Is Social Drinking Wrong?

John A. Keith

It is certainly not possible to discuss all there is regarding beverage alcohol in one article, so allow me to look at an often, I believe, misused passage found in First Timothy 5:23. It reads: “Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.”

Admittedly, the majority of the “wine passages” in the Bible are referring to alcoholic wine. However, know that there are exceptions. Some “wine passages” refer to the unfermented juice that comes out of the winepress (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 48:33). Another passage refers to grapes yet on the vine and/or newly harvested grapes as wine (Jeremiah 40:10,12).

In the context of Paul's instruction to young Timothy, I am convinced the wine was of the intoxicating kind. Evidently, Timothy was so opposed to its use that he was willing to suffer with some kind of stomach ailment rather than to take what was likely the only “medicine” available to him – alcoholic wine. Contrast Timothy's attitude with many folks today who “need to take a pill” every time even the smallest ache presents itself.

Paul, in no way, instructs Timothy to abstain from water and become a raging alcoholic. Neither does he suggest that Timothy take up the practice of “social drinking.” He tells the young preacher to use a little wine for the benefit of his ailing stomach. There is not even the slightest hint that drinking intoxicating beverages for social pleasure is encouraged, or even permitted.

The New Testament is silent about social drinking, but Paul, by inspiration, tells us what the acceptable use for wine is – medicinal. It is an anesthetic, an antiseptic, and a disinfectant. By the grace of God and his providential care for mankind, medical advancements are being made daily. We do not have to drink alcoholic beverages for our frequent infirmities; we can simply take some medicine. I am not willing to risk forfeiting my soul for a “buzz” or a “glow.” 

As this is being read, somebody wants to justify social drinking, saying, “But the Bible does not say ‘Thou shalt not drink.’” Neither does it say, “Thou shalt not use pop and potato chips for the Lord's Supper,” but it does say what the elements of The Supper are (Matthew 26:26f). Where one thing is specified, all others are excluded. Does this not also apply to Paul's inspired instructions concerning the proper use of intoxicating wine? Why do so many want to walk so dangerously close to the fires of Hell?

What about the “fruit of the vine” at the Lord's Supper? The words used in the original text are too vague to know if alcoholic wine was used. We need to exercise caution when ambiguity presents itself. If we are not careful, we will use it for a cloak of maliciousness. 

My conclusion to the question at hand: Is social drinking wrong? Yes. -70 Gale Ave., Newport, OH 45768. 740-473-2528

(Editor’s note: Louis Rushmore’s book, Beverage Alcohol, available from World Evangelism, discusses the above question in detail. It is listed for $4.00, but, in the catalog, is offered for FREE through the gift of Victor Durrington. Pay postage only. PO Box 72, Winona, MS 38967. 662-283-1192.;

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