Alcohol

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This article is one in a series of studies on Alcohol and the Message - you are currently on the topic that is in bold:

Alcohol refers to a fermented or distilled intoxicating beverage containing ethanol. During the period known as Prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, it was illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages in the United States.

William Branham and Alcohol

The State of Indiana had already declared prohibition in 1916 when William Branham's father started operating a moonshine still. As a child, William Branham witnessed the drunken actions of the men and women who frequented his father's speakeasy. William Branham claimed that a voice spoke to him as a child, while he was hauling water used to cool the still, and said: "Don't ever drink, or smoke, or defile your body in any way. There will be a work for you to do when you get older."

But surprisingly, William Branham required the drinking of wine at communion, clearly disobeying the message that the "angel" had supposedly given him.

Throughout his recorded sermons, William Branham spoke harshly against drinking - especially against Christians engaging in these activities.

So is drinking really "defiling your body" as William Branham preached?

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days (Colossians 2:16)

Alcohol in the Bible

Alcohol (specifically wine and strong drink) is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, and is referred to as an intoxicant, medicine, beverage, and religious symbol.

Scriptures supporting drinking
  1. Judges 9: Wine cheers both God and Man,
  2. I/II Samuel: Wine was a common drink,
  3. Psalm 104, Ecclesiastes 10: Wine is enjoyable
  4. Matthew 11: Jesus drank wine
  5. John 2: Jesus created wine for others to drink
  6. I Timothy 5: Scripture says to drink wine, and not water

Scriptures against getting drunk

  1. Genesis: Wine is deceiving
  2. Numbers 6: Vow of a Nazarite
  3. Proverbs: Wine leads to trouble
  4. Isaiah 28/56: Wine perverts instruction
  5. Ephesians 5: Not good to be drunk
  6. I Timothy/Titus: Elders in the Church should avoid much wine

King and Priests

Jesus calls his followers "Kings and Priests" (Revelation 1:6). Looking at the Old Testament, it is very clear how God intended Kings and Priests to act around alcohol:

Be not among winebibbers... (Proverbs 23:20-21), ...it is not for kings to drink wine (Proverbs 31:4-5), Neither shall any priest drink wine... (Ezekiel 44:21), the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink (Isaiah 28:7), 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 (Leviticus 10:8)

Christians are taught that their body "is the temple of the Holy Ghost". (I Corinthians 6:19) As priests were not allowed to drink wine or strong drink in the temple, a modern parallel could discourage strong drink in the temple of the Holy Ghost.

However, the Apostles told the Gentile Christians to abstain from:

  • pollutions of idols,
  • fornication,
  • from things strangled, and
  • from blood.[1]

None of their instructions asked the Gentile Christians to abstain from alcohol.

William Branham said, "Cussing, swearing, drinking, that's not sin; that's the attributes of sin." [2] However, Jesus was a king and a priest, and he drank and created wine. Jesus was also the sinless, spotless lamb of God. If drinking is a sin, then Jesus was not a perfect sacrifice. So William Branham was wrong and drinking is not sin or an attribute of sin. Drinking just means you are drinking, just like driving means you are driving. It is the purpose of what you are doing that defines your actions.

A Separated People

William Branham said that he was "born under a Nazarite birth", similar to how John the baptist was instructed to "drink neither wine nor strong drink" (Luke 1:15). However, William Branham did not observe the strict rules of a Nazarite in his lifestyle. Some examples of this include:

  • He consumed wine as part of the religous observance of communion,
  • He did not abstain from grapes or raisins, he cut his hair, and he did not avoid corpses (all prohibited for a Nazarite).

As such, William Branham simply shunned alcohol and did not live under a Nazarite vow.

Some people in the Bible who did shun alcohol include:

  1. The Children of Israel in the wilderness, who did not have any wine or strong drink so that they would know that "I am the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 29:5-6).
  2. The prophet Daniel also abstained from wine, so that he would not "defile" himself, (Daniel 1:8).
  3. The prophet Jeremiah then brought wine to the sons of Jonadab, and instructed them to drink (Jeremiah 35). They refused because of a vow they had made to their father, and Jeremiah blessed them for keeping their vow.
  4. John the Baptist did not drink wine.

Communion and Restoration

Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God, ate bread and wine (communion) with Abraham. Jesus, the son of God and a priest after the order of Melchizedek, served bread and wine to his disciples. After this, Jesus said two things to his disciples:

  1. I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:29)
  2. this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (I Corinthians 11:25)

From that point on, wine came to symbolize two things: the blood of Jesus Christ (our point of contact with God), and the promise of a new kingdom. In the Old Testament, wine was also symbolized with the sacrifice lamb and restoration (Numbers 28:7, Leviticus 23:12-13).

Jesus never asked his disciples not to drink wine, but to remember him.

Martin Luther was known to drink, and promoted his love for beer. He explained the entire Reformation as, “…while I sat still and drank beer with Philiip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.” Luther’s letters to his wife Catherine lamented the fact he didn’t have her beer on hand to drink.

And ye shall offer...an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD...and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine... (Leviticus 23:12-13)

Medicinal use

Wine is presented as a medicine or anesthetic by at least four people in the Bible: Paul, Solomon, Abigail, and Ziba:

  • Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. (I Timothy 5:23)
  • Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine... (I Samuel 25:18)
  • And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread...and a bottle of wine. And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? And Ziba said...the bread...for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink. (II Samuel 16:1-2)
  • Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. (Proverbs 31:6-7)

Deception

Alcohol has paved the way for the humiliating fall of the righteous since Noah's first hangover after the flood. (Genesis 9:24-25) Lot was another man who felt its shame, as his daughters got him drunk in order to commit incest (Genesis 19:35-36).

  • Proverbs 21:17: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
  • Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

But the deception extends from those innocently shamed, into a tool for the cruel and ungodly. Isaiah calls certain spiritual leaders "greedy dogs" who say I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink (Isaiah 56:11-12). But Isaiah goes further, cursing the shepherds who drink wine, saying Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. (Isaiah 22:13-14) Finally, God told his prophet Hosea to marry a harlot to show God's shame towards Israel for their love for "flagons of wine" (Hosea 3:1)

Immorality and Perversion

Innocence and wine do not naturally go hand in hand. Which is why Hosea says Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. (Hosea 4:11)

  • For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. (Deuteronomy 32:32-33)
  • Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: (Isaiah 5:21-22)
  • Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands. (Isaiah 5:11-12)
  • And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. (Joel 3:3)

Alcohol can lead to despair just like driving a car can lead to an accident.

"If it's wrong for my dear converted alcoholics and addicts and prostitutes to drink, even moderately, then it is deadly wrong for mature Christians to drink and set a poor example for them."

Sipping Saints by David Wilkerson of The Cross and the Switchblade.

Living for others

The Bible says All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth... (I Corinthians 10:23-24,31-33)

Clear instruction is given to specific classes of individuals as well:

  • Bishops: Not given to wine (Titus 1:7), sober...Not given to wine (I Timothy 3:2-3)
  • Aged women: that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness...not given to much wine...That they may teach the young women to be sober (Titus 2:3-4)
  • Deacons: not given to much wine (I Timothy 3:8)
  • Everyone: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. (Romans 14:23)

Intoxication in the Old Testament

Wine was inseparably linked to promises of prosperity in the Old Testament, and a blessing from God. Many of these scriptures can be read as prophecies of the Holy Spirit descending, which was fulfilled in the New Testament.

  • That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.[3]
  • Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.[4]
  • He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.[5]
  • Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.[6]
  • Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.[7]
  • A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry...[8]

There are two scriptures in the Old Testament that could be taken as encouraging the drinking of alcohol:

1. Moses gave a commandment to spend tithes on a party, including strong drink:

...spend the money for whatever you desire — oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.[9]

2. A king's blessing on the people to drink:

And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house.[10]
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 his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. (Proverbs 23:29-33)

Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. (Joel 1:5)

Intoxication in the New Testament

After the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost, those on the streets mocked them, thinking that they were drunk. (Acts 2:13)

Joel's prophecy that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: (Acts 2:17) was demonstrated to be fulfilled by the intoxicating effect of the Holy Spirit on the first believers.

Other references to the substitution of the Holy Spirit for the bottle are found as follows:

  • And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)
  • For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:13)

In comparison, Peter said that before his conversion it was not unusual for him to get drunk (I Peter 4:3). After his conversion, however, Peter encourages Christians to "be sober". (I Peter 4:7).

However, it is clear that those in the church in Corinth drank, and even got drunk:

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?[11]

Jesus and Alcohol

Jesus referred to himself as a drinker:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’[12]

Jesus also created wine at a wedding feast:

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washing, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus told the servants, “Fill the water jars with water.” So they filled them up to the very top.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the head steward,” and they did.  When the head steward tasted the water that had been turned to wine, not knowing where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the cheaper wine when the guests are drunk. You have kept the good wine until now!”[13]

This indicates that Jesus created somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine. And very good wine at that!

Summary

Drinking is not a sin, or Jesus could not have been the spotless lamb. If you were raised in the prohibition of the Message, that sentence may take some time to process. What is condemned in the scriptures is drinking to excess (getting drunk) because it leads to actions that could negatively impact you and others. So any caution in the scriptures not to get drunk is for your benefit.


Footnotes

  1. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 15:28–29.)
  2. March 26, 1953, William Branham
  3. Deuteronomy 11:14
  4. Deuteronomy 7:12-13
  5. Psalms 104:14-15
  6. Proverbs 3:9-10
  7. Ecclesiastes 9:7
  8. Ecclesiastes 10:19
  9. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Dt 14:26.
  10. II Samuel 6:18-19
  11. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 11:20–22.
  12. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 11:19.
  13. Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Jn 2:6–10.


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