When Perry Noble began a Bible study in his home he probably never thought it would grow to become one of the largest megachurches in the country. But as the founding pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina he probably never thought he would be removed from his pastorate for abusing alcohol either.
I am not writing to condemn Perry, he needs our prayers, but his situation has reintroduced the debate over what the Bible says about the use of alcohol. Is it a sin to drink or not?
When this issue is raised someone will invariably remind us Jesus turned the water into wine. This account in the second chapter of John is telling. Drinking opponents say the word for wine (Greek, oinos) in the second chapter of John should be translated “grape juice.”
This poses two problems. First, grape juice does not fit the context. When the headwaiter tastes the water turned into wine, he says, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now,” John 2:10.
The meaning here is plain, people serve good wine to their guests until their senses are impaired and then they serve them a poorer quality wine. If one substitutes the word “wine” with “grape juice” the verse loses its meaning. Besides, surely the headwaiter knew the difference between wine and grape juice.
Second, Paul uses this same Greek word, oinos, when he admonishes the Ephesians “do not get drunk with wine,” Ephesians 5:18. If oinos means “grape juice” there is no danger of anyone getting drunk; Paul was not warning the Ephesians about drinking grape juice.
By turning the water into wine, Jesus by His example condones the making and use of wine, and Paul condemns its abuse. I am a strict Biblicist and if I am to be true to the Scriptures I am forced to conclude drinking is not a sin, but drunkenness is.
I would agree that the Scriptures sternly warn us about the abuse of alcohol, and we have all witnessed how its abuse has ruined lives, destroyed families, and creates a host of social ills.
For these reasons it would not bother me if every ounce of alcohol evaporated from the face of the earth and another drop was never produced, but I cannot believe the Scriptures and condemn its use.
Jesus’ first miracle is written in plain English that even a drunken wino could understand. If I told him Jesus turned the water into grape juice he would probably laugh and call me a liar, and he may think I am still lying when I tell him Paul says drunkenness is a sin, and he needs to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
I cannot lie about what the Scriptures say in one place, and expect anyone to trust my testimony of what they say in another place.