Steve Bremner

Author, Podcaster & Writing Coach

Christians and Alcohol — Thoughts & Opinion on the Miracle At CanaThis post is a 12 min read

Glass of red wineI’m continuing along in my reflections on the Gospel of John, and I find myself in the famous infamous passage in John chapter 2, which, though I’ve covered previously in a couple of posts, I’ll take a look at again in this brief entry.

I originally wanted to dwell on the latter half of this chapter, but I kept getting drawn back to the wedding at Cana, because of how alcohol is a HUGE soapbox for some Christians, and a huge “right” to others who have their “freedom” in Christ. At any rate, some of the posts that get the most traffic on my sites are the ones about Jesus turning the water into wine, which demonstrates to me, many Christians are Googling such topics for a reason: they are thinking, talking about, and looking for answers about this subject.

More than a year and a half ago, I wrote the post Why Did Jesus Really Make the Wine? and purposely never proposed an answer (or opinion) about if the Christian should drink alcohol or not. Brothers and sisters, it’s a matter of personal preference, conviction and opinion. But if we insist on going to the Bible for answers about it, I’m convinced you can’t come up with Scriptural support for abstaining.

Keep in mind if you don’t already know, I don’t drink alcohol for personal conviction reasons anyway. But if you want to get Biblical, and I had to take sides, I see moderation being more Biblical. But that’s really not even the point of today’s post.

This post will not be the theological treatise some may be hoping for, since I want to focus on just the passage in John 2. If I want to keep up the habit of writing on each chapter every day and not having to take more than 30-45 minutes to do so, then the remainder of my posts will not be as long as this post and yesterday‘s were.

Why This is Even On My Mind

I don’t drink. That’s worth repeating today. In recent months I had been backed into a corner where I had to argue with someone in my life over this very point and the line of fellowship being drawn between in the sand between individuals, mutual friends and acquaintances over the very issue of the refusal to minister or fellowship with other specific individuals because their stance on alcohol was not the same as another individual’s.

Earlier this year, I had to listen to a brother share probably an accumulated ten hours’ worth of judging and speaking ill of other believers and missionaries on the field here in Peru for how they drink alcohol, while this brother sat on an elevated perch with the perspective that God “doesn’t use” other people who are in such “compromise” and “justification” [of what he insisted was their alleged sin]. His interpretation of the Scripture that says it would be better to tie a millstone around one’s neck than to cause one of the little ones to stumble (Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2), according to this brother, it meant “every glass of alcoholic beverage a believer takes is like tying a rock around their neck and asking if it’s worth causing someone else to go to hell“.

Take a deep breath.

Yes friend, there ARE Christians who are that legalistic and judgmental of other believers and elevate their own opinions to be the same as Scripture canon, but you have probably already encountered similar people in you own life and doen’t need me to point it out.

Jesus’s Life and Example

Jesus and wine

I have asked people who feel so staunchly about abstaining from alcohol — but not so much them over that fact, but how they judge other brothers and sisters in Christ for their stances — what do they do with stuff in the Gospels that doesn’t fit inside their box? For example, we read;

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:33-34, ESV, emphasis mine)

In order to be falsely accused, you have to be doing something worthy of accusation. I have no doubt in my mind Jesus never got drunk nor was He a drunkard, but even He, the Son of God, was accused of guilt through association for being seen drinking publicly — with sinners at that! 

Gasp!

You don’t accuse someone of being a drunkard if they don’t drink. But that didn’t seem to phase Jesus, and that wasn’t all he was falsely accused of.

But even more interesting to me is our passage out of John 2:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:7-10, emphasis mine)

Now, if you are one who feels strongly about abstaining, what do you do with the fact Jesus’ first miracle was to not only create wine, but create it for people who were most likely already drunk, or at least had had “enough” to drink (v. 10)?  

Put that one in your Bible and read it!

The New International Version says “had too much to drink”. There goes the “it was only fermented grape juice” argument I hear conservative Christians use to explain this away (nevermind that the process for preventing the fermentation of grace juice wasn’t invented until the 1800s).

And please forgive me for my over-simplicity, but in order for them to have run out of wine, that means the people had been drinking it. And the master of the feast states “when people have drunk freely” then the poor wine is served. So, keep in mind, Jesus didn’t make the wine and then tell ushers to go around and only serve to those who were sober or had only one drink. He didn’t have a disciple go around and check everybody’s glass before any more was poured for them. How absurd! 

We can’t put our personal preferences on to the text just because we may not drink or like that other Christians are comfortable with it.

Jesus’s Extravagance

What really struck me about this passage was the fact not only did the God-man, Jesus, make wine, but how much of it he made.

Consider this:

Jesus took 6 jars that held about 25 gallons each. That is 150 gallons of the finest wine. A bottle of wine is about 26 oz, making this the equivalent of around 750 bottles of wine. Figure fine wine starting at about $40 a bottle and you have here a $30,00o MIRACLE!!! The point??  OUR GOD IS AN EXTRAVAGANT God!!! He blesses richly, thoroughly.1

Jesus knew how to fix a wedding celebration! Does that offend your sensibilities?

That’s the problem when we blind ourselves with our own convictions and assume God expects the same for every single person over matters that are not even spelled out clearly in the Bible. Yes, we’re told to not be or get drunk (1 Tim 3:8,  Rom 13:13, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:18). On a side note, have you ever noticed of all the sins Paul lists in his lists, many — if not all of them — are the EXCESSES of things God has created for good intentions — including sexual relations, for example — but it’s abusing them outside of His prescribed reign that’s a sin? But that’s for another post!

That observation is still just a scratching of the surface of what I’ve noticed in this passage: Jesus created this stuff for enjoyment. It doesn’t document that he had any other thoughts on the matter, he just…made it!

Wine.

Jesus didn’t create it and then specify the rules for how to use it and partake of it. At least, if He did, it’s not something the Gospel writer deemed important enough to include in his recollection of this account.

Is it Really a “Slippery Slope”?

I have never, in all my 14 years of being a Christian to date, heard anybody give a good Biblical explanation for why not to drink, unless they go the route of cultural arguments, and use Scriptures about causing little ones to stumble; or personal conviction arguments, like the “it’s a slippery slope one thing leads to another” argument that drinking one glass/bottle/serving is as good as going all the way and getting completely drunk. But tell an overweight pastor to cut back on his sugar intake and watch all hell break loose!

“You’re just trying to justify your sin by comparing it to another!”

Yes, that’s happened to me at least once when I suggested one can’t have it both ways and talk about how this substance is dangerous to go near, when I’m pretty sure if you eat a pound of sugar per day you’ll die much faster than if you drink a glass of wine per day. My biggest problem with such arguments is that for one, we basically don’t believe the Holy Spirit can bring believers fully along in maturity. We think dumb sheep are so volatile without OUR example they will stumble and need US to put electric fences around them over areas God doesn’t.

I’ve never yet encountered an unbeliever who has stated or communicated to me the reason they won’t follow Christ was they knew some Christians who drank in moderation and this offended them or caused them to stumble. Nor have I met a backslider who backslid because Christians they knew drank. I honestly think people are not that easily led astray by us, and if they are, it’s a justification, not an actual reason.

If anything, I’ve only had to listen to religious Christians theorize hypothetically that it could. It’s religious people who get offended about drinking.

But, maybe I don’t get out enough.

Or don’t drink enough.

I also found 7 Good Reasons Not To Drink, and some of the same old tired arguments if they weren’t so laughable, are also just not ones I’d never use. For example:

Innumerable Christians claim their “Christian Liberty” when it comes to social drinking. In order to do that, they must turn their backs on this passage of Scripture. “Sipping Saints” have given multitudes of people an excuse to drink. More than once, I have heard a believer say “there is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation. Pastor so and so even says it is OK.”

The problem is, drinking often sets off a chain reaction of influences that are like tipping over the first domino. Drinking causes some to stumble, others to be offended, and many to be weakened.2

What’s strange is alcohol is the only thing I ever hear this applied to. Nobody tells me to avoid eating because I could cause other people who are gluttons to stumble by empowering them to eat in excess.

I’ve never heard an obese backslider say “well, Steve eats, so I overeat/binge!” So would “Eating Saints” be empowering multitudes of gluttons?  

Or what about sex? Use the same logic on that one: “Better abstain from sex, you might cause someone who’s unmarried and lusting to give into their desires.” And if we follow that to its natural conclusion, we’d have no more human race, eventually.

Where else do we apply this logic, and how far do we take it? And why do we take something God deemed as good and make it bad?

The “slippery slope” argument, even when used sarcastically for other things here that Christians never argue about, precludes one of the key important fruits of the Holy Spirit – self control. I personally despise when teachers, leaders, and pastors assume the “dumb sheep” can’t have self control or thoughtful convictions and opinions of their own and need to be roped in with one-size-fits-all-theological boundaries.

That’s legalism, not the Spirit of God. It’s just an argument people use who need to judge and control others.

Let’s Let the Bible Say What the Bible Says

Now, I’ve been writing this as someone who doesn’t really like the taste of alcohol and have lived much of my life more or less as a teetotaler when it comes to the stuff. But it doesn’t phase me that Jesus made wine.

And that people drank it.

And that he made it for people who had already drank too much.  

Likewise this same God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but yet He didn’t put an electric fence around it to prevent them from doing so. I’ll admit that sorta bothers me. There’s a lot about God I don’t understand. But He does allow things for us to decide on our own what our own stance and conviction will be on something.

The Holy Spirit will help us accordingly, so let’s stop putting up electric fences around our fellow believers, and enjoy The Lord.

Sept 2/11 Edit:  Check out this interesting video by Don Nori Sr., founder of Destiny Image Publishers:

Related Posts:

Holiness, Worship Leaders, and F-bombs

“You’ll Answer To God On Judgment Day For That!”

Are You Building Electric Fences For Jesus?

February 2nd 2017 Update:

The best book I’ve read to date on the subject is Money. Sex. Beer. God.: Ditching Religion for the Joy of Incarnation by John Crowder. I highly recommend you get yourself a copy or borrow it from someone.

Get yourself a copy of the book here:

  1. Changing Water Into Wine – Bobby Lepinay http://bobbylepinay.typepad.com/bobby_lepinay/2011/06/changing-water-into-wine.html []
  2. Seven Good Reasons Christians Should Not Drink, by Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D http://logosresourcepages.org/Believers/drinking.htm []

About Steve Bremner

Steve the coffee drinker is a Canadian missionary to Peru, who is called to raise up disciples who flow in the power of the Holy Spirit within a missional community named Oikos. If you like Steve's blog, you'll also like his Kindle books. Note: this post may have contained affiliate links of which the author receives a small commission if you purchase something recommended in the post.