Confusion on Wine
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. NCCG's position on wine confuses me because you seem to have arrived at your position by ignoring many scriptures which encourage the wise and moderate use of wine (e.g. Prov.23:31; Is.65:8). Wine was involved in the Temple worship (Lev.23:13) and Yahweh even demanded the best of the wine (Num.18:12). Plenty of corn and wine was seen as a "delightful blessing" (Gen.27:28). Yahweh even recommends that His people buy "strong drink" on the Feast of Tabernacles (Dt.14:26). Too much wine is indeed a "mocker" but you ignore the scriptures that that say the right use of wine maketh a merry heart (Ecc.9:7). What of Messiah's water-to-wine miracle? Or His parable in Luke 5:39? Yes, it is true that the abuse of alcohol destroys families, health, and lives; but so does the abuse of food. In fact, the Bible condemns gluttony just as soundly it condemns drunkenness. Should we take that as a command to not eat food? Wine and other fermented strong drinks are mentioned from Genesis to Revelation - sometimes negatively, sometimes neutrally, sometimes positively. It seems to me that you choose to emphasise the negative and ignore the others.
A. That the consumption of alcoholic wine in the dispensations before restitution of all things was permissible is not denied by NCCG/BCAY. Alcohol, it may be argued, was provided as one of those reliefs from the grind of hard labour from the very beginning even though its responsible use was rarely observed and its abuse then, as now, is without doubt the instrument of untold evil.
Before I address the main issue, just one or two points. Firstly, Genesis 27:28, given in the pre-Mosaic dispensation, does not refer to alcoholic wine but "new wine", i.e. freshly crushed grapes or grape juice (though some dispute this). You will find the same said in Numbers 18:12 - Yahweh does not want 'old' (fermented) wine as an offering to Him. You also cite Deuteronomy 14:26 which in the NIV reads: "Use the silver to buy whatever you like; cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink". Sadly, this is not what the text says. If you look at the Hebrew for 'wine' it is tiyrosh which according to Strong's means "fresh grape-juice (as just squeezed out)" and "rarely (i.e. exceptionally) fermented wine". The NIV is just one example of deliberately corrupt translations. The NKJV reads: "...new wine and grain". Thus the Torah itself gives no grounds whatsoever for the use of alcoholic beverages in any kind of Temple worship, sacred festival celebration, holy convocations, or tithes to Yahweh.
It would be correct to say, however, that alcohol consumption was permitted outside of holy events and practices, provided it was taken in moderation. There are many scriptures that confirm this. It is also correct to say that Yah'shua (Jesus) used alcohol as an illustration in at least one parable, just as He did slavery, to illustrate spiritual truths in contemporary practices both sacred and secular. That ordinary wine was consumed in the marriage of Cana is likewise not disputed necessarily, though it is open to debate since the Greek oinos is used of both unfermented grape juice and fermented wine. It is our contention that the "best" wine that Yah'shua (Jesus) supernaturally made from water was indeed unfermented wine, being as it was new, and that taken together with the symbols of the Old Dispensation in the form of His using ritual Mosaic washing containers, He was giving a sign of the advent of a New Dispensation with New Wine. (For a full discussion, see Reconstructing the Johannine Church, Part 2 - New Covenant Witness, May-July 2000, 68:76-90, which explains this in greater depth).
It is the contention of NCCG/BCAY that ever since the Day of Pentecost we have been moving away gradually (sometimes very rapidly) from earlier dispensational ways of doing things. Whereas certain practices were replaced instantaneously upon the death and resurrection of Christ (such as the Levitical ceremonial law, along with its Priesthood), others passed away more gradually (such as slavery). Hints of this, in respect of alcohol, are given in the Old Testament in the prophetic type of the Rechabites who refused to drink alcohol because of a covenant they had taken (foreshadowing the New Covenant), for which Yahweh blessed them. And the prophet Jeremiah who ironically opposed them (since he was one of the few prophets who was shown the New Covenant) received a stinging rebuke from Yahweh in spite of the fact that from an Old Covenant perspective the prophet was not in error. The Rechabites represented a better way that was coming.
There is virtually no reference to wine in Scripture at all after the anointing at the Day of Pentecost. Though alcohol was not banned overnight, as it were, there can be little doubt that it was passing away as a permitted indulgence, for the true light was already shining (1 Jn.2:8). By Romans 14:21 Paul is hinting at the offensiveness of alcohol and how, if it causes people to stumble, it should be avoided. He reminds the Ephesians to avoid drunkenness in their new found freedom in Christ - and here we must remember that the Council of Jerusalem had, at this point, only imposed a few regulations from Torah to enable the former pagans to get a good foundation in Messiah first and not overwhelm them with all the mitzvot. Restrictions are imposed on their ministers who are to set the example in the local congregation (1 Tim.3:3,8; Titus 1:7) as they are progressively eased away from their former lives of indulgence and immorality.
By the time we come to the Book of End Times - Revelation - we find wine used in an entirely negative context. Numerous allusions are made to the whore of Babylon and the means by which she made the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication, graphically illustrating the use made of alcohol in the propagation of immorality (Rev.14:8; 17:2; 18:3; ). It is used as an illustration of one of the items of the stock and trade of Babylon before its fall, again in a negative sense (Rev.18:13). And even when wine is used of Yahweh, it is always in a negative sense, as in the wine of His wrath against those who take the mark of the Beast (Rev.14:10; 16:19). Alcoholic wine therefore equals the wrath of Yahweh, an inducement to fornication, and a trademark of Babylon.
The only place where alcoholic wine is possibly enjoined is where Paul advises Timothy to take some for his stomach's sake, i.e. medicinally (1 Tim.5:23). And though it is true the word for "wine" (oinos) could be rendered as either fermented or unfermented, it is likely to be the former in this case. An exception is herein made for the man's health, as one might use tobacco leaves for the healing of certain skin problems and wounds.
If one is determined, one can always find a case for drinking wine in moderation. And that must be the choice of every individual. However, NCCG/BCAY's ban on alcohol has nothing directly to do with the arguments listed above, though they are considered relevant in the wider sense of health, morality, etc., but to the priestly calling of the believer.
In brief (since this has been addressed in many articles already), every Christian is part of the Royal Priesthood (1 Pet.2:9) - he (or she) is a Priest (or Priestess) in the making. His or her body is also a temple of the Ruach (Spirit) (1 Cor.6:19). Under the Old Covenant, the Priests serving on duty in the Temple were forbidden from drinking wine so that their minds would be clear and they could focus on their duties in the Holy Place. As Christians we are priests and priestesses on permanent duty in the temple of flesh and are required to be spiritually alert at all times (1 Pet.5:8) so that we can be effective ministers, awake and alert, and not putting stumbling blocks before the weak.
We believe, therefore, that Yahweh has called New Covenant Christians to be completely abstinent for these reasons. We believe furthermore that we are fulfilling the prophetic type of the Rechabites who not only refused to drink fermented wine but vowed never to live in permanent settlements (Jer.35:6-19), the latter being symbolic of the conscious-awareness of those in Christ that their residence in this world is but temporary and whose eyes are upon their heavenly citizenship.
In 1988 a revelation was received banning alcohol consumption in totality for members of NCCG/BCAY (OB 9:1-15). In the fullness of the Gospel, to which we have been moving ever since Pentecost, all obstacles to man's fellowship with Yahweh are being removed. The ban is reiterated in OB 122:7-9 where the corruption of minors is condemned, in 236:9 where it's use is restricted to medicinal purposes only, and finally a strong warning given to the Priesthood in OB 285:16-27. In conclusion, Yahweh says: "... he who drinketh [alcohol] ... standeth to lose his membership in Zion. But thou shalt not disfellowship such a person, for these are not sins unto spiritual death save they be done to excess. Nevertheless they are sins, for they pollute the flesh and become a stumbling block to spiritual progress" (OB 285:28-29).
This is the standard required of all those entering this end-time work. What other people decide to do in respect of alcohol is up to them for which they will be personally accountable to Yahweh. As a deliverance minister, I have been made starkly aware of the power that alcohol has over souls, and of the demonic influences behind it. Satan has committed legions of fallen angels to getting people to drink alcohol, especially believers. It is our belief, furthermore, that those who are listening carefully to the Ruach (Spirit) will abstain from alcohol even in moderation for the reasons given.
A parting thought. Satan is an ultra-legalist. He is given grounds to afflict and oppress any soul who wilfully or ignorantly breaks a commandment. This applies not only to clear-cut commandments such as those unambiguously detailed in Scripture (such as any of the Ten Commandments) but also to those who, because they are not attuned, are unaware of, and therefore unknowingly oppose, new moves of the Ruach (Spirit). Thus whilst human slavery was not condemned in New Testament times but was an institution provisionally allowed by Yahweh it has since "passed away" and I can think of few Spirit-led Christians who would advocate the reintroduction of slavery, even within the earlier Torah constraints with its checks and balances against abuse.
We maintain the same thing in regard to moderate alcohol consumption. Whereas the letter of the law does not oppose it in a general sense, we would maintain that the spirit of the law does at this time, has been opposing it for many years, and will oppose it from now on. However, these things are discerned only by the Ruach (Spirit) and therefore our accountability is related to our attunement.
As for New Covenant Christians, we are in no doubt. Alcohol consumption has no part in the end-time Church/Assembly, and is most definitely banned by apostolic authority in NCCG/BCAY. For us, therefore, the debate is over.
And would anyone deny it is a better path to follow? Would anyone defend alcohol consumption as a permissive right as they would oppose immorality? NCCG homes are alcohol-free homes. My own children have never known alcohol and never been tempted by it in their formative years. My teenage and adult children have developed a spiritual and physical abhorrence of it, not because they have heard me preach against it (for in truth I have said very little), but because they have developed a spiritual and physical sensitivity which makes alcohol unattractive to them.
However you care to view the alcohol issue, it remains a truism that alcohol in the hands of sinful men brings such dangers of being uncontrolled that even those who count themselves to be strong would be wise to abstain, if not for their own sake, yet for the sake of the weaker brethren (Rom.14:21). And in view of the world-wide epidemic abuse of alcohol (as we know from our extensive work to alcoholics and drug abusers) it makes even more sense in our time to quit it altogether. If it is argued that there are many other things which may be abused beside wine, the point may be conceded, but wine has so often proved itself to be particularly fraught with danger that Paul names it specifically at the same time as he lays down the general principle for the early times of the New Covenant.
In the light of these observations, is alcohol edifying? Is it even needed? Is it addictive? Could you easily give it up if Yahweh made it plain to you that this was His will? Or would you rationalise fleshy cravings for it by the selective use of Scripture? 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 are often used by such people who feel this way, though they forget that the freedom we are given is always relative to the effects on one's fellow, and the criterion remains: is it edifying for them? Would you feel Yahweh's approbation if you preached moderate consumption to all and sundry? Or would you feel it unwise to preach it to certain types of people like former alcoholics? Should we be preaching two gospels - one to one set of people, and one to another? Would you preach it with the same conviction as, say, the eating of fruit? Who's to say who can manage alcohol in moderation and who cannot? Should it left to chance? Or should we be rather preaching a unified doctrine - "one Lord, one faith, and baptism"? What is the best for everyone? I posit these questions for discussion.
However you may view alcohol, it is primarily a stimulant and a narcotic, and is not required for either good health or spiritual sensibility. Gluttony may make you obese and ill, but it rarely takes away your mind and your spiritual judgement or injures others, making such comparisons unhelpful. And I think, somehow, Noah would agree. Therefore, assembling all the data, which, do you suppose, is the better way? Would not a better comparison be this:
Hate everyone > hate non-Israelites only > love your neighbour (everyone)?
Drunkenness > moderate consumption > total abstention?
Infidelity > limited divorce > total fidelity?
This page was created on 16 June 2004
Last updated on 16 June 2004
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved