Good Times and the Bottle, Just Say No!

Isaiah 5:11-13

The worse social evil ever to infest this planet is quietly finding its insidious way, at least to some degree, into acceptability with the Bible-believng community. This paper confronts that reality.

This message is for “us.” And who is “us”? It is every child of God who is eager to find truth from God’s Word, the Bible, and to live by that truth, come what may.

If there be any justification for social drinking, it is completely nullified by the harmful effects that seek to overwhelm our society. Even among medical authorities one seldom hears the trumpeting of the use of alcohol for medicinal purposes any more. But, of course, this message is not about alcohol administered under the proper care of one’s physician. I am talking about “the bottle,” and we should just say “No!”

A word about social drinking as a Bible subject is in order. Well over two-hundred times the Bible speaks of “wine.” That fact is often cited by those who justify drinking alcohol. A full accounting of them is not the subject of this paper. Many factors and circumstances are involved in the total picture. What is clear, however, is that the Bible absolutely condemns the negative effects of drinking alcohol. The Bible NEVER recommends drinking alcoholic beverage for pleasure! On the other hand, many citations of wine serve as prohibitions of it.

Recent Changes in the Attitudes of Christians Toward Alcohol

Until recent times it was customary for Bible-preaching churches to oppose alcohol right down to placing an article against it in the church’s official papers. I am grateful the church I pastor has the same clause in its papers.

My home church, in Grand Rapids, that conferred ordination upon me, stated in its Church Covenant: “We oppose the sale and use of alcoholic drinks as a beverage.” At one time, that church turned down an applicant for church membership because he drove a beer truck for a living.

I attended a Christian college. It was common knowledge that if a student was caught with alcohol he or she was automatically dismissed from the school. The seminary I attended, had a similar rule. Since then, standards in most schools have been lowered considerably.

Recent articles printed in national Christian magazines now print, in the same issues, “pro” and “con” positions on the use of alcohol. Should or should not a Christian drink liquor?

In a personal letter to me not that long ago, a fellow seminary alumnus of mine picked a fight with me over the matter. He wrote, “Ken, although I don’t drink, I know many fine Christians who do.” He went on further: “The Bible doesn’t teach total abstinence. We need not labor under such a necessity.”

This man held the position of “research editor” for a large Christian ministry that publishes material that circle the globe. His easy dismissal of alcohol use by Christians needs to be answered.

Let me guess at what it means to “labor under the necessity” that the Bible teaches total abstinence.

You are at your boss’s birthday party. He has spared nothing to make the atmosphere warm and cozy. Delicate stem ware graces each guest’s place at the tables. Pretty attendants emerge from a serving area armed with expensive-looking bottles of champagne. The smiling waitress glides toward your table. In a few moments she tips the bottle toward your glass. What do you do at that moment?

At that point, you have two choices. You can remember the words of Proverbs 20:1 from your Bible: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Then you politely decline.

Your second choice will be a lot easier. You will not incur a look of surprise, or worse, disgust, from any of the smiling, affable guests near you. You may simply sit back and blend into the category of those around you. You can love the world, “the cravings of this world system” (I John 2:15). You can fall into line, thus setting the example for other Christians who know you to follow. Your family and friends who learn your practice will take note of your position as a believer. They may be confused at this point, but at least you will have avoided any uncomfortable embarrassment to yourself. They will note the compromise you have entered. Therefore you “need not labor under the necessity” that the Bible teaches abstinence.

My question is: “What changed Christian minds on the subject that once was taboo for the serious Christian to make it so acceptable now?”

Let’s Talk About the “Good” That Can Be Accomplished by Social Drinking

At a recent meeting of a pastor’s conference, our speaker who is pastor of a large church, told of some meetings which were arising spontaneously within his church. Some forty or so of his members, he related, were engaged in holding neighborhood get-togethers in which unsaved neighbors were invited to social gatherings in members’ homes.

The pastor was excited and pleased about this evangelistic outreach until he learned that these meetings of his members and neighbors featured the serving of wine. This, they said, was for the purpose of avoiding embarrassment to their neighbors who might have thought these Christian people were too “old fashioned” to serve alcohol. So we conclude that one “good” thing to come from social drinking would be to put others “more at ease.” Drinking alcohol together does indeed “put people more at ease.” I agree.

A second “good” to come from social drinking would be to demonstrate that Christians are not opposed to things that make us feel good. At a party, for example, there would be a more relaxed atmosphere, a casualness and open friendliness that might be missing if alcohol were not served. I grant that this is so. Alcoholic drink does foster a certain openness and casualness. It does break down barriers.

Thirdly, a “good” thing to come from social drinking would be that it serves to teach our children. We would be suggesting that “everything is all right if done in moderation.” That way, when they go off to college or business relations they would have been taught to partake of beer or whisky, “in moderation” of course, without thought of being out of step with their peers at such gatherings. I grant that this is so.

A fourth “good” to come from social drinking would be to follow the biblical suggestion that “every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (I Timothy 4:4). So, it would seem to some, even Bible authorities, some drinking is permissible, because alcoholic beverages are one those things “created by God,” and, as such, are ours to enjoy! We will have more to say on this point later.

Here, then, are four examples of “good” things that can come from the drinking of alcoholic beverage. I am sure that the proponents of social drinking can probably come up with additional examples. Anyone reading this is welcome to contact me to suggest any additional “good” to come from social drinking. I’ll be happy to respond. It is, however, my purpose to destroy all these above that are commonly thought to be “good” reasons to engage in social drinking. None is legitimate, in my judgment and all are merely dangerous excuses some believers use to justify mistaken and sinful conduct.

Refutation of Every Supposed “Good” to Come from Social Drinking

Social drinking and “putting others more at ease” with us is part of social drinking. Of course, that is true. The problem is that as a child of God, my responsibility is to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. Am I comfortable with the idea that the first thing someone knows about me as a Christian is that I am not uncomfortable with alcoholic beverage? I think not. This is a direct violation of Scripture: “It is better not to eat meat, or drink wine, or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall” (Romans 14:21, NIV).

Do I want my family or church to be known as accepting of alcoholic drink? Do I want others to be at ease with a substance that is so dangerous that the smallest amount of over-consumption can and often does lead to terrible sins and offenses, with possible injury or even death? So, to put my friends at ease with drinking is actually to put them off-guard with the truth. How can a Christian do this? It is in direct opposition to the Apostle Paul’s injunction: “… set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (I Timothy 4:12, NIV).

Secondly, I mentioned that social drinking brings a certain casualness, an open friendliness between men and women, husbands and wives and others present that without alcohol would not be present. Yes, and the more drinking there is the greater the relaxation to the point of almost anything happening.

When I was a sixteen-year-old boy I would go to a bar with my friends, some of whom were eighteen and legally entitled to buy 3.2% beer. Then they would bring it back to the booth where I would drink it too. On one such night at about three o’clock in the morning, my dad had to come down to our front porch and confront me, as I bragged and shot off my mouth to the high heaven after only one or two such drinks. I was not a Christian at the time. My disgraceful conduct is now a matter of deep regret to me.

We might say, after one drink, if men and women do not begin to feel sufficiently friendly toward one another, perhaps a second or even a third drink might help. True. Then what? How much would be just the “right” amount to have a lively party? And we are going to countenance this as approved by God for the Christian?

The third “good” I suggested of social drinking, you may recall, is that it is an example to teach our children. It certainly is! That is what the mother of the eighteen-year-old young lady was doing who sent her to Aruba so she could drink in a night club legally. Unfortunately, someone in that tavern that night had something other than one drink on his mind. Did her “friends” lead her out of that place for some purpose? She has not been seen since. Recently she was declared dead. Is her body is at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea? Fringe “benefits” of social drinking! Yep, some things are better caught than taught. You may be sure your children will catch what you teach them about social drinking.

It seems the local county jail had a run on orange juice some time back, from its breakfast menu. Were the inmates concerned for a healthy diet? Were they trying to stay fit? Not exactly! The corrections officers discovered they were hoarding and hiding it for long periods of time. Trying to get drunk in jail? I’m sure the sheriff didn’t approve. Keep this thought. We will be back to it soon.

Some Bible Reasons Why No One Can Be Both a Social Drinker and an Obedient Christian

We have already acknowledged that alcoholic beverage can be a mind-altering substance. What evil young man has not thought of trying to get his date to drink so she would be in a more cooperative mood? How, according to Scripture, should we have our minds altered? The Bible says, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, KJV).

There it is. Alcoholic beverage is set in contradistinction to being filled with God’s Holy Spirit. God commands the Christian to be filled with His Spirit. As such, we must automatically refrain from any influence of alcohol. They are mutually exclusive.

Scripture teaches that the Christian is not to be brought under the domain or authority of anything, even good things:

“Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food-but God will destroy them both” (I Corinthians 5:12-13a, NIV).

Absolutely the only way to be sure that we will never be brought under the domain or influence of alcohol is simply to avoid it completely.

The Christian is commanded to avoid even looking upon alcoholic beverage favorably:

“Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (Proverbs 23:31-32, NIV).

There is a connection to immorality associated with alcoholic drink as old as history itself. Noah drank alcoholic beverage, uncovered his nakedness and was so seen by his son Ham. The Bible does not fully discuss this incident but the ramifications were so serious as to cause God’s curse (Genesis 9:21-22).

The saddest story in the Bible involves alcohol. King David, a “man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14) in a moment of weakness and sin, shamefully used booze to entice his young officer, Uriah, to go to his own house to be with his wife. It wasn’t David’s concern for this brave soldier’s happiness and comfort. David had committed adultery with Uriah’s wife while the soldier was away fighting for his country. She became pregnant. David’s motive was to make Uriah think he was the father of the baby to be born to her.

Unfortunately for sinner David, the young officer had more principal than his king. With the men under him away fighting on the battlefield, Uriah refused to go to his wife. Not long after, David had Uriah killed and then took his wife. Another fringe “benefit” of alcoholic drink with a Christian involved!

The prophet Isaiah of the eighth century before Christ, records the connection between drinking and misconduct of all kinds including disregard for the commands of the Lord. Christians may want to read verses 1-25 of Isaiah’s fifth chapter. There is a warning about this whole matter of characterizing alcoholic drink as something innocent: “Woe to those who call evil good” (v. 20).

Here is the most poignant part of the passage:

“Woe to those who rise up early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands” (vss. 11-12).

Managing alcohol is a little like herding snakes. When our two eldest children were schoolmates they clamored for a pet. Since we were away a lot, we looked for a pet or two that could be confined but would be fun pets for Melony and Kenny while we were home. We settled on two garter snakes. They were small. The larger they named “King.” The smaller we called “Grit.”

But, there was a problem. When we appeared at home with the twin snakes neither longer than two feet, my wife was petrified! We solemnly promised to keep them in their cages. But despite our best efforts we had to round them up from within the couch and other places in the house rather often. We tried hard to keep them confined, but they got out anyway!

Not long after, in the middle of the night, I was shocked from my sleep by a terrible shriek from my wife. She bolted up in bed and cried with the top of her voice: “The snakes have got me, the snakes have got me!”

Needless to say that was the end of our foray into snake-keeping. You just can’t predict snakes! They are “slippery customers.” And, my friend, that is true of alcohol as well. It may start off looking manageable and favorable. But, as we know, looks can deceive. So does alcohol!

No, my critics may say, what the Bible is referring to is drunkenness, not the social drinking we are talking about. Right! But these drunks of Isaiah’s description started out, without doubt to drink “a little” or “some ,” but not enough to become alcohol’s slaves!

The prophet, Habakkuk puts it very bluntly:

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed‘!” (Habbakuk 2:15-16, NIV).

How many, non-drinking Christians have offered a can of beer to their yard man as a polite gesture after he has completed a hard task under the hot sun. Look again at the passage above. Giving your neighbor to drink of alcohol is breaking the Scriptures. You have other and better choices!

If you are a skeptical reader at this point, I can almost hear you say, “Oh, what the Bible talks about is drunkenness. I’d never do anything like that. I drink in moderation.” And, may I ask, what is “drinking in moderation?” There is not a person alive who can accurately define “drinking in moderation.” Break out the bottle and incur the wrath of God. Is it worth it? I don’t think so.

How many, I wonder started out to “drink in moderation”: who were, nevertheless, carried into shameful conduct by alcohol’s grip? No, there is one thing all drunkards at one time had in common: “I’ll just drink a little bit.” They all started out to “drink in moderation.” Who in his right mind thought before his first drink, “Now I guess I’ll just drink this booze, get bombed out of my head, and ruin my life?” How many helpless alcoholics began drinking, “in moderation”? Answer: ALL!

So, what is the absolutely certain course to take? Don’t take the first drink!

Conclusion

These Bible reasons for avoiding alcoholic beverage could be expanded easily to twice the number. But, the truth is clear: no obedient Christian can compromise with alcoholic beverage!

A careless reading of verses like I Timothy 4:4 might seem, on the surface, to countenance drinking alcohol:

For everything God created is good, and nothing to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4:4, NIV).

There you have it. Alcoholic beverage is something God created, therefore we may partake. No, not so fast. God did not nor does He “create” alcoholic beverage! Decay and death create alcoholic beverage. Let me illustrate.

Suppose you are a member of the church I serve. We have a gathering for a sumptuous dinner in our fellowship hall. Each one has brought in the family’s favorite dish. We eat with great enjoyment and relish.

At the end of the meal, however, we do not do what we are accustomed to. We simply get up and walk away. Everything remains on the table just as it was-the meat dishes, the rich desserts, the fresh cider from the orchard, all of it!

Several weeks later, we decide to have another fellowship meal. Now all we do is return to the fellowship hall. We heat up the weeks-old meat dishes. We warm the vegetables. We ignore the mold and putrid smells. We chill the desserts that have remained all these weeks on the table. Finally, we dig in to this “meal.” Are you with me?

You would probably cry out in revulsion: “Are you kidding? We would all be poisoned!” Well, you are correct. What was once delicious and nutritious has now decayed and fermented. And there, my friend, is the explanation for alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is the ruin of nature’s creation. It is an anomaly. It is a substance that has passed into another realm. It has fermented. Fermentation is the necessary step in the development of alcoholic beverage. The modern brewery enhances the fermentation process and spikes the alcoholic content!

The American Medical Association includes in its large Medical Encyclopaedia a major entry on alcohol abuse. It defines drunkenness as “impairment,” as do law-enforcement agencies. This authoritative volume includes, in its 2003 edition, a detailed chart, provided by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, showing data related to drinking and impairment. The chart shows that impairment begins with the first drink. It declares further that the only safe driving limit is that which exists when a person has had zero numbers of drinks.

What further proof do we need to demonstrate that, since impairment begins with one drink, those who want to be unimpaired for Jesus Christ should take no drink?

Greg Buchanan is a world class harpist. He tours the country doing concerts with an enormous and beautiful custom-build harp. I never cared much for harp music until I heard this Christian brother play Christ-honoring music on this powerful instrument.

During his concerts Greg gives his testimony as a Christian. He was raised by his parents who were musicians. They sent Greg to a conservatory of music where he learned classical harp. He became very accomplished.

After he was grown, Greg relates that he got in with the wrong crowd. He tells that he went with his friends to a place where there was alcoholic beverage. Here is what Greg said of that night: “When I took my first drink, I knew that I was an alcoholic.” From there he went down into the dregs of sin and drunkenness. Finally God saved him. Today he has a wonderful family of his own and a very unusual and satisfying Christian ministry.

As a pastor for more than fifty years, I have many stories about the price people I have known have paid for no reason better than they tipped the bottle. Broken homes, ruined lives, death and Hell are all part of alcoholism. I make no apology for despising alcoholic drink and all that it stands for. This is the grand-daddy of all social sins. I implore you, my Christian friend. Just say, “No!”

When it comes to the bottle, every obedient Christian, every child of God who values his life and testimony, every soul who desires to protect his fortune, his family and his faith should just say “No!”


Rev. Kenneth F. Pierpont, D.Min.
Pastor, South Litchfield Baptist Church
Copies of this paper may be made if done so completely, unaltered, and in their entirety

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