Neither Wine nor Strong Drink

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)

Whether or not the Bible clearly commands total abstinence from alcohol for Christians, it is increasingly being recognized that alcohol is the most widely abused and dangerous drug of all—causing more fatal accidents and injuries, more broken homes, more sexual promiscuity, more job absenteeism, and more disease than cocaine or any other drug. Yet it is widely promoted socially and increasingly is being accepted even among evangelical Christians.

But the example of John the Baptist is worth considering. The angel Gabriel testified that he would be “great in the sight of the Lord” and then added that he would “drink neither wine nor strong drink,” implying a connection between the two. Indeed, Christ called John the greatest man who had ever lived up to that time (Matthew 11:11)—that is, greater than even Abraham, Moses, or Daniel!

Then the very same verse says that John would “be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb,” and he is the only man of whom that was ever said. Again there seems to be a connection, for no one could simultaneously drink wine or strong drink and also be filled with the Spirit. The apostle Paul also warned concerning this conflict when he said: “Be not drunk [literally, ‘begin to be drunk’] with wine . . . but be filled [that is, ‘be continually being filled’] with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation may or may not be permissible, but that does not make it right. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Corinthians 6:12). At least in John’s case, being great in God’s sight and being filled with the Spirit were closely associated with abstinence from alcohol.

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