Tag Archives: nazarite

Is drinking Alcohol a sinful act?

Can Christians drink Alcohol? Depending on which denomination you belong to, they may give you varied responses to this question. But what does the Bible say? Is it considered as sin according to God’s Law and Scripture? Let us look at the evidence.

The Main 2 types of Alcohol mentioned in the Scriptures
The Scriptures consistently mention 2 variants of alcoholic beverages; namely “wine” & “strong drink”. Wine was usually fermented grape juice while Strong Drink could be any form of Alcohol which was much more potent.
• H3196 – יין – yah’-yin – From an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication: – banqueting, wine, wine [-bibber].
• H7941 – שׁכר – shay-kawr’ – From H7937; an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor: – strong drink, + drunkard, strong wine.

Non Alcoholic Wine is also mentioned throughout the Scriptures as:
• H8492 –  תּירושׁ – tee-roshe’ – From H3423 in the sense of expulsion; must or fresh grape juice (as just squeezed out); by implication (rarely) fermented wine: – (new, sweet) wine.
The 38 instances where new wine is mentioned – (Gen_27:28,37; Num_18:12; Deu_7:13; 11:14; 12:17; 14:23; 18:4; 28:51; 33:28; Jdg_9:13; 2Ki_18:32; 2Ch_31:5; 32:28; Neh_5:11; 10:37; 10:39; 13:5; 13:12; Psa_4:7; Pro_3:10; Isa_24:7; 36:17; 62:8; 65:8; Jer_31:12; Hos_2:8,9; 2:22; 4:11; 7:14; 9:2; Joe_1:10; 2:19; 2:24; Mic_6:15; Hag_1:11; Zec_9:17)

A) There was no restriction in consuming Alcohol other than specific cases such as Priests who go into the tabernacle and people who have taken a Nazarite vow, as seen below.

Lev 10:9 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:
Eze 44:21 Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.
Num 6:3 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.
Num 6:20 And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.
Jdg 13:7 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.

B) Alcohol was used inside the tabernacle for some offerings

Num 28:7 And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering.

C) God specifically allowed people who came to Jerusalem, to tithe and then be joyful. Strong Drink was specifically allowed in this regard

Deu 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

D) Alcoholic Wine was not prohibited in the 1st century church either. Paul advices for restraint when consuming alcohol but never prohibits it altogether.

1Ti 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Tit 1:7,8 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Tit 2:2,3 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
1Ti 3:2,3 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

E) Paul even advices Timothy to drink some wine as it would help him with digestion

1Ti 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. 

F) There are many instructions in Scripture to keep away from Wine & Strong Drink as they could hinder your ability to follow YHVH wholly. Falling into Drunkenness is clearly condemned by Scripture.

Pro 31:4-7 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Isa 28:7,8 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
Pro 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Pro 23:20,21
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Pro 23:29-32 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 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.
Isa 5:11
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Gal 5:21
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Eph 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess;
but be filled with the Spirit;
Rom 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.
1Pe 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

G) Even though Alcoholism and drunkenness is condemned in the Scriptures “Wine” is seen as a positive blessing given by God to man for his pleasure.

Psa 104:14,15 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Ecc 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

H) There are many instances in the Scriptures where drinking alcohol has caused harm. These moments act as a reminder that Alcohol can become a large barrier in one’s life.

Gen 9:21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
2Sa 11:13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.

I) There are many examples to show that the drinking of wine was commonplace in the time of the Scriptures as well as the first century.

Gen 43:34 And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.
1Sa 1:14,15 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
Luk 7:33,34 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
1Co 11:21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

Conclusion
Alcohol can be a touchy subject in Christian circles to say the least, being seen as a outward manifestation of piety. The Scriptures on the other hand goes against this trend and does not condemn the consumption of alcohol; only the excessive usage of alcohol and drunkenness. While there is a massive amount of evidence to suggest that using wine or other more potent alcoholic beverages is not an issue according to the Bible, whomever consumes alcohol should be fully able to control oneself, so that he/she does not fall into sin through the acts of drunkenness or alcoholism. While it is a better choice to distant yourself from alcohol, we must understand that there is no such precept in God’s Law or Scripture. It is a personal choice which should be taken with care!

Paul – falsely accused of breaking God’s Law

130093-004-9B9100F0Did Paul break God’s Law? Did he teach believers to do the same? one third of the New Testament writings consist of Paul’s letters, and it is a fact that his letters create most of the central doctrine of Christianity today. So it is advantageous for us to know whether Paul was indeed a breaker of God’s Law written in the Old Testament, and whether he taught the same to other believers. Or are all of these false accusations against a Law abiding Child of God? Let us look at the evidence.

Act 21:18-24 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

It is fairly clear that the accusations against him, such as – “Paul is teaching the Jews outside Judea, to forsake Moses (God’s Law), not to circumcise their children & walk after their customs” – were all false. According to James, Paul was “walking orderly, and keeping the Law”. But since there were rumors and accusations against Paul, the elders along with James wanted to publicly announce and demonstrate the truth to his accusers.

Now many would not really understand the deep meaning of the act that was performed to exhibit that Paul was obedient to God’s Law. Let us take a closer look at what Paul actually did to showcase his obedience.

Vows & Purification
It is clear that James asked Paul to “purify” himself with four others that had made a vow. But what was this “vow”, what was this “purification” and why did Paul purify himself along with these people?

Paul had made a Nazarite vow
In Acts 18:18 we see that Paul shaves his head because he had made a vow. The only vow made to God that had instructions to shave ones head was – a Nazarite Vow specifically mentioned in Numbers Chapter 6.

Nazarite Vow
The only vow of its kind mentioned in God’s Law, the Nazarite vow was all about separation and being consecrated (Nazarite – Nawzeer in Hebrew, means separation/consecration). Mentioned in detail in Numbers chapter 6, the Nazarite vow consisted of these specific instructions;

  • The Nazarite was to abstain from wine, intoxicating liquors and eating or drinking any substance that contains any trace of grapes.
  • He/she had to refrain from cutting the hair, and allow the hair to grow.
  • He/she could not become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves.
  • At the end of the period of the vow, the Nazarite was to be purified by bringing one male lamb as a burnt offering, a female lamb as a sin offering and one ram as a peace offering along with a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, with a drink offering to the priest at the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Finally the Nazarite should shave his head at the courtyard of the Temple, take the hair and put it in the fire as part of the peace offering.

James’ instructions
Even though Paul would have gone to the Temple to complete his Nazarite vow, by offering the necessary sacrifices and shaving his head once again, James saw that this was clearly not enough to make a declaration. He asked Paul to pay for the four other men as well for their purification, so they can also get their heads shaved.

Paul’s purification
In Act 21:26 Luke records “Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” Paul finished the vow and paid for the necessary sacrifices for purification, for himself and the four men. Later Paul would tell the Governor Felix that “Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult”(Act 24:18).

Conclusion
It is fairly clear that Paul was obedient to God’s Law, both because of James’ declaration that “the accusations/rumors were nothing because he walks orderly and keeps the law” as well as Paul’s act of taking a Nazarite vow and purification at the temple. Even today, the majority of Christians believe in the rumors and false accusations that were laid against Paul. If we would only read James’ words regarding Paul’s walk with God and understand the acts that Paul did, we would clearly see that he did not teach against God’s Law or break it in anyway.

What about the Gentiles?
Now most of us who read the above and agree that Paul indeed kept God’s Law and did not teach against it, would have a question about the need to obey God’s Law as Gentiles. In Acts 21:25, James himself says that they have written to the gentiles about their decision on what they should compulsorily observe, alluding to the judgement made in Acts 15. (A lengthy discussion can be found on this topic as a complete study by clicking on this link) This decision pertained to the believers coming in from the Gentile nations, and was the absolute minimum which they had to do, to be considered part of the congregation. The four key commandments which were, abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, strangled animals, blood & fornication, are all specifically taken from Leviticus chapter 17 & 18.

What has led to this big confusion and misunderstanding about Paul and his letters?
Paul is definitely one of the most misunderstood people in the New Testament. Being so far removed from the time and circumstances, as well as reading with proper context could be pointed out as the main reasons for this confusion.

Even the apostle Peter warned the congregations about Paul’s letters when he wrote “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest(pervert), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked(lawless), fall from your own stedfastness (2Pet 3:16,17). Peter said that Paul’s letters are hard to understand, and his words are being twisted by the unlearned and unstable to be led to lawlessness.