TO DRINK, OR NOT TO DRINK?

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One of the rules of correct Bible interpretation (“lesser” though it may be) is this:

On any given topic, interpret the more obscure passages in light of the more obvious ones.

In other words, view a difficult passage through the lens of a clearer passage on the same subject. An easy example is Luke 14:26, where Jesus seems to say—in our current vernacular—that you have to hate your family in order to be a Christian. However, if we view this difficult passage in light of a parallel passage in Matthew (10:37), we find that the idea of “not hat[ing]” one’s family is modified (or clarified) by, “lov[ing one’s family] more than Me.” Thus, to “hate” family = to love Jesus more than family. What a difference! Another is Matt. 10:34, where Jesus said “I have not come to bring peace [on the earth], but a sword.” Although Matthew clarifies Luke’s record above, here Luke, incidentally, clarifies Matthew’s: for he records Jesus saying that He did not come to bring peace, “but rather division” (12:51). Thus, Jesus used the word “sword” as a euphemistic metaphor, if you will, for general strife and division, which would be manifested in a variety of ways (most of which would not be with a literal sword). And, by the way, the gospel most certainly caused much division—particularly in first-century Jewish homes/families (e.g., Saul of Tarsus).

But here is a much more urgent, and practical, instance: the often-queried subject of the recreational use of intoxicants, such as alcohol. There are several factors to consider on this subject, some of which are difficult—and more so because they are untaught (e.g., how our word “wine” differs from the original words translated “wine”—which can refer to fermented or unfermented alike). As difficult as some passages might be, though, Proverbs 23:31,32 is as plain as day:

Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder” (cp. 20:1).

Being inspired of God, these words describe, in unmissable language, how God views beverage alcohol. As such, the responsible student of God’s word will interpret all other, not-so-clear “wine” passages in light of this, crystal clear one. When one does so, situations like John 2:1ff (where Jesus turned water to “wine”) become much less intimidating—for can we really imagine God the Son creating, for man’s recreational consumption, 80+ gallons of that which God the Spirit said man should not even look at? What does such a claim say about Jesus? It says many things, indeed—and none good.

Questions? seth@hwycoc.com

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