Why The Wine?

Why The Wine?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Noah plants a grape vineyard (Gen. 9). 

He makes wine. 

He gets drunk. 

When did he plant the vineyard? 

It wasn’t before the destruction of the world. There’s no time for vineyard planting when you’re focused on the end. 

He didn’t get drunk while on board the ark, either. There’s no time to get drunk when you’re well aware that God is literally keeping you afloat! He could hear God’s power in the storm and see it all around him in the form of water when he peers out of the window of the ark. 

He planted the vineyard after the rain stopped, the water levels lowered, and when there was dry ground to plant on. 

Why the wine? 

While scripture doesn’t give us an exact reason we can use some reasoning. Maybe he drank his fill in order to forget or deal with the traumatic event that he just survived. Maybe the reality of the situation finally set in and the ordeal had finally caught up with him. 

Perhaps he drank the wine to simply distract himself. It could be that in his mind he had fulfilled his purpose and accomplished his mission. What else was there to do? Lastly, maybe he became drunk to celebrate the fact that he and his family survived what nobody else did. All of these reasons are possible and even understandable. But none of these excuses were acceptable or pleasing to his Savior. 

Trouble seems to come knocking when we lose our sense of purpose and mission. I think Noah would agree that we’re more easily distractible when we believe we have the time to be distracted. Noah’s real purpose in life was not to build an ark. It was to live righteously, as he was doing just that before God even approached him. A righteous man listens to God and speaks on behalf of God as Noah did when he built the ark and preached to the world around him. His mission wasn’t over when the ark landed in the mountains. According to Genesis 9.28, Noah had 350 years of life remaining after the flood. His celebration and relief, like ours, is promised to be waiting for us after our lives on earth are completed. Noah still had a mission and purpose, but he had just forgotten what that was. Let’s learn from him and be mindful of why we’re here— to live within the grace of God (Gen. 6.8). 

Dispiriting Truths About Spirits

Dispiriting Truths About Spirits

Neal Pollard

In one of those statistics so massive that it is hard to comprehend, Gallup reports that 187 billion liters (there are 33.8 ounces in a liter) of beer are drunk across the world each year. There are 24 billion liters of wine drunk globally each year. The U.S. ranks second in beer consumption and first in wine consumption, with no reports of hard liquor even included in this report (Andrew Soergel, US News, 10/2/14). Not only is alcohol a common feature at holiday parties and family events this time of year, it is woven into the fabric of just about every event you can think of in society.

The Washington Post relates that 33 million Americans are problem drinkers, which amounts to 14 percent of our population. Almost 69 million Americans report that they had been problem drinkers at some point in their lives, while 40 percent said they had engaged in binge drinking at least once in the past year (via Associate Press, 6/8/15).  Whereas we can so often get caught up in debates about social drinking, we may be ignoring the fact that a sizable number of Christians—whether new converts or longtime members—struggle with serious problems with alcohol. This is startling, given the Bible’s clear teaching and warning about drunkenness (cf. Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3).

The Bible warns us about at least four clarion facts regarding alcohol:

  • Alcohol can be addicting (1 Tim. 3:3,8; Titus 1:7).
  • Alcohol can be enslaving (Titus 2:3).
  • Alcohol can make one reckless (Eph. 5:18).
  • Alcohol can be costly (Prov. 23:29-35).

It seems wise to think about these sober warnings God communicates to us through Scripture. There should be a vigilance, in view of eternity, about a substance that not only can but endlessly has done so much harm to individuals, their families, and society. May we wake up to the problems alcohol is already causing in too many homes, including the homes of those trying to live the Christian life. May we help each other to overcome any obstacle that bars the way to heaven. Nothing here is valuable enough to sacrifice what awaits us there.

Is It Scriptural To Use Alcoholic Wine In The Lord’s Supper?

Is It Scriptural To Use Alcoholic Wine In The Lord’s Supper?

Neal Pollard

This is a question that occasionally comes up and is an important matter to consider since for some this is a test of a teacher’s soundness and a matter of fellowship.  As the church is global in nature, it is a matter to consider beyond the borders of our nation.  Various biblical arguments are made to defend and condemn its usage.

No doubt, the practice of “social drinking”—which is a different discussion altogether—has created such sensitivity to this matter of what kind of fruit of the vine is permissible for communion.  Achieving a biblical answer is vital, though, especially if the matter is framed as something that might be “scriptural” or, by implication, “unscriptural.”  If Guy N. Woods is right on this very matter, “To urge the use of one, to the exclusion of the other, on alleged scriptural grounds, is to make a law where God made none. It is a grave sin so to do (1 Tim. 4:3)” (Questions And Answers: Open Forum, 1976, p. 361).  Were his statement to be found true, those who malign the character of those whose position differs from their own should refrain and retract.  This is not a matter of what is preferred or deemed most expedient, but is a matter of what Scripture permits.

Arguments Against Its Use:

  • The Passover Meal.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover before His death (Mat. 26:26-29).  Drawing from the idea that during the Passover no leaven was to be in one’s house for seven days (Exo. 12:19), it is assumed that wine would be prohibited.  Even if such were to be proven true (and it cannot be), we should remember that what proves too much proves nothing at all.  During the Passover, they also ate roasted meat (Exo. 12:8) and bitter herbs (Exo. 12:9).  In addition, the “leaven” forbidden in the Passover was dough used in baking bread (Koehler, et al; The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 1999, n.pag.) and the prohibition is specifically “eating” that which contained leaven (cf. Exo. 12:15; Deu. 16:4). Wayne Jackson shows that “wine was ordinarily used at the Passover and is called ‘fruit of the vine’ in Berakoth 6:1” (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/224-was-the-fruit-of-the-vine-fermented, citing Jack Lewis and John Lightfoot).  The Passover Meal cannot be used as grounds for prohibiting the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.
  • 1 Timothy 5:23.  It is argued that since Paul had to tell Timothy to drink wine for  medicinal purposes, Timothy could not have, as a Christian who faithfully worshipped, consumed fermented fruit of the vine in partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  This assumes what the text of Scripture nowhere supports.  That Paul is condoning the medicinal use of alcohol, given the medical conditions of the day, is clear.  But, this text is neither in the context of the Lord’s Supper nor a judgment in any way on what should be used in it.  One flirts dangerously close to “twisting” the Scriptures who applies this passage to the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16).
  • Causing A Brother To Stumble.  This is a legitimate concern and should factor into our judgment regarding the Lord’s Supper.  The church has recovering alcoholics and others who struggle with a sin problem regarding alcohol.  A newer convert or one whose conscience is sensitive in this matter should be respected.  Romans 14 is devoted to discussing such a matter as this. However, having scruples about a matter does not give one the authority to make his or her scruples law.  Choosing to impose fermented wine just because one can, ignoring the impact this has on a brother’s conscience, falls into the category of causing a brother’s stumbling.  However, difficulty in obtaining grape juice in many parts of the world at times makes necessary using alcoholic fruit of the vine.  In this case, the Lord’s command takes precedence over a brother’s conscience.  The church is commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-29), with the approved example of Acts 20:7 teaching us that such is to be done every first day of the week.

This article is not intended as advocacy to implement the use of alcoholic fruit of the vine in our communion services here in the states or developed nations where there is ready access to non-alcoholic fruit of the vine.  The bigger question is permissibility in situations where such is unavoidable or even where the autonomous judgment of the local church allows its usage. By extension, is it right to label a congregation liberal or sinful who chooses to use it in the Lord’s Supper?  At its heart, this is not a matter of what we might think is wiser, more expedient, or more comfortable.  The question is whether a congregation has the biblical right to do so.  In many of the world’s more remote and rural areas, the ability to get non-alcoholic fruit of the vine is a real problem.  For them, this is a real, practical concern.  Short of compelling information which I have, as yet, not seen, it seems clear that it is scriptural to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper.

News Headlines Of The Prom Season

News Headlines Of The Prom Season

Neal Pollard

  • “Alcohol Enforcement Stepped-Up For Prom Season” (wowt.com, 4/7/14).  Why?
  • “Prom Season Can Be Dangerous Time For Teens” (www.martinsvillebulletin.com, 4/11/14).  Just one statement in the article reads, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website adds that statistics indicate alcohol-related peer pressure is strongest at prom time, due to the large number of parties in a short period.”
  • “Some Schools Prohibit Party Buses For School Buses” (tbo.com, 4/7/14).  A principal in the Tampa Bay area interviewed in the article said, “…the most common discipline-worthy incidents at school dances tend to be drinking alcohol before or during the event, fighting, trespassing and inappropriate dancing. ‘The dancing is not like it was when I was in high school,’ he said.”
  • “Prom And Wretched Excess” (Chicago Tribune, 10/23/05).  A Long Island, New York, principal, Kenneth Hoagland, interviewed for the article says, “Twenty years ago…seniors went to the beach after their prom dance and then to someone’s house for breakfast. Now, he says, prom is a weekend-long orgy that every year has become incrementally more excessive, with small fortunes spent on ostentatious attire, stretch limos stocked with liquor, and ‘booze cruises’ from a local harbor.”
  • “It’s Your Prom! Make It Safe, Healthy, And Fun” (www.cdc.gov/family/prom/index.htm).  The information page includes cautions about the pressures teens who attend the prom feel to drink alcohol, use drugs, and have sex during the weekend’s activities.
  • “What Happened To Modest Prom Dresses?” (CNN, Carl Azuz, 5/9/12).  The article reveals that 35% of prom dresses sold by David’s Bridal are from the line called “Sexy,” a style defined by “low-cut backs, high-cut hemlines, and skin-showing cutouts.” Houston Chronicle blogger Mary Jo Rapini, interviewed by Azuz, says a shift in parenting values where parents allow their kids to wear on such occasions what their own parents would not have explains some of what has happened to “modest prom dresses.”

Headlines like these are to be found ad nauseum.  They demonstrate that even the world acknowledges that Prom Night promotes immoral behavior.  I cannot help but ask why we as Christians either encourage or permit our children’s participation in an event with so many elements clearly “over the line.”  Why we would want to associate with something that involves a fundamental compromise of what is right in so many areas of Christian living?

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Paul teaches us that our bodies and minds belong to God.  That means that there are circumstances where the world will urge and pressure us to do things and go places that are worldly.  Let us carefully deliberate and always strive to be transformed rather than conformed.  Distinctiveness can certainly be unpopular with this world, but it may well give us the opportunity to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”