Living in the Spirit: Be Not Drunk with Wine--Part 1
by John MacArthur All Rights Reserved

A copy of this message may be obtained by visiting Ephesians 5:18a Tape GC 1936


Ephesians 5:18-20 describes the Spirit-filled life. It is one of the most important aspects of the Christian walk. Without the constant control of the Spirit of God, the believer cannot live by God's standard. One way to see the book of Ephesians is to view the believer as if he were a high-performance automobile.

A. The Engine

Ephesians 1:1--3:13 describes the believer's inheritance and position in Christ. It is somewhat analogous to the automobile's major source of power--the engine. The believer has been given full power because of his relationship to Christ (Eph. 1:19-21).

B. The Ignition Switch

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul describes what can be likened to the ignition switch in the automobile. It does no good to have a high- powered engine if it can't be turned on. As you are controlled by God's Spirit, only then do you begin to understand what it means to live the Christian life. As we mature, God will do "exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (3:20). The power of God in our lives allows the believer to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

C. The Road Map

Ephesians 4:1--6:9 describes the spiritual route we're to drive. The believer is commanded to move along the path that is worthy of his calling (4:1). The road to Spirit-controlled living is very different from the world and involves humility verses pride, unity verses discord, love verses hate, light verses darkness, and wisdom verses foolishness.

D. The Roadblocks

As the believer drives his automobile, he comes across many potential roadblocks (6:10-24). If the Christian lives a worthy life, he will inevitably encounter the schemes of Satan (6:11). The battle is "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (6:12). The only way to defeat the devil is to put on the full armor of God and pray always (vv. 12-18).

E. The Fuel

1. The energy

The only missing element from the illustration of the automobile is the fuel to run it. You must fill the tank with gas in the tank and this fuel is the Holy Spirit. Paul says, "Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit" (5:18). It would do no good to have the automobile if you didn't have the fuel to run it. I once saw a magazine illustration of a farmer who won a car and had it delivered to him. Since he did not know what an automobile was supposed to do, he hooked his horse to the bumper and rode away in style! There are many Christians who do the same thing. They have a vehicle created by God, intended to be empowered by the fuel of the Holy Spirit, but end up pulling it along their own way. In Ephesians 5:18 God is saying each believer is to be energized by the Holy Spirit and not by his own efforts.

2. The effect

From Ephesians 5:18--6:9, the apostle Paul describes how the filling of the Holy Spirit affects the believer himself (vv. 19-20); his relationships with others in general (v. 21); and his relationship with his spouse (vv. 22-33); his children (6:1-4); and his co-workers (6:5-9). Living in the Spirit will affect every relationship you have because it is the fuel that allows your spiritual automobile to run properly. It is utter foolishness not to use all the tremendous resources that God has made available to the believer. It is like owning the highest priced vehicle available yet never bothering to put the fuel in it. Living the Christian life demands that you be controlled by the Holy Spirit.


I. THE CONTRAST (v. 18a)

"And be not drunk with wine."

Before we study how to be filled with the Spirit, we must study Paul's contrast of not being drunk with wine. Paul's contrast between drunkenness and being Spirit filled seems simple on the surface, yet presents very profound truths.

A. The Controversy

Drinking alcoholic beverages is a big issue in the church today. Some Christians say, "No Christian should drink because it's a sin." Others say, "It's obviously not a sin to drink because Jesus and others in the Bible drank wine." Still others say, "The only time you should stop drinking is when it offends a weaker Christian brother." There are perspectives on drinking from one end of the spectrum to the other.

B. The Comparison

In Ephesians 5:15 Paul says, "See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise [men]." He also said, "Be ye not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (v. 17). In verse 18 he gives the third negative command: "And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." In all three verses he is simply paralleling the same idea. The wisest person is the one who does the will of God. Being filled with the Spirit is using wisdom in determining the will of God, whereas being drunk is being out of God's will and acting foolish.

1. The social issue

The United States has a massive alcohol and drug problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimated that there are at least 1O million alcoholics in America and at least 3.3 million teenage alcoholics (That's 19% of all American teenagers.) And statistic are rising rapidly. However drinking has always been portrayed as a glamorous pastime. Whenever alcohol is advertised in the media, it is usually associated with a man of distinction instead of a drunken bum lying in the gutter.

Paul is saying that if you're looking for joy and and comfort, seek it in the Holy Spirit, not at the bottom of a bottle. The Holy Spirit should be your only resource for joy and exhilaration. Everyone wants to be happy and that's ok because God wants everyone to be happy, too. He is not a cosmic- killjoy!

a) The Christian's source of joy

(1) Matthew 5:3-12--When Jesus introduced His great Sermon on the Mount, He began by saying, "Blessed [happy] are they ...."

(2) Ecclesiastes 3:4--Solomon said, "[There is] a time to laugh."

(3) Proverbs 17:22--Solomon said, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

(4) John 15:11--Jesus said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

(5) 1 John 1:4--The apostle John said, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."

(6) Philippians 4:4--Paul said, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice."

(7) Psalms 5:11; 32:11; 35:27--David said several times, "Shout for joy."

(8) Psalm 16:11--David also said, "In thy presence is fullness of joy."

(9) Luke 2:10--On the day of Jesus' birth an angel said, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy."

b) The world's source of joy

God wants man to experience real joy but He wants him to find it in the right place. People want to be truly happy, but many times their circumstances make them so miserable, they turn to alcohol. I remember asking a young man with a heavy drug addiction, "Do drugs really answer your questions?" He responded, "No, but at least I no longer have to answer any questions because I can't even remember what they are!" That is the kind of escape the world calls joy. They are trying to seek joy and happiness in an artificial way.

There is a popular liquor called Southern Comfort, but in Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul says the real Comforter is the Holy Spirit. First Peter 5:7 says to cast "all your care upon him, for he careth for you." Intoxication is never the remedy for the cares of this life. All it does is add more problems to an already guilt-ridden soul.

The world tries to convince us that alcoholism is a disease, but it's more than that--it is sin. It is simply the manifestation of human depravity. As any other sin, it needs to be dealt with and confessed. Every mention of drunkenness in the Bible shows a disastrous consequence.

(1) Drunkenness destroys

(a) Noah became drunk and in his nakedness acted shamelessly (Gen. 9:21).

(b) Lot became drunk and his daughters committed incest with him (Gen. 19:30-36).

(c) Nabal became drunk and at a crucial time God took his life (1 Sam. 25:36-37).

(d) Elah became drunk and was murdered by Zimri (1 Kings 16:9-10).

(e) Ben-hadad and all his allied kings became drunk and were slaughtered--only Ben-hadad escaped (1 Kings 20:16-21).

(f) Belshazzar became drunk and had his kingdom taken from him (Dan. 5).

(g) The Corinthians got drunk at the Lord's table. Some died as a result (1 Cor. 11:21-34).

In Scripture drunkenness is always associated with immorality, unrestrained living, and reckless behavior.

(2) Drunkenness disqualifies

Drunkenness disqualifies a man from any form of leadership in the church. An elder or deacon must not be "given to wine" (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7).

(3) Drunkenness discredits

(a) 1 Peter 4:2-3--Peter said we should no longer live "in the flesh to the lusts of men but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, carousings, and abominable idolatries."

(b) 1 Corinthians 5:11--Paul said, "I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no, not to eat." Paul was saying that if a person claims to be a believer and yet is a drunkard, you should not even associate with him. What you need to do is share the gospel message with him.

(c) 1 Corinthians 6:9-10--Paul said, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

If a person claims to know Christ yet remains a drunkard, he is deceived and will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul is not saying that if you get drunk, you will automatically lose your salvation. He is saying that a person whose life is characterized by habitual drunkenness is not a true believer. A true believer is characterized by righteousness--not drunkenness. Only God knows who really belongs to Him and according to His Word, drunkards are not in His kingdom.

If you have a drinking problem, you better examine yourself to see if you are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Know that God can deliver you from your sinful life. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, you will find the joy and comfort you seek. If your conversion to Christ is genuine, God will change your life. You will be forgiven of your sins and given a new start. The Lord said, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa. 1:18).

2. The religious issue

The thrust of Paul's teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit is religious: he is contrasting paganism with Christianity. Pagans believed that to commune with the gods, you needed to get drunk to reach the highest level of communion. This is part of what are called the "mystery religions," offshoots of the Greek and Roman mythological religious systems. It is not unlike what occurs today. From men like Timothy Leary to Eastern mystics and the occult, people are saying that if you get high on drugs and alcohol, you will reach a greater level of consciousness. Many claim that it is new truth, but is actually derived from ancient pagan religions. During the apostle Paul's ministry, the Ephesian culture was inundated with many pagan religions.

a) The Greek counterfeit

Zeus was considered a great god in Greek mythology. It is told that Zeus assumed human form, impregnated a mortal woman named Semele, and produced a son, Dionysus. Semele decided she had the right to see Zeus in his full glory and entered into his divine presence. She was instantly incinerated. Zeus then snatched the body of the unborn baby from her womb and sewed it into his thigh. He carried the baby until its full term and then gave birth. Zeus destined the infant god to become ruler of the planet earth.

According to Greek mythology, there were already sub-gods called Titans who ran the earth and when they heard of the new ruler--Dionysius--they were quite upset. They stole the baby and ate him. Zeus however, rescued his heart, swallowed it, and gave birth to Dionysus once again. Zeus struck the Titans with lightning and they were reduced to ashes. Out of those ashes came the human race. Around Dionysus became centered a religion of ascendancy, where human beings attempted to reach a level of divine consciousness. It was filled with ecstasy, wild music, dancing, and sexual perversion--all induced by drunkenness. With a great conclave of voices the people would call out to Dionysus, "Come thou Savior." Dionysus became known as the god of wine.

So when Paul said "be not drunk with wine," he was not dealing merely with a social problem, but a theological one as well. He was dealing directly with Satan's counterfeit religion. Satan captures minds and bodies through the medium of drunkenness.

b) The Roman counterfeit

The Roman name for Dionysus is Bacchus. He is frequently pictured with nymphs and satyrs. The famous bacchanalian feasts were nothing more than drunken orgies. Among the massive ruins of the ancient Near Eastern city of Baalbek is a temple to Bacchus, the god of wine. It is covered with grapes and vines because that was the thrust of their worship.

Paul was saying to the Ephesian church, "Your background was communing with the gods in a state of drunkenness, but if you want to communicate with the true God, you need to be filled with His Spirit. If you want to be raised to the highest level of consciousness, simply enter the presence of God through the filling of the Holy Spirit."

c) The Corinthian counterfeit

The same problem existed in the Corinthian church. They were never able to cut themselves off from the pagan religious systems and divorce themselves from the world. They were cliquish, litigious, proud, egotistical, and uncaring; they pursued vain philosophies; and were into hero worship.

The Corinthian Christians had problems with meat being offered to idols. They also had problems with the gifts of the Spirit, because the pagan religions had corrupted their meaning. That is why it is impossible to properly interpret 1 Corinthians l2-l4 without understanding the pagan world of New Testament times. Christianity was being counterfeited in the Corinthian church because they were carrying their former pagan practices into the church. They even corrupted one of the most sacred ordinances God has given the church-- Communion.

The Corinthians were so used to communing with the gods through drunkenness that they came to the Lord's Table drunk. Paul told them they couldn't drink the communion cup, which is the cup of the Lord, and the cup of drunkenness, which is the cup of demons (1 Cor. 10:21). Their Communion services were characterized by gluttony and drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:19-22). They were conducting their worship the way they used to do it in paganism.

Paul was contrasting the Satanic counterfeit of worship with true worship. He didn't want anything to come in the way of what the Spirit wanted to do in the lives of the Ephesians.

C. The Context

I believe Paul is dealing with drunkenness as a religious issue because of the context of Ephesians 5:18-21. He contrasts the pagan liturgy of singing, dancing, and wild parties with true Christian liturgy, which involves speaking with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (vv. 19-21).

When Paul said, "Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit," he was making a simple contrast. The Greek word for "excess" is asotia, which refers to uncontrolled dissipation or debauchery. Being controlled by alcohol is opposite to being controlled by the Spirit of God.


You are not a man of distinction when you get drunk. I have seen the evils of drunkenness. From the jungles of Ecuador I have watched Indians on the road stagger from side to side from alcohol. I've seen drunkenness in the Arab world and in almost every city I've ever been in. Drunkenness is a part of the curse.

What is controlling your life? Where do you find your joy, exhilaration, and comfort? Do you find it in a bottle? Alcohol is an artificial way of finding those things. If you truly desire to be happy, allow yourself to be controlled and empowered by the Spirit of God. He is the only true source of everlasting joy and comfort.

Focusing on the Facts

1. Without the constant _____________ of the Spirit of God, the believer cannot live by God's standard.

2.Describe the illustration used of the book of Ephesians and the different aspects that comprise the illustration.

3.What is one roadblock to living the Spirit-controlled Christian life?

4.What is the effect of living the Spirit-filled life?

5.True or False: Drinking alcoholic beverages is a big issue in the church today.

6.How did Paul reason that being drunk with wine is the antithesis of true wisdom?

7.How is drinking portrayed in the media and how is it affecting today's society?

8.The Holy Spirit should be your only resource for ________ and ___________________. Support your answer with Scripture.

9.True or False: Alcoholism is only a disease.

10.How does the Bible portray drunkenness? Give scriptural references to support your answer.

11.What was the main thrust of Paul's teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit?

12.Give the historical background of Paul's command for the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit.

13.What problems existed in the Corinthian church that were linked to their former pagan practices?

14.What does true Christian liturgy involve?

15.What is the opposite of being controlled by alcohol?

Pondering the Principles

1.Are you controlled by alcohol? Do you desire liquor or drugs more than reading the Word of God, fellowship, or witnessing? If so, examine yourself to see if you are really a Christian. Study the following passages and if they characterize your life, confess your sin to God and ask Him to give you new life in Christ: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, and Revelation 21:8.

2.One way to determine if a person is living in the Spirit is to evaluate how much time he spends reading and studying the Word of God. How much time do you spend in the Word? Is it on a daily basis or seldom if ever? In Scripture, being filled with the Spirit of God and being filled with the Word of God are synonymous. Study the following parallels between the Spirit of God and the Word of God and determine if your life is controlled by the Spirit of God:

Spirit of God - Word of God

Ephesians 5:18 - Colossians 1:9-12

John 3:5-7 1- Peter 1:22-25

Titus 3:5-6 - Ephesians 5:25-27

1 Corinthians 3:16 - Colossians 3:16

1 Peter 1:2 - John 17:17

Romans 8:2 - John 8:31-36

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 2 - Timothy 3:14-17

1 John 4:4 - 1 John 2:14

Romans 15:13 - Romans 15:4

Romans 8:27 - Hebrews 4:12

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by: Tony Capoccia Bible Bulletin Board Box 314 Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022 Websites: and Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Online since 1986

Living in the Spirit: Be Not Drunk with Wine--Part 2
by John MacArthur All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Ephesians 5:18a Tape GC 1937


A. The Topic

Ephesians 5:18a describes the topic of drinking and drunkenness. It raises the crucial question of whether a Christian should drink alcoholic beverages. Even though it gives a direct command against drunkenness, it does not say that Christians should totally abstain from drinking alcohol.

Not surprisingly, American society has a severe drinking problem. It is proud, self-indulgent, and pleasure-mad, hence filled with guilt, anxiety, and depression. People try both to live it up and forget it all by drinking. Strangely however, many Christians, who by definition are supposed to be meek, selfless, and filled with the joy of the Lord, seek their comfort from a liquor bottle.

B. The Trouble

A survey showed that 81% of all Roman Catholics and 64% of all Protestants drink alcoholic beverages. The subject of drinking is an important issue in the church. There is much discussion and confusion over the issue. Some people say a Christian should not drink at all because it is sin and absolutely forbidden in Scripture. Others say a Christian can drink in moderation, especially since the Bible indicates believers drank wine. Some Christians go to dinner and wouldn't think of ordering wine while others order wine first and think about dinner later.

I've met certain missionaries who have instructed me to stay in a particular place because the wine is better there. I've also met others missionaries who have never consumed any alcohol. There is much concern about whether drinking is an emblem of your spirituality, but spirituality isn't a matter of what you drink-- it's who you are! What you do in your life is simply a manifestation of who you really are inside.

1. The condemnation of drunkenness

Drunkenness is forbidden in Scripture. It is a sin.

a) Drunkenness disallowed

(1) Romans 13:13--"Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in reveling and drunkenness."

(2) Galatians 5:19-21--"The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, factions, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and the like; of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in past time, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

(3) 1 Corinthians 6:9-10--"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, not covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

(4) 1 Peter 4:3--"The time past of our life may suffice us ... when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, carousings." That kind of life-style is part of the darkness of the past.

(5) 1 Thessalonians 5:6-7--"Let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober-minded. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunk are drunk in the night."

Drunkenness is a part of the life-style from which many believers have come. But they have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and drunkenness is not allowed. The Bible sternly warns against drunkenness. A believer is forbidden to be habitually drunk.

b) Drunkenness defined

What does drunkenness mean? It is the point at which alcohol takes over any part of your faculties. There are varying degrees of drunkenness and I don't profess to know where that fine line is for everyone, but whenever you yield control of your senses to alcohol, you have become drunk.

c) Drunkenness described

(1) Proverbs 20:1--"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." A person who becomes drunk is a fool. He may think the wine is doing something good for him, but it is mocking in every way.

(2) Proverbs 23:20-21, 29-35--"Be not among winebibbers, among gluttonous eaters of flesh; for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.... Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange things, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not. When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again."

A person who becomes an alcoholic winds up in utter ruin. I've preached many times in skid-row missions and have seen many men clothed in rags because of their drunkenness. Drinking is such a deceiver. It does not produce a man of distinction, as society portrays, but only rags and emptiness.

The most amazing thing about this description of drunkenness is in verse 35: "I will seek it yet again." After all the trouble of drunkenness, people will turn right around and get drunk again. Old Testament commentator Franz Delitzsch said, "The author passes from the sin of uncleanness [vv. 26-28 warn about the harlot and the adulteress] to that of drunkenness; they are nearly related, for drunkenness excites fleshly lust; and to wallow with delight in the mire of sensuality, a man, created in the image of God, must first brutalize himself by intoxication" (Biblical Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970 reprint], p. 120).

(3) Isaiah 5:11--"Woe unto them who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!" One of the characteristics of an alcoholic is that he starts drinking in the morning and continues to drink all night.

d) Drunkenness denounced

(1) Isaiah 28:7-8--In a strong indictment of Ephraim, Isaiah said, "They also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way. The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgement. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean."

Priests were forbidden to drink while they ministered (Lev. 10:9) because they represented God on earth and if they became drunk, they could easily misjudge or misrepresent God. These priests had made statements that were not true and had given the people wrong judgments, leading them astray. Verse 8 says they were even vomiting right in the place where they drank. It is no wonder that God severely judged them.

(2) Isaiah 56:11-12--In indicting the watchmen of Israel, Isaiah said, "They are greedy dogs that can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink, and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant."

These watchmen were supposed to be caring for the people of Israel, yet they remained drunk. God in turn severely indicted them, as he does anyone in a position of spiritual responsibility who negates it by becoming drunk.

(3) Hosea 4:11--"Harlotry and wine and new wine take away the heart." Many times in Scripture, drinking is linked with prostitution.

God forbids drunkenness. Under no circumstances is a believer to yield control of his faculties to the evils of alcohol. All believers have a spiritual responsibility to represent God in the best way possible. Any act of drunkenness, no matter how minimal, violates God's standard of being controlled by the Spirit of God.

2. The commendation of drinking

Drunkenness is directly forbidden by God, yet wine itself is commended in Scripture.

a) Exodus 29:39-40--Moses commanded the children of Israel to offer one lamb in the morning "and the other lamb thou shalt offer at evening: and with the one lamb a tenth part of flour mixed with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering" (cf. Lev. 23:13). Although this wine offering was not for drinking, it was poured out to God as a libation.

b) 1 Chronicles 9:29--Some "were appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices." It is likely they kept a supply of wine in the Temple for drink offerings.

c) Psalm 104:15--The psalmist said that wine "maketh glad the heart of man" (cf. Judges 9:13).

d) Isaiah 55:1--Isaiah said, "Every one that thirsteth, come to the waters, and he that hath no money; come, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Wine here is equated with salvation.

e) John 13:26--Jesus dipped a piece of bread in wine, the two elements of the Lord's Supper (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

f) 1 Timothy 5:23--Paul told Timothy, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thy frequent infirmities."

g) Luke 10:34--When the Good Samaritan found a beaten man on the side of the road, he "went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him."

h) Proverbs 31:6-7--King Lemuel said, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that are of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." When someone is sick and about to die, Scripture says give him wine as a sedative to ease his pain.

Drinking is seen in Scripture as a possible destroyer of human life but is also seen as an acceptable and sometimes even commendable act. Like many other things, wine has a potential for good and evil. Should a Christian drink alcoholic beverages? Does the Bible say anything to help answer this crucial question? The Bible does not forbid drinking wine, but it does give certain principles to determine how to deal with this issue. The following are eight checkpoints to ask yourself if you, as a Christian, should drink alcoholic beverages.


Question #1: Is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times?

Christians who drink point out that wine was commended in the Bible and assume it is therefore acceptable today. If drinking in biblical times is to be used as the basis for drinking today, the wine today should be the same as the wine used then. This deserves careful analysis.

A. The Biblical Words for Wine

1. Oinos/Yayin

The most common word in the New Testament for wine is the Greek word oinos. It is a general word that simply refers to the fermented juice of the grape. The Old Testament equivalent to the Greek word oinos is yayin, the root of which means to "bubble up" or "boil up." The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. 12, p. 533) states that yayin, at least in the rabbinic period, was diluted with water.

2. Gleukos/Tirosh

The Greek word gleukos--from which we get the English word glucose, means "new wine." It is used in Acts 2:13 to refer to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It says they were "full of new wine." Although it was comparatively fresh and not yet fully aged, it was potentially intoxicating. The mockers in in Acts 2:13 were accusing the apostles of being drunk.

The Old Testament word for new wine is tirosh. Hosea 4:11 says "wine [yayin] and new wine [tirosh] take away the heart." Drunkenness is the result of drinking this new wine.

3. Sikera/Shakar

The Old Testament word for strong drink is shakar, a term that eventually became restricted to intoxicants other than wine. According to the 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia, it refers to unmixed wine. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word sikera.

B. The Historical Data Regarding Wine

1. Unfermented wine

Because of refrigeration problems in ancient times, wine was often boiled until the liquid evaporated, leaving behind a thick, unintoxicating paste that stored well. It was somewhat similar to modern grape jelly. The people would spread it on bread like a jam, and some still do today in the Middle East.

a) Pliny the Elder--This Roman historian in his Natural Histories said such wine could last as long as ten years. He wrote of wine that had the consistency of honey.

b) Horace--This Latin poet wrote in his Odes of unintoxicating wine, that he recommended quaffing under the shade (I:18).

c) Plutarch--This Greek essayist wrote in his Moralia that filtered wine neither inflames the brain nor infects the mind and the passions, and is much more pleasant to drink. He liked the kind of wine with no alcoholic content.

d) Aristotle--This Greek philosopher spoke of wine that was so thick, it was necessary to scrape it from the skins it was stored in and to dissolve the scrapings in water."

e) Virgil--This Latin writer spoke of the necessity of boiling down wine.

f) Homer--The celebrated bard, in the ninth book of The Odyssey tells of Ulysses, who took with him in his visit to the Cyclops a goatskin of sweet, black wine that needed to be diluted with twenty parts of water before being consumed as a beverage.

g) Columella--This Latin agronomist, a contemporary of the apostles, wrote that it was common in Italy and Greece to boil wine. That would not have been done if they had wanted to preserve the alcoholic content.

h) Archbishop Potter--Archbishop Potter, born in 1674, wrote in his Grecian Antiquities wrote to boil down their wines and then drink them four years later (Edinburg, 1813, vol. 2, p. 360). He also refers to Democritus, a celebrated philosopher, and Palladius, a Greek physician, as making similar statements concerning wine at that time. These ancient authorities referred to the boiled juice of the grape as wine.

i) Professor Donovan--Donovan in his Bible Commentary said, "In order to preserve their wines ... the Romans concentrated the must or grape juice, of which they were made, by evaporation, either spontaneous in the air or over a fire, so as to render them thick and syrupy" (p. 295).

j) The Talmud--The Talmud, the codification of Jewish law, mentions repeatedly that the Jews were in the habit of using boiled wine (e.g., 'Erabin29a).

k) W. G. Brown--Brown, who traveled extensively in Africa, Egypt, and Asia from 1792 to 1798 said that the wines of Syria are mostly prepared by boiling immediately after they are pressed from the grape until they are considerably reduced in quantity, when they are then put into bottles and preserved for use.

l) Caspar Neumann--Dr. Neumann, Professor of Chemistry in Berlin, 1795, said, "It is observable that when sweet juices are boiled down to a thick consistency, they not only do not ferment in that state, but are not easily brought into fermentation when diluted with as much water as they had lost in the evaporation, or even with the very individual water that exhaled from them" (Nott, London edition, p. 81). The wine evidently lost much of its intoxicating properties after being reconstituted.

m) Dr. A. Russell--Russell, in his Natural History of Aleppo (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, 1794), said that the concentrated wine juice, called "dibbs," was brought to the city in skins and sold in the public markets. He said it had the appearance of a coarse honey.

The wine that was consumed in biblical times was not what we know as wine today. It was more of a concentrated grape juice with its intoxicating properties basically removed. You cannot defend wine-drinking today on the basis of wine-drinking in Bible times because the two are totally different.

2. Fermented wine

a) The procedure

Wine stored as a liquid, however, would ferment. Professor Robert Stein, in his "Wine-drinking in New Testament Times" (Christianity Today, 20 June 1975: 9-11), tells us liquid wine was stored in large jugs called amphorae. The pure, unmixed wine would be drawn out of these jugs and poured into large bowls called kraters, where it was mixed with water. From these kraters, it would then be poured into kylix, or cups. Wine would never be served directly from the amphora without first being mixed. And according to other historical data on this period, the mixture could be as high as a 20:1 ratio or lower than 1:1.

b) The perception

Drinking unmixed wine was looked upon by Greek culture as barbaric. Stein quotes Mnesitheus of Athens as saying, "The gods have revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it and strength in mind and body. In medicine it is most beneficial; it can be mixed with liquid and drugs and it brings aid to the wounded. In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse."

As a beverage, wine was always thought of as a mixed drink in Greek culture. The ratio of water might have varied but only barbarians drank it unmixed. Stein cites patristic writings that show the early church served mixed wine.

c) The present

Beer has approximately 4% alcohol, wine 9-11%, brandy 15- 20%, and hard liquor 40-50% (80-100 proof). So, unmixed wine in biblical times measured at approximately 9-11%. Mixed wine, at a 3:1 ratio, would therefore be between 2.25- to-2.75%. By today's standards, a drink has to exceed 3.2% to be considered an alcoholic beverage. The wine they consumed was either completely non-alcoholic or sub- alcoholic by today's standards. To become drunk with wine in those days you would have to drink all day. That is why the Bible commands elders in the church not to be addicted to much wine (1 Tim. 3:3). With such a low alcoholic content, you would have to purpose to become drunk.

So, is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times? No.

Question #2: Is drinking wine necessary?

Because of the lack of fresh water, it was often necessary to drink wine in biblical times. That is sometimes the case today. If you were in a country and wine was all there was and you were dying of thirst, you would take whatever was available.

A. The Past Necessity

In the New Testament, the Lord produced wine and spoke about drinking wine (John 2:1-11; Matt. 26:26-29). In the Old Testament as in the New, wine was used out of necessity. This was in a day and age when all they had to drink apart from wine was fruit juice, milk, and water. Due to a lack of refrigeration, even wine mixed from the syrup base, if left standing long enough, could ferment. These people had little choice in deciding what to drink.

B. The Present Preference

Today you can go to a supermarket and the variety of non- alcoholic beverages is seemingly endless. Many parts of the world have an almost unlimited access to running water. Drinking wine is rarely a necessity today. It is a preference, not a necessity. Perhaps you're afraid your host would be offended if you refused their wine. But if a group of your friends got together at a party and all decided to scratch behind the left ear, would you scratch behind your left ear because you wanted to feel a part of the group? If everyone on your block decided not to use deodorant, would you join in? That is essentially the same kind of reasoning.

If for some reason you were in a situation and where wine was all you had available, you would have little choice but to drink it. You would deal with it as a necessity. But in our society, drinking alcohol is simply and only a preference.

Focusing on the Facts

1. Ephesians 5:18 describes the topic of _________________ and ___________________.

2.True or False: Many Christians, who by definition are supposed to be meek, selfless, and filled with the joy of the Lord, seek their comfort from a liquor bottle.

3.What should your spirituality be based on?

4.Is drunkenness forbidden in Scripture? Support your answer.

5.What is the definition of drunkenness?

6.Any act of ________________, no matter how minimal, violates God's standard of being controlled by the Spirit of God.

7.True or False: Drunkenness is directly forbidden by God, but drinking wine is commended in Scripture.

8.How is the subject of drinking seen in Scripture?

9.What criterion must be met if drinking in biblical times is to be sufficient reason for drinking today?

10.List the different words used for wine in the Bible and explain each.

11.What is the difference between mixed and unmixed wine?

12.What was the difference between wine stored as a solid and wine stored as a liquid?

13.How was drinking unmixed wine looked upon in Greek culture? In the early church?

14.What was the approximate alcoholic content of wine during biblical times?

15.Is drinking wine necessary today?

16.In our society, drinking alcohol is _____________ and _______ a preference.

Pondering the Principles

1.The wine spoken of in Bible times is the not the same as the wine of today. Wine today is not mixed with water and can be very intoxicating. The wine people mostly drank during Bible times was mixed with generous amounts of water and was largely unintoxicating. Have you considered those principles in deciding whether to drink alcoholic beverages? The Bible gives examples of people in positions of spiritual responsibility who abstained from alcohol. Study the following passages and ask God to make it clear to you whether you should abstain from alcoholic beverages: Leviticus 10:8-11, Judges 13:3-4, and Luke 1:14-15.

2.The Bible condemns drunkenness but also commends the occasional use of wine. However, there is one instance apart from drunkenness when drinking is forbidden when it causes a fellow believer to stumble (Rom. 14::1-23; 1 Cor. 8:9-13). Are you using your Christian liberty to drink wine but at the same time causing a brother to stumble? Evaluate your actions with the preceding passages and determine if you are causing anyone to stumble.

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by: Tony Capoccia Bible Bulletin Board Box 314 Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022 Websites: and Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Online since 1986

Living in the Spirit: Be Not Drunk with Wine--Part 3
by John MacArthur, All Rights Reserved

(A copy of this message on cassette tape may be obtained by calling 1-800-55-GRACE)
Ephesians 5:18a Tape GC 1938



Question #1: Is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times?

Question #2: Is drinking wine necessary?


Question #3: Is drinking wine the best choice?

The Christian is constantly faced with choices. The Bible doesn't speak directly against someone who chooses to place leaves in his mouth and light them on fire--smoke--but that doesn't make it the best choice for the believer. A Christian has the option to drink coffee, but many obstain because of its negative effects on the body. The same is true for drinking wine. A Christian has the liberty to drink it, but is it the best choice?

A. The Separation

God called His people Israel to separate themselves from evil. There were higher standards for those with greater leadership responsibilities. With the higher rank came greater consequences and guilt for sin. James 3:1 says, "Be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater judgement." Likewise, Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much shall much be required" (Luke 12:48, NASB). When you sin as a leader in the church, the ramifications of that sin are far-reaching.

B. The Standard

1. The higher standard for Old Testament priests

God established standards for His people, but He called certain men to live above even those standards. Leviticus 10:9 gives this standard for priests: "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die." Some Bible commentators think this command applied only when the priests ministered inside the tabernacle. Others believe the command applied to their entire lives. But either way the priests were called to minister for God and abstain from alcohol. The reason was their judgment could be clouded and God wanted their minds clean, clear, and pure.

2. The higher standard for kings and princes

Proverbs 31:4-5 says, "It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the justice of any of the afflicted." God didn't want their judgment, like the priests, to be clouded. According to verse 6, strong drink was given only to those who were perishing. It was a sedative for their pain. Regular wine was given to those who were heavy of heart. There was to be a greater level of consecration in the leadership of the country.

3. The higher standard for those taking the Nazirite vow

Numbers 6:1-5 says, "The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazirite, to separate themselves unto the Lord; he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink and liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head."

a) The choice

Certain people in the congregation of Israel chose to abstain from alcohol. Anyone could choose the higher standard of the Nazirite vow.

b) The consecration

The word Nazirite comes from the Hebrew word nazir, which means "the consecrated one." A Nazirite then was someone who was wholly dedicated to the Lord.

c) The character

The person taking the Nazirite vow would no longer cut his hair or drink any wine. The highest level of consecration involved total abstinence. Someone who took a Nazirite vow was stepping up to a higher level of commitment and thus identifying with kings, princes, and priests. A Nazirite vow could last for thirty, sixty, ninety days--or even for life.

There are three people mentioned in the Bible who were Nazirites for life: Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11, 22), Samson (Jud. 13:4-7), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). Jesus Himself called John the Baptist the greatest man who ever lived up to his time (Matt. 11:11).

d) The count

Anyone in Israel who wanted to could take the Nazirite vow. It is unknown exactly how many Nazirites there were in Israel but is likely there were many. God said, "I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel?" (Amos 2:11). God was saying He raised up prophets and Nazirites for a higher standard of life among the people.

e) The corruption

Although God raised up men and women to take the Nazirite vow, many in Israel began to corrupt them. Amos goes on to say, "But ye gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not" (v. 12). They desecrated the Nazirites and the prophets. The Nazirites were enticed into disobedience by the people. Instead of wanting to attain to the highest level of devotion, the people wanted to drag those who were to the lowest level in their society.

f) The contrast

Jeremiah contrasts the disobedience of Israel with the obedience of the Rechabite family (cf. Jer. 35:2-6). The Rechabites said, "We will drink no wine; for Jonadab, the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons forever" (v. 6). The entire family took a vow of total abstinence from wine. They desired the highest level of devotion to God and when God put bowls of wine in front of them, they refused to drink. They remained strong in their commitment to the Lord.

4. The higher standard for New Testament Church leaders

The New Testament presents little change in God's standard for leadership. Peter said, "Ye [believers] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people of his own, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). All Christians have been called to the highest level of service God and are expected to make the best choices.

a) The leadership in general

Since the priests, Nazirites, kings, judges, and other rulers of Israel were to be clear-minded at all times, the Lord surely does not have lower standards for leaders in the church, the Body of Christ. Paul told Timothy that a leader in the church must not be "given to wine" (Gk., paroinon), which literally means, "being beside wine" (1 Tim. 3:3).

A leader in the church is not to be tempted or enticed by wine. "Must" in 1 Tim. 3:2 is from the Greek particle dei, and carries the meaning of logical necessity rather than moral obligation. If a man desires the office of elder, it is only logical that he not be an habitual drinker.

b) Timothy in particular

In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thy frequent infirmities." If Timothy normally drank wine, Paul most likely would not have had to tell him that. Paul's recommendation was for medicinal purposes only. Timothy had probably also taken himself to a higher level of commitment as a leader in the church of Jesus Christ by abstaining from wine.

The Bible prescribes a high standard for those who aspire to positions of spiritual leadership. The best choice perhaps is to align yourself with priests, kings, princes, Nazirites, and current church leaders. Every believer is to present his body as a living and holy sacrifice to God as an act of spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1-2). Everyone should then consider making the best and highest choice of abstaining from alcoholic beverages. Maybe the best choice is to stand with those who have made a decision to give their whole lives to Jesus Christ.

Question #4: Is drinking wine habit forming?

A. The Principle

Many things become habitual, and many of the habits we form are beneficial. But implied in the idea of wine as an addiction is a pattern creating a negative response. Paul said, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient" (1 Cor. 6:12). He in effect is saying, "There are things I could do, but they would trip me up or entangle me." This passage can aptly be applied to the danger of alcohol addiction.

B. The Possibility

Paul also said, "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor. 6:12b). Alcohol has the potential of bringing you under its power. It easily produces an overpowering dependency that distracts one's attention and interfere with brain and bodily functions. Not only would a Christian want to avoid sin, but also the potential for sin. Food is somewhat similar to wine in its potential for sin. If you cannot control your intake of food, you are in danger of becoming gluttonous. Unlike wine, food is a necessity, but the same principle applies. A good practice is to vary your eating habits and occasionally abstain from food all together to make sure you are in control of what you eat and not vice versa. The Christian is to be controlled by the Spirit, not by ungodly influences that can lead him to sin.

Question #5: Is drinking wine potentially destructive?

A. The Biblical Evidence

1. New Testament Scriptures

a) Ephesians 5:18--Paul uses a strong word in Ephesians 5:18 to describe the destructiveness of drunkenness. Asotia can be translated "excess" or "dissipation" and literally means "that which is unable to be saved." It was used of a person who was hopelessly and incurably sick based on loose, profligate living.

b) Luke 15:13--Here asotia is used of the prodigal son, who engaged in "riotous living."

2. Old Testament Scriptures

a) Proverbs 20:1--Solomon said, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (cf. Prov. 4:17; 21:17; 23:21; 23:29-35).

b) Genesis 9:21--Noah "drank of the wine, and became drunk; and he was uncovered within his tent." Where there is drunkenness, there is immorality (cf. Gen. 19:30-35).

c) Deuteronomy 2l:20--Moses instructed parents of rebellious children to say, "This, our son, is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard." Drunkenness is often accompanied by gluttony and rebellion.

d) Isaiah 28:7-8--Isaiah said, "The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean." Wine and strong drink corrupted the prophets and the priesthood.

e) Joel 1:5; 3:3--Joel said, "Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and wail, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.... they have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that ye might drink." God withdrew from the Israelites the right to drink. They had sank to the level of selling a person for wine.

f) Hosea 7:5--Hosea said, "In the day of our king, the princes have made him [God] sick with skins of wine." Ephraim's iniquity was linked to wine.

g) Amos 2:8--Amos said the Israelites laid "themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god." They oppressed the poor in their drunken state (4:1). Amos agonized over the debauchery that comes from drunkenness and wine.

h) Habakkuk 2:15-16--Habakkuk warned, "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy wineskin to him, and makest him drunk also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! Thou art filled with shame for glory; drink thou also, and let thy shame come upon thee; the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory." Habakkuk was saying that if you make your neighbor drunk, God will spew on you His cup of judgment.

The Christian must ask himself if it is wise for him to have any part of something that has such great potential for destruction and sin.

B. The Statistical Evidence

(The information below is documented in Dr. S.I. McMillen's None of These Diseases [Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1963], pp. 22-28.)

1. Mental destruction

It has been estimated that 20% of all patients admitted into mental hospitals have a problem with alcohol.

2. Physical destruction

a) To yourself

Alcoholism causes cirrhosis (hardening) of the liver, which in turn can cause a ballooning of the veins in the esophagus. The thinned-out veins are then prone to rupture when food is swallowed, potentially causing a serious or even fatal hemmorage.

b) To others

Alcohol is not only potentially harmful to the people who drink it, but also has a detrimental effect on the lives of innocent people. A study of autopsy findings in Middlesey County New Jersey, showed alcohol was a factor in 41.2% of violent deaths in America. A study in Delaware indicated that alcohol is the cause of nearly 50% of traffic deaths. In New York City a joint study made by the State Department of Health and Cornell University revealed that 73% of the drivers responsible for the accidents in which they died had been drinking. In Westchester County, New York, blood tests were done on eighty-three drivers who were killed in single- vehicle accidents. The tests revealed that 79% of those drivers were under the influence of alcohol.

Question #6: Is my drinking wine offensive to other Christians?

Someone may well say, "I am free in Christ. I don't want to get into legalistic bondage because someone might not be able to handle drinking alcohol." However a Christian is able to drink in moderation is not able to guarantee that his example will not cause a weaker Christian to try drinking and becomes addicted. Not only that but a former drunk who becomes a Christian will often associate many immoral and corrupt activities with drinking, and to see a fellow Christian drink most likely would offend his conscience.

A. The General Principle

The apostle Paul laid out a general principle in 1 Corinthians 8:9 that can be applied in many different instances. He said, "Take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to them that are weak." A believer may very well have the liberty, maturity, and strength to drink in moderation, but he might also set the wrong example for someone who cannot handle any type of drinking. Our freedom in Christ stops when it begins to harm others, especially fellow believers. In Paul's time drunkenness was commonly associated with pagan religions. Those who came to Christ did not want to eat meat offered to idols (the context of 1 Cor. 8) anymore than they wanted to be looked upon as drinkers.

B. The Specific Principle

In Romans 14:13-21 Paul gives a more specific principle that applies to the Christian's use of his liberty. Paul said not to let any "man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.... if thy brother be grieved with thy food [or drink], now walkest thou not in love. Destroy not him with thy food [or drink], for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of" (vv. 13, 15-16).

1. The offended brother

Most of the Gentile Christians would associate drunkenness with debauchery, immorality, gluttony, and all sorts of evil. Jewish believers tended to say, "Drink up! It's no big deal to drink." The Gentile believers would be deeply offended because they felt they didn't had the freedom to drink because of their old life-style. That's what Romans 14:13-21 is trying to avoid. Our freedom in Christ should not be cherished above the welfare of another believer. Paul said believers are to "follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another" (v. 19).

2. The weaker brother

There is another category of people--those who simply cannot handle alcohol at all. They might see another Christian drinking, assume drinking must be all right, and end up becoming addicted to alcohol. I've met too many alcoholics to ever want to inadvertently help create one! I have no control over who might follow my example and end up with a destroyed life.

3. The loving brother

Paul said. "If thy brother be grieved with thy food, now walkest thou not in love.... For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (v. 15, 17). Christians are supposed to build up their fellow believers and not tear them down. Paul ends by saying, "For food destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat meat, nor to drink wine, nor anything by which thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (vv. 20-21). It might be O.K. to drink in moderation, but if it's going to offend others, it's better to abstain from it. You might go through your entire life adjusting to other people, but God can use that to mold you into the person He wants you to be.

Question #7: Will drinking wine harm my Christian testimony?

A. Drinking Among the Saved

Some people think they can better reach out to drinkers if they themselves drink. However Paul said, "Let not ... your good be evil spoken of" (Rom. 14:16). It is possible you can have a pure motive in drinking but it may also work against you because it offends your fellow believers. Drinking might make us more acceptable in some circles, but our lack of concern for fellow Christians would work against any positive witness we might give. If we want to reach people who are not saved, as well as give an encouraging example to those who are, we will not do anything that would cause them to be offended. In my own ministry, I don't want anyone to be disturbed or misled by my actions. I often ask myself, "Will I hurt others with what I am about to do."

B. Drinking Among the Unsaved

Paul said, "Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the church of God; even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Cor. 10:31-33). We are not to offend believers or the unsaved. If you want to reach the unsaved, let them see a difference in your life. God has established three standards: One, glorify God; two, offend no one; and three, make sure the unsaved sense a difference in your life-style.

Question #8: Am I absolutely certain drinking wine is right?

If you are convicted in any way about your drinking, that may be reason enough to stop.

A. The Conviction

A man once said to me, "I occasionally have a beer with the boys. Is that wrong?" I replied, "What do you think?" He said, "Well, I don't think it's wrong; but it bothers me." "Do you like being bothered?" I asked. "No, I don't," he said. "You know how to stop being bothered don't you?" I continued, to which he gave the obvious answer, "Yes. Stop drinking."

Paul said in Romans 14:23: "He that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatever is not of faith is sin." Are you absolutely sure it's right to drink? If you have any conviction about your actions, you must deal with it. If you can't do something with a guilt-free conscience, don't do it! Ignoring your doubts will push you into deeper self-condemnation and self-imposed guilt.

B. The Conscience

Conscience is a God-given alarm that guards against sin Whenever we go against it, we weaken it, making it less reliable. Continually going against your conscience will make it "seared ... as with a branding iron" (1 Tim. 4:2, NASB). When that happens, you lose a very powerful agent God has bestowed to lead the believer (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5, 19).


If you want to be a wise Christian, you must deal with the issue of whether you should drink. Ask yourself the following questions again: Is drinking wine the same as in Bible times? Is it necessary? Is it the best choice? Is it habit forming? Is it potentially destructive? Is it offensive to other Christians? Is it harmful to your testimony? The final question is the most important: Can you do it before others and before God, confident it is right?

Focusing on the Facts

1. A Christian has the _________________ to drink.

2.True or False: There were higher standards in the Old Testament for those who had greater leadership responsibilities.

3.What was the standard for the Old Testament priesthood concerning wine and strong drink? Why did God impose that standard)?

4.What was the standard for kings and princes (Prov. 31:4-5)?

5.What was the Nazirite vow and who could take it (Num. 6:1-5)?

6.The person taking the Nazirite vow would no longer ________ his _________ or __________ any ___________.

7.How long could a Nazirite vow last?

8.Name the people mentioned in the Bible who were probably Nazirites for life. Support your answer with Scripture.

9.What did the children of Israel do to corrupt many who had taken the Nazirite vow? (Amos 2:11-12)?

10.Who were the Rechabite family and why were they singled out in Scripture (Jer. 32:2-6)?

11.What is the New Testament standard for church leaders concerning the drinking of wine?

12.If a man desires the office of elder, it is only logical that he not be an ______________ drinker.

13.Why did Paul tell Timothy to drink wine?

14.Is drinking wine habit forming? Explain your answer?

15.What did Paul mean when he used the word "excess" in Ephesians 5:18?

16.Describe the potential destructiveness of alcohol. Give examples from Scripture to support your answer.

17.Describe the potential mental and physical effects of drinking alcohol.

18.Where does our freedom in Christ end?

19.What was the general difference in attitude between Jewish and Gentile believers in Paul's time concerning alcohol?

20.Could drinking wine harm your Christian testimony?

21.What are three standards God has established to guide a Christian's actions (1 Cor. 10:31-33)

22.If you are _____________ in any way about your drinking, that may be reason enough to _________.

23.What will occur if you act against your conscience?

Pondering the Principles

1. The Bible prescribes a high standard for those who aspire to positions of spiritual leadership. The Old Testament priests, kings, princes, and those taking the Nazirite vow all committed themselves to abstaining from drinking any alcoholic beverages. Do you aspire to a position of leadership within the church? The best choice for you might be to align yourself with those who abstained from alcohol. Read slowly through 1 Timothy 3 as you seek God's will in this matter.

2.Review the eight questions on the Christian's Wine List. Ask yourself those questions again and answer them to the best of your ability. Pray for God to make clear what is right for you regarding alcohol.

Added to the John MacArthur "Study Guide" Collection by: Tony Capoccia Bible Bulletin Board Box 314 Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022 Websites: and Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Online since 1986

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