Jesus drank wine? Isn’t that a sin?

Posted: January 21, 2012 by donaldsonta in Doctrine
Tags: , , ,

Jesus drank wine.  It’s okay for us as Jesus-loving Christians to enjoy wine, or other alcoholic drinks.  This post explains a couple ideas on the subject and gives some helpful scriptural references to validate key points.

First we have to determine where alcohol was in the Bible.  The alcoholic drink most common in the Bible was wine.  Unfortunately the word wine could theoretically refer to the juice of grapes in either a fermented or unfermented state.

“Grape Juice” It sounds reasonable if you don’t put hardly any thought into it.  But bearing much examination this theory really falls apart.  Historically we know Beer was around at this time.  By other mention we also know ‘strong drink’ was available in this time.  But flying in the face of this is a bunch of adults celebrating at every turn with ‘grape juice’.

Grape juice is good.  But not that good.  All kinds of celebrations in the Bible have “wine” served.  If we are to assume that people love juice SO much, at least one mention would have been made of another type of juice. In 1400 years no one thought “Let’s serve apple juice for this one!”?  Of course not.  People celebrate with wine.  They always have, and probably always will.  God made wine for us as a blessing.  This is spoken of in Psalms 104.

and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. (Psalms 104:15)

John tells us how Jesus makes some wine for a friends wedding.  A man then comments about the quality of the wine, and the generosity of the host stating “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10 ESV)  This passage only makes sense in the light of the wine being more than grape juice.  After the celebrators tongues are numbed, a less generous host would serve a poor vintage wine.  The term ‘drunk freely’ in nearly every interpretation means ‘drunk’.  No one gets drunk on grape juice.

In Acts the Apostles find themselves understood by travelers from all over the world when they are teaching the Gospel.  They know this is a gift of the Holy Spirit, but others make fun of them in the passage: But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13 ESV)  Have you ever witnessed someone with garbled speech as a result of too much juice?

In Isaiah 25 we see Jesus with wine again. This can be interpreted as literal wine, or as a representation of Jesus buying our Salvation.  Neither interpretation lends itself well to the belief that alcohol is sinful.  Further, it is described as ‘aged’.  Grape juice that is aged is interpreted in English as ‘wine’.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples. a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)

No one would believe every verse in the Bible that refers to wine is actually referring to grape juice.  Legalists totally believe wine refers to alcohol so long as the verse in question supports their point of view.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
  and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
(Proverbs 20:1 ESV)

Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
  he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
(Proverbs 21:17 ESV)

Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
(Isaiah 5:11 ESV)

Have you ever heard someone tell their child they couldn’t have grape juice so close to bedtime because they won’t be able to sleep if they’re enflamed?  Do you worry that you’ve been led astray by grape juice, or that grape juice, and not riverboat gambling may be the cause of your current financial crisis? Of course not. None of those verses tell a person to not drink alcohol, but they do give us several examples of how God expects us to be led by Him, loved by Him, and have a passion for Him, not for alcohol.

There’s actually a lot of passages in the Bible where God refers to wine being a blessing, or mentions a lack of wine as a sign of Gods blessing NOT being upon his people. For example God blesses his people in these verses:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

(Isaiah 55:1)

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.

( Jeremiah 31:12)

Sometimes God’s blessing is not upon a people, and lack of wine is used to illustrate that fact:

Gladness and joy have been taken away
from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
no one treads them with shouts of joy;
the shouting is not the shout of joy.

(Jeremiah 48:33)

They cry to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom.

(Lamentations 2:12)

As a grasping at straws retort some might make the accusation that drinking is sinful by way of “making your brother stumble”. By this same logic should all women be forced to wear a burka? A young lady walking down the street in normal clothes might cause a man to stumble. What should we do? Burkhas? House restrictions? Should women only be moved at night in cargo vans?

Do I advocate taking a recovering alcoholic to a bar? No.

Do I recommend making prayerful and considerate decisions? Yes.

Is it okay for person with a history of alcoholism to drink alcohol?  Maybe?  Are we talking ticky-tacky more than 5 alcoholic beverages per week USDA/insurance quoting definition, or are we referring to a person who has a genuine problem with alcohol?  Is the alcohol damaging to the persons relationship with God?  Does the alcohol cause the person to treat others in a way that Christ does not advocate?  In the case that the person has a genuine problem with alcohol it becomes Biblically wrong for the person to drink.  Not because the alcohol is wrong, but because the person places the alcohol in a place of more importance than their relationship with Jesus.

Overall, there just isn’t any scriptural basis for not drinking alcohol. Legalists will continue splitting hairs about Greek and Hebrew words for fermented and unfermented wine, but reading the actual Word of God makes the answer clear. Alcohol, like many, many other things in this world is a blessing that God has given us that can be abused.  Money, cars, food, children, travel, homes, or sports are some other examples of  ‘idols’ that a person might put before God.  Alcohol is a beverage.  It shouldn’t be a lifestyle.

Keep God first in your life, pray before making decisions, and make a daily commitment to strengthening your relationship with Jesus.  Through prayer and  Bible study each person can make determine the Will God has for them.

God Bless,

Terry

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Comments
  1. godzgurl says:

    Study the Greek and Hebrew. In the bible when they drank wine it was fermented grape juice. The version of the bible you quoted changes the meaning of those verses. Study those verses thoroughly in the kjv and u will find that they drank fermented grape juice.

    • donaldsonta says:

      The word translation of wine describes both ‘grape juice’ and wine. In more literal translations like KJV or ESV (like I used) the word ‘wine’ could still mean either form. The meaning has to be gathered by the context of the usage.
      In some easy reading versions the translators may have taken the liberty of using a more [in their opinion] relevant and accurate word. I didn’t reference any of those because of that very reason.
      While I wholeheartedly agree that the KJV is awesome, it changed the course of Christianity and has led billions to have a personal relationship with Jesus, I don’t believe that it’s inherantly more accurate than other translations. As older copies of greek and hebrew manuscripts were found, new translations were made. The ESV was written using older manuscripts (hundreds of years in some cases), meaning that the most likely reason that the KJV has more words is that when the manuscripts were copied in ancient times the man who copied it added a word or phrase of clarifacation. Men of the Faith copied these, they would NEVER leave something out, but they might jot in something to make a point more relevant to the times. Then those got copied forward to present day. The ESV is the most literal using the oldest copies, that’s why I reference it for study. Bible.org actually has a neat feature called NET Bible where you can look at a verse in in a bunch of translations at once.
      Anyway, choice of translation isn’t really my main point, but I’ll hit on it again at the end of this reply.
      I think the case was stated in the post that obviously not all wine is grape juice. I’ll even admit that alcoholic wine is spoken poorly of in some passages. That doesn’t make it good or evil. Mankind has found a way to twist every gift God has given us. A rich man hoarding money doesn’t make wealth wrong, a glutton doesn’t make food wrong, a promiscuous man doesn’t make sex wrong, and a drunk doesn’t make alcohol wrong. God gave us gifts to enjoy in thankfulness to Him.
      I really could have saved myself hours of working on this post and just quoted Romans 14 in it’s entirety. The Word of the Lord is infinitely better than any argument I make. If it weighs heavily on your heart, don’t drink alcohol. I certainly wouldn’t make an argument that a person abstaining was wrong. I only make the argument that telling everyone to abstain because it weighs on a single person’s conscience.
      Oh, and translations: I don’t know that I would read a Bible translation funded/translated by members of a single denomination. Otherwise, short of becoming a greek/hebrew scholar I like to just read a translation that I’m comfortable with, then crossreference when I’m getting into a serious study. The KJV isn’t the infallible Word of God, Jesus is. We hear Him speaking through prayer or through the pages of the Bible, but not a specific translation.

      Hebrews 8:10 KJV
      For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

      I apologize for any mispelllings or grammer. Worked this out on my phone on the way back from Lancaster, so I couldn’t proofread it well. I hope I was able to let you see my perspective a little better.
      God Bless!

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