Does the Bible forbid the use of alcohol? A Primer                                      by Jack Kettler


As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence, lexical proof, and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live.


Our study starts with the opinion that the Scriptures do not forbid a Christian from drinking beer, wine, or any other drink containing alcohol in moderation. This week’s study will be a survey of Scriptures relevant to the topic. For those who disagree with the above opinion, there is no agenda to convince people to violate their conscience.


How many times do the Scriptures mention wine? One word search for wine brought up 212 verses. Because of the large number of entries on the topic of just wine, this study will be limited.


Contemporary Definitions:


Wine is the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes used as a beverage.


Grape Juice is the usually sterilized and often diluted juice of grapes used as a beverage.


Wine and grape juice are two different drinks. Today this assessment is undebatable.


The Scriptures do they confuse or enlighten?


Jesus and wine:


“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34)


Did Jesus drink fermented wine? Notice the contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus. John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine. The Pharisees called Jesus a winebibber [drunkard]. A person cannot get drunk on grape juice. Jesus did not get drunk, but the accusation of the Pharisees about Jesus being a winebibber underscores the point that wine in Jesus’s day was fermented.


Jesus began his public life by miraculously turning water into real fermented wine at the Wedding at Cana when the party ran out of its supply. In John 2:1-10 where the ruler of the feast said in verse 10: “And saith unto him, every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”


“Kept the good wine until now” is meaningless if the wine was just grape juice. Wine is not grape juice. To say that wine is always grape juice in Scripture is to accuse God of using inaccurate language. As Christians, we have a coherent theory of knowledge. God has spoken. God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong and the ability to distinguish between things. The meaning of Scripture is the same for God and man. In the encyclopedia and dictionary entries below, different types of wine and juice will be surveyed.  


The wine Jesus made was real wine as seen from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:


“10. the good wine … until now—thus testifying, while ignorant of the source of supply, not only that it was real wine, but better than any at the feast.” (1)


Wine and Communion:


“For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” (Luke 22:18)


In this passage from Luke, we see that after the Passover Last Supper, which was the institution of communion Jesus, said, “from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom comes.”


In Jewish life, wine's symbolic importance is in the Passover, the ceremonial meal called the Seder is observed to this day. In the Seder, the adults drink four cups of wine, representing the redemption of the Israelites from slavery under the Egyptians. In the Jewish ceremonial Seder, real wine is used, not grape juice.


Wine is and has been used during religious occasions such as Passover and the Lord's Supper.


Wine is used as a sacrament in a majority of church services around the world by the very command of Christ himself.


Wine as a blessing in Scripture:


“And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?” (Judges 9:13)


“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)


“The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for which thou hast laboured. But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness.” (Isaiah 62:8-9)


“Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” (Psalm 4:7)


“And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthened man's heart.” (Psalm 104:15)


“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 shineth.” (Psalms 104:14-15)


“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” (Proverbs 31:6)


“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)


“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” (Amos 9:14)


“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” (1Timothy 5:23)


Drunkenness with wine condemned:


“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)


“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, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” (1Peter 4:3)


If the wine in the Bible was unfermented grape juice, these verses become unintelligible. 


Abstinence in the presence of a weaker brother:


“Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” (Romans 14:13)


Moderation and self-control:


“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1Corinthians 6:12)


“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” (1Corinthians 9:23)


“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (1Corinthians 10:23)


“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given too much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.” (1Timothy 3:8)




“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)


The following two entries from an encyclopedia and dictionary provide an excellent overview of wine in the Scriptures:


An abbreviated entry on wine from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


1. Wine:


(1) (~yayin), apparently from a non-Tsere root allied to Greek oinos, Latin vinum, etc. This is the usual word for “wine” and is found 141 times in Massoretic Text. (2) chemer, perhaps “foaming” (De 32:14 and Massoretic Text Isa 27:2 (but see the English Revised Version margin)); Aramaic chamar (Ezra 6:9; 7:22; Da 5:1-2,4, 23). (3) tirosh. Properly this is the fresh grape juice (called also mishreh, Nu 6:3), even when still in the grape (Isa 65:8). But unfermented grape juice is a very difficult thing to keep without the aid of modern antiseptic precautions, and its preservation in the warm and not over-cleanly conditions of ancient Palestine was impossible. Consequently, tirosh came to mean wine that was not fully aged (although with full intoxicating properties (Judges 9:13; Ho 4:11; compare Ac 11:13)) or wine when considered specifically as the product of grapes (De 12:17; 18:4, etc.). The Septuagint always (except Isa 65:8; Ho 4:11) translates by oinos and the Targums by chamar. the King James Version has “wine” 26 times, “new wine” 11 times, “sweet wine” in Mic 6:15; the Revised Version (British and American) “vintage” in Nu 18:12; Mic 6:15 (with the same change in Ne 10:37,39 the Revised Version margin; Isa 62:8 the English Revised Version margin). Otherwise, the English Revised Version has left the King James Version unchanged, while the American Standard Revised Version uses “new wine” throughout. (4) Two apparently poetic words are `acic (the Revised Version (British and American) “sweet wine,” Isa 49:26; Am 9:13; Joe 1:5; 3:18, “juice”; Song 8:2), and cobhe' (“wine,” Isa 1:22; “drink,” Ho 4:18 (margin “carouse”); Na 1:10). (5) For spiced wine three words occur: mecekh, Ps 75:8 (English Versions of the Bible “mixture”); mimcakh, Proverbs 23:30 (“mixed wine”); Isa 65:11 (the Revised Version (British and American) “mingled wine”); mezegh, Song 7:2 (the Revised Version (British and American) “mingled wine”); compare also yayin hareqach, Song 8:2 (“spiced wine”). (6) mamethaqqim, literally, “sweet,” Ne 8:10.


(7) shekhar (22 times), translated “strong drink” in English Versions of the Bible. Shekhar appears to mean “intoxicating drink” of any sort and in Nu 28:7 is certainly simply “wine” (compare also its use in parallelism to “wine” in Isa 5:11, 22, etc.). In certain passages (Le 10:9; Nu 6:3; 1Sa 1:15, etc.), however, it is distinguished from “wine,” and the meaning is not quite certain. But it would seem to mean “drink not made from grapes.” Of such only pomegranate wine is named in the Bible (Song 8:2), but a variety of such preparations (made from apples, quinces, dates, barley, etc.) were known to the ancients and must have been used in Palestine also. The translation “strong drink” is unfortunate, for it suggests “distilled liquor,” “brandy,” which is hardly in point.


4. Fermentation:


In the climate of Palestine, fermentation begins almost immediately, frequently on the same day for juice pressed out in the morning, but never later than the next day. At first a slight foam appears on the surface of the liquid, and from that moment, according to Jewish tradition, it is liable to the wine-tithe (Ma`aseroth 1 7). The action rapidly becomes more violent, and while it is in progress the liquid must be kept in jars or in a vat, for it would burst even the newest and strongest of wine-skins (Job 32:19). Within about a week this violent fermentation subsides, and the wine is transferred to other jars or strong wine-skins (Mark 2:22 and parallel's), in which it undergoes the secondary fermentation. At the bottom of the receptacles collects the heavier matter or “lees” (shemarim, Ps 75:8 (“dregs”); Jeremiah 48:11; Zep 1:12 in Isa 25:6 the word is used for the wine as well), from which the "wines on the lees" gather strength and flavor.


At the end of 40 days it was regarded as properly “wine” and could be offered as a drink offering (`Edhuyyoth 6 1). The practice after this point seems to have varied, no doubt depending on the sort of wine that was being made. Certain kinds were left undisturbed to age “on their lees” and were thought to be all the better for so doing, but before they were used it was necessary to strain them very carefully. So Isa 25:6, `A feast of wine aged on the lees, thoroughly strained.' But usually leaving the wine in the fermentation vessels interfered with its improvement or caused it to degenerate. So at the end of 40 days it was drawn off into other jars (for storage, 1Ch 27:27, etc.) or wine-skins (for transportation, Jos 9:4, etc.). So Jeremiah 48:11: `Moab has been undisturbed from his youth, and he has rested on his lees and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel. .... Therefore his flavor remains unchanged (or “becomes insipid”) and his scent is unimproved (or “lacks freshness”)'; compare Zep 1:12.”  Burton Scott Easton (2)


Another entry from Easton's Bible Dictionary - Wine


The common Hebrew word for wine is yayin, from a root meaning “to boil up,” to be in a ferment.” Others derive it from a root meaning, “to tread out,” and hence the juice of the grape trodden out. The Greek word for wine is oinos, and the Latin vinun. But besides this common Hebrew word, there are several others which are thus rendered.


Ashishah (2Samuel 6:19; 1Chronicles 16:3; Cant 2:5; Hosea 3:1), which, however, rather denotes a solid cake of pressed grapes, or, as in the Revised Version, a cake of raisins.


'Asis, “sweet wine,” or “new wine,” the product of the same year (Cant 8:2; Isaiah 49:26 Joel 1:5; 3:18; Amos 9:13), from a root meaning “to tread,” hence juice trodden out or pressed out, thus referring to the method by which the juice is obtained. The power of intoxication is ascribed to it.


Hometz. See VINEGAR.


Hemer, Deuteronomy 32:14 (rendered “blood of the grape”) Isaiah 27:2 (“red wine”), Ezra 6:9; 7:22; Daniel 5:1 Daniel 5:2 Daniel 5:4. This word conveys the idea of “foaming,” as in the process of fermentation, or when poured out. It is derived from the root hamar, meaning “to boil up,” and also “to be red,” from the idea of boiling or becoming inflamed.


'Enabh, a grape (Deuteronomy 32:14). The last clause of this verse should be rendered as in the Revised Version, “and of the blood of the grape ['enabh] thou drankest wine [hemer].” In Hosea 3:1, the phrase in Authorized Version, “flagons of wine,” is in the Revised Version correctly “cakes of raisins.” (Compare Genesis 49:11; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 23:24, etc., where this Hebrew word is rendered in the plural "grapes.")


Mesekh, properly a mixture of wine and water with spices that increase its stimulating properties (Isaiah 5:22). Psalms 75:8, “The wine [yayin] is red; it is full of mixture [mesekh];” Proverbs 23:30, “mixed wine;” Isaiah 65:11, “drink offering” (RSV, "mingled wine").


Tirosh, properly “must,” translated “wine” (Deuteronomy 28:51); “new wine” (Proverbs 3:10); “sweet wine” (Micah 6:15; RSV, “vintage”). This Hebrew word has been traced to a root meaning, “to take possession of” and hence it is supposed that tirosh is so designated because in intoxicating it takes possession of the brain. Among the blessings promised to Esau (Genesis 27:28) mention is made of “plenty of corn and tirosh.” Palestine is called “a land of corn and tirosh” (Deuteronomy 33:28; Compare Isaiah 36:17). See also Deuteronomy 28:51; 2Chronicles 32:28; Joel 2:19; Hosea 4:11, (“wine [yayin] and new wine [tirosh] take away the heart”).


Sobhe (root meaning, “to drink to excess,” “to suck up,” “absorb”), found only in Isaiah 1:22, Hosea 4:18 (“their drink;” Gesen. and marg. of RSV, “their carouse”), and Nahum 1:10 (“drunken as drunkards;” lit., “soaked according to their drink;” RSV, “drenched, as it were, in their drink”, i.e., according to their sobhe).


Shekar, “strong drink,” any intoxicating liquor, from a root meaning, “to drink deeply,” “to be drunken", a generic term applied to all fermented liquors, however obtained. Numbers 28:7, “strong wine” (RSV, “strong drink”). It is sometimes distinguished from wine, c.g., Leviticus 10:9, “Do not drink wine [yayin] nor strong drink [shekar];” Numbers 6:3 ; Judges 13:4 Judges 13:7; Isaiah 28:7 (in all these places rendered “strong drink”). Translated “strong drink” also in Isaiah 5:11; 24:9; 29:9; 56:12; Proverbs 20:1; 31:6; Micah 2:11.


Yekebh (Deuteronomy 16:13, but in RSV correctly “wine-press”), a vat into which the new wine flowed from the press. Joel 2:24, “their vats;” 3:13, “the fats;” Proverbs 3:10, “Thy presses shall burst out with new wine [tirosh];” Haggai 2:16; Jeremiah 48:33, “wine-presses;” 2 Kings 6:27; Job 24:11.


Shemarim (only in plural), “lees” or “dregs” of wine. In Isaiah 25:6 it is rendered “wines on the lees”, i.e., wine that has been kept on the lees, and therefore old wine.


Mesek, “a mixture,” mixed or spiced wine, not diluted with water, but mixed with drugs and spices to increase its strength, or, as some think, mingled with the lees by being shaken ( Psalms 75:8 ; Proverbs 23:30 ).


In Acts 2:13 the word gleukos, rendered "new wine," denotes properly "sweet wine." It must have been intoxicating.


In addition to wine the Hebrews also made use of what they called debash, which was obtained by boiling down must to one-half or one-third of its original bulk. In Genesis 43:11, this word is rendered “honey.” It was a kind of syrup, and is called by the Arabs at the present day dibs. This word occurs in the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” (debash), Exodus 3:8 Exodus 3:17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13: 27. (See HONEY.)


Our Lord miraculously supplied wine at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). The Rechabites were forbidden the use of wine (Jeremiah 35). The Nazarites also were to abstain from its use during the period of their vow (Numbers 6:1-4); and those who were dedicated as Nazarites from their birth were perpetually to abstain from it (Judges 13:4 Judges 13:5; Luke 1:15; 7:33). The priests, too, were forbidden the use of wine and strong drink when engaged in their sacred functions (Leviticus 10:1 Leviticus 10:9-11). “Wine is little used now in the East, from the fact that Mohammedans are not allowed to taste it, and very few of other creeds touch it. When it is drunk, water is generally mixed with it, and this was the custom in the days of Christ also. The people indeed are everywhere very sober in hot climates; a drunken person, in fact, is never seen”, (Geikie's Life of Christ). The sin of drunkenness, however, must have been not uncommon in the olden times, for it is mentioned either metaphorically or literally more than seventy times in the Bible.


A drink-offering of wine was presented with the daily sacrifice (Exodus 29:40 Exodus 29:41), and also with the offering of the first-fruits (Leviticus 23:13), and with various other sacrifices (Numbers 15:5 Numbers 15:7 Numbers 15:10). Wine was used at the celebration of the Passover. And when the Lord's Supper was instituted, the wine and the unleavened bread then on the paschal table were by our Lord set apart as memorials of his body and blood.


Several emphatic warnings are given in the New Testament against excess in the use of wine (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18; 1Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7). (3)


Did wine in the Bible have alcohol?


Thomas Welch discovered the process on how to pasteurize grape juice in the 19th century, thus making non-alcoholic grape juice practical. Fermentation was a natural process that started once grapes were harvested. Enough yeast is in grape skins that even grapes that fall on the ground will start to ferment. 


Is it possible that all mentions of wine in the Bible involve un-fermented grape juice? The impossibility of this is seen in the many Scriptures that speak of drunkenness with wine to maintain such a theory. At this point, some lexical entries will be valuable.


Consider the following passages and entries from Strong’s Lexicon on wine:


“And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.” (Genesis 9:21)

Strong’s Lexicon:

its wine,

הַיַּ֖יִן (hay·ya·yin)

Article | Noun - masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 3196: 1) wine

he became drunk

וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר (way·yiš·kār)

Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Consecutive imperfect - third person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 7937: 1) to be or become drunk or drunken, be intoxicated 1a) (Qal) to become drunken 1b) (Piel) to make drunken, cause to be drunk 1c) (Hiphil) to cause to be drunk 1d) (Hithpael) to make oneself drunk


“Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” (Proverbs 23:31)

Strong’s Lexicon:


יַיִן֮ (ya·yin)

Noun - masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 3196: 1) wine


“Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.” (Hosea 4:11)

Strong’s Lexicon:


וְיַ֥יִן (wə·ya·yin)

Conjunctive waw Noun - masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 3196: 1) wine


“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

Strong’s Lexicon:

get drunk

μεθύσκεσθε (methyskesthe)

Verb - Present Imperative Middle or Passive - 2nd Person Plural

Strong's Greek 3182: To make drunk, pass: I become drunk. A prolonged form of methuo; to intoxicate.

on wine,

οἴνῳ (oinō)

Noun - Dative Masculine Singular

Strong's Greek 3631: Wine. A primary word (yayin); 'wine'.


“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber (οἰνοπότης), a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.”  (Matthew 11:18–19)

Strong’s Lexicon:


οἰνοπότης (oinopotēs)

Noun - Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong's Greek 3630: An excessive wine-drinker. From oînos and a derivative of the alternate of pino, a tippler.


As seen above the Hebrew words for fermented wine are found in Proverbs 23:31 (ya·yin), Hosea 4:11 (wə·ya·yin).


Ya·yin and wə·ya·yin are used synonymously in the Old Testament and are translated in the Greek in the New Testament using the word, oînos (Ephesians 5:18). This connection confirms that oînos refers to fermented wine.


More from Strong’s Lexicon:


Strong’s Definitions

οἶνος oînos, oy'-nos; a primary word (or perhaps of Hebrew origin (H3196)); “wine” (literally or figuratively):—wine.


Strong’s Definitions

יַיִן yayin, yah'-yin; from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication, intoxication:—banqueting, wine, wine (-bibber).


The Scriptures distinguish between use and misuse of alcohol:


“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” (Proverbs 31:6)


If the wine in the Bible was grape juice, what is strong drink? Coca-Cola?


“But Woe unto them that … follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them.” (Isaiah 5:10)


There is a principle of Scripture of showing mercy. We see this principle in Proverbs passage along with the warning of drunkenness in the Isaiah passage.


The danger of reading too much into Scripture:


The Bible condemns drunkenness. How can a condemnation of drunkenness in Scripture lead to a conclusion of total abstinence for believers? It cannot. If this method of Bible interpretation were true, it would lead to absurdities. For example, the fact that “gluttony” (piggish overeating) is condemned in Scripture would lead to a conclusion of not eating food. Not only is this type of reasoning unbiblical, but it is also logically fallacious.


For example, a syllogism is a form of logical reasoning that joins two or more premises together to arrive at a conclusion. In addition, a syllogism cannot have a conclusion not contained in the premises.


Famous example of a valid syllogism:

Major premise: All men are mortal

Minor premise: Socrates is a man

Conclusion: Socrates is mortal


A logical fallacy using an invalid syllogism:

Major premise: Women like to talk

Minor premise: John likes to talk

Conclusion: John is a woman


Making a valid syllogism for total abstinence from alcohol is impossible. Why? Because the Bible does not teach total abstinence. 


# 1 A logical fallacy using an invalid syllogism:

Major premise: The Bible condemns drunkenness

Minor premise: All people who drink may get drunk

Conclusion: Therefore, no one should drink


# 2 A logical fallacy using an invalid syllogism:

Major premise: Some movies are sinful

Minor premise: All who go to movies may be tempted to see a sinful movie

Conclusion: Therefore Christian should not see movies


# 3 A logical fallacy using an invalid syllogism:

Major premise: The Bible condemns gluttony

Minor premise: All who eat may participate in gluttony

Conclusion: Therefore, no one should eat


In the above examples, the minor premise is unproven and false. Thus, the conclusion in these cases does not follow. They are examples of an invalid syllogism, which also is a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow. Hence, either one or both of the premises confer no support for the conclusion.


# 4 A valid syllogism:

Major premise: The Bible condemns drunkenness

Minor premise: All people who drink may get drunk

Conclusion: Therefore, those who drink should exercise moderation and circumspection 


In the above case, the conclusion follows from the premises.   


Abstinence and Legalism: What is legalism?


1.      Legalism is the strict conformity to a law or to a religious or moral code, which restricts free choice.

2.      Legalism in Christian theology is the act of putting the law above gospel by establishing requirements for salvation beyond repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and reducing the broad, inclusive and general precepts of the Bible to narrow and rigid moral codes.


Codes like “do not do this or do not do that” go beyond Scripture by adding to it. Those who promote secondary codes are guilty of adding rules that the Bible does not teach. It is self-righteous Pharisaicalism to pride oneself in keeping special human-made rules.


The Pharisees in the Old Testament did this by building so-called walls around God’s laws. The laws around God’s law were human-made rules and supposedly kept the Israelite farther away from actually breaking one of God’s real laws.    




From prior experience in the abstinence community, there are usually un-biblical notions, such, as wine is a source of defilement. Can a substance such as wine defile a person?


Can wine defile a person?


“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; that which cometh out of the mouth defileth a man.” (Matthew 15:11)


It is not that which goes into a man's mouth that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth. If something evil is coming out of a man's mouth, it is a spiritual heart problem. Sipping some wine does not defile a man. The argument that it does is no different than “the devil made me do it.” Giving in to the fleshly desires of the “Old Man,” or “Old Self” (Colossians 3:9-10) is where the real problem is found.


The apostle Paul adds additional information on Christ's teaching regarding defilement:


“I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. …” “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:14, 17)


“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (1Corinthians 10:23)


Abuse of liberty from the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 20.3:


They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.


Communion and the use of wine from the Westminster Confession of Faith, 29.6:


“The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.” (Westminster


In Closing:


To answer the question at the beginning of this primer, no God does not forbid the use of alcohol in the Bible. Drunkenness is condemned, the use of wine is a gift from God.


G.I. Williamson summarizes the overall picture in Wine in the Bible and the Church:


“God himself provides ‘wine which makes man’s heart glad’ just as He gives ‘food which sustains man’s heart’ (Ps. 104:14.15). He promises His people that, if they will obey Him, He will bless them with an abundance of wine (Deut. 7:13, 11:14, Prov. 3:10. etc.). He threatens to withdraw this blessing from them if they disobey His law (Deut. 28:39, 51; Isa. 62:8). The Scriptures clearly teach that God permits His people to enjoy wine and strong drink as a gift from Him. ‘You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household’ (Deut. 14:26). Under certain circumstances it is even commanded of God that wine and strong drink be given (Pr. 31:6, 7). And since wine was used in the worship of God (Ex. 29:40, Lev. 23:13; Nu. 15:5, 7, 10; 28:14), the Bible says wine is something that cheers God as well as man (Jud. 9:13).” (4)


R.C. Sproul on Wine and Communion:


“There is an ongoing controversy in that many Protestant churches don’t use wine in the celebration of the sacrament. In fact, I think the majority of churches don’t use wine; most use a form of grape juice. One of the major reasons for that is the problem of alcoholism, and church leaders want to protect their people from unnecessary temptation. In other cases, churches don’t believe Jesus used real wine.


I agree with Calvin–real wine communicates to our taste buds both elements–pain and joy, sorrow and gladness–and somehow, in my opinion, grape juice just doesn’t do it. I think we lose something there because, in the worship of Israel, God associated certain truths with certain tastes.” (5)




“Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object, which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshiped. Shall we then pluck them out of the sky? ...see how much he [God] has been able to accomplish through me, though I did no more than pray and preach. The Word did it all. Had I wished I might have started a conflagration at Worms. But while I sat still and drank beer with Philip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.” - Martin Luther


“Beer is made by men, wine by God.” - Martin Luther


“I neither said nor implied that it was sinful to drink wine; nay, I said that, in and by itself, this might be done without blame. But I remarked that, if I knew that another would be led to take it by my example, and this would lead them on to further drinking, and even to intoxication, then I would not touch it.” - Charles Spurgeon



1.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1029.

2.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for 'WINE,'” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 3086-3087.

3.      M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

4.      G.I. Williamson, Wine in the Bible and the Church, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976; reprinted 1980), p. 9-10.

5.      R.C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven, Worship in Light of Eternity, (Technology Park, Lake Mary, Florida, Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier Ministries 1982), p. 170.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:


For More Study


G.I. Williamson, Wine in the Bible and the Church, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976; reprinted 1980


R.C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven, Worship in Light of Eternity, (Technology Park, Lake Mary, Florida, Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier Ministries 1982)


Jim West, Drinking with Calvin and Luther, (Lincoln, CA, Oakdown, 2003)


Andre S. Bustanoby, The Wrath of Grapes, Drinking and the Church Divided, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1987)


Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. God Gave Wine, What the Bible Says about Alcohol, (Lincoln, CA, Oakdown, 2001)