A growing issue in churches today is the subject of alcohol. Though many reduce this issue to a discussion of ‘how much,’ Scripture does not speak to the subject that way. In the New Testament, Paul expertly addresses the subject when he says in Ephesians 5:18 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;…” The concept is simple: where there is wine there will be the participation of other sins, so avoid it completely by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Hosea the prophet speaks to the question of alcohol and its results – he says, “Whoredom, wine, and new wine take away the heart.” (4:11) The concept here is the ‘whole inner life’ is affected. We could put it this way-
* The understanding darkened – every intellectual faculty is impaired by alcohol. We don’t have to struggle to grasp this – the laws of the road greatly restrict driving under the influence. Why? Because we all recognize that alcohol lowers the cognitive abilities of a person and endangers lives when mixed with skills like driving.
* The passions debased – this condition is perhaps the saddest of them all. Let me give you a few descriptions: the husband who no longer loves his wife, the father who can’t be bothered to spend time with his kids, the home with no groceries in the cupboard because the only purchase made that week was alcohol. Not to mention, the debasing of the passions when the daily relationship with God is slowly cast aside.
* The judgment depraved – this is a condition of perverted decision-making skills. It can be evidenced by cruel acts of retribution, poor parenting choices, driving while intoxicated, and choosing to operate firearms while under the influence.
* The will perverted – this is a condition of a person who no longer is in control of their own will. Through adultery and alcohol they have relinquished their will and are driven now by the next fix, the next high, the gratification of self, and satisfying the flesh.
The results of alcohol are progressive in a person’s life. As pastors, we have all watched it take place in lives more times than we want to admit. However, there still persists the mindset that alcohol can be controlled. The book of Proverbs speaks boldly to this fallacy, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (20:1) Alcohol turns a person into a fool, strong alcoholic drinks make him violent and foolish, and in the midst of it all Scripture says he is deceived. Can alcohol be controlled? Can church members and pastors control it? According to Scripture the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Interestingly, Paul does not leave this discussion on the negative, but he says, “…be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Much like the culture of Ephesus, we need to leave behind this characteristic of heathen worship and replace it with something so much better: the Holy Spirit!