George Booker
A New Creation

36. Drinking

How easy it is, and with what a sense of comradeship (it seems) can one join one’s friends in a group for a few drinks. What harm is there, provided one is “temperate”? Did not Paul advise the young Timothy to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine oft infirmities”?

The trouble with drinking is that it is not in the nature of the young, generally, to be temperate. And drink clouds the mind; it over-stimulates the senses and weakens the self-control. A car can be an instrument of death in the hands of someone who drinks to excess.

Drink can arouse excessive merriment in some and bad temper in other. The most violent quarrels occur in bars.

Paul used a phrase which aptly described the weakness of will which can be caused by drinking: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess” (Eph. 5:18). It is in the nature of alcoholic beverages that they encourage “excess” in many different ways — all of which are negative.

It is not so much that we should never touch wine and the like, but the company, the places and the dangers must ever be in our minds.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers...nor drunkard...will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9,10; cp. Gal. 5:19-21).

The loathsome effects of excessive strong drink are described — almost humorously — in the book of Proverbs:

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 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. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?’” (Prov. 23:29-35).

Present-day abstainers are in very good Scriptural company: John the Baptist was one of the greatest men who ever lived (Matt. 11:11), and he was a teetotaler (Luke 1:15; 7:33). The bishops of the early ecclesias were commanded to be “sober”, “not given to wine” (1 Tim. 3:1,2; Titus 1:7). Daniel also purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s wine (Dan. 1:8). The Nazarites also vowed to separate themselves from every product of the grape (Num. 6:3).

The moral issue from the Biblical standpoint is therefore simply this: A brother under the influence of alcohol is a brother who deliberately deprives himself of the ability to “serve the law of God with his mind” (Rom. 7:25). God has graciously given us a knowledge of the Truth: an understanding of His laws, as well as a spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). Are we acting lawfully when we knowingly engage in a practice which will deprive us of soundness of mind, and bring us under its power (1 Cor. 6:2), exposing us to the uncontrolled workings of the flesh? Is this the way to “flee from sin”?

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