Dear Brethren,

As we approach Chinese New Year, it is important for Christians to abstain from drinking to keep a good testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. Most people think that when wine is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to alcoholic wine and the Bible permits it. The word “wine” has a wide range of meaning in the Bible, covering from grape juice, to purified water to alcoholic wine. To understand what the Bible has to say about drinking, we need to look at several of these words.

OT Hebrew and NT Greek Words for Wine

“yayin” (Hebrew) and “oinos” (Greek) — It is a general term for grape beverages and includes all classes of wine, non-alcoholic or alcoholic; unfermented and fermented. Yayin or Oinos, when used properly was always diluted with water.

“shekar” (Hebrew) and “sikera” (Greek) — It is the word for strong drink, unmixed wine.

“tirosh” (Hebrew) and “gleukos” (Greek)  — This word refers to fresh grape juice. It is referred to often as new wine or sweet wine.

Here are some reasons why believers should abstain from drinking:

1. Drinking leads to drunkenness

Drunkenness is condemned in the Bible in Romans 13:13, “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” Drunkards are among the list of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).

2. Strong drink is forbidden in the Bible 

Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Distillation was not discovered until about 1500 A.D. Strong drink and unmixed wine in Bible times was from 3% to 11% alcohol. Beer has about 4% alcohol, wine has 9 to 11% alcohol, Brandy contains 15 to 20% alcohol and hard liquor has 40 to 50% alcohol so they are clearly classified as strong drink in the Bible. Christians should not drink of them at all. When the Bible speaks of wine that is consumed, it is not identical to the wine used today. The wine that is allowed to be consumed in the Bible time was basically purified water, which was purified by adding some alcoholic wine. Wine was also used as a medicine and disinfectant.

3. Drinking will cause others to stumble

Romans 14:21 says, “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.” Some Christians claim their “Christian Liberty” when it comes to social drinking. The Bible clearly defines drinking as an activity that is to be forsaken because it causes others to stumble and makes them weak to fall into sin. Our love for our brethren’s spiritual life and growth will stop us from drinking at all.

4. Drinking harms our bodies and is addictive

I Corinthians 6:19-20, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The first effect of alcohol on the brain is to dull the capacity for caution. Reaction time becomes slower; coordination is disturbed; drowsiness follows. I can testify of one of my Polytechnic student who fell from 3rd floor because of the effect of alcohol and became paralyse in his entire life. Alcohol can also cause brain damage and affect the proper functioning of the organs in our body. As believers, our body belongs to the Lord. We should not knowingly do anything that would harm it. Alcohol is addictive and harms the body, therefore we should not drink alcohol at all.

May the Lord preserve us from the evil of drinking and drunkenness so we can shine for Him as the light and salt of this world.

Elder John Leong