By Donald Willis
Drunkenness is condemned in the scriptures. In listing a catalog of the works of the flesh, Paul includes “drunkenness,” and concludes, “. . . they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). Thus, the case for drunkenness is forever closed. Yet, a, problem to the Twentieth Century Christian is the casual drink, the social drink. Does the Bible speak about social drinking?
The Jews were restricted from taking the strong drink (Proverbs 23:30-31), which, by the process of natural fermentation could not have been as strong as our weaker “proof liquors.”
Peter observes, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot. . .” (1 Peter 4:3-4).
Observe the contrast: excess of wine and banqueting. Excess of wine is the problem of drunkenness. The Christian has already settled this problem. I conclude that the problem of social drinking is comparable to the banqueting that Peter denotes as the walk of the Gentiles!
Webster defines banqueting: “1. an elaborate meal; feast. 2. a formal dinner, usually with toasts and speeches. v.t. to honor with or entertain at a banquet. v.i. to eat sumptuously” (New World Dictionary, pg. 116). By this definition, a banquet could be either right or wrong, depending on the activities engaged in.
From the Greek, banqueting (potos) means “drinking, esp. a drinking party, carousal” (Arndt and Gingrich, pg. 702); “a drinking; a drinking together, drinking-bout, computation” (Bagster, pg. 325); “wine ‘feasts, drinking matches” (Adam Clarke, Vol. 6, pg. 863). The New English Bible uses the term, “tippling.”
Note the terms in addition to a drinking-bout or party: carousal, computation, tippling! Carousal means an hilarious drinking party. A compotator is one who drinks with another; fellow tippler. Tipple comes from the idea of overturning, specifically with relation to alcoholic beverages. All of the above definitions are from Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Webster’s definition number 2 of banquet (a formal dinner, usually with toasts and speeches) certainly suggests the activity that is included in the common practices of social drinking; i.e., it is a party with the serving of alcoholic beverages in which social drinking bouts (parties) are engaged.
“The thing forbidden by it is an assembling together for the purpose of drinking. There is nothing in this word referring to eating, or to banqueting, as the term is now commonly employed. The idea in the passage is, that it is improper for Christians to meet together for the purpose of drinking-as wine, toasts, etc. The prohibition would apply to all those assemblages where this is understood to be the main object. It would forbid, therefore, an attendance on all those celebrations in which drinking toasts is understood to be an essential part of the festivities, and all those where hilarity and joyfulness are sought to be produced by the intoxicating bowl. Such are not proper places for Christians” (Albert Barnes, James-Jude, pg. 188-189).
Jesus said the great commandment was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). NOTE: All the heart, soul and mind! When the brain is anaesthetized with alcohol, it is impossible to love God with all the heart, soul and mind. Thus, one falls short of ability to properly show respect to God. For these reasons, the child of God should not drink the “drink of death”!