WINE AND THE BIBLE (Part 4: Arguments in Defense of Social Drinking)

There exist numerous testimonies and defenses made by Christians, denominationalists, and non-Christians advocating social drinking or drinking in moderation. The previous article discussed the fallacy that God accepts social drinking, and addressed passages that condemned drinking in moderation, but there are many arguments made in defense of this practice that one article could not contain the majority. This study will be divided into two parts, this being the first. Let us examine some of the arguments made in defense of social drinking.

One common argument derives from 1 Timothy 5:23 and such advocates testify that drinking a small amount of wine/alcohol on a daily basis provides health benefits. 1 Timothy 5:23 reads, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” Paul doesn’t give Timothy the green light to go drink alcohol with his friends at a party or bar. Paul instructs on the matter of using alcohol as a medicinal function. God obviously gave mankind the ability to make alcohol, so there must be some use that Christians can take from it. Alcohol contains disinfectant properties that can be used to clean wounds, which is commonly practiced even today. People also use alcohol in medicine like Nyquil.

Most biblical historians believe Timothy’s stomach problem related to the water in Asia Minor, which can be dangerous. The passage provided two implications of Paul’s instruction. 1) Timothy had reservations about drinking wine, which ever person should have! 2) If it was common for the early Christians to drink wine, then Paul’s encouragement would not have been needed here. 1 Timothy 5:23 does not support having a beer with buddies. There remains a big difference between Nyquil and Budweiser.

Furthermore, recent studies into the health benefits of wine show that the chemical substance in wine called resveratrol is what helps prevent cardiovascular disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and contains high amounts of antioxidants that can help one’s stomach. Interestingly, Martha Grogan, a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, explains that the substance resveratrol is found in the seed and skin of the grape, especially in dark purple grapes, and recent studies have revealed that this chemical is found in red and purple grape juice just as much as it is in alcoholic red wine (Martha Grogan. “Grape Juice: Same Heart Benefits as Wine?” Mayo Clinic. 23 July 2011.>). Timothy may not have had access to grape juice in Asia Minor, so Paul advises him to drink what is available. Given what modern science now understands about grape juice and that the Greek word oinos translated “wine” can mean either alcoholic wine or grape juice (see Part 1), one could make an argument for Paul instructing Timothy to drink grape juice. The ancient world may not have known the health benefits of drinking grape juice or wine, but God certainly did!

Likewise, Dr. Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic admits that while the health benefits in grape juice can depend on the type of grape and where the grape is grown eating grapes may have more health benefits that just drinking juice or wine. She states, “Some research suggests that whole grapes deliver the same amount of antioxidants that are in grape juice and wine but have the added benefit of providing dietary fiber” (Katherine Zeratsky. “Does grape juice offer the same heart benefits as red wine?”Mayo Clinic. 27 Aug 2020. So, if people want to drink red wine for their stomach’s sake as an excuse to drink, plenty of information can inform them that grape juice has been found to have the exact same health benefits as drinking alcoholic wine, but without the risk of getting drunk. God knows the heart of all people (Ps. 44:21), if a person drinks alcohol for the wrong reason, God will know.

Another common argument derives from John chapter 2, which describes Christ turning water into wine. The argument is made that if Christ turned water into alcohol, then He would not object to Christians drinking it in moderation. One could easily thwart this argument. If Christ had provided alcoholic wine to his brethren, then He would have violated the Old Testament Law under which He was born (Gal. 4:4). Habakkuk 2:15 forbad the distribution of strong drink to one’s brethren. God viewed alcohol in Habakkuk 2:15 as a tool of manipulation.  Likewise, Proverbs 23:31-32 forbad the Israelites from even looking upon it. Christ would have violated the Old Testament Law if He transformed water into alcoholic wine, thus sinning against God, which would contradict numerous passages of scripture (Heb. 4:15; Matt. 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:21).  

Furthermore, just because the text reads “wine” in John 2 doesn’t mean that the wine was alcoholic (Isa. 16:10; 65:8). As discussed in part 1 of this series, the context must determine whether the word “wine” references alcoholic wine or grape juice. The person making the claim that Jesus turns water in alcohol would need to show evidence that the “wine” at the wedding is alcohol, which would not be possible because the context indicates just the opposite.

Consider what the governor of the feast stated when presented with the “wine” from water, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). The governor described the individuals at the feast as “well drunk” or in modern terms “drank until they had plenty.” How could the Lord preach against drunkenness after handing out 120-160 gallons of alcohol to a party of people that were already “well drunk”? Such a hypocrisy could not exist! Even the governor of the feast could tell a difference in the wine that Jesus made versus the wine that had been served. He noticed the better quality of the wine calling it “the good wine,” which would not have been alcoholic based on how God described alcohol in the Old Law (Prov. 20:1; Deut. 32:33).

More arguments will be considered in the studies ahead, but the larger issue remains the same. God warns numerous times in both the Old and New Testament about the dangers of alcohol for recreational consumption. People, especially Christians, need to take the Lord’s advice and stay away from the substance, lest they fall into condemnation (Prov. 14:12).

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