Is it wrong to drink alcohol, according to the Bible? I have always thought it was fine as long as you did not get drunk, but recently I decided to research it because my father in-law won't even come to church because of his beliefs about absolutely no alcohol or dancing. A website I found cites 1 Timothy 3:2-3: ''Now a bishop must be... temperate [nephalion] drunkard [me paroinon]..." It says nephalion suggests "physical abstinence, especially from wine," and the phrase me paroinon means "not near or beside wine." It says this prohibits even moderate drinking for a church leader. If true, would it not imply that no disciple should drink. Please give me clarity on this issue.

Let's begin with the Greek. The website, frankly speaking, is wrong. Nephalios means sober and paroinos means drunken. Whoever "translated" these words (a) has not studied ancient Greek, certainly not in a serious way, and (b) is over-interpreting, probably because there is an axe to grind.

Undoubtedly, alcoholic consumption has wrecked millions of lives through the course of human history, but so have many things which, correctly handled, are benign or even positive in their effects. It would be easy to list many things which fall into this category: electricity, airplanes, painkillers, and television come to mind. All can be abused, but this is at best a weak argument for avoiding them.

You are right--drunkenness is never acceptable for any disciple of Christ. But consumption of alcoholic beverages, in moderation, is not a sin. Even Jesus was criticized for this! I have studied the arguments on both sides--tee-totaling as well as moderation--and respect those who advance the arguments, even if I do not respect the arguments themselves. Passages like Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8 certainly come to mind. And yet these passages are about causing a brother to stumble--possibly falling away from the Lord. They really have no application to the brother who is determined to grumble. It is the violation of conscience that is in mind, not the violation of opinion--no matter how tightly held.

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