Drinking Today ≠ Drinking in Bible Times

In our society:
20,000,000 are drunkards • 6,000,000 of those are young
3,300,000 are teenagers • 64% of all protestants drink alcoholic beverages

Examples from the book of Proverbs:  Proverbs 20:1 • Proverbs 23:19-21 • Proverbs 23: 29-35

In the Old Testament, priests were forbidden to drink at all because they were in the position of representing Christ. Today we are all priests unto God and at no time are we to yield any part of our faculty to drunkenness, no matter how small.

The Bible, though forbidding drunkenness, does not forbid drinking wine. In fact, as is often referred to by drinkers today - the disciples drank and drinking wine is referred to many times, such as [Jeremiah’s] invitation to his readers to come to Christ being compared to the pleasure of wine. Is this a contradiction? In order to know if it is, we need to know if  the wine we drink today is the same as the wine people such as [the disciples, Jeremiah, etc.] drank.

 Is it the same?
(drinking today and drinking in Bible times)

If we’re going to emulate the drinking in the Scriptures, let’s make sure it’s the same.
First, some Hebrew words to remember:

The wine drunk today is unmixed with water. It is not the same as in Bible times.
Some wine in Bible times was absolutely not intoxicated. Yiyan or oinos more often refers to a thick syrup or jam that made it storable (similar to canning today). The grape juice left after that could not ferment in such a condition. The paste was very often used on bread, like jam, or they mixed it with 20 parts water to drink unfermented and totally unintoxicated. This was the preferred method. Basically, it was a concentrated grape juice that had its toxicating and fermenting properties removed.

They did store it in liquid from time to time. When this was done, to make it drinkable, they mixed it with water at a ratio of 20 parts water to 1 part wine (highest) to 3 parts water to 1 part wine (lowest). Drinking unmixed wine was seen as barbarian. Even to mix it 1 to 1 was barbarous.


If it was 3 to 1 water/wine ratio (the absolute lowest ratio in Bible times) it would have only 2.25-2.275% alcohol. A drink has to have 3.2% alcohol to be considered an alcohol beverage. To get drunk in those times you’d have to drink all day; you’d have to purpose to get drunk.The wine we drink today is not the same as the wine drunk in Bible times, therefore we can not use the references to wine in the Scripture as an excuse to drink today.

Now that we have established the wine we drink today is not the same as was drunk in Bible times, let's move on to some other important questions.

Is it necessary?
“Well, my friends drink when we get together and I just feel like I need to have a drink with the boys … I don’t want them to feel judged or something, you know? Judge not lest ye be judged!”

To paraphrase John MacArthur, “That is the stupidest excuse I’ve ever heard. If everyone on your block decided not to wear deodorant, would you stop wearing deodorant?! . . .  There are many non-Christians that don’t drink, in fact I have been to events where there were more Christians drinking than there were non-Christians drinking! It is rarely, if ever, seen as an offense to request a different drink other than an alcoholic beverage. You may both have a great time, except they’ll be enjoying their time in the fantasy the alcohol is creating in their mind  and you’ll be enjoying  your time in actuality."

Is it the best choice?

The man that was referred to as the greatest man that ever lived (besides Jesus) was forbidden to drink wine at all. In Luke 1:15 it says of John the Baptist,

And he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

This then is surely the will of our God, that none of His children be named among winebibbers. If His will for the greatest man on earth was not to drink at all, then neither should we, the ambassador’s of His Kingdom, in order to represent Him in the most accurate way we can.

“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.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10

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; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

Ephesians 5:18-20

I took these notes while listening to the first two sermons of John MacArthur’s series,
 Walking in the Spirit.