Drunkenness is a sin. The Scriptures teach it. This is not a matter of much debate in Christian circles. Drunkenness has had and continues to have a pestiferous effect on our society. That is an undeniable fact.
But the Scriptures do not teach abstinence. There are some occasions where imbibing is forbidden, priests when they were performing their duties (Leviticus 10:9), and a king when rendering judgment (Proverbs 31:4-5). There are also places where drinking wine is encouraged (Proverbs 31:6-7, Ecclesiastes 9:7; 10:19).
The reason I am writing about the matter of drunkenness and drinking is because of an article that appeared in the Christian Post last week and again this week by one of their columnists Mark H. Creech. Mark is also the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
Mark maintains “that the wine Jesus miraculously provided at the wedding in Cana was not fermented.” Mark believes the word “wine” (Greek, oinos) used throughout the account in John 2:1-11 could refer to “non-alcoholic wine.” Since “non-alcoholic wine” is an oxymoron, I will exchange it for what he is actually inferring, it was grape juice.
I normally ignore egregious misrepresentations of Scripture. I trust the average believer understands when an interpretation is taken out of context. But Mark’s repeated fouls warrant a word of correction.
I will not address his sophistic arguments; I am just going to do what Mark tacitly suggests. Since wine, according to Mark, means grape juice in this passage, we will replace the word wine with grape juice and see if that makes sense.
In John 2:10, the headwaiter says “Every man serves the good grape juice first, and when people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer grape juice; but you have kept the good grape juice until now.” I did not know there were different grades of grape juice in Jesus’ day, but if that was the case, how does drinking good grape juice make one more agreeable to drink a poorer grade of grape juice?
If we continue replacing the Greek word oinos with the term grape juice, Ephesians 5:18 would read, “And do not get drunk with grape juice.” That is some potent grape juice. Its potency is seen in First Timothy 3:3 where pastors are enjoined to be “not addicted to grape juice” (the word here in the Greek translated “not addicted to wine” is a Greek compound word, par + oinos). So when we look at this grape juice in biblical context, this grape juice that Jesus made from water is addictive and can make one drunk.
It does not take a seminary trained exegete to see the simple truth about wine in John 2:1-11 and elsewhere in Scripture. But that is not the point I am trying to make here. I do not care if every drop of alcohol were to evaporate from the face of the earth; I have no problem with eliminating a potential source of misery and pain.
But when we pervert the clear truth of any passage in the Bible to suit a personal prejudice, we cause those to whom we witness to doubt us when we proclaim the problem of sin, the need to repent, and how to be saved. If I am not honest about the teaching in every verse, how can I expect anyone to trust me to be honest with any verse?
The late John Gresham Machen was once a Princeton theologian and a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As “the foremost conservative biblical scholar of his day,” he was nominated to be professor of apologetics at Princeton Seminary in 1926. His nomination required confirmation by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), usually a formality. But the General Assembly refused to confirm him. Its members were “rabidly prohibitionist” and Machen had said while drunkenness was clearly condemned in Scripture it was equally clear the Scriptures did not teach abstinence.
Forced out of the seminary and church, he went on to found Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) went on to embrace homosexuality and ordain homosexuals. When we begin to deny the clear teaching of Scripture we find ourselves on a very slippery slope.
The first importance to me when I approach any passage in the Bible is to be true to the clear and plain meaning of the text. We have a responsibility to be honest.