Did Jesus drink wine or just some quality GRAPE JUICE? Does the Bible say Christians should not drink at all? Is it true that alcohol and believers do not mix? Some churches teach that since Christ drank wine that we should as well. Is this hypothesis true? Did Jesus and his disciples, at his last Passover, drink JUICE?
GRAPE JUICE at a wedding?
Some teach that what is referred to as wine in the Bible is actually grape juice that is unfermented. Or they teach that while wine in the Old Testament had an alcoholic content the New Testament kind does not. Clearly, Noah or Lot did not get intoxicated on unfermented drink (Genesis 9:21, 19:32-35). Biblical evidence shows a consistent reference, from cover to cover, that wine is an alcoholic beverage able to make a person drunk with its overuse.
Jesus very first public miracle was turning water into WINE (John 2), not water into grape juice, at a wedding feast in Cana. Jewish custom required they drink REAL wine at such a joyous celebrations - especially when there was highly likely LOTS of people in attendance. What Jesus miraculously produced HAD to contain fermentation for it to receive the rave reviews it got from guests!
JUICE at the Passover?
During what is referred to as Jesus' Last Supper, which occurred in the Spring of 30 A.D., he took a cup of wine and gave it to his disciples to drink. At the time of the Passover the usual Palestine grape harvest had already occurred half a year earlier. Since juice, whether from a grape or other fruit, had no way of being preserved in the first century, Jesus and the apostles HAD to ingest something that was fermented.
When it refers to wine, the New Testament consistently refers to it in its alcohol content state. If nothing but juice was used in the early church, then it makes no sense whatsoever why the 120 disciples on Pentecost are accused of drunkenness on a Holy Day (Acts 2:1-4, 7, 13).
Alcohol's negative consequences
Those who wish to uphold the teaching that NO alcohol of any kind should be used by a Christian usually use ONLY Bible verses that show (sometimes only on the surface) a negative reference to wine. One popular example of alcohol's ill effects is found in Proverbs 20.
Drinking too much makes you loud and foolish. It's stupid to get drunk. (Proverbs 20:1)
Yes, the Bible does not condone drinking to the point of drunkenness. That said, there is no prohibition from taking a little alcohol so long as it is not over-indulged in. Another section of Proverbs, the 23rd chapter, also condemns drunkenness and alcoholism, but in no way prohibits or even discourages the moderate use of wine:
"Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper." (Proverbs 23:29-32)
The "red" liquid that swirls around smoothly is liquid that is still fermenting. One should not "look" upon it to lust after and drink it as doing so before it is fully fermented can cause illness and death.
The references to the "wine of the wrath of God," and "the wine of her fornication" (See Revelation 14, 16, 17 and similar references) merely use it as a pictorial vehicle. They in no way condemn the moderate use of a fermented drink any more than similar word pictures condemn other things. If such "unfavorable" references of this type constituted such a message, a Christian would then sin by wearing a cloak (1Peter 2:6), partaking of water (Numbers 19:9; Jeremiah 8:14), using an oven or heat or fire (Deuteronomy 29:24), etc. etc.
Benefits of alcohol
The Bible contains many positive examples and commands about alcoholic beverages. Some of these are below, which helps balance the scriptures that are negative.
Wine as made by our Creator for man's rejoicing!
"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great . . . And (God makes) WINE that makes glad the heart of man, . . ." (Psalm 104:1, 15)
Alcohol can help those in pain or near death forget their troubles for a while.
"Give STRONG DRINK to him who is perishing, and WINE to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more" (Proverbs 31:6-7)
The first public miracle by Christ was turning water to wine (John 2:1-10).
High priest of God Melchizedek (who was actually Jesus) brought wine to a victorious Abraham.
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and WINE; he was the priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18)
Our Father will someday offer man alcohol for free.
"'Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy WINE and milk without money and without price' " (Isaiah 55:1)
A fabulous feast will be made by God for those who love him.
"And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of WINES on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined WINES on the lees." (Isaiah 25:6)
Those who wish to promote total abstinence seem to twist wine's positive references to refer to juice, and all the negative references refer to juice of the fermented kind. The Bible, however, is consistent in its references to wine as having an alcohol content.
Like food and so many other things in the Bible, the issue of alcohol is not one of total prohibition but rather of moderation. The apostle Paul, concerned about the health of his close friend and evangelist Timothy, told him to stop drinking just water and begin to partake of some wine 'for you stomach's sake' and for the sake of his illnesses (1Timothy 5:23). Paul promoted a balance approach to alcohol and other things in life (Philippians 4:5).
The Bible DOES allow Christians to partake of alcohol in a responsible way. Jesus saw nothing wrong with drinking a little wine now and then. If he saw nothing wrong with it moderate use, we should see nothing wrong with doing so as well.