Alcohology: The Bible and Wine

I preached a message on alcohol yesterday morning, addressing the issue as thoroughly as I could in a single message and dealing with numerous passages from both Testaments. I dealt with the issue more honestly than I have in the past, figuring that God said what He said on purpose and remembering that my job is to preach the whole counsel of God—not to serve as God’s filter.

The message can be found here. I hope it will be instructive and encouraging to you.

For some reason, from about 5:00 to 7:00 of the recording there are several “fades,” making it difficult to hear every word. Fortunately, it obscures only my testimony (my experience with alcohol as a child and teen, etc.). Thankfully, the portion where the Bible is explained (the rest of the message) is much clearer.

FWIW, I close the message by rejoicing in God’s use of wine as a symbol which points us both to the blessing of our salvation and to the suffering of our Savior. As you may know, I meditate often on the concept of His Robes for Mine, the biblical picture of Christ exchanging His righteous robes for my filthy ones (imputation/justification). I’ve recently been amazed to meditate also on the concept of His Cup for Mine, the biblical picture of Christ giving me the wine of salvation and drinking for me the wine of God’s wrath. What grace! That theme is considered in the new hymn I wrote with Molly Ijames, Salvation’s Cup. It focuses on a marvelous though neglected theme. I pray that it will magnify Christ and edify His church.


17 Responses

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for being faithful to the Word on a subject that is so difficult for many godly people. This was a difficult issue for our church, but God has blessed the honest and uncompromising dealing with truth. Why is “sola scriptura” so difficult for many who pride themselves in their willingness to stand uncompromisingly for truth? Do we really believe in God’s Word, no more and no less, or do we believe in the Bible as filtered through fundamentalist tradition?

  2. Wondering if you would post your main points and Scripture references? Might be helpful for future reference for those like me who benefited from listening to the sermon. Just a thought. :) Thanks for your ministry of the Word!

  3. Thank you, Pastor Barkman. I hope we can meet sometime. I’m sure we’d enjoy good fellowship together.

    Matt, I’d be glad to, though it will probably be 2010 by the time I’m able to do it. My notes won’t be hard to get ready for publication here, but I have several pressing writing projects here first. :)

  4. That’s an interesting comparison, about Jesus offering the cup of salvation and taking the cup of God’s wrath. I hadn’t ever thought about it like that before. That’s very accurate though. Thanks for the thought provoking article! I’m sure the sermon was great.

  5. Chris,
    If you want to meet Greg Barkman, I’d recommend having him preach at your church. That way all your people could benefit. He is an excellent preacher.

  6. I was taught “wine” in the Bible was “grape juice” until I was at a job where a man was studying the Greek New Testament in the lunch room during a break. He was discussing this topic with another Christian. I was agreeing with the other man who was claiming it was “grape juice”.

    The man studying the Greek showed me, and the other man the Greek word for “wine”. He told us it was a low grade alcohol, but it was alcohol none the less. It was just the firmentation that would naturally occur over night (or during the day) right after the first pressing because there was no means for refrigeration.

    He was attending Cedarville University at the time studying to be a minister. His opinion was not to drink today’s wine because it is manufatured to BE a stronger drink. However, he didn’t say it was a sin to drink, but he did not recommend it. I agreed with his position after I actually had this same discussion with him.

    BTW, as with any young person, I tried the stuff when younger, but NEVER had a taste for it. It tastes nasty to me.

  7. We’ve just gone over alcohol and some other things that are involved in Christian liberty and what should control our liberties. We’ve been doing this for about 2 months now in SS. When I did the alcohol section, Pastor Barkman’s message on Sermon Audio was one that I listened too. Very good.

    Pastor Barkman, we miss the Anderson’s down here in Mexico City. Tell them hello for us.

  8. Is it me or is everyone else cold when reading this blog? The sensation of snow falling overwhelms me … makes me cold … and I’m even wearing a nosemuff (cf.

  9. Thanks, Chris. I would love to be able to meet you some day. I have enjoyed your blog, and appreciate your music. We have used some of your hymns in our church.

  10. Chris,

    I do not have time to listen to your message right now, but I will in the coming weeks. My main points about alcohol which maybe you make also in your sermon are based largely on principles of the Word of God not necessary some texts which are stretched by some to make the point for abstinence from alcohol.

    1. Abstain from all appearance of evil–I recently asked a number of random people that I know that do not profess Christ if they thought that a Christian should drink or not and an overwhelming majority said that they did not think that a Christian should drink. This is not a survey from Barna, but I do believe we should do at least what the unsaved expect of us as Christians.

    2. The weaker brother principle which really does not need any further explanation.

    3. I will not be brought under the influence of any principle.

    4. The principle that if you never take alcohol you will never have a problem with it.

    5. Alcohol is such a transitional drink and leads to many other problems as it breaks down one’s inhibitions and a person does things that they normally would not do.

    6. I do not really see any good reason with the sanitation and quality of water that we have today for anyone to take alcohol.

    7. This may be a stretch, but there is the idea in the old testament of a Nazarite not drinking of the fruit of the vine.

    8. Also, with children what type of a testimony and example am I setting for them.

    9. Does drinking show more of Christ or less of Christ to those around me.

    In my life, I have not seen anyone who drinks alcohol as a beverage that has drawn closer to the Lord through this experience.

    That is my 2 cents.

  11. Chris,
    I finished listening to your sermon yesterday. Thank you so much for your honesty and confidence in the Word when approaching this topic. Since I knew your position before I heard your sermon I was a little skeptical that you could make your case from scriptures. However, what I found was that you didn’t “make your case” at all. You simply let the scriptures speak for itself. Entrusting your assembly to the truth of scripture and the shepherding of the Good Shepherd took humility and grace. Thanks again for your careful, thorough, and humble approach to this topic.

  12. Actually I brought several messages on wine in the Bible over the course of several monts. It began in my exposition through Romans when we came to chapter 14. That chapter clearly puts wine into the category of a Christian liberty, and tells the church to receive equally those who partake and those who refrain. Our Church Covenant, the standard Baptist Covenant from around 1853 required a pledge of abstenance as a condition for church membership. That put us in violation with the Word of God. It was not easy to bring the church to the Bible position, but made us much stronger in the long run. Incidently, I am an abstainer, and that remains my personal recommendation.

  13. John Macarthur has a wounderful study on the issue of wine on a dvd called, Do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the spirit. Excellent teaching.
    God Bless,

  14. Chris, thank you for such a balanced, Biblical (<– is the use of those two adjectives together redundant?) study of this issue. Having grown up in a home with a drunken father and seeing the devastation that continues to this day from that, it's not even a temptation for me. As I said in a comment I added to David Hosaflook's wonderful post on this issue –

    "My family background is French, and that brings with it wine. (Although, statistically the French drink more beer per capita than the Germans. But I digress….) My grandmother came to America and accepted the Lord as her personal Savior. It is largely through her testimony that I came to Christ. But, bless her heart, she saw nothing wrong with having a little wine once in a while with her meal. And two of her three children became drunks, my dad being one of them, and both of those kids' deaths were alcohol related. Our lives were a veritable hell on earth because of my dad's drink."

    I appreciate that you hit on a principle in your message – the principle that what parents tolerate in moderation, children will often embrace in excess. It's kind of a corollary of the weaker brother principle.

    With so many beverage choices available, it's crazy to risk today's alcohol.

  15. I haven’t had a chance to listen to your message, Chris. But I have great confidence that it is very sound. But Rob’s comment got me curious enough to ask what passages teach that if I train up my children in moderation that they will go on to live in excess? I was brought up to ‘stay as far away from the edge as possible’, but isn’t truth the edge? I’ve worked through these ideas as a parent of young children and have not found clear teaching in the Scriptures that tell me to train my children in any other way than in the truth of God’s Word. And specifically in the realm of ‘Christian liberties’, if my children take my moderation and turn it to excess I would have to believe that they are knowingly rejecting the truth of God’s Word that I instructed them in or I did not fulfill my duties as their father.
    I will try to give your message a listen so as not to bog you down too much with details.

  16. Got to listen to the message. It was great. I didn’t hear you really say anything about my moderation will lead to my children’s excess. I would take issue with some of the applications at the end, but you know that. One fact correction. You quoted Harding who apparently said there is 7% alcohol in beer. It is actually 4-4.5% for most beers. I’ve had one at 8%, but that is not a common thing.
    Having never heard you preach, it was a good listen. It was definitely Minnick-esque. Your church is blessed, indeed.

  17. Good work on this message Chris.

    All the best,

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