Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Alcohol Question

Is it Biblically permissible for Christians to drink alcohol in moderation? I found a text in my study of Leviticus that put this question in a new light for me. It is a command given to Aaron the High Priest after his sons were slain by the LORD for offering strange fire while drunk in the tabernacle.
Then the LORD said to Aaron, "You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be kept by all future generations. You are to distinguish between what is holy and what is ordinary, what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean." (Leviticus 10:8-10)
This time I saw the significance of this passage in light of the New Testament teaching that the church is called to be a "kingdom of priests to our God" (Rev. 5:10) who offer our bodies as living sacrifices in a 24/7 act of worship (Rom 12:1). The New Testament also teaches that the church is the temple in which we minister (Eph. 2:21) and that even our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19).

Now if God didn't want alcohol in his Old Testament tabernacle, would He want it in his New Testament temple? If priests were unable to properly serve God in the tabernacle after drinking, are we able to set aside our lives in a worship response to God with a mind weakened by booze? I used to think the Biblical evidence could cut either way on this question (Pro. 31:6), but I've since concluded that the Bible teaches abstinence.

The New Testament does teach the alcohol may be used medicinally (1 Tim. 5:23), but also says that we should get our kicks from the Holy Spirit, not alcoholic spirits (Eph. 5:18). From this I take a broader Biblical principle that all drugs are good when they serve a medical purpose, but should not be used recreationally.

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