The New Testament ALWAYS refers to wine in its fermented, not unfermented, state. If non-alcoholic wine was used in the early church, how could the Apostles be accused of being drunk on GRAPE JUICE on Pentecost?
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance . . .
"So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'Whatever could this mean?'
"Others mocking said, 'THEY ARE FULL OF NEW WINE.' " (Acts 2:1-4, 7, 13, NKJV throughout unless stated)
Alcohol does have 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 a negative (or SEEM to show a negative) reference to wine. One of the primary examples is Proverbs 20:1 which states,
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1)
There are certainly problems attached to over-indulgence. The admonition here is that one not be deceived by wine and use it too much. This applies to almost anything. Should we eliminate honey from a Christian's diet? The approach taken by those who attempt to use Proverbs 20:1 to indicate that to drink something fermented is a sin would require a similar teaching about honey as well from its mention along a similar vein in Proverbs 25:27:
"It is not good to eat much honey;" (Proverbs 25:27)
The obvious intent of these verses is to express a problem resulting from going too far with either product. The same applies to another section of Proverbs the 23rd chapter which again 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.
What GOOD THINGS can wine and alcohol do?
The positive scriptures and commands regarding drinking bring into perspective the negative references:
God made this drink possible to help man REJOICE!
"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)
Wine can help the depressed and those near death to cope:
"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)
Jesus' very FIRST miracle was making water into alcohol at a wedding:
"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no WINE . . . "
"Now there were set there six waterpots of stone . . . containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made WINE, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, 'Every man at the beginning sets out the GOOD WINE, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the GOOD WINE until now!' " (John 2:1-10, NKJV, emphasis throughout)
- Apostle Paul tells Timothy to drink fermented grape juice for its health benefits:
"No longer drink only water, but use a little WINE for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities." (1Timothy 5:23)
- Melchizedek, priest of God (who was actually Jesus), brought a fermented drink to Abram (Abraham):
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and WINE; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth;" (Genesis 14:18-19)
- God offers man FREE alcoholic beverages:
"'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)
- God will soon prepare a feast for His people which includes . . .:
"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 make all of the positive references to wine relate to grape juice and all the negative ones refer to the fermented kind. However, as the Bible shows, it is consistent in its references to wine as having an alcohol content.
The Biblical relationship between alcohol and Christians is rather straightforward. It is all a matter of moderation. The apostle Paul told Timothy, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for you stomach's sake. . . ." In his book written to those in Ephesus Paul told them not to get drunk, but he did not say they should NOT drink any alcoholic beverage at any time either. Paul promote a balance approach to alcohol and other things in life when he said "Let your moderation be known unto all men" (Philippians 4:5).
The Bible does permit Christians to partake of alcohol in a responsible way. In fact, when celebrating Jesus' death, the fermented fruit of the vine is an integral and even vital ingredient. Jesus DID drink REAL wine, the same kind available today! He did not teach total abstinence.