The Life Foundations Nexus
IS DRINKING A SIN?
By Dr. Michael J. Bisconti
Before we begin, note that we are talking about drinking, not drunkenness. The Bible teaches that drunkenness is a sin.
Is drinking a sin? Yes, with five exceptions.
First, let us look at the water-into-wine miracle performed by Jesus at a wedding reception. The Bible makes a distinction between “wine” and “strong drink.” It is obvious from these terms that wine is not a strong, alcoholic drink. A parallel examination of the Hebrew and Greek texts, of course, reveals the same thing. Therefore, when Jesus turned the water into wine, he turned it into a weak alcoholic drink. It was an unwritten rule of Jesus’ time that, in particular, you never got drunk at a wedding reception. The Bible does not say that Jesus drank any of the wine. The model of a “holy person” in the Bible excluded the drinking of wine. Jesus refused wine when it was offered to him.
Some would say that by turning the water into wine Jesus sanctioned social drinking (moderate drinking). The truth of the matter is that before the Holy Spirit was sent this was the case. But the Bible says that after the Holy Spirit was sent, social drinking was no longer sanctioned. Ephesians 5:18,19 says: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Some would say that this passage is talking only about drunkenness but note that the Lord requires that one be “filled with the Spirit.” When a vessel is filled with something there is no room for anything else. That means there is no room for any amount of alcoholic drink. That means there is no room for the amount of alcoholic drink that one would consume in a social drinking situation. Social drinking is no longer sanctioned.
We must make a fine, ethical point regarding social drinking. Before we proceed, don’t jump to any conclusions. You must read this entire paragraph. Also, for a few of you, this paragraph will be difficult to understand but, if you take your time and think about what you are reading, you will understand what you are reading. The ending of the sanction that allowed social drinking (moderate drinking) in the past did not mean that social drinking had become inherently (in itself) evil. Rather, it meant that social drinking had become an inherently, morally inferior activity. Good had not become evil. Social drinking had not become evil. Good had become inferior (inferior good). Social drinking had become inferior (inferior good). The reason for this change is that God had provided something better – being “filled with the Spirit.” Furthermore, once a good thing becomes an inherently inferior thing, it simultaneously becomes a practical evil.
Now, in this case, the practical – social drinking is an evil – has priority over the inherent – social drinking is an inferior good. In plain English, social drinking is a sin. Now, you might ask, “Why go through all this trouble of making a distinction between INHERENT and PRACTICAL?” The reason we do this is that many people focus on the narrow picture, on only some of the facts. They realize that social drinking is an INHERENTLY INFERIOR good and they stop there. They say, “See, social drinking is an inferior good but it is still a good.” This failure to get ALL of the facts allows them to continue their social drinking without a guilty conscience. Most people, on the other hand, will see the broad picture, the big picture, which includes all of the facts. The big picture requires that they realize that social drinking is a PRACTICAL EVIL. Therefore, they stop their social drinking. Finally, real life is not always cut-and-dry. There are five exceptions to the principle that social drinking is a sin.
What are the five exceptions to the ban on drinking, found in the Bible? These exceptions apply only if one does not have the benefit of either a certain part of or all of the work of the Holy Spirit and if one does not have a better way to meet the needs involved in these exceptions. They are: 1) to mitigate the pangs of death, 2) to prevent psychosis, 3) to heal (the InterClued KJV Bible says “a little wine [wine or other comparable, weak alcoholic drink]”), 4) to dull the senses during surgery or the like, and 5) when one would otherwise die of thirst.