What would a person do if he/she was determined to drink beer and wanted to use the Bible to justify it?
The Bible records more than thirty of Jesus' miracles, some of them recorded in more than one of the Gospel accounts. His first - and also the most widely known miracle, was turning water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, recorded in John 2:1-11.
Since "wine" is at the heart of the miracle, many have sought to use this occasion to justify their desire to "drink socially," that is, to imbibe an alcoholic beverage in a social setting. Their plea begins:
"If Jesus made wine to drink at a social occasion, why is it not all right for me to drink beer and wine today?"
It is true that Jesus made wine, and in fact He made over 100 gallons of wine that day. But we must ask, "What did He really make?" If it can be established that Jesus encouraged drinking alcoholic beverages by having created 100 gallons of wine, it is going to be hard for reasonable people to argue against "social drinking."
However, if the word "wine" does have various meanings other than an intoxicating beverage, we have another issue entirely. Then the burden of proof shifts to those who claim Jesus made such a beverage.
An objective look at this subject reveals that, to be sure, the Bible word "oinos", translated "wine" in this text, does have various meanings. The context of the passage - in the book of John as well as other Bible passages - will reveal whether it was intoxicated or not. More on this later.
The following material by Paul Butler sheds light on this question:
"It is an unscholarly determination that concludes the Greek word oinos must always mean an intoxicant anywhere it is used. Both New Testament and classical usage indicate the word may mean a number of things. Thayer shows that oinos is even used of the vine itself (cf. Revelation 6:6) rather than the juice. In classical Greek, usage may be cited to show oinos designating the grape itself, the juice still in the grape, the fresh pressed juice, and various non-intoxicating drinks."
If nothing else, we discover that the Bible term "wine" can have more than one meaning, including a non-intoxicant. To insist that Jesus did that which sanctions and encourages the consumption of alcoholic beverages today is not at all substantiated by the facts.
The Bible on "strong drink"
The Bible has much to say about the negative effects of alcohol. Note the prophet's words:
"Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbour, Pressing him to your bottle that you may look on his nakedness! You are filled with shame instead of glory: You also Drink!: And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the Lord's right hand will be turned against you, And utter shame will be on your glory." Habakkuk 2:15-16
In William Patton's excellent booklet, Bible Wines, page 75, the author points out what may have escaped those who do not want to see it.
"The moral influence of Jesus and his miracle will be determined by the character of the wine. It is pertinent to ask, Is it not derogatory to the character of Christ and the teachings of the Bible to suppose that he exerted his miraculous power to produce, according to Alvord, 126 gallons of intoxicating wine?-wine which inspiration had denounced as a 'mocker,' as 'biting like a serpent,' and 'stinging like an adder,' as 'the poison of dragons,' 'the cruel venom of asps,' and which the Holy Spirit had selected as the emblem of the wrath of God Almighty? Is it probable that he gave that to the guests after they had used the wine provided by the host, and which, it is claimed, is intoxicating?"
Who else but someone who is trying to find credibility for his/her determination to engage in "social drinking" would try to depict Jesus setting up that wedding party with 126 gallons of intoxicating wine?
The prophet Habakkuk is not alone condemning the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
"Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry 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. Your eyes shall see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 'They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink!' " Proverbs 23:29-35
That raises a valid question:
Could Jesus provide the means by which an entire wedding party got drunk, yet continue to be "without sin,"? Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:21-22
The contradiction is easily seen. It never has and never will work for a person to try to make the Bible say what we want it to say.
Be honest with yourself. Read 1 Peter 4:1-5 and learn. Abstain, that is God's way.