Question: Would you allow the people of God to have the right to drink alcohol drinks? How would you treat this issue if you were to pastor a church?
Answer: I have been a pastor, but unfortunately when I was a pastor, as a young man, I did not take a stand on the subject of alcohol. At that time I was not sure myself what I believed in this area, and all too often this is the case for many pastors today. However, since leaving the pastorate, I have done extensive Bible study on what Scripture says about alcohol.
Let me address first the importance of a pastor preaching and teaching the whole Word of God, no matter what people think about it. As I was once a pastor, I know that you are always thinking about who is in the congregation and what they are thinking. In most cases your salary comes from them. This is a hard situation to be in at times, especially when it comes to these controversial subjects.
I would say, though, that I could not stay in a church as pastor if I had to compromise my beliefs. In some cases it might be better if you had to start a new church and teach the people right from the beginning what the whole counsel of the Word of God says. That way if some people leave because they don’t like what you are preaching, oh well, there will be others who will come and stay. Those that stay would be more sound in the Word.
These things might not seem so serious to the average Christian, but for pastors, they are expected to share pretty much what their denomination holds to. I have the luxury that many do not have, and that is to be self-supporting and in my own ministry.
I do not have a congregation that will leave if they do not agree with me. However, I do ministry in a local church fellowship, which by in large, do not agree with the strong stand that I have taken in this area of alcohol. They seem to teach that a little alcohol in private would be ok.
I have shared all of this to tell you that I know it is not easy being different from others. It takes a lot of courage, but if I were pastor of a church again, yes, I would preach the whole counsel of the Word of God, even if they ask me to leave.
Most pastors will not have the courage to do this since they may wonder whether God will still take care of them if they have to leave the church they are now in. God is more than able to take care of us, though, if we will only take a stand. Someone has said if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.
So what I am saying is not just about the teaching of abstinence in the area of alcohol, but it could apply to many different areas of the Word of God. For other examples, I have had pastors ask me not to teach on the subject of Six Literal Days of Creation. This has happened in Evangelical churches that are sound in the Word of God in most areas. But when it comes to such controversial teachings of six literal days of Creation, and subjects like alcohol, etc. they don’t want to rock the boat.
So you see, this area that we are addressing, as to preaching the Word of God no matter what the cost, could apply to other areas of teaching, not only to abstinence from alcohol, but other areas such as creation, abortion, homosexuality, and so on.
The next thing I would like to say is that before you teach on a subject like alcohol, you need to know the Scriptures on it ‘inside and out.’ Also, you have to be one hundred percent convinced in your own mind that this is in fact what the Bible teaches, because you will be challenged on it.
I came to this conclusion many years ago in my own life, because I knew people would challenge me and make fun of my stand. I resolved in my mind, even if someone could prove me wrong, which they have not been able to do, but if they did, would I be able to stand before God and know I had done the right thing.
For example, many preachers today are preaching it is ok to drink some alcohol as long as you don’t get drunk. But as a result of their teaching, some people were stumbled and got into drinking more and did become drunk. Who is going to have more culpability when they stand before God? Myself or that individual who said it is alright to drink a little alcohol? You be the judge. What do I have to lose if I am wrong?
But on the authority of God’s Word I am not wrong. Furthermore, those who have taught others it is ok to drink will have to answer for this teaching one day, and for all the damage they have caused in the church, and in the homes! They may claim they didn’t know the truth about alcohol, but I don’t think this will wash with the Lord. He may ask, didn’t you read My Word?
It is also interesting, that even though pastors that teach it is ok to drink some alcohol as a Christian, do not drink. This might be a time when you should not listen to what they say, but what they do. So to answer your question, yes, I would teach what the Bible says on this area of alcohol as well as all the rest of what God says in the Bible!
Also, we need to understand that Christian churches and pastors bear a lot of the responsibility for the inestimable human tragedy we see all around us. Through their beliefs, teachings, and preaching they are able to influence the moral values and practices of our society, probably more so than any other institution.
However, most pastors and churches today teach that Scripture approves of the moderate use of alcohol, but prohibits immoderate use of it. This could not be further from the truth! I would comment, “With this kind of teaching no wonder we have so many problems with alcohol in our Christian homes today!” The Bible teaches total abstinence from alcoholic liquors, or temperance as it used to be taught in days gone by. We need to once again believe and teach everything the Bible teaches.
Let me give you just one example of a godly preacher of days gone by (but I could give you many) that believed it was wrong for Christians to drink and was not ashamed or afraid to teach what the Bible says on this subject. This illustration also shows us how far we have fallen in the churches today. This is the answer that the great Bible teacher R. A. Torrey gave when asked about ‘Temperance.’ The question was: “What place do you give temperance in your meetings?”
He answered, “A very prominent place. One of the commonest and most destructive sins of our time is that of intemperance. It is doing more to break hearts and ruin homes than almost any other sin, so I constantly attack in my sermons the use of intoxicating liquors, and their sale. I urge upon Christians the duty of total abstinence for their own sake and for the sake of others.” (Practical and Perplexing Questions Answered R.A. Torrey)
One example of how the Bible can keep you from sin in the area of alcohol is seen in the true story of Mutiny on the Bounty. This event is an amazing testimonial to what the Bible can do. In 1888, a group of English sailors, who had spent six months on a South Sea island, decided to remain. They mutinied against their captain and set him adrift in an open boat. A punitive expedition from England captured 14 of the mutineers and transferred nine of them to another island, where they formed a new colony.
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that these people degenerated so rapidly and became so fierce that life there turned into a hell on earth. Having learned to distill whiskey from a native plant, they soon were involved in quarrels, drunken orgies, and violence.
Finally, all of the men except Alexander Smith were dead, and he was left alone with a group of native women and half-breed children. Then a wonderful thing happened. Finding a Bible in an old sea chest, Smith read it and believed it. He gathered the women and children around him and taught them the Word of God.
Twenty years later, an American ship visited the island and found a Christian community. There was no disease, no crime, no insanity, no illiteracy, and no strong drink. The moral standards of the people were so high that no law enforcement agency was necessary. The island seemed to be a small paradise. What had brought about this astounding transformation? Just reading the Bible, believing it, and putting it into practice!!!
Many law enforcement officers that I have spoken to say that if it were not for alcohol and drugs, they would not have a job. My brother-in-law is one of those who was a police officer for many years, said this very same thing. I rode with him several times, and I saw first hand what damage drugs and alcohol is doing to our society.
I would suggest that when you come to this area, specifically, of alcohol and the Bible that you could use the passages of Scripture that I have brought out in our articles. Here are the articles available free of charge: Wine in the Bible, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages in the Bible, and Is it Alright For Christians To Drink Alcohol? You could also go to other important resources such as: God Is For The Alcoholic by Jerry Dunn with Bernard Palmer, Moody Press; the writings of Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi Wine in the Bible , and William Patton who wrote Bible Wines or Laws of Fermentation And Wines of The Ancients.
Another thing though that I would caution you on, and that is, a pastor is a shepherd, he is not to lord it over people, so he cannot allow or not allow Christians to drink alcohol. A pastor should live by example and teach what he believes the Bible is saying, and then you have to leave it with the individual to make up his or her own mind. God has to deal with the heart. The Holy Spirit will do His work in His own time; it is not something we can force people to do or not do.
As a church you may want to put it into your beliefs, though, and take a stand this way, but beyond this just preach the Word and let God be God in the lives of each individual. We had a professor at our Bible School who saw nothing wrong with smoking after he was first saved.
However, one day as he was smoking and having his devotions, God spoke to him and said I want you to give it up. It was God’s time and he was ready to listen, and he did give it up. God did it in his life, no one had to come to him and say you shouldn’t be smoking. In his heart he knew it was wrong. So too, I have found that people know deep down inside them that there is something wrong with drinking. When you share God’s Word on the subject of alcohol, if they are sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit, God confirms to them what they already know to be true.
At this point I would like to give you just one article that I have written on this subject, I hope it will wet you appetite to read more. So often pastors rely on their denomination or other pastors for their ‘truth.’ I know you want to go to the Truth of the Bible for your teaching. You may be the only one in your denomination teaching this, and you may get negative remarks, but be like John the Baptist and don’t let it get to you!
A lot of people think that the Bible condones drinking of alcohol because it talks about wine. They say, “Didn’t Jesus make wine for a wedding?”
What many people don’t know is that the word “wine” in the Bible is a generic term. The context (words before and after the word wine) in each case indicates whether it was fermented or not.
In, Isaiah 16:10b, grape juice is called “wine” (yayin) when it is still in the press, saying, “No treaders will tread out wine in the presses” where it clearly cannot be fermented yet.
Now, “Did Jesus make alcohol for the wedding in Cana? We find the story in, John 2:1-11, in the New Testament.
The person in charge of the wedding, after he had tasted the wine Jesus had just made, commented.”you have kept the good wine until now.” Good wine was fresh grape juice, the fermented grape juice was considered inferior.
Another way we know that this was not an alcoholic drink is because Jesus always obeyed the Father. In, Proverbs 23:31 and 32 it commands, “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.” No, Jesus did NOT make a fermented wine at this wedding, but rather He gave a wedding gift of at least 120 gallons of fresh unfermented grape juice.
In another place in the Bible, Deuteronomy 32:33, it says fermented wine is poison. Alcohol is a toxic mind-altering drug. Alcohol causes ill effects on the digestive, muscular, skeletal, nervous and circulatory systems. It causes cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, pancreatitis, and blackouts along with many other sicknesses.
The Bible says wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses fights, whoever is led astray by it is not wise! Proverbs 20:1
We need to trust God’s Word, God does not lie. The misunderstanding is with us; because in our culture all wine is fermented, but not in the Bible.
Some people also think the Bible encourages drinking of a little alcohol because Paul told Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your often infirmities.” Paul was telling Timothy to drink grape juice for medicinal purposes. Remember the Bible does not use the word “grape juice”, but always the word “wine” which can be either fermented or unfermented depending on the context.
Getting drunk should not be taken lightly because the Bible says: “Don’t you know that those who live immoral lives, who are idol worshipers, adulterers or homosexuals-will have no share in His Kingdom. Neither thieves or greedy people, ‘drunkards’, slanderers, or robbers.” 1 Corinthians. 6:10.
Many young people today drink to get drunk. God’s Word has something to say about this also: “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on their nakedness!” Habakkuk 2:15.
Maybe as you have read this pamphlet, you have realized that you are not right with God. You know that if you were to die, you would not go to heaven. You can be saved today by turning from sin and obeying, John 3:16, where it says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Thanks for your question pastor, and I hope this helps, God bless you!
Gary T. Panell
For more information email me.
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