1/ God commanded his priests not to drink booze when they entered His holy places.
2/ God commanded all Jewish citizens to refrain from booze if they made a year long Nazarite vow.
3/ God commanded all his kings and royal family not to drink booze in the Old Testament.
4/ God commanded John the Baptist to never drink booze.
5/ God’s Word says Christians are His priests, kings, and temple… Do we have the grace to stand also in holiness, or do we have a license to break the Law of God?
So how do we show love to God and our neighbor? Let me explain, the Old Testament declares…
“Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” (Lev 10:9-11 KJV)
“You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation.10 You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean.11 And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.” [Lev 10:9-11 (NLT)]
First, let’s get an understanding of holiness. Moses got a quick lesson when he met God in the wilderness. Then next we need to answer a bunch of questions. What does this scripture command exactly? Who is Moses/God giving this command to? Why only to them? What is holy? What is unholy? Does this relate to Christians?
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” [Ex 3:1-5 (NKJV)]
God is a holy God and that means unique and separate from anyone else in purity, goodness, and power. The only place on earth that was holy was the place where God revealed Himself. With Moses, the ground around the burning presence of God became holy because God was there and said it was.
And then God demanded a response from Moses to show respect by removing his shoes. He determines what is right and wrong, good and bad, and what is holy or unholy. God determines what man is to do to show love and respect in His holy presence.
Because He is our creator, His will and standards are truth and reality as given to us through His holy Word the Bible. It does not matter what our opinions or explanations are for drinking booze. if we claim to love Him we do what He says, and try to understand His desires and how to please Him.
And you must take careful note, God designed Old Testament worship to always make sure symbols of God’s holiness were clear.
The people of ancient Israel only came near to God when they came to the tabernacle and later the temple when it was built. His holy presence was confined there. Because of this, these places were set apart as holy because God was there for the people to connect to Him. They were dedicated to the Holy God and were set up to glorify Him. For this reason, God commanded, “Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.” (Ezek 44:21 KJV)
Yes, clearly the priests were ordered to never drink before they went in, or while they were in the tabernacle or temple to show the difference between holiness and unholiness. God did not want booze in His presence. The priests were special and dedicated to serving God and proved this by not drinking booze while near God’s presence. If they did, they sinned.
But the regular people were not allowed into the tabernacle or temple. So how did this command affect them? They could drink booze but not get drunk according to scripture. But remember, they were already unholy sinners and not allowed into the place of worship. In fact, the priests were only allowed into the temple through careful ceremonies and sacrifices to deal with their unholiness to allow them to perform their duties for the Israeli people. The high priest was only allowed into the holy of holies for a yearly blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the nation. Sin was such a part of their religion that it was dealt with through endless ceremonies!
The One thing Israel understood was, God is sinless and holy, but they were wicked sinners not worthy of getting near God.
Since the people were not allowed to come into the temple, they had a different command given to them. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.” (Num 6:2-4 KJV)
“Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:” (Judg 13:4 KJV)
The everyday citizen was different than the priests and had a lower spiritual standard in those days, remember they did not have God’s grace, nor the Holy Spirit living in them like Christians today. They were okay as long as they obeyed God’s commands and followed the sacrificial laws when they strayed from God. But, God provided a way that they could show their dedication and love for God by taking a one-year Nazarite vow of holiness to illustrate their love and faithfulness.
But notice, when this was practiced they also were to stop drinking like the priests, but completely, not just while in the tabernacle or the temple.
Even Samson’s mother was required to follow this practice while she was pregnant, and Samson was ordered to do this as a lifetime Nazarite from birth. The Bible states the following information, “For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines… But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.” (Judges 13:5,7 KJV)
We see each time a person wanted to get close to God they were required to quit drinking booze.
Drinking, not getting drunk, is the issue of holiness for the Jewish priest and the normal Jew who chose to consecrate “totally to God.” The blanket statement that the Bible does not say you cannot drink is false. Now so far in our study of the Bible, does drinking sound like it is okay for believers?
I have given you an example of a priest and a Nazarite, and now we need to look at another.
But first, let’s ask another question. Does God look for people to show their dedication to Him in seemingly small ways like refusing to drink booze? We find that answered in the book of Daniel.
“The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility 4 —young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!—and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. 5 The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table—the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king’s court. 6 Four young men from Judah—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were among those selected.” [Dan 1:3-6 (MSG)]
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.” (Dan 1:8, 12 KJV)
If you study God’s Word long enough, you will notice that the “small things” of obedience prove complete or wholehearted love and devotion to our Creator. Daniel was a conquered “slave” and still dared to obey God and endanger his life. Yes under the heathen Babylonian conquerors, he dared to stand alone.
But Daniel was not a priest, nor a Nazarite. If Daniel, who was not a priest, would defile himself just by drinking the king’s wine, do you think God’s standard of holiness is abstinence or just not getting drunk? Well here is an additional teaching from the Old Testament scripture.
Since he was a prince of Israel, abstinence was God’s will for him. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; 5 Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” [Prov 31:4-5 (NKJV)]
So we see that after the test was conducted Daniel was more healthy than all the other young men without booze. God especially blessed him for his conviction to holiness. “And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. [vegetables]” (Dan 1:15, 16 KJV)
Also even in the New Testament, you must pay attention to God’s call even for John the Baptist. He was never to drink wine or booze. “…for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.” Luke 1:15-16 (NLT)
So now I have offered you four examples that prove God does not want or allow drinking booze if you want to be in His presence.
But now you may have asked another question. “Since Jesus drank wine, aren’t we free by God’s grace to drink booze?”
Here are some historical background and references on wine in the Biblical era that you may not know about…
According to Professor Samuel Lee, Cambridge University:
2/ This process is described by Solomon in the Hebrew Bible and Pliny a Roman writer.
3/ The grapes were boiled and the alcohol evaporated before the water of the grapes boiled. Then the thick grape syrup was stored in new wineskins to prevent fermentation, and referred to as “new wine.” Old wineskins produced fermentation, like improper canning today can cause decay and spoilage.
4/ This thick syrup was similar to our jellies and squeezed on bread or dissolved in water for drinking.
Also here are historical quotes and information gleaned from ancient Greeks and others. What this proves is that the Greeks loved non-alcoholic wine and their culture greatly influenced Israel during the days of Jesus and the early church.
Horace in 35 BC wrote:
“Here you quaff under a shade, cups of nonintoxicating wine – this day sacred in the revolving year, remove the cork fastened with pitch from the jar which was set to fumigate … Take my Macaenas – all clamor and passion be far away.”
Columella, a contemporary of the apostles recorded, “in Sicily and Greece, it was common to boil their wines.” [Nott]
Plutarch in 60 AD wrote, “That filtered wine neither inflames the brain nor infects the mind and the passions, and is much more pleasant.”
Aristotle described sweet wine called glukus, explaining it would not intoxicate, and that the wine of Arcadia was so thick it was necessary to scape it from the skin bottles in which it was stored and dissolve the scrappings in water.
Virgil wrote in 30 BC, “Or of sweet ‘must’ boils down the luscious juice.”
Homer writes in the ninth book of Odyssey that Ulysses took into his boat a goatskin of sweet, black wine, and that when it was drunk it was diluted with 20 parts of water.
Also various finds in ancient literature …
Varro speaks of “gathering wine”
Cato of “hanging wine”
Ovid “And scarce can the grapes contain the wine they have therein.”
“The Mishna states that the Jews were in the habit of using boiled wine.” [Kitto, volume 2, page 477]
We must understand that the American culture is not the same as ancient cultures. Although we only think of booze when we say wine, the ancients also included grape juice still inside the grape, boiled and nonintoxicating grape juice, and alcoholic wines as WINE.
But the new idea here is that the most sought after, most commonly used, and verified by the Jewish oral traditions [Mishna] of the New Testament era is that nonintoxicating wine was the common drink of Jesus’ time in Israel, and in many parts of the pagan world.
So now if you include this historical and cultural data in our study, there is no evidence that Jesus and his disciples ever drank booze. Like all ages, there were booze drinkers, but to assume Jesus drank liquor goes against the entire backdrop of the holiness God established in the Old Testament. You have to understand, Jesus obeyed all the law of the Old Testament and commanded his disciples to “be holy, even as I am holy.”
Don’t forget God will not allow booze in His presence!
Since Christ came to fulfill the law, he would not defile his body because it was the true temple of God.
And I repeat, wine in the Greek language was used for grape juice [English term] or alcoholic wine. The most famous wines in antiquity have been proven to be boiled wines. And here is where science comes into play because alcohol evaporates before water boils. By boiling them down to a thick paste, like jelly, the wine was thick with sugar and preserved by putting them into wineskins, but fresh and tasty when reconstituted later with water.
Do not be guilty of imposing American culture and language over the Bible and its meaning.
You must know who you are, now that you are a born again believer
1/ Christians Are Priests and Kings in the Lord’s Kingdom
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” [Rev 1:5-6 (NKJV)]
2/ We Christians are God’s Holy Temple Today
And we are not only the priests and kings of God’s holy kingdom but we are also the temple. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ… But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:” (1 Pet 2:5, 9 KJV)
“What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 So, come out from among [unbelievers], and separate (sever) yourselves from them, says the Lord, and touch not [any] unclean thing; then I will receive you kindly and treat you with favor, 18 And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” [2 Corinthians 6:15-18 AMP]
Since our bodies are the house of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us constantly, now in this New Testament era, they are holy temples of God. If God made such a big deal about no booze in His stone temple and wood and material tabernacle, do you think He wants His living temple defiled with drinking?
3/ We are called to be separate and holy like the Nazarite of the Old Testament
“He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'” [1 Peter 1:15-16]
“And so I insist — and God backs me up on this — that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd.  They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself.  They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.
 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! 21 My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus.  Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything — and I do mean everything — connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life,  a life renewed from the inside  and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” [Eph 4:17-24 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)]
4/ We are commanded to not offend a weaker person
“Why, then, criticise your brother’s actions, why try to make him look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions.“
This should be our attitude of love
“Let us therefore stop turning critical eyes on one another. If we must be critical, let us be critical of our own conduct and see that we do nothing to make a brother stumble or fall. 14-20a I am convinced, and I say this as in the presence of Christ himself, that nothing is intrinsically unholy. But none the less it is unholy to the man who thinks it is. If your habit of unrestricted diet seriously upsets your brother, you are no longer living in love towards him. And surely you wouldn’t let food mean ruin to a man for whom Christ died. You mustn’t let something that is all right for you look like an evil practice to somebody else.
After all, the kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of whether you get what you like to eat and drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you put these things first in serving Christ you will please God and are not likely to offend men. So let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another’s character.
Surely we shouldn’t wish to undo God’s work for the sake of a plate of meat! 20b-23 I freely admit that all food is, in itself harmless, but it can be harmful to the man who eats it with a guilty conscience. We should be willing to be both vegetarians and teetotallers if by doing otherwise we should impede a brother’s progress in faith. Your personal convictions are a matter of faith between yourself and God, and you are happy if you have no qualms about what you allow yourself to eat.
“Yet if a man eats meat with an uneasy conscience about it, you may be sure he is wrong to do so. For his action does not spring from his faith, and when we act apart from our faith we sin.” [Romans 14:10-20 (Phillips NT)]
You must know that the first century Christians were really confused about buying meat in the city because the pagan temples controlled the meat market. From all the pagan sacrifices, the leftovers were sold in all the Greek/Roman cities of that day. Some took on the Daniel diet to keep from being corrupted or unholy. Paul explains that meat of itself is good, and the meat bought in the markets may or may not be from those temples. Therefore, generic meat is fine, but many chose to make sure their love for God and other people was clear and refrained from all meat.
Now when it comes to booze, everyone knows it does not have a good reputation, and it is easy to understand the problem with drunkenness. More people die on our highways from drunk drivers than soldiers lost on the battlefield. Families are broken up and violence always follows booze. More money is lost from workers who are injured and unable to work regularly than America wants to admit.
This among other things is why God warns, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Prov 20:1 KJV) And,” Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” (Prov 23:31-33 KJV)
Booze defiles your heart, your mind, and soul.
So the issue is clear since we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must bend over backward to not hurt them in any way, nor weaken their faith in Christ. Even if the historic, cultural, or Old Testament facts were unknown to you, when it comes to booze, people are hurt. No one knows that they are someday going to be an alcoholic and live in misery and destroy themselves and their loved ones in slavery to drunkenness.
That is why in “freedom” we do not need to drink even in our homes and influence our children or friends to fall into this destructive habit. “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.” (Rom 14:21 KJV)
And beyond this, even ancient Christian historians verify the practice of the first-century church was abstaining from wine. “Hegesippus, a church historian who, as Eusebius tells us, ‘lived immediately after the apostles.’11 Writing regarding ‘James, the brother of the Lord, [who] succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles,’ Hegesippus says: ‘He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh.’12 We can assume that the strict abstinent life-style of James, who for a time served as the presiding officer of the Jerusalem Church, served as an example for Apostolic Christians to follow.”
“An investigation of early Christian sources on the life-style of such Jewish Christian sects as the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, the Elkesaites and the Encratites, might provide considerable support for abstinence from fermented wine in the Apostolic Church.13 The fact that some of these sects went to the extreme of rejecting altogether both fermented and unfermented wine and using only water, even in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, suggests the existence of a prevailing concern for abstinence in the Apostolic Church. Such a concern apparently assumed fanatical forms among certain religious groups.” [Chapter 6, WINE IN THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University]
This is why Paul tells Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” 1 Timothy 5:23 (NKJV) Timothy was also of the strong practice of only drinking water to not cause anyone to stumble, but with so little knowledge of medicine as today, people of the day learned a little wine for medical reasons was sometimes needed. So Paul pushed Timothy to use a “little” as medicine.
How much do you really love your children or friends?
Grace is not a license to sin or to ignore God’s law, but the divine influence upon a Christian’s heart to desire to please God, and have the power to obey God.
“For certain men have crept in stealthily [gaining entrance secretly by a side door]. Their doom was predicted long ago, ungodly (impious, profane) persons who pervert the grace (the spiritual blessing and favor) of our God into lawlessness and wantonness and immorality…” [June 1:4 AMP]
Your freedom in Christ is to do far MORE than the Old Testament law demands, not LESS! Grace gives you the desire and strength to love the weaker family member more than yourself, the power to freely give up worldly things and be holy, the generosity to give more than the law demands, and the strength to resist temptation and your old life of sin, addiction, and selfishness.