And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NKJV)
Christians are to fill themselves with the Spirit, not with wine and its riotous excess. We do so by putting His word, the word of Christ, into our hearts and lives (Col. 3:16). Yet, a growing number of Christians justify the moderate consumption of intoxicating beverages. I wonder, do they also advocate for only being moderately filled with the Holy Spirit? If just a little alcohol is okay (as long as you don’t get drunk), then it follows that only a small amount of the Spirit in your life is okay (as long as you are not full of the Holy Spirit). Absurd? Absolutely. But, that is the consistent application of Ephesians 5:18 and the logical extension of the reasoning that promotes moderate alcohol consumption. The apostle contrasts being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. The fact that God’s word condemns drunkenness does not mean the drinking that leads to drunkenness is acceptable. The Scriptures must show it to be good, not merely asserted to be good (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Other passages teach us to be sober-minded, to use sound judgment, and to exercise self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 2:2, 6, 12). Consuming alcohol deconstructs and destroys these qualities the Spirit teaches us to possess. How can that be good? Drinking alcohol satisfies the desires of the flesh, but it is inconsistent with the mind of Christ and being filled with the Spirit of God (1 Pet. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:9-14).
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, 30 Those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:29–32, NKJV)
This passage is a clear denunciation of drunkenness as well as the consumption of alcohol that leads to it. Wise king Solomon identifies the person who drinks and drinks and drinks as one who cries and moans with pain, sorrow, and strife (vss. 29-30). The way to avoid the problems associated with drunkenness is not to take the first drink! “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly” is a clear prohibition against starting to consume alcohol. Far from saying social drinking is allowable, this passage from God’s word says avoiding alcohol from the start protects a person from the subsequent trouble it produces. How can a Christian conclude it is wise, safe, and approved to have “one or two drinks” when this passage says do to even look upon the first drink (v. 31)? Only by drinking from the goblet of the unwise who mock God’s counsel against drunkenness and the drinking that starts that process (Proverbs 20:1; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3-4).
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!” (John 2:9–10, NKJV)
Many who support the social consumption of alcohol resort to the wedding feast in Cana (when Jesus turned water into wine) to support their cause (John 2:1-11). They overlook several crucial points in defending their consumption of what Scripture warns is a “mocker” (Proverbs 20:1). First, the word “wine” (Gr. oinos) may be used of either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (Ephesians 5:18; Revelation 19:15), and context helps determine which. Next, Jesus would not purposefully contribute to someone’s sin, yet, that is what He did if He miraculously provided the feast with alcoholic beverage. If true, Jesus became a bartender, providing another 120-180 gallons of alcohol to inebriated people so they could remain in their drunkenness (which is sin, Galatians 5:21). In truth, Jesus bypassed the natural and months-long process of water going from the clouds to the ground, to the vine, to the grape, to the cup. In an instant, He showed His power over nature and time. To use His miracle to prop up a foolish practice that destroys soberness and self-control denies His glory – the very glory that was displayed at Cana (John 2:11).
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (1 Peter 4:3, NKJV)
Look carefully at this Scripture’s description of the “past lifetime” spent in “doing the will of the Gentiles,” instead of doing “the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:2). One thing all these sins have in common is the absence of self-control. From the sinful indulgence of lewd words and actions, to all manner of evil cravings, to drunkenness, carousing and the drinking parties that lead to excess, to the abominations of idolatry formed by unbelief – self-control is forfeited when these sins are practiced. Purity of heart protects us against lascivious, lustful conduct. Sober-mindedness refuses even the first drink of mind-numbing alcohol which, left unrestrained, invariably progresses to debauchery and drunkenness. Those who have armed themselves with the mind of Christ do not adopt the ways of unbelievers, much less defend those ways (1 Pet. 4:1-2). It grieves us when Christians defend the occasional consumption of alcohol, for it indicates a mind that is still “doing the will of the Gentiles,” instead of the will of God. Today’s tip: Put away all the sins of the past, exercise self-control, and live for the will of God today and every day.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. (Proverbs 23:29–32, NKJV)
Social drinking is accepted by many who wear the name of Christ. Their rationale varies, but the consistent defense made by believers who drink alcohol is, “I don’t get drunk.” Therefore, to them, there is no problem. They see no problem in recreational drinking to get a “buzz” and to that extent, lose their self-control (Gal. 5:23). They overlook the problem of their diminished example of righteousness. They think Jesus was a “winebibber” (wine drinker) and so they can be, too (Jno. 2:1-11). (They forget that was a slur made against Jesus by unbelievers, with whom they thus associate themselves, Matthew 11:19.) They see no problem violating the apostle’s stipulation against “banquetings” (drinking parties, NKJV) in 1 Peter 4:3 (which denotes drinking without regard to amount). No, God’s word is clear that “wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Be wise. Heed God’s warning and do not take the first drink, “when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly.” That’s how to escape the viper’s sting.