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The Bible and the Bottle
by Dr. Brad Bailey

The following article was written in the middle of a heated county referendum where a certain select group in the county that I pastored in earlier were attempting to bring liquor by the drink into our community.  Our church withstood this unsuccessfully.  The article is exactly as it appeared in the Suwannee Democrat in 2012.

The Bible vs. The Bottle

 

As we watch the ongoing movement to make Suwannee a wet county, it is clear that some will be inactive onlookers and others will be aggressively involved in the matter.  Our church has chosen to get involved.  We have decided to clear the air in regard to the false statements and misrepresentations of Scripture concerning strong drink that are being published.

Those in favor of a wet county have said, “It seems like wine was part of The Last Supper and is part of Holy Communion (SD Rant & Rave 4/29).”   Another citizen wrote in the April 15th Rant & Rave, “This involves far more than liquor & Jesus wouldn't touch this battle with a 10' pole!”  In the April 8th Rant & Rave, another citizen said, “Ask yourself this question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ ‑ In response I would just like to say that according to your bible [Bible should be capitalized], Jesus would have drank the wine . . . and unless you want a wine cooler you have to go to another county as Suwannee County does not currently sell real wine.”

Conveniently, the April 8th Rant & Rave contained this remark, “Smart pastors should stay out of this fray in light of the current climate in our area, it is not a spiritual issue!”  Could this be because the “Yes” people know that real pastors know that the Bible clearly teaches total abstinence from strong drink, and they do not want our voices to be heard?  Any pastor knows that our pay is not so much in money, but our pay is mostly in influence.  We have the privilege as Men of God to open the minds and hearts of people and impart the Word of God to them.  If I have that kind of influence as a pastor, I think I’ll use it in this matter.

Any pastor who understands his calling and purpose knows that they are placed here to have a positive spiritual influence on their county.  How can we remain silent when we see something the Scripture clearly condemns being introduced?  To be silent in such matters would be cowardly, and it is especially important to speak up when the Bible is being misrepresented.

The list of Bible characters that have paid the price for the use of alcohol is convincing: Noah was sexually abused by his own son Ham because of wine (Gen. 9:20-24), Lot committed incest with his own daughters because of wine (Gen. 19:31-36), Uriah was deceived and murdered because of wine (II Sam. 11:13), Belshazzar faced the judgment of God because of wine (Dan. 5:2-4).  These are only a few ominous examples of the negative influence wine and strong drink have on the lives of those who are lured into its chains.

If you refuse to receive the message of Scripture, you can even rewind American history to the two most costly servings of alcohol our country has ever regretted.  The absolute most costly two servings of alcohol our country ever paid for was on April 14th, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth exited Ford’s Theater to get a drink, for the purpose of “calming his nerves” right before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.  History reports that President Lincoln’s body guard had also abandoned his post in the presidential booth to go to the same bar Booth was exiting and sneak a drink for himself.  Booth and the body guard passed each other exiting, and entering the bar on that night, just before President Lincoln was shot in the back of the head.  Records show that President Lincoln’s next planned task was to end the use of alcohol in the United States through prohibition, but he did not live to accomplish it.  A high price to pay indeed for a couple of drinks, wouldn’t you say?


Furthermore, accusing Jesus of being a wine bibber is one of the more ignorant things pro-alcohol defenders attempt to do.  It was while Jesus was in His most agonizing situation at the cross that the Bible says in Mark 15:23, “And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.”  So for those who claim that Christ drank wine let me ask you, where is your biblical proof?  There is not one shred of evidence in all of Scripture that indicates such a notion.  Those who assume such gross misinterpretation have either believed what they have heard from alcohol sympathizers or they have spoken before they studied the subject thoroughly in Scripture.  That may be why some want pastors to stay out of this because we have studied this out and know what the Bible says on the matter.

Let’s put away our false assumptions and look at what the Bible really has to say about the bottle.  Proverbs 23:29 asks a series of questions, “Who hath woe?  Who hath sorrow?  Who hath contentions?  Who hath babbling?  Who hath wounds without cause?  Who hath redness of eyes?”  Solomon answered those questions in verse thirty, “They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.”  Solomon knew that those intoxicated with wine experience side effects that are dangerous, unhealthy and expensive.

King Solomon also knew that wine was attractive and enticing to the unwise so he also wrote, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright (Prov. 23:31).”  In other words, Solomon was saying wine is deceptively beautiful in its color.  The golden taps that dispense beer and the elegant crimson red of a glass of wine beside a delicious meal are appealing to some.  God knew it would be.

Solomon also noted that wine is beautiful in its container – when it giveth his colour in the cup.  For some, there is nothing more enticing than the beer that is in the sexy walls of a beer bottle or the wine that is in the glamorous curves of a wine glass.  It is very beautiful to look upon in those containers, Solomon said.  However, Thomas Adams noted, “While the wine is in thy hand, thou art a man; when it is in thine head, thou art become a beast.”  It is advertised with attractive young men and women who are depicted as innocent, fun-seeking citizens.  However, the Lord knew that was not the end of wine’s story.

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:32, “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”  Wine and strong drink always get your attention with its enticing beginning, but very few give their attention to its deadly end.    Scripture is clear that the bitter end of strong drink is that it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.  That’s what the Bible really says about alcohol.  That’s not contaminated by alcohol-sympathetic excuses.  No radicalism.  There is no spin, no exaggeration; just plain Bible.

That’s not all.  The Bible also says of the drunkard, “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things (Prov. 23:33).”  There is a well-established link between drunkenness and immorality.  A drunken man is often easy prey for a harlot and a drunken woman is easy prey for a lustful man.

Proverbs 23:34‑35 adds, “Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.  They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake?  I will seek it yet again.”

So, according to what the Bible actually says about alcohol, it is initially attractive, but deadly in its end.  Alcohol makes moral people do immoral things.  Alcohol causes instability, both physically and emotionally.  Alcohol ruins homes and destroys marriages, and alcohol weakens your health and can kill you, or cause you to kill someone else.  It produces an addiction that can cost thousands of dollars to break, or it can ultimately kill you.

Now I ask you, in light of these passages of Scripture, what would Jesus do?  The Bible is not ambiguous on this matter.  Those who know what the Scriptures teach believe in total abstinence from alcohol.  I am not saying that if you drink you are not a Christian, but I am saying that if you use alcohol, you are deceived about what the Bible actually says.


The Suwannee Yes organizers are trying to advocate the end of our dry status by saying we need this for economic growth.  In the letters to the editor section of the Suwannee Democrat’s web site they said that turning our back to the possibility of ending prohibition in Suwannee would be “. . . turning our back to commerce and economic opportunity (SD, Friday, May 6th, 2011).”  Look, some of us care more about righteousness than money.  Having a wet county may bring certain restaurants that serve alcohol, but I would rather have righteousness than new restaurants.

Suwannee Yes continues to hold statistics in front of our faces and then dare us to respond.  Consider these statistics: 20% of freezing deaths in the country are alcohol related.  25% of choking deaths in the country are related to alcohol.  50% of deaths from falls are due to alcohol.  52% of fire deaths in the country are due to alcohol.  60% of suicides are related to alcohol.

Alcohol is considered the greatest cause of insanity in the U.S. today.  In Baltimore, 623 patients in a local mental institution were surveyed and 554 of them spoke of frequent alcohol use.

Also, 64% of murders are related to alcohol.  69% of drownings are connected to alcohol.  72% of robberies and assaults are related to alcohol.  60% of rapes are related to alcohol.  80% of criminal court cases involve the use of alcohol.  Suwannee Yes has their statistics, but so do we.

January 21st, 1984 was selected randomly for a survey. This was just a random selection to prove the danger of drinking and driving.  On that day 128 people died in alcohol related accidents.  The day was barely ten minutes old – 12:10 a.m. – Alabama, 19 year old Brian (last name withheld) tried to pass another vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (BAL .14), Brian & two passengers killed and a third passenger injured.  12:40 a.m. – California, Leslie  killed by striking a tree and colliding with two boulders (BAL .18).  1:15 a.m. – Vermont, Bruce leaves a bar intoxicated.  His car fails to negotiate a curve and smashes into a tree.  Bruce is killed immediately.  1:15 a.m. – Linda hit head-on by a drunk driver and killed immediately.  The story continues, and by the end of a random day 128 people are dead because of alcohol related accidents.

Brilliant theologians and men of yesteryear understood the dangers of alcohol consumption.  Benjamin Franklin said, “No man ever drank lard into his tub, nor flour into his sack, nor meal into his barrel, nor happiness into his home, nor God into his heart.”  Franklin also said, “Alcohol does not drown care, but waters it and makes it grow faster.”

While preaching on alcoholism, the late, great Dr. Adrian Rogers of Bellvue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN said, “First a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.”  The son of General William Booth of the salvation Army said, “Drunkenness has drained more blood, hung more crepes, sold more homes, plunged more people into bankruptcy, armed more villains, slain more children, snapped more wedding rings, defiled more innocence, blinded more eyes, twisted more limbs, dethroned more reason, wrecked more manhood, dishonored more womanhood, broken more hearts, driven more to suicide and dug more graves than any other poisonous scourge that ever swept its death-dealing waves across the world.” – Evangeline Cory Booth.


In an interview with a Dr. Douglas, founder of the Quebec Marine Hospital, he came to the following conclusion after multiple autopsies on the corpses of drunkards: “The very moment it [alcohol] enters the stomach it more or less brings disorder, ruin and death, according to the quantity taken.  The stomach refuses to take it, and makes a supreme effort to violently throw it out, either through the mouth, or by indignantly pushing it to the brain or into the numberless tubes by which it discharges its contents to the surface through all the tissues.  But will alcohol be welcome in any of these tubes and marvelous canals, or in any part or tissue of the body it will visit on its passage to the surface?  No!  Look here with your microscope and you will see with your own eyes that everywhere alcohol has gone in the body there has been a hand-to-hand struggle and a bloody battle fought to get rid of it . . . By a most extraordinary working of nature – or rather by the order of God – every vein and artery through which alcohol has to pass suddenly contracts, as if to prevent its passage or choke it as a deadly foe.”

Why do organizations like Suwannee Yes and local alcohol sympathizers want preachers and churches to remain neutral and silent on this issue?  Because they are afraid of what preachers and respected theologians like Dr. John Phillips might say.  For example, in his commentary on Proverbs Dr. Phillips said, “A victim of a drunkard ought to be able to sue, not only the drunkard, but also the tavern or liquor store that sold him the alcoholic beverage; the brewery, distillery, or winery that made the beverage; and the media and advertizing agencies that promoted its consumption.”  Preachers know the truth.  We deal with the families who are living in the fallout of an alcoholic dad or mom.  We are the ones who preach the funerals and visit the hospitals.  Dr. Phillips added, “Shame poverty, terrorism, and savage beatings are part of the misery experienced by the drunkard’s wife and children.” 

Even Time Magazine understands the dangers of drinking.  Time showed the deterioration of a person’s handwriting as his alcohol consumption increased at a party.  The drunk was asked to write, “I can drink when I drive,” in plain, legible handwriting before he took his first drink.  He wrote the same statement two drinks later, four drinks later, and five drinks later; his handwriting became progressively more difficult to read.  After a total of seven drinks he scrawled illegibly.  The conclusion in Time Magazine was when you drink you can’t even handle a pen, let alone a car.

The saddest words the Bible uses to describe the horrors of drunkenness are I will seek it yet again (Prov. 23:35b).  After the financial disasters, after the wounds, after the divorces, after the funerals, after the beatings, after the arrests, after the bleak medical diagnoses, the drunk says, “I will seek it yet again.”

In closing, our church is not ashamed to stand tall on this issue.  Silence is not necessary, Christians.  Silence is not necessary, preachers.  Let’s break the silence and tell Suwannee County what the Bible really says about drunkenness.

 

 

Silent No Longer,

 

 

Pastor Brad Bailey

Bible Baptist Church, Live Oak