And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and 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. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. Deut. 14:24-27
Since the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution encouraging "total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages" there has been a steady stream of discussion on the topic. Issues of "liberty" and the "weaker brother" are issues right now. I think this is a very good thing, but in the middle of it all I continue to find those who want to argue that alcohol is a beverage God is against, and that Jesus did not turn water into (alcoholic) wine, nor ever drank wine himself. So please consider this my brief attempt to help bring clarity to those specific issues.
That "wine" in the Bible was an intoxicating beverage is almost universally agreed on. I say "almost" because there are always internet publications based more on speculation and personal agendas than on the grammatico-historical interpretation of Scripture. D.F. Watson states it plainly in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels in his article, Wine, when he says, "All wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented drink was called wine." This is distinct from "strong drink" mentioned in Scripture which was an alcoholic beverage made from barley. And contrary to what some SBC leaders have recently suggested, it too is sometimes spoken of favorably in Scripture.
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children. Lk. 7:33-35Wine was the daily drink of the people of God. It appears that, on average, their wine was cut to one part wine, three parts water. This means that a glass of wine had something closer to the alcohol content of a Guinness Draft. Wine was used in the Passover Feast and in the Lord's Supper. And of course, we know that Jesus' first miracle was the supernatural production of "good wine."
Some might be surprised to see that in the Bible wine is the sign of God's blessing, a gift to his people, and a source of joy for those who partook. Jesus himself not only spent time with wine drinkers, but he himself drank wine. Jesus could have abstained, as did John the Baptist, but he chose not to. Jesus was no teetotaler, and when the Kingdom comes in its fullness we will all drink wine together in the presence of and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
If there is an interest I will give my thoughts in another post on the issue of liberty, abstinence and the "weaker brother."