for wine is “oinos.” Proof that it is alcoholic is given in the story of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds (Luke 10:34), showing that the wine had enough alcoholic content to be used as an antiseptic. One would not pour grape juice onto a wound.

The Greek word “oinos” is also used in John 2 where Jesus turned water into wine by a divine miracle. It is used in I Timothy 5:23 where Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” The same Greek word is also used in Ephesian 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine.”

While the Bible permits us to drink alcoholic beverages, God has commanded us not to use alcohol in excess or for wrong purposes. Those who do not know when to draw the line between temperance and excess should abstain totally from drinking alcoholic drinks until such time they know they can be “temperate in all things.”