A glass of fine wine ..a blessing from God..or a curse from the devil?Christians and alcohol..

TO DRINK, OR NOT TO DRINK?


Christians are often divided over the issue of alcohol. 

Total abstinence has been linked to Godliness, and those Christians who feel at liberty in Christ to enjoy wine are often made to feel 'ungodly'.

I have listened to preachers declare that wine is a banned substance for Christians and I have been aware that they are 'teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.' (Mark 7:7)

Well intentioned - absolutely. 

But misrepresenting the 'balance' that God's word brings to the subject.

If we come to God's Word with a pre-supposition based on unpleasant life experiences or beliefs taught by men, then, rather than letting God's Word shape our doctrine we can find that we make God's Word fit our pre-supposition.

For instance I was told about a preacher who could not imagine Jesus being demonstrably angry and so he taught that Jesus made a little whip and went into the temple and gently and graciously said "shoo..shoo..out you go!"   We may smile, but in truth we are all vulnerable.

When we simply cannot imagine God allowing men to drink alcohol because of the abuses we have witnessed, then we 'see' the scriptures through this strong pre-supposition and fall into the trap of teaching only the negative scriptures, carefully omitting the positive scriptures that bring in God's planned balance.

We might think we are doing God a favour by handling His Word this way, but we are not.

(Lord - You don't understand - if we taught everything Your Word says on wine the people would suffer. Trust us Lord, we know what we're doing!)

Teachers MUST not treat God's Word this way.  As teachers we must teach.. 

'..knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment'  (James 3:1)

We must not 'handle the word of God deceitfully' but be able - as Paul wrote to Timothy - 

'to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth'.  (1st Timothy 2:15)

When we honour God's Word He watches over it to perform it. He takes responsibility for the results. He does not obligate Himself to watch over the traditions of men. We are not to add NOR subtract from His Word.

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Teaching the whole counsel of God can be a challenge in any age. Our life experiences, our cultural upbringing, current political correctness, popular opinion and - perhaps not far away - even the law of the land can put pressure on us not to bring the whole counsel of God. 

Paul found this to be so in his day but he did not shun from fulfilling his duty to do so.

"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:7)

For our doctrine to be God's doctrine it must be able to accommodate everything God has to say on the subject.  (click here to read all scriptures on wine, fruit of the vine, drunkenness)

So after all that what does God’s word say about wine?

One aspect of scripture clearly speaks of wine as evidence of blessing from God.

'Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine'  (Genesis 27:28)

"And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you'  (Deuteronomy 7:13)

Since everything God made was declared by Him to be good we can see that God's purpose was that the fruit of the vine be a blessing to man. When spoken off in positive terms it is linked with rejoicing, celebrating and making the heart merry or glad.

'And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down'  (Ruth 3:7)

'Go eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do’ (Ecclesiastes. 9 7)

‘Thou doest cause the grass to grow for the cattle....and wine to gladden the heart of man..’ (Psalm 104:14)

“Go to the place which 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.” (Deuteronomy 14: 46 KJV)

Tony Campolo - speaking on this last verse - humorously suggested that perhaps we should wear T-shirts declaring ..'My God is a party Diety'

About now every religious spirit in us will have risen to the surface!

Wine was even placed on the altar as a sweet aroma and an offering to God

"With the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering. "And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.  (Exodus 29:40-41)

Wine is spoken off with great reverence and affection.

'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-For your love is better than wine'.  (Song of Solomon 1:2)

'How fair is your love, My sister, my spouse! How much better than wine is your love, And the scent of your perfumes Than all spices!'  (Song of Solomon 4:10)

'And the roof of your mouth like the best wine. THE SHULAMITE: The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved, Moving gently the lips of sleepers'. Song of (Solomon 7:9)

Hardly the reverence and affection a banned substance would receive. 

In the Old testament we read of certain people taking the Nazarite vow whereby they did not cut their hair or drink wine. Samson is the best known Nazarite.  His mother was visited by the Angel of the Lord and told,

"Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. "Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. "For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." (Judges 13:3-5)

While Samson was to be a Nazarite all his life, for others the Nazarite dedication unto God was for an agreed period. In Numbers 6:13 -20 we read of the ritual that released the Nazarite, 'When the days of his separation are fulfilled'  

Verse 20 finishes the ritual with the declaration

'After that the Nazirite may drink wine.' (Numbers 6:20)

John the Baptist did not drink wine, but Jesus did.

"For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:33-34)

The first miracle Jesus did was not to turn a massive amount of wine into water. It was to turn a massive amount of water into wine.  It must have been one of the largest amounts of wine ever produced at a wedding - somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of best wine for the guests.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" (John 2:1-10)

Large stone jars - probably waterpots - found  in pieces in Jerusalem by archaeologists and reconstructed.

Moses first miracle was to turn water into blood (Exodus 7:20) whereas Jesus' first miracle was turning water into the very best wine. 

Gallons and gallons of it. 

One spoke of death. The other spoke of life. 

Abundant life!

 

I have listened to a preacher state that when Jesus turned this water into wine He turned it into non-alcoholic wine. His explanation was that the wine was ' new wine' and therefore unfermented.  

However this wine was clearly not new wine. That would not have impressed the wedding guests!  Scripture shows clearly that the wedding guests immediately recognised the wine that Jesus supplied as being 'good wine' - which meant that it was recognised as aged, full bodied and well refined wine.  Would Jesus really have supplied anything but good wine?

"You have kept the good wine until now!" (John 2:10)

God's idea of good wine is stated clearly for us in Isaiah 25:6

And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees

In fact new wine was especially potent as we see the crowds accusing the disciples of being drunk with new wine on Pentecost day.

'Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." (Acts 2:13)

'Wine' is fermented grape juice. The natural sugar ferments and turns to alcohol. Sometimes the juice was preserved in its unfermented state and drunk as 'must' but not as 'wine'  If wine was to be kept for some time, a certain amount of 'lees' was added to give it body. (See Isaiah 25:6 above) The wine was consequently required to be "refined" or strained previous to being brought to the table.

Smith's Bible dictionary comments.. "It has been disputed whether the Hebrew wine was fermented; but the impression produced on the mind by a general review of the above notices is that the Hebrew words indicating wine refer to fermented, intoxicating wine"

A well known speaker said she attended a wedding in Northern Ireland as a guest and was told in no uncertain terms, 'there will be no wine served here - this is a Christian wedding'

Presumably had Jesus done His first miracle at that wedding it would have been proof that He was definitely not a Christian!

Jesus disciples apparently drank wine as well,

And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?" (Luke 5:30-33)

Many of Jesus' parables were about vineyards. He used wine and wineskins, and vines, and winepresses to illustrate spiritual points.  In John 14 He describes Himself as The Vine.

In the Old Testament we read of wine being referred to as the blood of grapes.

So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him. "He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. (Deuteronomy 32:12-14)

In the New Testament Jesus gave wine the highest honour of representing His precious blood during the last supper, and asks His followers to use wine in remembrance of His death until He comes. (Luke 22: 18-20)

Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to potent new wine which would burst old wineskins. 

'"Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."  (Matthew 9:17)

Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a wedding party, and He was likening it to a Jewish wedding such as the wedding at Cana.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. (Matthew 22:2-3)

Wisdom is said to have mixed her wine in furnishing her table (Proverbs 9:2). Wine might be drunk with milk (Song of Solomon 5:1). Melchizedek brought wine and bread to Abraham when Abraham returned from battle (Genesis 14:18). Wine was offered by the old man of Gibeah to the travelling Levite (Judges 19:19). Jesse sent David with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat as a present when Saul was fighting the Philistines (1st Samuel 16:20). Abigail brought David two skins of wine (1st Samuel 25:18). Strongholds were supplied with "wine" in case of siege (2nd Chronicles 11:11)

The tribes of Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali brought wine to David (1st Chronicles 12-40) when David was made king. Ziba brought David wine as he fled from Absalom (2nd Samuel 16:1–2) Job’s children were drinking wine at their brother’s house when disaster struck (Job 1:13, 18) Wine was on the list of supplies that the Persians furnished the captive Jewish people when they returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 6:9  7:22). "And whatever they need . . . wheat, salt, wine, and oil according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem . . ." (6:9).

Wine was also used as medicine. It was said to revive the faint (2nd Samuel 16:2) and was suitable as a sedative for people in distress (Proverbs 31:6). Mixed with a drug, it was used to ease suffering (Matthew 27:34;  Mark 15:23). The Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the injured traveller (Luke 10:34).

Interestingly a 2004 report on drinking red wine produced by researchers at Santiago de Compostela University and published in the journal 'Thorax' concluded that a glass of red wine a day protects against conditions from colds to heart disease and lung cancer.

No wonder perhaps that Paul advised Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach.(1st Timothy 5:23.)

So quite clearly, unmistakeably, scripturally, wine is a good gift from God.

In fact when God spoke against Israel for their godless behaviour through the prophet Isaiah He likened them to the blessings of silver and wine which were no longer worth anything..

How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers. Your silver has become dross, Your wine mixed with water. (Isaiah 1:21-22)

Paul warns us of deceitful spirits who will. ‘forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer (1st Timothy 4 1-5)

However like all of God’s blessings, such as wine, and sexuality, we can, through the lusts of the flesh, and the prompting of our adversary, so easily allow the blessing to become a deadly curse.

And so God’s word is firm on such abuses.  

Thus we come to the balance in scripture

The coin is turned over and we find scripture awash with God's stern warnings against the abuse of this gift and we are given frightening examples of the effect on individual and family lives that this abuse can bring.

Paul, addressing the Christians in Ephesus, writes

‘And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery’ (Ephesians 5 18)  

In the garden of Eden God told Adam ..

"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat"  (Genesis 2:17)

However one chapter later we see that Eve, when discussing the command with the serpent has altered God's command and states.. 

God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it"  (Genesis 3:3)

Somehow we seem to have changed God's command in Ephesians 5:18 from "do not get drunk with wine" to 'do not drink wine'

God does not command abstinence, but He most definitely does command sobriety.  

‘Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,’ (1st Timothy. 3 8)

So firmly does He command it that Paul writes that we are

‘..not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or robber.’ (1st Corinthians. 5:11)

In Proverbs we read..

Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Jesus warns us thus..

 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly". (Luke 21:34)

As Matthew Henry's excellent commentary states: 

'Though Christ hereby allows a right use of wine, he does not in the least do away with his own caution, which is, that our hearts be not at any time overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness'

Aaron, set apart by God to minister to God’s people was told that if he went into the sanctuary with drink he would be killed.

“Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die.  It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.” (Leviticus.10 9)

Coming to minister as God’s servant with drink taken is a definite ‘no no’ throughout all generations. 

Wisdom dictates that if a person cannot be sober then  that he abstain. Paul writes..

‘All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful - I will not be enslaved by anything’ (1st Corinthians 6:12)

Noah was a righteous man, yet he got drunk and what a mess followed his drunkenness!

When he emerged safe and sound from of the ark one of the first things he did was to plant a vineyard.  So far so good.

However, he abused the gift of wine, fell down on top of his bed, drunk and naked. 

Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.
(Genesis 9:21)

One of his sons, Ham, saw him in this awful state and told his brothers, presumably having a laugh at his father’s dishonourable state.

Noah awoke, presumably still under the influence of the wine, and instead of apologising for his foolishness , he placed a curse on Ham, the son who had not correctly honoured him, and out of this cursed son, came Canaan, and through Canaan came so much of the troubles that God’s chosen people had to contend with in the promised land in years to come. Noah blessed the other sons Shem and Japeth, and out of Shem came Abraham, and the Jewish nation, the children God chose for Himself to reveal His glory through.

So abuse of wine resulted in a family split, and a family line at war with each other. A warring family line that is still outworking that original curse in the cauldron of the middle east at this very moment in time.

Then there was Lot. He fled Sodom and Gomorrah with his daughters and through his daughter's wickedness and Lot's drunkenness, incest occurred.  The Bible tells the story thus..

Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. Now the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father." So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, "Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father." Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day. (Genesis 19:30-38)

The children of Israel were continually troubled by the Moabites and the Ammonites that came forth from these incestuous conceptions.

The powers of darkness will always draw near to abuse in any shape or form and establish a foothold and eventually a stronghold in that area.

The abuse of alcohol gives the powers of darkness a powerful grip on the lives of individuals, families and even nations. Ireland has suffered much in this area. When setting people free from alcohol abuse one needs to bear the spiritual aspect very much in mind.

The goddess Medb (Maire) was the goddess of intoxication and had a role similar to that of the Greek god Bacchus in that she 'presided' over all functions involving the consuming of intoxicating substances such as alcohol. Pagan Kings of Ireland 'married' the goddess at the time of their coronations, tossing back flagons of mead to produce the necessary intoxication. Queen Maeve was known to drown people in vats of alcohol.

As children of God we have inherited a gloriously won freedom in Christ. However the flesh always wars against this freedom we have in Christ.

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh..' (Galatians 5:13)

He tells us what living to the flesh results in..

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The teaching is clear. If a man is weak in the area of alcohol he must abstain. He must do whatever is necessary to avoid the 'pull' that his weakness in this area is vulnerable to. If the internet pulls you to a weakness towards pornography - cut it off!  If having drink in your home pulls you to a weakness towards drunkenness - cut it off.

"And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:30)

Our bodies are God’s temple that He chooses to dwell in. When we can enjoy all God’s blessing without being captured and controlled by them, we will know that Godly liberty that God allows us under the Lordship of Christ.

But mature Christians are asked not to let their liberty become a stumbling block for less mature, or weaker Christians, and so we are to be wise in our freedom.

‘Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow becomes a stumbling block to the weak.’ (1st Corinthians 8:9)

In other words we are free to enjoy God’s blessing of wine, but not free to abuse the blessing, and not free to let the blessing be a stumbling block to a brother who has had, or may still be wrestling with a drink problem. In many homes it is justifiably a sensitive issue. There has been a painful history of alcohol abuse.

I saw this sensitivity demonstrated while on a mission to Portugal many years ago. We were staying in the home of the Pastor and one evening when his wife made a special meal for us he produced a bottle of wine to go with the dinner and so make it more of an occasion. His wife whispered into his ear and he immediately took the wine away without ever opening it. His wife had just informed him that a lady on our team had a background of problems with alcohol.  He, and we could have enjoyed our liberty in Christ, but it could have been a stumbling block to her.

We must be so very careful to remove any stumbling block in any area that would hinder anyone from coming to Christ, or drawing closer to Christ.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (Romans 14:13-14)

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (1st Corinthians 8:9)

There is however, no obligation to exercise that sensitivity in the presence of the Pharisees. 

And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him. (Luke 11:53-54)

Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. (Luke 14:1)

Jesus never was intimidated by them. To submit to that spirit is to come under ungodly control. (click here to read about the Pharisees)

There are preachers who tell us that the wine in the last supper was non alcoholic. There is no scriptural or historical mandate for such a conclusion.

The wine used in the New Testament church was alcoholic wine. Paul gave off to them about over eating over drinking and getting drunk at church.

Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.' (1st Corinthians 11:19-20)

Albert Barne's commentary states.. The word here used (meyuei) means, properly, to become inebriated, or intoxicated; and there is no reason for understanding it here in any other sense. There can be no doubt that the apostle meant to say, that they ate and drank to excess; and that their professed celebration of the Lord's Supper became a mere revel.

Tony Campolo is Baptist and says that his church use wine in communion whereas some denominations do not.  He is fond of saying "Hey, that's ok. You do it your way. We'll do it His way"  Humorous but pointed!

The Salvation Army historically have not used wine for their communion since they had so many alcoholics in their midst.

A well meaning gentleman wrote to me suggesting that the early church possibly used wine since the water may have been undrinkable and wine was safer.  If that was the issue then Jesus could have simply purified the six water pots rather then turn them into good quality wine.

However He spoke of water as drinking water.

"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42)

That water was good enough for Jesus to drink.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." (John 4:7)

Paul did not tell Timothy to stop drinking water and switch to wine, but to no longer drink only water, but use a little wine for medicinal purposes.

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities. (1st Timothy 5:23)

Cars, and the speed they can transport us at, are a wonderful gift from God. Yet week after week cars cause endless death and injuries.  Yet no one teaches that cars should be banned.  Rather we teach that cars should be handled with great caution. 

Our sexuality is a wonderful from God. We all exist because of our parents sexuality. However the truth is that few things have caused as much pain in society as misuse of our God given sexuality. Yet no one teaches that our sexuality should banned. Rather we teach that our sexuality should be handled with great caution and, of course, within the clear boundaries set down by scripture.

So with wine. It has never been on God's banned substance list.  It is to be handled with great caution and, of course, within the clear boundaries set down by scripture.

Let me tell you a true story from my own life.

Some years ago - before God called me into full time ministry - my business company had a working relationship with a similar company in Southern Ireland.  My main point of contact was with a woman director that I shall call 'Janet'.  She was a pleasant lady but rabidly anti-Christian!

Many a time when I phoned to speak to Janet I was told that she was ill and off work.  When I would get to speak to her eventually I would good naturedly tell her that she must be working too hard since she was ill so often.

One day I was told the truth. She had been an alcoholic for years and the reason she had missed so many days was because of her alcoholism.  Her doctor - a family friend - came to her managing director and told him that she would probably be dead within three weeks. 

I was shocked by the terrible news and eventually managed to contact this lady at her home. Her once very confident voice was now so weak on the telephone it was as if I was speaking to a little girl rather than a lady in her forties.

I told her that I had a real relationship with Jesus and that I was going to ask Jesus to heal her. The reaction that I got from this weakened woman was not weak. "There is no ****** God"

I told her that I would pray for her every day until Jesus healed her.  She asked me why I cared and I told her that unless I showed her how would she ever know that He loved her?  

Again I got "There is no ****** God"

I did what I said I would do, and prayed for her every day. I also wrote to her every few days.

The doctor sent her to a specialist hospital as a last gasp attempt to save her life and I received a sad letter from her from that place. No longer a director's confident handwriting but a child's scrawl.  

She was sent home again and her boss told me that they were ready for her imminent death any day.

During this time I had gone to a week long conference in Ireland called 'Together for the Kingdom' and one of the speakers mentioned that one should not drink if one is praying for an alcoholic. 

At that point I said 'Lord, I will never touch a drop of wine again until you heal Janet'

Two weeks later - on a Monday evening -our cell group went out for the annual meal, and two bottles of wine were purchased to go with the meal. When someone offered to pour me a glass I refused, but as the bottle passed by the Spirit of God witnessed to me the simple request 'have a drink'  

I immediately thought it was the enemies voice and prayed appropriately, but that still small voice maintained the peaceful witness in my spirit, and gradually I accepted - even though I did not understand - that it was indeed God's voice.

Hadn't I vowed not to drink wine until Janet was healed. Why was The Lord prompting me to have a drink. What was going on?

I asked for a glass of wine and just wet my lips with it (I was pretty sure it was God's voice but just in case I was being duped I just wet my lips as a safe compromise!!)

Three days later - on the Thursday morning - I got a phone call from Janet to tell me that she had woken up healed on the Monday morning of that week, and now three days later she knew it to be real.  She had started eating and 'knew' that she had been set free from her alcoholism.

Now understanding what God had been telling me on The Monday evening I was able to confidently tell her of the experience I had had with God. 

I was able to say that God had witnessed her healing to me on the very day He had healed her. (I just hadn't understood, bless me!)

Her doctor phoned me at work two weeks later. He said he had seen my letters to her and he needed to tell me that neither he nor any other doctor had healed her. 

She phoned me every day at work for many months. I suspect she was a little fearful in case she 'lost her healing' and wanted daily reassurance!

The next time I was in Dublin in business both he and Janet came round to the hotel I was staying at and we spent a pleasant evening together.  Janet looked like a different woman. Healthy and well. Drinking no alcohol and with no desire to do so.  During the evening her doctor said 'this is the second time in my life this kind of thing has happened to me'  He then asked me about my faith and we had a long debate on Christianity.

Within weeks Janet got her job back as director of her old company. Then she left to start up a business of her own.

I last heard from her a few years ago and she was still 100% free from alcoholism.

She said that almost every day as she sat on the morning train to work she was asking herself the same question. 'Why was I healed when so many others more deserving than me are not'

Yet again I explained to her that - despite her deep rejection of Jesus - He wanted to demonstrate His unconditional love for her.

And yes, yet again, the same response. 

Jesus was labelled by the Pharisees of the day as a drunkard and a glutton, presumably because He was to be seen in the close company of 'sinners' who were drunkards and gluttons. He was a friend of sinners. 

However the continual fruit of His non condemning friendship and the demonstration of His perfect liberty in the midst of their bondage bore testimony to His wisdom. 

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children." (Matthew 11:19)

And herein lies a similar problem for us.

Even the most mature of us in Christ need enormous wisdom in exercising our liberty in Christ otherwise we can give the appearance of evil. (1st Thessalonians 5:22)

In mixing with people who as yet do not know Jesus and do not attend church, we could stand with one or two glasses of wine or a single beer all night, while all around us people are drinking heavily. 

The casual onlooker may not know that we are in Godly control, since every time they look we are holding a drink in our hand, and they cannot know that it is the same drink they saw half an hour ago.  Therefore in outward appearance we too could be wrongly accused of being drunkards and gluttons no different from those all around us. 

If they accused Jesus of being a drunkard, then in similar circumstances we can expect the same slur on our Christian character.

Personally - and it is personal between the Lord and myself - I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or an occasional beer, when I’m in the company of people who know me, and know where I stand with the Lord.   There I can enjoy my freedom in Christ.

When I was attending business gatherings where drink abuse was likely, I chose to mix freely but drink only orange juice to ensure that as an ambassador for Christ, no slur could be thrown on me the following day, when the drunken antics of the evening are being recounted.

But it was not the public revellers that accused Jesus. They undoubtedly would have known He enjoyed the wine, not visa versa. He was only enjoying what He created after all, though they wouldn’t have known that!

It was the religious people who pointed the finger and threw the slurs upon Him.
But He cared not about their religious piety.

He had peace about His actions with God His Father.

He was where He could do most good. In their midst.
Going to them, not waiting for them to come to Him.

But some distance away the religious pious were busy placing a great divide between themselves and those who most needed the good news about the Kingdom of God. They stood looking down their spiritual noses at the great physician amongst the spiritually sick.

A place we often carefully avoid from an ungodly fear of undeserved rebuke from within the church. Or from a Godly fear of temptation.

So here is God's careful balance.
Freedom with wisdom, and humility before God.

If, under the Lordship of Christ, loving God and your fellow man, you choose to drink wine, God will honour your decision. You will have that 'peace'.

If, similarly, you choose not to drink wine, God will honour your decision. You will have that 'peace'.

A heresy that raised it's head early in church history was that all matter was inherently evil. A heresy it was, an a heresy it was rightly declared to be.  However this heresy has not been entirely evicted from our hearts. There is a view that alcohol is, in itself, inherently evil.  If you've been led to believe that drinking wine defiles a person you need the reassurance of Christ's words.

"Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods? And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."  (Mark 7:18-23)

At the last supper Jesus told His disciples that from now on He would not drink wine until He could enjoy it with His disciples in the Kingdom of God.

“Truly I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25)

Several wonderful interpretations can be drawn from this. One commentary states. The term "drink," therefore, is used figuratively for that communion which Jesus has with his disciples while they are drinking the wine of the Lord's Supper.  

In other words, just as Jesus drank wine with His disciples at that last supper on earth so He drinks wine with us in a new way as we drink the wine during communion. 

Another interpretation - the one that perhaps would witnesses more to me -  is that Jesus was going back to the Father to intercede for us, to mediate like a barrister on our behalf until that day of THE great wedding party - The wedding feast of the Lamb.

The bridegroom will have His spotless wife. Like Jacob finally getting Rachael, the bride he wanted, and worked for, Jesus will have us at the wedding supper where the banner over us will be love, and then and only then, will He drink the wine in anew way with all the redeemed people of His Kingdom

Revelation 19 verse 9..’And the angel said to me, “Write this - Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

That table is being prepared for us right now, in the presence of our enemies - those terrible powers of darkness in heavenly places who continue to bring such pain to God’s creation.

The fruit of the vine is God’s gift to us to gladden our hearts, and as with all good gifts from above, it is to be used with wisdom in order that it should be a blessing in our lives and not a gift that has been hijacked by the devil and transformed by his evil touch into a curse.

And the fruit of the vine is divinely symbolic when blessed and set apart to remind us of what Jesus did for us on Calvary, nearly 2,000 years ago, and to remind us that one day we will be sharing the fruit of the vine anew with Him at the marriage feast.

Hallelujah! we have all been invited.

When we witness for Him to the unsaved, we are merely handing out His invitations to drink wine anew with Him in heaven at a future date when the Kingdom of God has fully come.

Thank you Lord for the gift of wine to gladden the heart.

The gift of wine to remember your blood shed for us
- as we look back to what you have done.

The gift of wine to remember the great marriage feast
- as we look forward to what you will do.

And thank you for the warnings and responsibilities
that come with each good gift from above.

Give us wisdom Lord in the midst of our liberty.

In Jesus’ name, we ask. 

Amen



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