Why a bishop may not drink grape juice

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Note to Adventist clergy: do you abstain from drinking grape juice?

The Seventh-day Adventist church teaches that the wine referred to in the Bible as permissible is unfermented grape juice.  They claim that the Bible condemns the use of fermented grape juice, and only permits the use of unfermented grape juice.  Many Adventists – pastors and laity alike – have questioned this, and gone to the Bible and discovered that this teaching is not found there.  Instead, the Bible permits drinking of alcoholic beverages in moderation.  But many Adventists, as well as other groups such as certain Baptists, continue this teaching.

From the Bible:

+ (Rom 14:6 KJV) He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
+ (Rom 14:21 KJV) It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Clearly, Paul is telling is that we should not engage in activities that cause our brother to fall.  But just as eating meat was permitted by God in the Old Testament, and practised by Jesus in the New Testament, so it is with alcoholic wine.

Purple grapes

Purple grapes

If we accept the Adventist teaching on alcohol, we are left with a peculiar conclusion when we read certain biblical texts.

+ (1Ti 3:2-3 KJV) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
+ (Tit 1:7 KJV) For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Paul is explaining how a bishop must be of good moral character.  I ask Adventists: why can a bishop not drink grape juice?  How does this make him of a lesser moral character, less able to lead his flock?

+ (1Ti 3:8 KJV) Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

Paul is explaining how a deacon must likewise be of good moral character.  But here he says that the deacon must not drink MUCH wine – obviously an amount that is not “much wine” is permitted.  So, if we are Adventists, this must be grape juice, because it is permitted.  But why can a deacon not drink a lot of grape juice?

+ (Tit 2:3 KJV) The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

Women who drank alcohol wine were quite scandalous in that time.  But a little is allowed – it is excess that is prohibited.  Adventists would have you believe that women who drank grape juice were causing scandals, and they were only permitted to drink a little grape juice.

+ (1Pe 4:3 KJV) 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:

Green grapes

Green grapes

Peter criticises the excess of wine.  Is he referring to grape juice?  I doubt it.  But he never condemns moderate alcohol use.

+ (Lev 23:13 KJV) And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of a hin.

God even commanded that wine be offered as a sacrifice!

+ (Num 6:20 KJV) 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.

They MAY drink wine – they have permission to!

This word for wine from Strong’s Concordance:

From an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication: – banqueting, wine, wine [-bibber].

+ (Num 28:7 KJV) And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of a 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.

This word for strong wine from Strong’s Concordance:

From H7937; an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor: – strong drink, + drunkard, strong wine.

+ (Deu 14:26 KJV) 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,

God explicitly permits the drinking of “strong drink” – I have yet to see an Adventist answer this text.

+ (Pro 31:6-7 KJV) 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.

Once again, strong drink is permitted – and the context shows that this is alcoholic strong drink, not concentrated grape juice, because it allows him to forget his poverty and misery.

+ (Jdg 9:13 KJV) And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Adventists such as Prof Bacchiocchi argue that grape juice cheers one up. How many of you have ever had that experience?

+ (1Sa 1:14-15 KJV) 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.

Here BOTH words are used!  Eli says Hannah is drunk, and she denies this, saying she has not drunk wine or strong drink – obviously both are capable of making one drunk.

+ (Lev 10:9 KJV) 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 forever throughout your generations:

Finally, the condemnation of alcoholic beverages is limited to two instances – excessive use, and use in the ministry in cases where such use would make a mockery of God.

Let’s follow the Bible’s advice, and not Ellen White.

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