Choices are fragile, necessary things. Tantalizing, agonizing little things. Brimming with endless possibilities. Accoutrement laced anticipations. Funneling into careless cessations. The question is asked, “Which way should we go?” The question echoes, “Does anyone know?” Arrogance answers, “Just enjoy the show.” Ignorance answers, “There’s no way to know!” Malevolence answers, “Don’t rock the boat!” Yet, choices are tenacious little things. Creeping through our minds even while we sleep. Twisting and tunneling deep in our souls. Every action straddled with reactions. Consequences lurk beneath distractions. They ask, “Is day any different than night?” I believe that shadows prove the sunshine. My friend, the sun still burns with fervent light. The night knows it has but a little time. And choices we make determine that time.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The Difference Makes the Difference
In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul begins chapter seven by launching into a lengthy discussion about how to “perfect holiness” by “cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1)”. Inevitably, this dovetailed into a unique perspective on sorrow and repentance. Paul describes (and we’ll look closer at it in a moment) the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. It’s a vitally important distinction because one leads to spiritual death and the other to salvation. The difference makes the difference. We’ve all got to get this one right.
Called to Stop Sinning
The Bible teaches us that the Church is a called-out assembly. God has called us out of sin, and God has called us into holiness. We are supposed to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). That standard is very high because God is supremely holy. You might be thinking that it is impossible to be sinless. And in a way, you’re right. However, the New Testament reminds us repeatedly that we are to be without sin (holiness). In fact, 1 John 2:1 pauses and says, “Stop sinning. Just stop it!”
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not… (1 John 2:1).
If you take the Bible and boil it down to its essence, the central theme is God’s grand plan to get humanity from sinfulness to sinlessness.
Our Response to Sin is the Key
It’s easy to start sinning, but it’s hard to stop. That’s basically been humanity’s problem from the beginning. For most people, defining what is and isn’t sin is problematic. Sin is so pervasive and normal that we don’t feel horrified by it. And if we don’t feel horrified by sin, we don’t think of it as all that bad. My struggles with sin have taught me that sin’s grip is hard to break. If you’re human, you have your own stories and struggles with sin too. I also know how enticing sin can be from the countless hours I’ve spent trying to help others find deliverance from every sin you can imagine. I’ve noticed through the years that the real issue isn’t that we have sinned (because we have) or if we will sin (because we will).
The question that matters is, what will we do with our sin? How we respond to sin usually helps us stop or causes us to keep on sinning. Godly sorrow over sin produces genuine repentance, which allows the Holy Spirit to step in and empower us. Worldly sorrow leads to lackadaisical repentance, which only perpetuates sin in our lives. Worldly sorrow produces a self-sustaining cycle of sinfulness. Before highlighting the vital differences between godly and worldly sorrow, we must clear up an apparent contradiction in the Bible.
Does God Cleanse Us, or Do We Cleanse Ourselves?
Sin is a stain on our lives. God desires to present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). God is deadly serious about His church being holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). That’s why we’re all in such desperate need of the blood of Jesus. Only His blood cleanses all the stains of sin. But do we cleanse ourselves, or does Jesus cleanse us? The passages below might be a little confusing at first glance.
…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
To answer this question, we need to identify the context of these two verses. In the previous chapter, Paul clarifies his target audience, “for ye are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).” Clearly, Paul is talking about repentance to people who have already obeyed the Gospel and are in the Church. He’s referring to the ongoing process of sanctification (holiness), which requires continued repentance. We must skip forward to pinpoint John’s intended audience:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).
So, it’s clear that John is writing about the initial salvation experience, when we first take ownership of our sinfulness, leading to repentance and obeying the Gospel. At that moment, God covers us with His blood.
God’s Role & Our Responsibility
At salvation, something compelling happens; when we repent, our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9); at baptism, our sins are remitted (Acts 2:38); at the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we are empowered (Acts 1:8). God did the cleansing work at Calvary, and we stepped into that cleansing flow via obedience. However, regarding our continued walk with God, 2 Corinthians 7:1 clarifies that we must “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” In other words, God does the initial work. Then He expects us to put some effort into the process from that moment forward. To be sure, His Spirit comes inside to help lead, guide, comfort, correct, convict, strengthen, and encourage us along the way. But the infilling of the Spirit doesn’t remove our free will. After salvation, God expects us to exercise an often-overlooked fruit of the Spirit – self-control (Galatians 5:23).
Sometimes I hear church folks say, “if only God would give me the power over this ____ sin.” But God has already given us His Spirit. He’s already cleansed us. So now we must cleanse ourselves daily. If we’re not careful, we’ll use God as an excuse for our continued sin. God cleanses us first, and then we are responsible for walking in that cleansing. That’s the process of sanctification or holiness. In answer to the original question: Does God cleanse us, or do we cleanse ourselves? The answer is that God does the major cleanse first, and then we step in and do minor cleansing as we continue our walk with the Lord.
A Simple Illustration
A simple, albeit imperfect illustration, may help clarify this concept. Roughly once a month, I take our family SUV to a full-service carwash. They detail our vehicle inside and out. I do that because they have the equipment, chemicals, and expertise that allow them to do a thorough cleaning that I’m not capable of doing. It’s almost like having a new vehicle when they get done. I didn’t do the cleansing. They did. But if I eat a bagel in the car and crumbs fall everywhere, I must clean that mess myself. Otherwise, I’ve wasted my time and money on that professional cleaning job. They cleaned it first in ways I can’t do alone. But I still have a responsibility to keep it clean. In much the same way, that’s how walking in holiness works.
Problems in the Corinthian Church
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he is very forthright with them. The church was super messed up with big-time problems and significant sin issues. For example, a young man was having an affair with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Even more revolting, rather than the church being grieved. They laughed about the situation like it was a joke (1 Corinthians 5:2). Paul was so angry that he demanded that if the guy refused to repent, they should turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5). That leaven of malice and wickedness would destroy the whole church if they didn’t deal with it correctly (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). All this background is essential because we can now understand 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 and answer the question: What’s the difference between godly and worldly sorrow?
I’m Not Sorry That I Made You Repent
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance… (2 Corinthians 7:8-9).
In the above verses, Paul was trying to let the church know that his first letter (1 Corinthians), with its strong rebuke, was not intended to make them feel sorry but was a call to repentance.
…for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of… (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
In other words, when you have godly sorrow. It leads to godly repentance, and you don’t have to confess the same sin repeatedly.
…but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things, ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
In his unique way, Paul carefully contrasts these two types of sorrow. They both lead to outward repentance, but only one is genuine. The result of godly sorrow is a change in behavior and attitude. But worldly sorrow brings death. It certainly brings spiritual death, but in the immediate, it might mean the death of a marriage, a friendship, victory, blessings, spiritual power, or family relationships. Tragically, in extreme cases, it could culminate in an untimely physical death because of sin.
For All That Is in the World
Anything derived from the world is compromised, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).” Worldly sorrow is derived from either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. So, for example, a person might feel sorrow for their sin because of the pain it produces. They feel that pain in their flesh, and that pain can be intense. It’s real! Emotional and physical pain caused by sin can become unbearable at times. And many people assume the remorse they feel because of their agony is genuine repentance. But if that remorse is a temporary emotion birthed from pain, it’s not godly sorrow.
A second kind of worldly sorrow results from the lust of the eyes. People can be sorry because they see how sin has impacted their life; lost loved ones, broken relationships, wasted moments, embarrassments, and failures. Their kingdom might be crumbling before their eyes like a slow-motion nightmare. Consequences that used to seem so unlikely and distant come crashing into focus. They might think, “I’m going to lose my wife, kids, or job.” But ultimately, their focus is on their kingdom. Many people feel this kind of worldly sorrow and confuse it for genuine repentance. But true repentance is not self-centered. It’s God-centered.
Thirdly, the pride of life produces another type of worldly sorrow. People may feel sorry because they are embarrassed that people can see their sins. They see their reputation going down the drain, their influence waning, or they feel disliked. Perhaps they want to be viewed in a more positive light. But the critical issue is their name. Again, the sorrow is selfishly motivated. Therefore, the resulting repentance is only skin deep.
Me, Myself & I
Worldly sorrow always brings the focus on me. It’s all about my feelings. My pain. My reputation. My happiness. But godly sorrow focuses on the fact that my sin has grieved God and others. Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow is acutely aware that my sin has grieved the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow isn’t just sorry because of sin’s consequences on my kingdom. It’s more concerned with God’s Kingdom. Godly sorrow isn’t worried about the reproach that I brought on my name but with the reproach that I brought on God’s name. As the prophet Nathan said to David after his horrific sin with Bathsheba, “You have brought great occasion to the enemies of the lord to blaspheme his name (2 Samuel 12:14).” Nathan was more concerned with how David’s sin would impact the world’s understanding of God than he was with king David’s reputation.
Seven Characteristics of Godly Sorrow
Paul doesn’t leave us with a nebulous definition of godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:11 describes what godly repentance looks like in action. He lists seven things that accompany godly sorrow. Numbers are significant in the Bible, and the number seven represents completion and perfection. Therefore, it could be said that these seven things signify complete and perfect repentance.
Carelessness leads to sinfulness. A careful person is full of care, caution, and intentionality. Godly sorrow produces carefulness where casualness once reigned supreme. Decisions are weighed out and made thoughtfully. Every action is measured according to the Word of God. Godly sorrow refuses to blame sin on ignorance, incompetence, recklessness, or inattention to detail.
2. Clearing of Yourself
Godly sorrow doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t blame other people or circumstances for sin. There’s no hiding, covering, manipulating, shifting, or maneuvering of responsibility. Worldly sorrow keeps things hidden and harbors secret sins and motives behind closed doors. Godly sorrow seeks to clear the air and clean the conscience. It thrives on transparency and always advocates for the truth to be displayed.
Godly sorrow recoils at the thought of past sins. Old lifestyles aren’t viewed as the “good old days.” It doesn’t laugh at sin or find it entertaining. Carnal things that used to seem euphoric become repulsive. The thought of sin and evil produces anger, indignation, and disgust. Godly sorrow views sin as a vile thing to be detested. It doesn’t despise sinners, but it does hate sin. In much the same way as you would hate cancer while loving a cancer patient.
I’m always nervous when someone repents of a particular sin and says, “I know I’ll never do that again.” I’d much rather someone say, “I’m going to take every precaution possible to make sure I never fall into that sin again because I’m afraid of going back to that terrible thing.” You will take godly precautions when you have a healthy fear of a possibility. Furthermore, a little fear of the Lord is a good thing.
5. Vehement Desire
Godly sorrow is fueled by a fervent desire to serve God and avoid sin. Vehement means to show strong feelings. It’s forceful, passionate, urgent, and intense. It isn’t mellow, mild, or casual. Godly sorrow recognizes the seriousness of sin and its desperate dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word for zeal is spoudē, found twelve times in the New Testament. The primary meaning of zeal is “haste” or “diligence.” Meaning diligence in the sense of “earnest zeal.” It’s always used in the context of living out godly lives.[i] The idea is that godliness takes ongoing work and tenacious effort.
When godly sorrow is in play, everything in your being wishes you could return and fix the things sin has taken from you. So, in a certain sense, you are looking for revenge against the enemy of your soul. That’s why brand-new saints often get so on fire for God. They are avenging what the enemy stole from them when they were under the bondage of sin. Godly sorrow never looks longingly back toward Egyptian taskmasters.
It’s not hard to receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. But if you’ve been around an Apostolic church for a while, you’ve probably noticed that some people seek the Holy Ghost for weeks or even months without being filled. The apostle Peter didn’t say, “repent and be baptized, and you might receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” He said, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” My experience has taught me that many people struggling to receive the Spirit are actually struggling with repentance. They might be sorrowful and going through the motions of repentance, but their sorrow is worldly and does not lead to life. Gently and lovingly, helping them to decipher the difference between godly and worldly sorrow can lead them to the breakthrough they need.
[i] Renn, Stephen D., ed. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005.
White picket lines of peaceful persuasion
Cannot undo the cost of invasion
Endless fine lines of baser perversions
Weakened strains of moral conversions
Flawlessly wielding falsified searches
What will become of us all?
Cold, calculating meaningless data
Hiding underneath the smiling strata
Clinging to less fortunate ideas
Laughing, dragging, while dreaming of sions
Intricate veins coursing with curses
What will become of us all?
Meanwhile, one white robed throng preaches the Writ
Tenaciously keeping holy flames lit
Falling valiant, bleeding from vicious slits
Ten thousand swords critically slashing hits
Battered, beleaguered saints climb past ashen fritz
What will become of us all?
One bright light pierces the eastern sky
A triumphant shout falls from mountain highest
One brilliant white horse gracefully flies
The armies of Heaven closely aligned
Every blood-stained voice shouts toward the sight
What will become of us all?
God is nothing, they say Just imaginary games Yet morality, they claim Forgetting their context Ignoring histories flame Hanging by thin threads To ever-waning grace Blind to the inversion Holding conversions Creating diversions They know not their place Goodness without God Like moths to acrid flame Digging for diamond truths Yet never making gains Ignoring perversions Reality gone Almost without a trace Lost in oblivion No equilibrium Willful delirium From grace to disgrace Philosophy flipped aside Lost on the rising tide Grasping for hope inside But hope is not within It rides like winter wind From Heaven above Sometimes fire, sometimes rain Holy convocations Sacred invocations Life reawakened From death to God’s face
The Good Book
The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time. It’s estimated that roughly a billion copies have been sold. That’s probably not entirely accurate. And it doesn’t consider the millions of free electronic editions available to the masses. Ironically, the Bible is more accessible thanks to the internet than ever. Yet, biblical illiteracy increases with each passing decade. Regardless, millions of people have a Bible on a shelf or hidden away in some forgotten drawer. Others treasure their Bible like gold and read it with sacred reverence. Grab ten people off the street, and you’ll get ten opinions about the Bible. However, if it’s not the whole Word of God, then it cannot be a good book.
All or Nothing
C.S. Lewis famously said that Jesus Christ was either “Lord, liar or lunatic.” Similarly, the Bible makes claims about itself incompatible with the idea of being just a good book of wisdom. The Bible is either the Divinely inspired Word of God or the silly ramblings of misguided delusional men. It’s either entirely true or the longest-running, best-coordinated con job in recorded history. Essentially, the Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition. If it’s genuinely from God, half-hearted attention will never suffice. And if it’s not, it’s the worst form of manipulative evil. No viewpoints in-between those two options are logical or possible.
Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” Regardless of race, denomination, or background, if you ask any Christian if they would like to have Divine blessings, they will answer, “yes.” And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find large portions of them hearing and obeying the entirety of God’s Word. Most Christians have their candy stick verses or their preconceived dogmas. Sadly, most Christians ignore, overlook, or gloss over large portions of Scripture that seem extreme or inconveniently counter-cultural. Sometimes, they miss so many vital doctrines that their salvation is jeopardized. Others might slip into Heaven, but they miss tremendous blessings that otherwise would have been poured into their lives. Complete obedience to God’s Word is the key to accessing Divine blessings. There is no shortcut or substitute.
What Does the Bible Have to Say for Itself?
As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is either entirely true or a complete lie. But it’s impossible to remain intellectually honest without acknowledging the miraculous continuity of the Bible. Don’t forget that the Bible was written over a period of nearly 2,000 years by forty authors writing from three continents, and it maintains perfect uniformity of message. All sixty-six books comprising the Bible are united in perfect harmony and point exclusively to Jesus Christ, the true Author. Unlike the famed futurist Nostradamus, the Bible’s fulfilled prophecies are precise and uncanny. Scripture’s flawless internal consistency defies natural explanation. But rather than talking about the Bible, let’s take a close look at what the Bible has to say for itself.
The Bible Lays Claim to Divine Origins
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Biblical authors were consistent in claiming that their words were not theirs. Holy men of old viewed themselves as vessels filled by God. They emptied themselves of the words poured into them by the Holy Ghost. If the Bible is not God’s divinely inspired Word, it is a fraudulent document filled with dribble. Of course, I believe the evidence proves (including my life interactions with it) that the Bible is true. However, the claims Scripture makes about itself are so radical that they demand complete acceptance or total rejection. Anything in between complete acceptance or total rejection is an intellectual cop-out. Partial approval or shallow half-hearted nods of respect aren’t compatible with the very nature of the Bible. In our culture plagued with near psychosomatic commitment issues, the biblical insistence upon total adherence is difficult to digest. However, it is the essence and the reality of what the Holy Writ requires.
The Bible Lays Claim to Perfection
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).
It could help to rephrase this claim in more understandable terms. The Bible lays claim to moral perfection. If Scripture is the divine Word of God, and if it is true that God is supremely just, then anything prescribed in His book is perfectly righteous. God’s Word sets the standard of right and wrong, good or bad, and so on. Therefore, even if our human sensibility is offended or confused, it does not make God’s Word imperfect. Humanity is corrupted by sin and does not easily comprehend genuine justice. We don’t perceive evil as precisely as we should. Meaning we are reliant upon the Bible to reveal moral Truths to us. Without the authoritative Word of God, humanity is left to its own misguided inward moral compass. Our understanding of good and evil has been tampered with by sin and by the sins of our fathers. We hide God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) to replace our broken compass with God’s flawless GPS.
The Bible Lays Claim to Sanctifying Truth
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).
Without falling off a theological cliff, sanctification can be described as the process of being made holy. So how can one become holy? By living according to God’s Truth. And that Truth is contained in the Bible. Obedience to God’s Word is the only path to holiness. Anything less falls short of sanctification. All other versions of morality, although containing measures of truth, are not the Truth. Therefore, they fail to make one morally pure in the eyes of the Lord. It’s prudent to remember that God’s holiness is His most biblically acclaimed attribute. Our call to be sanctified through the Word is no insignificant thing. It isn’t just theological jargon or intellectual banter. It is a God-given imperative to be taken seriously.
The Bible Lays Claim to Flawlessness
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5).
The word “pure” in the above Scripture comes from the Hebrew word yastsib, which means “true.”[i] However, in the more profound sense of the word here, it means “certain” or “reliable.”[ii] The distinction is important because God’s words aren’t just true at the moment they’re given. They are eternally reliable. This alludes to the prophetic surety of God’s Word. And to Its literal reliability in the past, present, and future. The Bible is eternally true. Its Truth doesn’t morph, degrade, or rescind. So, when the Bible speaks of the past, we can trust that it is true regardless of what current science might say. When the Bible tells of the future, we can believe it shall be so without reservation. When so-called modern “facts” contradict Scripture, rest assured that Scripture will stand vindicated.
The Bible Lays Claim to Vitality
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Admittedly, despite the King James Version being the best English translation, it sometimes creates embarrassing moments for the modern reader. I can’t tell you how many years I took the word “quick” to mean that the Word of God is a fast-moving sword. And while it is true that the Word can and does often move quickly in a person’s life, “quick” is an Old English word for “alive.” The Holy Bible is living. As we interact with the Word, the Spirit of God moves in us and upon us. The Word doesn’t change but progressively reveals things to us as we interact. That’s why you can read the same verse a thousand times, and one day, you comprehend something that previously seemed mundane. As we humbly submit ourselves to the Word, it changes us from the inside out.
The Bible Lays Claim to Salvific Exclusivity
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:13-17).
The Bible is crystal clear in the claim that it holds the exclusive plan of salvation for humankind. No other book, creed, faith, or culture has access to eternal salvation with God in Heaven. Universalism is the deceiver currently working to deceive the very elect. It might be tempting to buy the lie that many paths lead to God. For some, that sounds tolerant and exceedingly loving. However, it is not possible to believe the Bible and hold to universalism at the same time.
Furthermore, for those who like to deny the relevance of the Old Testament in the New Testament era: When Paul declares that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” the New Testament was not yet completed or in circulation among the Church. The apostle was referring to the Old Testament. Indeed, the theological relevance of the Old Testament was affirmed by the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. All of whom referred back to the Old Testament in their preaching, teaching, and correspondence.
The Bible Lays Claim to Unbridled Power
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9).
Undoubtedly the apostle Paul was a mighty man of God. He walked in power and authority. Yet, he was still just a man. He suffered unending trials and tribulations. Paul was aware that his multiple incarcerations might cause some to doubt the power of God’s Word. He quickly reminded fearful believers that while we might be bound, the Word of God is never bound. God’s Word bristles with unbridled power even in the darkest of times. It’s working even when we can’t see it. It’s moving even when we can’t feel it. There is no thwarting or diminishing the Word of the Lord. A particular comfort comes when we understand that our weaknesses and sufferings cannot bind the work of the Word.
[i] “יציב,” Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance paragraph 3620.
[ii] “י,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament 1613.
Over the years, I find myself drawn more and more to the book of Genesis in prayer and study. It’s possibly the most attacked book in the Bible by liberal scholars, pseudo-scientists, and a litany of other detractors. The enemy knows if he can cast doubt on one book of the Bible, the others fall too. And because Genesis lays the foundation for the other sixty-five books, its validity is critical. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians have unnecessarily caved to societal pressures and contorted doctrinal positions into impossible knots. They’ve redefined, parsed, injected, and superimposed non-literal meanings into Genesis, leaving a husk of originality. This capitulating is often done in obeisance to the overinflated scientific communities wildly unscientific theories like the Big Bang and Darwinian Evolution.
The enemy knows if he can cast doubt on one book of the Bible, the others fall too. And because Genesis lays the foundation for the other sixty-five books, its validity is critical.Tweet
Many well-meaning Christians have caved to societal pressures and contorted doctrinal positions into impossible knots. They’ve redefined, parsed, injected, and superimposed non-literal meanings into Genesis, leaving a husk of originality.Tweet
Expanding Circles of Truthless Knowledge
For serious-minded people, the unflinching partiality in proclaiming ideas as fact is maddening beyond words. The oddity of what I’m trying to describe brings 2 Timothy 3:7 and its depiction of the last days squarely into focus: Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Knowledge has undoubtedly increased exponentially over the past one hundred years alone, yet the truth is fuzzier than ever for most. You might think in a naturalistic society, questions of gender would be settled debates, but not in a culture that’s stuck in a learning circle. Picture, if you will, a circle of learning with truth just on the outside of the circle. In their learning, they sometimes touch truth briefly, but the curvature of the loop takes them past reality into incredible error. As the circle of knowledge expands, it grows away from truth rather than encompassing reality. The ever-expanding knowledge that edges away from the solid foundation of absolute truth leave learners empty, broken, unfulfilled, unguided, and unregulated. They are like compasses without a true north or oceans without the gravitational pull of the moon.
Knowledge that edges away from the solid foundation of absolute truth leave learners empty, broken, unfulfilled, unguided, and unregulated. They are like compasses without a true north or oceans without the gravitational pull of the moon.Tweet
Scientific Science Deniers
But there is a glimmer of hope. The scientific community has mismanaged and overstepped itself on so many occasions that people are starting to catch on. Large swaths of Christians and even irreligious folks are beginning to realize that worshipping at the altar of science “so-called” is a dangerous proposition. Some generations forgot that Hitler and other vile historical figures committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of science and progress. The oddities and evident confusion or outright malevolence of the scientific community’s response and involvement in COVID jolted many people out of complacency. Even with the most generous opinions towards the scientific community surrounding COVID, most people have found it to be incompetent at the very least. Yet, unbelieving heretics are being burned at the public stake of opinion in disgrace for daring to disagree with the First Church of Scientific Naturalism. How interesting and telling it is that the science community so often becomes the predominant deniers of genuine science.
How interesting and telling it is that the science community so often becomes the predominant deniers of genuine science.Tweet
My Faith Journey
I was homeschooled and then went into private Christian schools throughout my childhood and teenage years. I was not taught the theory of Evolution formally in school—quite the opposite. However, like all other kids born since the mainstreaming of the Big Bang Theory, I wrestled with questions in my heart. It was hard to find coherent rebuttals to Darwinian thought aside from disgusted remarks about how we didn’t come from monkeys or that Evolution is pollution in my younger years. While that’s all cute and accurate, it didn’t satisfy my curious mind. Thankfully, I found two books that at least began answering all my questions: Scientific Creationism edited by Henry M. Morris Ph.D. and The Flood: In the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology by Alfred Rehwinkel (yes – I was a nerd). I highly recommend clicking the links included on those book titles and grabbing your own copies on Amazon.
Steven Waldron’s Creationist Commentary
Because of my faith journey, I understand the importance of intelligently pushing back against error, falsehoods, and well-formed untruths. And that is why I was so delighted to read and promote Pastor Steven Waldron’s new book series entitled Commentary on Genesis (Discussions in Scripture Series – A Creationist Commentary), Volumes 1-3 on the Apostolic Voice Podcast, Episode 51. There are many excellent books and commentary on Genesis, but I know none that approach the book of beginnings the way Waldron has done it. For one, he uses a conversational tone that is nonetheless intellectual and readable at the same time. Secondly, it is a verse-by-verse discussion. And thirdly, the majority of the book’s focus revolves around defending the literal interpretation of Genesis. Fourthly, it is not dull or droning. And there are other nuggets of profound information scattered throughout the book as well. Every Christians should own all three volumes of Steven Waldron’s Commentary on Genesis (Discussions in Scripture Series – A Creationist Commentary).
Episode 51, Highlights
I’ve linked our podcast chat below, and I certainly hope you will listen. However, I also wanted to highlight some of the significant points from Waldron’s book and our conversation in written form. Perhaps it will whet your appetite for more, and seeing things in writing helps burn them into our memories. At least that’s my hope. Besides, what could be more interesting than the beginning of the world?
Six Days of Creation
Like myself, Waldron affirms the biblical belief that the world is young and that God literally created the world in six days with no gaps or caveats. In his opening rejection of Evolution, Waldron declares:
All Spiritual and Scientific laws are found here in creation. The theory of Evolution destroys our connections with the past and with God. Are we in the image of a bacteria or God? Does the world have purpose, or is all just random chance? How can we know where we are going if we do not know where we came from? Is there a sense of meaning? The literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is consistent with reality. It is what we see when we look around, whether biologically, geologically, morally, or astronomically. Everything fits perfectly with Scripture.
The literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is consistent with reality. It is what we see when we look around, whether biologically, geologically, morally, or astronomically. Everything fits perfectly with Scripture.Tweet
We Want Utopia Because We Lost Utopia
Waldron makes a philosophical and theological connection between the Garden of Eden and the human condition. We yearn for utopia because we lost it at the human fall in Edan. There seems to be a deep longing in the human psyche to regain humanistically what we lost spiritually. Yet, our only hope for that kind of redemption is found in Jesus. A necessary reality that God foreknew before creation itself. When humanity tries to create a utopia apart from God, the opposite occurs. Every. Single. Time.
We yearn for utopia because we lost it at the human fall in Edan. There seems to be a deep longing in the human psyche to regain humanistically what we lost spiritually.Tweet
Attention to Division
There’s a paradox in Scripture that first plays out in the book of Genesis. While unity gives humanity great power for good or evil, division similarly empowers us (Genesis 1:4-7). Waldron notes this Divine attention to division:
We also see that division is a key concept early in Genesis. Division of light and dark. Division of waters. Division of day and night. Evening and morning. Later divisions into kinds of various living things are mentioned. Then an enclosed Garden, separated from the world, for man and woman. And the division of what could be consumed and what could not.
I believe this to be a type and foreshadowing of later biblical teachings on holiness and separation from the world—the division of the clean and the unclean, the righteous and the profane, etc. Indeed, the typology of light and darkness is perpetuated throughout both Testaments, culminating dramatically in John 1:1-14. There’s much more to explore on this subject. The depths have yet to be treaded. In the meantime, the apparent paradox is reconciled with the revelation that true unity in the spiritual sense can only be achieved by first paying great attention to the details of Divine division.
True unity in the spiritual sense can only be achieved by first paying great attention to the details of Divine division.Tweet
The Law of Biogenesis (Life Produces Life)
Pasteur’s beaker famously proved that only life produces life. Previously, even scientists erroneously believed the corpse itself produced the observable maggots on a dead carcass. By isolating meat in a beaker, Pasteur paved the way for further breakthroughs revealing that only life begets life. It takes life to make life. Dead things do not produce living things. Waldron illuminated this point while commenting on Genesis 1:11:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
God is the source of all life, and He placed life within the seed giving it potential to fill the earth with its own kind. An incredibly complex genetic structure determines its own kind. As Waldron astutely points out:
Genetic walls are built into the seed, which ensures that which is encoded in the cell is what is produced. Change comes from within the DNA, not from without. Cut off a thousand generations of rat tails, and the rodent DNA still says rats will reproduce with tails. The law of kinds, DNA, and genetic walls does not allow for Evolution. This is observable science.
Cut off a thousand generations of rat tails, and the rodent DNA still says rats will reproduce with tails. The law of kinds, DNA, and genetic walls does not allow for Evolution. This is observable science.Tweet
Young Earth and the Lunar Recession
One inconvenient fact for evolutionists is that the moon is receding from the earth about two inches each year. Waldron makes this case in detail:
If the earth were much over six thousand years of age, the lunar gravitation which currently causes our beneficial tides would wreak havoc and destruction on planet earth. And before that, it would have just crashed into the earth. So, if current processes extend backwards just a few millennia, they would be an impossibility. The same is true for the sun. It is decreasing in size at the rate of five feet per second. Just a few thousand years ago, the earth would be unbearably hot from the closeness of the sun, and life on earth would be impossible.
After Their Kind (Genesis 1:21)
Again, we see the biblical fixation on the certain immutable traits of species (Genesis 1:21). Fish produce fish after their kind. Trees produce trees after their kind. Two dogs don’t produce a cat, and so forth. Waldron pivots from this into a discussion of the fossil record:
Fossils from whatever strata they are found show the same things that are alive today. There are no transitional fossils in the fossil record, and certainly not the chains of fossils from one kind to another, that Evolution and Darwin say should be there and should be the vast majority of the fossil record. “Kinds” are exactly what we see in DNA and the laws of genetics. There is fixity of each species, and only slight variations are possible within the genetic walls of each kind.
The Majestic Plural (Genesis 1:26)
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… (Genesis 1:26).
Here we have a Scripture commonly referred to by Trinitarians suggesting an allusion to the trinity in the Old Testament. Who is God talking to in Genesis 1:26? Waldron walks through several possibilities posed by Christendom throughout the centuries. For example, the traditional Jewish explanation has been that God was referring to the Cherubim’s or other angels (that distinction is another topic for another day). Waldron lists three reasons this might be a possibility. Eventually, though, he states, “The pushback on this subject is that only God is the Creator. And whoever God is referring to here seems to be participating in the act of creation.”
One thing we know for certain, Moses, the inspired author of Genesis, was monotheistic. He did not see this as an indication of God’s plurality or a hint of two hidden separate persons in the Godhead. I concur with Waldron’s assertion that Elohim is seen as the plural of majesty. In other words, God was using the language of royalty about Himself in Genesis 1:26. Charles Ryrie, in his systematic work Ryrie’s Basic Theology, makes an unusual admission for a trinitarian scholar:
We have already suggested that the plural name for God, Elohim, denotes God’s unlimited greatness and supremacy. To conclude, plurality of persons from the name itself is dubious.[i]
Ryrie goes on to speculate despite the evidence that a mystical trinity is probably evidenced in the text. But he ends up having to contradict himself gravely to do so. Regardless, in my opinion, God was not playing hide-and-seek with Moses or giving a peek-a-boo moment for a trinity to be revealed at a later date. Instead, God was speaking of Himself with a majestic plural. Interestingly, Waldron poses another possibility:
Since God dwells outside of time, as well as in time, He could have been referring to the man Christ Jesus here, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Since all things were made by Jesus, predicated upon Him, this is entirely possible and plausible.
I have no problem with that view. However, for my mind, the majestic plural is the best explanation of this verse. Even today, it isn’t uncommon to hear someone speak of themselves in the plural. It adds gravitas and majesty to their countenance. It’s historically common among royalty. And since God is the supreme ruler of all things it would make sense for Him to speak in that vernacular of Himself. Even intellectually honest Trinitarians are eventually forced to admit that Genesis 1:26 is not a Divine admission of three persons.
One thing we know for certain, Moses, the inspired author of Genesis, was monotheistic. He did not see this as an indication of God’s plurality or a hint of two hidden separate persons in the Godhead (Genesis 1:26).Tweet
God was not playing hide-and-seek with Moses or giving a peek-a-boo moment for a trinity to be revealed at a later date. Instead, God was speaking of Himself with a majestic plural (Genesis 1:26).Tweet
Links and Books Relevant to the Podcast
- Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1
- Commentary on Genesis, Volume 2
- Commentary on Genesis, Volume 3
- New Life of Albany, GA YouTube Channel
- Biblical Archeology Today with Steve Waldron Podcast
- The Premier Study Bible
- Scientific Creationism edited by Henry M. Morris Ph.D.
- The Flood: In the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology by Alfred Rehwinkel
- The Evolution Handbook by Vance Ferrell
- Exploring Genesis by John Phillips
- God’s Crime Scene (A Cold Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe) by J. Warner Wallace
[i] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 58.
Ep. 51 | The Beginning of the World (Creation vs. Evolution, Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness, Oneness vs. Trinitarianism) with Steven Waldron – Apostolic Voice with Ryan French
Generally, it seems Bible-affirming Christians agree that drinking to the point of drunkenness is sinful. However, total abstinence of alcoholic beverages is viewed by the majority of the “Christian” world as puritanical and antiquated. There’s lots of talk about moderation and Christian liberty combined with distortions and contortions of biblical passages cited by the moderate drinking crowd. Others, like myself, are firmly planted on the side of complete alcoholic self-denial.
The Three Paths to Alcoholic Abstinence
There are essentially three paths leading to complete alcoholic abstinence. Path one, personal experiences, history, hurt, conflict, danger, abuse, and heartache associated with drinking either due to their addiction or the habits of someone close to them. These real-life experiences are deeply ingrained and hard to argue against because they are so compelling. Typically, I find this to be the most common path leading people to take an unwavering stance against drinking. Path two, a practical and moral approach against alcohol by observing the destruction it causes from a distance and recognizing that far more evil than good is associated with its use. Path three begins with a biblical grounding and proper application of biblical absolutes and principles, leading to a doctrine of total alcoholic abstinence.
Each of these paths are good, but without the inclusion of path three (right biblical doctrine), we are merely giving great advice rather than a true spiritual direction. That’s not to say anecdotal experiences, opinions, testimonies, observations, and innate moral wisdom aren’t powerful. Those things are essential and persuasive. This article will include those arguments against alcohol as well. However, there seems to be so much biblical illiteracy and confusion on this subject. It’s becoming far more crucial for the Church to recenter the focus of our anti-alcohol stance firmly around the Bible. If we could learn to merge these three powerful paths, it would forge a highway for people to access easily. So, we’ll walk down these three paths and culminate with a hard look at what the Bible has to say about the subject.
Practical Objections to Alcohol
Millions of people worldwide abstain from alcohol without any Scriptural grounding or religious affiliation because they’ve seen the dangers it poses. It’s not hard to pick on alcohol because it leaves a wake of devastation everywhere it goes. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, coming after tobacco. A person who succumbs to excessive alcohol use loses a potential of thirty years of life. As many as forty percent of all the hospital beds across the country are used to treat health conditions that develop from alcoholism.The epidemic is so bad that seventeen percent of men in the general population and eight percent of women will meet the criteria for alcoholism in their lifetime.
And those stats are only a reflection of individuals who obtained treatment. Many millions more suffer from alcohol-related issues and never receive any diagnosis or treatment. Many statistics indicate (and I’ve perused them, so you don’t have to do the tedious work) that roughly fifty-six percent of Americans suffer from alcohol dependence. Another subset under that stat may not be physically dependent, but their drinking has long-lasting social consequences on their health, family, friendships, and productivity. Drinking is a proven contributor to suicide. Many drink to forget, but in the end, it only worsens their problems. The vast majority of rapes in the U.S. involve alcohol. Thirty percent of all driving fatalities each year are directly related to alcohol. The U.S. spends 199 billion dollars per year, trying in vain to stop this problem. This list could go on and on (you can read all the links at the end of this article if you’re interested).
The Dragon that Won’t Let Go
What stands out to me from the mountains of data collected is how few people break free from the grip of alcohol. Governments spend billions of dollars a year trying to solve the problems. Thousands of privately funded organizations work admirably to help people stay sober. Yet, the data shows only about ten percent of the people who complete these programs remain sober long term. Human attempts to cure what many scientists call a drinking epidemic have been tepid at best. For example, by classifying alcoholism as a disease but treating the substance itself (the actual alcohol) as harmless, society lulls millions of victims into the clutches of a ruthless dragon called alcohol addiction. Society gives the false impression that drinking is harmless, frivolous, fun, and only problematic for a small minority of “sick” people. Yet, no one begins drinking, hoping, or expecting to be dependent on drinking. By refusing to take the problem seriously and not defining alcohol as the dangerous dragon that won’t let go, society is complicit in the staggering loss of life and potential caused by drinking.
One More Major Practical Objection to Alcohol
You could probably pick out a stranger on the street in five seconds and hear stories about how their family hurts because of alcohol. Massive percentages of parents are missing in action either emotionally, spiritually, or physically because they self-medicate with alcohol. This brings enormous dissonance and disconnection in the lives of children. Even if the children don’t imitate their parents drinking patterns, they live with emotional scars that never seem to heal. Divorce rates are intrinsically tied to drinking. Drinking is a leading cause of marital unfaithfulness, adultery, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological distancing. The drinker rarely sees themself as the problem. Meaning they project blame on the innocent people around them. Or maybe the drinker has legitimate grievances that people around them care deeply about, but the alcohol fogs their brain and keeps them from finding lasting solutions to their woes. They begin fighting the people who care about them the most. The dragon of drinking causes them to be at odds with God, which moves them further down the rabbit hole of turmoil. In my opinion, these practical moral objections to alcohol are reasons enough to abstain completely.
But Don’t People Drink in the Bible?
The Bible is perplexingly silent on wine or alcohol in the Genesis account from Creation to the Flood. Interestingly, the great evils of Nimrod and the degeneration of humanity after the Fall in the Garden of Eden wasn’t directly linked to rampant alcoholism. Some assume Jesus’ mention of pre-Flood people’s eating, drinking, and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38, Luke 17:26-28) is a reference to alcoholism. However, when taken literally, the Greek word drinking Jesus used doesn’t necessarily imply drunkenness.[i] Jesus’ overall point about pre-Flood people was their lack of awareness and unwillingness to heed the signs of coming judgment. Indeed, all kinds of wickedness must have been swirling around within the human condition. Still, their most profound problem was their refusal to seek after God. The sinful human tendency to avoid God is still humanity’s most significant problem. Jesus knew complacency would become even more acute in the Last Days (Matthew 24:39-41), so He warned us to avoid the trap of assuming everything will always just be normal.
Noah Gets Drunk
This brings us to the curious situation of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) getting drunk (Genesis 9:21). We don’t have many details; Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), drank wine, and became intoxicated (Genesis 9:21). The Bible is commendable in that it never tries to cover up the flawed nature of its heroes. Whether or not Noah intended to get drunk hardly matters in the grand scheme of the story. His drunkenness produced nakedness (Genesis 9:21-22), a condition already marked by God as deeply shameful (Genesis 3:7-11, 21). Ham accidentally discovered his father’s scandalous condition and told his brothers Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:22). When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor and realized what Ham had done to him, he immediately pronounced a curse on the descendants of Ham (Genesis 9:24-25).
The Awful Aftermath of Noah’s Drunkenness
Speculation abounds as to what Ham did to his father to warrant such a harsh judgment.[ii] It’s safe to stick with the context and conclude that Ham took on a demeanor of disrespect towards his father. Rather than respectfully covering Noah’s nakedness and preserving his dignity, Ham gossiped about it to his brothers. Shem and Japheth wisely backed into their father’s tent and covered his shame without looking (Genesis 9:23). Noah’s failure is not a biblical license to excuse drunkenness. Noah was pre-law and pre-revelation, operating as best he could in a brand-new world full of uncertainty. He fell short, and the Bible wisely gives us the first recorded consequences of fermented wine. The Flood didn’t rid the universe of sin. It just gave humanity a fresh start. This tragic episode in Noah’s life story serves as a reminder of human righteousness’s frailty. It’s astounding how relevant Noah’s drunken failure is in today’s world. Wine lowered inhibitions, ushered in shameful nakedness and ripped a family apart. And, thousands of years later, intoxication is doing the same thing but on an epic scale.
It Just Gets Worse
The Bible’s second mention of drunkenness is even more horrific than the first. Lot had just barely escaped the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). He took his two surviving daughters to live in a cave because he feared the surrounding people (Genesis 19:30). His two daughters hatched a disgusting plan to get their father drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him (Genesis 19:31-35). They desired to have children and preserve their future in some twisted way. Clearly, all those years living in Sodom had warped their morals. Their plan was successful to Lot’s abysmal shame, and from those incestuous children, two of Israel’s most antagonistic tribes were birthed: The Moabites and the Ammonites (Genesis 19:36).
This passage doesn’t explicitly condemn drunkenness or incest; it doesn’t have to. Every Israelite reader would have known these were sins to be avoided because two of Israel’s most troublesome enemies were spawned due to Lot’s drunken actions.[iii] Again, the Bible demonstrates that alcohol is at the center of familial brokenness, terrible judgment, and sexual deviancy. Furthermore, a pattern of generational curses and consequences emerges only nineteen chapters into the Bible directly linked to alcohol. The Bible becomes much more explicit and forceful in its condemnation of alcohol later, but these early chapters give implied warnings about alcohol’s evils. The Bible consistently sheds a negative light on drinking and the fallout surrounding it.
More Unfavorable Mentions
Nabal died of a stroke after insulting David and throwing a drunken party (1 Samuel 25:1-44). His name means “fool,” which fits perfectly with his actions. In one of King David’s vilest moments, he intentionally got Uriah drunk while trying to cover up that he had impregnated the poor man’s wife. When that didn’t work, King David arranged for Uriah to be killed (2 Samuel 11:1-26). Zimri assassinated wicked King Elah of Israel while Elah was drunk, fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu (1 Kings 16:7-14). A pagan king named Ben-Hadad made a strategic blunder in battle while in a drunken state (1 Kings 20:15-21). Interestingly misfortune befalls each of these people from Noah to King Ben-Hadad either while in their drunken stupor or shortly after they woke up.[iv] In my opinion, these stories alone give compelling reasons a wise Christian should avoid alcohol entirely without needing a single explicit biblical command.
Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Joel
4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten, and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten, and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:4-5).
The prophet Joel viewed the locust plague as a manifestation of God’s displeasure due to His people’s sins, and, quite appropriately, he directed his first great caution, “Awake,” to a prominent class of sinners always present in any wicked society, the drunkards. The destruction of all vegetation, including the vineyards, would have interrupted and cut off the supply of intoxicants for years to come. Notably, Joel did not address this class as unfortunates overcome by some innocent disease. The Biblical view of drinking intoxicants and wallowing in drunkenness relates such conditions to wickedness and not to disease. As Shakespeare put it:[v]
O thou invisible spirit of wine, If thou hast no name to be known by, let Us call thee devil.[vi]
Unlike many of the other prophets, Joel did not condemn Israel for idolatry. Earlier in their history, when Joel was prophesying, idolatry was not the great sin in Israel. Joel only mentions one sin, the sin of drunkenness.[vii] It would be a grave error to overlook the gravity of this inference by the prophet Joel. Of course, the subtext is Israel’s spiritual drunken stupor, but their literal drunkenness is the obvious sin. Joel compares the easily visible sin of outward drunkenness to Israel’s spiritual indifference. Even more compelling is the parallel the prophet makes between intoxication and spiritual malpractice. How can intemperate people properly serve a temperate God? Joel pointed out the irony that God sent a plague of locusts cutting off Israel’s ability to remain intoxicated, forcing the people to become sober long enough to reflect on their sins and the resulting judgments of God.
Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Hosea
Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT).
In this blistering chapter (Hosea 4), God rebuked the Israelites, likening them to literal and figurative prostitutes. God described Israel’s culture as murderous, unfaithful, adulterous, unkind, dishonest, and idolatrous. Then God pinpoints why their society had become so awful because they didn’t have proper knowledge and understanding of God. Then God revealed the root of the problem: Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT). Notice, God did not say drunkenness has robbed My people of understanding. Wine compounds terrible decisions and poor judgment in all its recreational uses, usually resulting in spiritual ignorance and stupidity.
Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Isaiah
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: But even these reel with wine and stagger from strong drink:
7 The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink; They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while seeing visions, They stagger when pronouncing judgment. 8 For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, so that there is no place [that is clean] (Isaiah 28:1-3, 7-8).
Ephraim and Israel are synonymous terms for the ten northern tribes, also called Samaria. The picture here of drunkards is both literal and spiritual. They were in a stupor as far as spiritual understanding was concerned. In this instance, to be spiritually drunk is to be filled with pride.[viii] In this great city of abundance, drunkenness had become the prevailing sin, or rather, the root sin that spawned many other sins. Like the prophet Joel, Isaiah strikes at the source of the problem.
Religious leaders who were supposed to seek God’s word and give it to the people could not blame an ecstatic experience of the Spirit for their condition. They drank of other spirits.[ix] The debauched leaders were consumed by what they consumed. Though no doubt literal as well, the metaphorical “vomit” of cynicism poured out of Jerusalem’s leaders.[x] Spiritual leaders, “so-called” influenced by alcohol, spew out false guidance and lead their followers astray. Like so many other biblical passages, this passage links the consumption of strong drink with sin, bad judgment, spiritual lethargy, pride, misplaced confidence, and dereliction of duty.
Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Habakkuk
4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people (Habakkuk 2:4-5).
Here the prophet Habakkuk points out the wickedness of the typical Babylonian: He was addicted to alcohol. War was his passion. The prophet described him as a man “who enlargeth his desire as [Hades], and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations.” But wine was his downfall.[xi] Several translations render “transgresseth by wine” as “wine is treacherous” or “wine betrays.” Depicting wine or alcohol in general as a betrayer is a truism that reaches beyond Babylon’s vices. No different from people today; Babylonians drank for pleasure but found pain instead. Drinking aggravated their baser passions, and they became a perverted people. Habakkuk continues this theme a few verses later:
15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16 Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lord’s right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory (Habakkuk 2:15-16).
Babylon is now condemned for leading others, her neighbors, into debauchery by causing them to drink intoxicants.[xii] In verse fifteen, drunkenness is connected with immorality (that he can gaze on their naked bodies), and they often go hand in hand.[xiii] Beyond the shame and sin of nakedness, this Scripture’s context suggests that perverse sexual acts accompanied intoxication.[xiv] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the correlation between alcohol, indecency, and sexual immorality. Ancient biblical prophets understood by observation and logic what we know scientifically; alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions and ability to exercise sound judgment. Inebriation leads to inhibition, inhibition often leads to indecency, and indecency often leads to sexual deviancy.
Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Daniel
1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (Daniel 5:1-4).
Daniel prophesied during the time of Babylonian captivity when God’s people were essentially well-treated slaves in Babylon. We don’t know why but Belshazzar, king of Babylon, decided to throw a great feast. The Aramaic construction of “whiles he tasted the wine” from the text seems to imply “under the influence of the wine.”[xv] So, when Belshazzar became slightly drunk, he made a foolish decision he wouldn’t otherwise have made. He called for the sacred vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought into the feast. Belshazzar and his entourage desecrated those holy vessels with wine and idolatrous worship. At that very moment, the hand of God wrote on the wall warning of Belshazzar’s judgment, and Belshazzar was assassinated that night (Daniel 5:5-30). Interestingly, Habakkuk condemned the Babylonians for their drunken lifestyle, and just a few years later, Daniel witnessed Babylon’s fall due to a drunken decision made by its king?
We can hardly misunderstand the importance of wine since Daniel mentions wine or drinking in each of the first four verses of chapter five. Daniel specifically links drinking with the pagan worship of gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. The curse of Deuteronomy 32:15 falls on those who practice idolatry.[xvi] And, later, Daniel rails against Belshazzar, saying, “…they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them (Daniel 5:23).” To be clear, Daniel explicitly connects not only Belshazzar’s idolatry but also the drinking of wine in sacred vessels to God’s wrath.
The Biblical Connection Between Alcohol and the Mishandling of Spiritual Things
I’m not taking liberty with the Bible to connect drinking with the mishandling of spiritual things. The story of Belshazzar alone is a great example. However, it’s worth noting that Daniel refused to drink the king’s wine after he was first taken captive by the Babylonians. More precisely, the Bible says, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank (Daniel 1:8)”. Most commentaries recognize two main reasons Daniel refused the king’s meat: 1) Babylonian meat would likely have been offered in sacrifice to false gods. 2) Babylonian meat would likely not be in keeping with Old Testament dietary laws.[xvii] However, the other foods Daniel agreed to eat would also have been dedicated to false gods rendering the first point unlikely.[xviii] Furthermore, accepting the second explanation supposes Daniel believed Babylonian wine was off-limits.
The question naturally emerges, why did Daniel refuse the king’s wine? I believe the answer is twofold, and we begin finding the solution by observing that it was the king’s meat and wine Daniel refused. This understanding leads us to the first of a twofold answer: Daniel avoided the luxurious diet of the king’s table to protect himself from being ensnared by the temptations of the Babylonian culture. He used a distinctive diet to retain his distinctive identity as a Jewish exile and avoid complete assimilation into Babylonian culture (which was the king’s goal with these conquered subjects).[xix] Two, to abstain from the Old Testament prohibition against “strong drink” (which we have already outlined to some degree), Jews customarily diluted wine with water. Some added three parts of water to wine, others six parts, and some as much as ten parts of water to one part of wine. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine.[xx]
In ancient times, wine and strong drink didn’t have the alcohol content associated with modern beverages. Diluting wine with water rendered it down to microscopically small levels of alcohol content. Even drinking the undiluted wine would have required drinking from early morning until night to achieve inebriation (Isaiah 5:11). Without jumping too far ahead into the New Testament, this is why Paul could write without hypocrisy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23)”. Obviously, the wine mentioned by Paul is not meant as a beverage but as a medicine.[xxi] This Scripture no more authorizes drinking alcohol for pleasure than it prohibits the drinking of water. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was often unintoxicating.[xxii]
Regarding Daniel, he refused the king’s wine out of wisdom and obedience to Scripture. Daniel was set apart for the Lord’s service, and Babylonian wine was contrary to that spiritual calling. Daniel knew that by honoring God and refusing the Babylonian lifestyle, he would be healthier than his pagan captors. By setting himself apart, he invited the favor of God into his life, and it was visible to everyone around him (Daniel 1:15-18). Beyond that, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17)”. Because mind-altering substances didn’t bind Daniel, he was able to handle spiritual things properly. Before you assume I’m stretching Scripture to fit my view, let’s look at the priesthood, the Nazarite vow, and the Rechabites.
The Priesthood & Alcohol
8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses (Leviticus 10:8-11).
It seems this commandment from God was not random. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, had just offered strange fire before the Lord. God immediately responded by striking them dead with fire (Leviticus 10:1-7). In context, this prohibition suggests that intoxication led Nadab and Abihu to perform their blasphemous act.[xxiii] This commandment was necessitated by humanity’s inability to decipher the difference between “holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean” when under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol dulls the senses and clearly makes someone “blemished.” Only priests in full possession of their faculties could enter the Sanctuary, for anything less was not worthy of God. God requires the very best. Therefore, to be under the influence of alcohol is clearly to be “unclean.” And the uncleanness remains until the total effects of the alcohol have worn off. And if they did enter under the influence of alcohol, they were in danger of immediate death, for it would be seen as a direct insult to the holiness of God. This statute was set as permanent for all time, stressing its seriousness. Paul takes this up concerning Christian worship when he says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18-20)”. A state of intoxication is dishonoring to God. To be in such a condition is to be less than the best for God and excludes us from His presence.[xxiv]
The broader point being made in the Levitical instruction to the priests is that God is holy, and nothing that comes short of that holiness should be permitted into His presence. Nothing ritually unclean could enter the Sanctuary, or it would be defiled.[xxv] Some have speculated that God gave the priests (and, by extension, the rest of us) a license to drink when they were off duty. However, this is not the case. Rather, God forcibly demonstrated the importance of sobriety as an individual draws closer to God’s presence. The stress is on the importance of keeping the Sanctuary and its precincts holy to bring home the holiness of God. It meant that purity would become a daily concern for all the people, both physically and morally.[xxvi]
The idea here is that for anyone to come short of God’s requirements is to be rendered unclean. The priesthood’s duty was to discern, teach, and demonstrate God’s statutes and requirements, both concerning rituals and life. God’s people must always seek to avoid any possible sources of defilement. They, too, must be holy. For us, the question must always be, how can we ensure that we are the best for God? What should we avoid that might make us less than the best? In our case, it is spiritual cleanness that we must encourage and spiritual uncleanness that we must avoid (2 Corinthians 7:1, Mark 7:20-23). And we should be daily concerned that we do so. We must not enter His presence unclean.[xxvii]
This passage in Leviticus (Leviticus 10:8-11) clarifies several straightforward reasons modern Christians should avoid alcohol altogether. First, it demonstrates that God views alcohol as rendering a person unholy and incompatible with His presence. Second, it clarifies that alcohol renders a person unworthy and incapable of handling spiritual things. And thirdly, New Testament saints of God are likened to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost. Understanding the third point is probably the most crucial revelation a person needs to abstain from alcohol completely. So, let’s zero in on what it means for the Bible to liken saints to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost.
New Testament Priesthood, Living Sacrifices & Temples of the Holy Ghost
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God (1 Peter 2:5, NLT).
Paul called the Church a “temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:21) and “a dwelling” (Ephesians 2:22). Believers make up the Church and serve in it, ministering as a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. All believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 4:16, Revelations 1:6) and need no other mediator than Jesus Christ to approach God directly. Priestly service requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16, 22).[xxviii] Not only does God consecrate us as a temple to Himself, in which He dwells and is worshipped, but He also makes us priests. Peter mentions this double honor as a call to holiness and purity. Of the spiritual sacrifices, the first is the offering of ourselves, as Paul says in Romans 12:1. Like the ancient priesthood, we can’t offer anything until we present ourselves unto God as living sacrifices, which is done by denying ourselves.[xxix] As becomes clear in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter evoked Exodus 19:5–6 and Isaiah 61:6, emphasizing that as priests (as well as stones) in this new temple, believers offer spiritual sacrifices, not physical animal sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15).[xxx]
The gravity of what the above Scriptures mean for New Testament believers can’t be overemphasized. Although many try to avoid it, the reality is that God views Spirit-filled Christians as priests, temples, and sacrifices. The holy Spirit of God dwells within us, and His holiness will not mix with unholiness. God’s Spirit will not compete with intoxicating spirits for our time, energy, focus, attention, or adoration. Furthermore, the same timeless (Leviticus 10:9) commandments regarding moral behavior and purity, which applied to the priesthood, pertain to modern believers. That word spiritual, when applied to house and sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), does not mean immaterial (humans are not supernatural persons), but rather influenced or dominated by the Holy Spirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11, 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15, 12:1, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 3:16). Christians are a new temple of God operating under the constant influence and power of the Holy Spirit.[xxxi]
The Nazarite Vow & Alcohol
A Nazarite was a person specially dedicated or separated unto God. They can be viewed as lay priests, although they were not necessarily Levites. Like priests, Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine or strong drink of any kind (Numbers 6:4).[xxxii] Nazarites were like standard-bearers to show other people the way. They shone brightly with the special glory of God (Lamentations 4:7).[xxxiii] When the prophet Amos chastised Israel and Judah for their backsliding, he mentioned the Nazarites:
11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? Saith the Lord. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not (Amos 2:11-12).
Amos was reminding Israel and Judah that godly prophets and Nazarites were a distinct blessing from God. But instead of honoring and appreciating holy examples, they enticed the Nazarites to drink wine and commanded the prophets to be quiet. Amos considered this a particularly heinous sin for which God would make them “moan” with pain (Amos 2:13). I hope not, but someone might remain convinced that drinking in moderation is not a sin (later, we will examine the difficulty of defining moderation). However, let me give a firm warning: Enticing others to drink alcohol will likely invite the anger of God. If a person remains unconvinced and unconvicted, they should leave the godly convictions of others alone. God always calls us to give deference to firmer and stricter convictions than our beliefs (Romans 14:15-23). Otherwise, we are enticing that person to sin (Romans 14:23).
Although the Nazirite vow is an Old Testament concept, there is a New Testament parallel to the Nazirite vow. Once again, we are connecting back to Romans 12:1-2, where Paul states:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, because of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (ESV).
For Christians, the ancient Nazarite vow symbolizes the need to be separate from this world, a holy people consecrated to God (2 Timothy 1:9). Thankfully, in the New Testament, we are no longer bound by ceremonial and ritualistic laws that have no bearing on our salvation because of the work that Jesus accomplished. However, we are now called and enabled by the Holy Ghost to be even more separated unto God morally in many ways.
15 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The Rechabites & Alcohol
18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; because Ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab, your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever (Jeremiah 35:18-19).
We first read about Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in II Kings 10:15-23 when Jehu, the king of Israel, allied with Jonadab to destroy the followers of Baal. King Jehu knew Jonadab was zealous for God and an influential man. Together they completed what the prophet Elijah had begun. They killed all the worshippers of Baal.[xxxiv] So complete was this destruction that the pagan worship of Baal (which included human sacrifice, sometimes parents sacrificed their children) was wiped out in Israel, and the temple of Baal was torn down and made into a garbage dump.[xxxv]
In great wisdom, Jonadab commanded his family to abstain from wine and strong drink. He instructed them not to buy houses but to dwell in tents. He asked them not to plant vineyards or buy fields. Jonadab set standards to preserve his family both physically and spiritually. Some of his guidelines sound unreasonable to modern ears. But Jonadab wanted to ensure his family would survive the changes that would come to Israel when foreign invaders destroyed the nation. He took measures that permanently set them apart. He was preparing his family for the tragedies the prophets had been warning Israel about for years. Many other families didn’t survive the pagan invasions because they had been “living the good life.” But Jonadab’s family survived because they listened to the wisdom of their father.
Almost three hundred years after Jonadab’s death, the nation of Judah was in great turmoil. Idolatry was everywhere. Jerusalem was about to be captured, destroyed, and plundered by the Babylonians. Suddenly in the middle of all this turmoil, God said to Jeremiah, “Go find the descendants of Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:2).” They gathered the Rechabites together and offered them wine. Astonishingly, three hundred years later, the descendants of Jonadab refused wine and held to their father’s commandments. Jeremiah was using the Rechabites to illustrate faithfulness and obedience to the unfaithful and disobedient people of Judah. He wanted the leaders in Jerusalem to see what genuine dedication looked like. In Jeremiah 35:19, we see perhaps the most extraordinary promise given to a father and a family in the entire Bible. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever (Jeremiah 35:19).” Meaning, somewhere in our world today, at least one descendent of Jonadab is alive and serving the Lord.
Notice the enormous contrast the Bible spotlights between the families of Noah, Lot, and Jonadab. The involvement of alcohol brought lasting curses on the families of Noah and Lot. The absence of alcohol played a significant role in the physical and spiritual preservation of Jonadab’s family. If nothing else, the Rechabites further underscore the wisdom of complete temperance. The Rechabites’ biblical account gives a template for multi-generational family success: Holiness and separation from the world’s destructive habits and patterns. I am reminded of what Paul wrote:
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).
Proverbs Warnings Against Alcohol
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).
Wine is pictured as a mocker, scoffing at the person foolish enough to drink it. Beer or strong drink is portrayed as a brawler. It not only bullies the drinker but turns him into an aggressive fool.[xxxvi] This verse is the beginning of a long series of warnings against strong drink by Solomon. Wise people, he said, will not be deceived by it. Other proverbs in the series point out that wine leads to poverty (Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 23:21); it produces sorrow, strife, needless wounds, gossip, and red eyes (Proverbs 23:29–30); however desirable it may seem, it is a deceiver and harms all who drink it (Proverbs 23:31–32); it fills a person’s thoughts with lust and leads to adultery (Proverbs 23:33); and, finally, it is addictive and unpredictable (Proverbs 23:35).[xxxvii] Notice the alcoholic drink itself—not just its damaging effects—is described in disapproving terms—no matter how much or how little is used.[xxxviii]
The Foolishness of the Moderate Drinking Argument
It’s incredibly foolish to take one sip of alcohol! Suppose we go to the airport to board a plane, and as we present our tickets at the gate, we are told that one seat in every eighteen will fall through the floor before the flight is over. Startled, we ask which seats will fall. The attendant says, “We don’t know, but probably more of them are on the left side of the plane.” What person in his right mind would board such a plane? When someone takes his first drink, he is like a person who would board that plane. To embark on such a course is to risk becoming a confirmed drunkard before the journey of life is over. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but it’s worth repeating: If you never taste alcohol, you will never get drunk. Furthermore, if intoxication isn’t the goal, what is the point of drinking alcohol at all?
When the arguments for “moderate drinking” are made, several questions and problems arise. Why drink something so potentially destructive at all? When does intoxication begin? How drunk is too drunk? How do you know the moment before you’ve had too much (especially knowing that alcohol lowers inhibitions and weakens the ability to make wise decisions)? Maybe you’re willing to risk becoming a raging alcoholic, but do you want to gamble with your kids’ lives also? Is sipping a tiny bit of alcohol more important than being a stumbling block to others? Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve never drunk to excess? Could you give it up tomorrow if you were convinced drinking is a sin? How do others around you view your drinking habits?
The reality is this. No one starts out planning to be a drunkard. But it happens every single day. Because alcohol is a mocker, it’s like a serpent that strikes unpredictably with lightning speed. Everyone goes through terrible seasons of pain, disappointment, suffering, and discouragement. Sadly, it’s during those seasons many people lean on alcohol instead of the Lord. Many “moderate” drinkers have become full-blown drunkards in seasons of depression. Honestly, the words alcohol and moderation are paradoxical; it’s just not reasonable for an individual to believe they can coexist indefinitely. Ironically, every alcoholic I’ve known whose life was in shambles considered themselves a moderate drinker who had everything under control.
New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Jesus
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34).
Because we don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming, He warned us to keep a constant watch. Other Scriptures caution us to watch for the signs of His return, but Jesus instructed us to look inward and watch ourselves so that we will be ready and worthy when He returns. The prophets sometimes spoke of judgment as a trap that would catch the unprepared (Isaiah 8:14, Jeremiah 50:24, Ezekiel 12:13), and Jesus employed this exact terminology.[xxxix] Interestingly, The Living Bible provides the best modern translation of Jesus’ words:
Watch out! Don’t let my sudden coming catch you unawares; don’t let me find you living in careless ease, carousing and drinking, and occupied with the problems of this life, like all the rest of the world (Luke 21:34, TLB).
Alcohol, in all its various forms, is incompatible with a lifestyle of readiness for the rapture. Spiritual alertness is vital to the Christian lifestyle. We are like watchmen on the wall looking intently for the Lord’s return. Like soldiers, we are commissioned to prepare others for His return as well. Anything that dulls the senses, or weakens resolve, or misconstrues good judgment conflicts with our mission.
New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Paul & Peter
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober… (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).
Some argue that Jesus was condemning drunkenness but not drinking in moderation. However, the apostle Paul understood precisely what Jesus meant, and he mirrored it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul is basically quoting Jesus’ comments from Luke 21:34. The context of this passage is very important and can only be intentionally misconstrued. In verse six, Paul uses the word “sober” in relation to alertness. In verse seven, he references drunkenness, symbolizing lostness. And again, in verse eight, Paul commands us to be “sober.” Paul’s use of the word sober wasn’t symbolic. That’s clear contextually, and because Paul could have utilized other Greek words to signal figurative soberness. However, he twice used the Greek word nepho, which means to abstain from wine.[xl]
The apostle Peter also echoed the words of Jesus from Luke 21:34 in his first letter:
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).
Peter likely remembered Jesus’ injunction to abstain from drinking and his failure to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) while writing, “…be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peter’s instructions were literal and figurative at the same time. Because you can’t be spiritually sober and physically influenced by spirits. Furthermore, Peter twice used the Greek word nepho (sober), which, as already mentioned, means literally to abstain from wine. 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a lion roaming around seeking to devour us. Peter made a profound connection between alcohol and vulnerability to Satanic attack.
Again, 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “gird up the loins of our minds” and be “sober.” In the next verse (1 Peter 1:14), he commented that some might have acted differently out of ignorance, but he emphatically warned them not to conform to their former desires. Essentially, he called the Church to a higher level of holiness than the Jews had previously followed. He explains why by quoting the book of Leviticus: But as the One who called you is holy; you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16, HCSB).
Of course, there are numerous New Testament passages strongly condemning drunkenness and demanding temperance. These verses are straightforward and require minimal commentary, so for the sake of time, I’ll list the references for those who might wish to dig into them and leave it at that (1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Galatians 5:21, Titus 1:7-8, 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 2:2-3, 2 Peter 1:6).
Questions Answered: Did Paul Condone Drinking in Moderation?
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Paul’s directives contrast the differences between being under the influence of wine, which leads to reckless actions, and being under the influence of the Spirit, which results in joyful living.[xli] “Did Paul condone drinking wine in moderation?” is a question that understandably comes up over and over again from sincere and insincere people. I’ve already touched on this issue, but it’s such a common question that it deserves extra attention. Regarding Ephesians 5:18, many commentators argue that Paul condoned by omission moderate wine consumption because he only mentions drunkenness. As if staggering, falling down, slobbering drunkenness is the only drunkenness God forbids. However, in this instance, Paul’s consistent denunciations of drinking and calls for sobriety in other passages made it unnecessary for him to be redundant in Ephesians 5:18. Also, the King James Version’s translation of Ephesians 5:18, although accurate, is unfortunately easily misunderstood by modern readers. For example, “…wherein is excess…” sounds to some as if Paul is saying, “getting drunk is excessive but drinking up to the point of excess is fine.” The English Standard Version gives a clearer perspective:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).
Paul didn’t intend to give a new revelation about drinking or drunkenness. Actually, he was building on a concept his readers already understood to signify the importance of being continuously refilled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. But confusion surrounding the Bible’s overall view of alcohol stems from modern readers’ disconnection to ancient times.
Questions Answered: A Little Wine for the Stomach?
Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).
The above verse is probably the most cited verse used to justify moderate drinking, which is laughable because there are far more troubling passages of Scripture to contend with than Paul’s medical advice to Timothy. And this was medical advice. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommends that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was typically unintoxicating.[xlii]
Paul was certainly not telling Timothy to get drunk; in Paul’s day, most wine was watered down two parts water to every part wine, and wine was not distilled, so the alcohol content was not high. At the same time, before refrigeration and hermetic sealing, any grape juice that had been kept for some months after the last grape vintage included some alcohol content. Would we tell every Christian today with a stomachache to avoid water and go have a watered-down beer? Or was that simply the best remedy available in Paul’s day, in contrast to our own?[xliii] If a pastor advises someone to take NyQuil or go under anesthesia, it does not mean they are recommending recreational drugs or casual alcohol consumption.
Questions Answered: Not Given to Much Wine?
Likewise, must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine… (1 Timothy 3:8).
Some interpret this as saying that deacons must not be habitual drinkers, which might seem to condone moderate alcohol consumption. However, in light of how strongly Paul condemns drunkenness (1 Corinthians 6:10), he probably had a different meaning in mind. Since there were many forms of wine available—both fermented (alcoholic) and unfermented—Paul is more likely advising self-control and warning against the excessive use of unfermented wine. In extremely pagan and self-indulgent cultures like Ephesus, excessive use of even non-alcoholic wine was prevalent. It often led to the use of other wines that were mixed and intoxicating. Essentially, Paul was emphasizing self-control and moderation in all areas of life, even in good things.[xliv] This answer and the previous explanations also apply to Titus 1:7 and Titus 2:3.
Questions Answered: Let Him Drink?
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (Proverbs 31-4-7).
This passage is a song by Bathsheba written for her son, Solomon. Therefore, these troubling verses (Proverbs 31:6-7) are not to be taken literally. In essence, she seems to be utilizing a condescending figure of speech by comparing the poor’s drunkenness to Solomon’s regality. By contrasting the plight of the poor and dying, Bathsheba exclaims that Solomon should consider himself above such lowly things. Her advice to Solomon is relevant to us as well. We, too, should abstain from judgment perverting influences like strong drink.
For those who struggle with that viewpoint, notice that the Hebrew word used for wine in this passage does not necessarily refer to fermented wine (more on that in a moment). I can’t imagine a worse prescription for curing depression (even by modern standards) than drunkenness. Furthermore, why differentiate between strong drink and wine unless there is a substantive difference between the two? I have no issue with the ancient medical practice of giving strong drink to the dying or those in terrible physical agony. Likewise, few Christians would have any problem with cancer patients taking morphine or a strong narcotic for pain. Only the cruelest-hearted would deny the use of medical narcotics to a hospice patient. Such medical practices are a far cry from recreational drug use or drinking.
Questions Answered: Did the Early Church Get Drunk During Communion Services?
For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken (1 Corinthians 11:21).
In addition to the Lord’s Supper, the Early Church held what was referred to as the agape feasts, much like a present-day church fellowship meal (2 Peter 2:13, Jude 1:12). These probably took place in homes where those in the Early Church often met for worship and fellowship. “One remains hungry, another gets drunk” could also be translated, “One remains hungry, another is filled to the full,” since the word “drunk” (Greek methuö) can refer to being intoxicated or to being filled or satisfied without reference to intoxication. The context of this verse clearly relates to the meal in general. When the Corinthians came together for their fellowship meals before eating the Lord’s Supper, some gathered in small groups, separated by social class, and ate separately (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). The poor, who could not contribute much, if any, to the meal, were often ignored and left hungry.
Paul condemned the behavior of those who ignored the poor (1 Corinthians 11:17) for three reasons: One, they were practicing and encouraging division in the Church. Two, they were humiliating members of the Church who were poor and probably coming directly from work without food (1 Corinthians 11:22). Three, some of the rich saints may have brought fermented wine and got intoxicated, which Paul would have considered even more unacceptable. Some interpreters, however, feel that Paul was not referring to an issue of intoxication here, or else he would have severely condemned it as he did elsewhere in the letter (1 Corinthians 6:10). He considered drunkenness not only as an issue of dishonor toward others but also a condition serious enough to cause people to turn from God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21).[xlv]
Questions Answered: Was Jesus A Winebibber?
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19).
Glutton and drunkard were insults that denote a rebellious son who deserves to be put to death (Deuteronomy 21:18–21).[xlvi] Jesus compared John the Baptist’s rejection and his own to the behavior of childish brats who would not play either the wedding game or the funeral game (Matthew 11:7-22). Neither John’s ascetic abstinence (compared to mourning or singing a dirge at a funeral) nor Jesus’ enjoyment of food and drink (likened to dancing at a wedding feast) was satisfactory to the Pharisees. John was slandered with the charge of demon possession (Matthew 11:18), and Jesus was smeared as a glutton and drunkard because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. No doubt Jesus did associate with such folk, but the charges of drunkenness and gluttony were unsubstantiated lies, evidently circulated by the Pharisees, who objected to table fellowship with sinners.[xlvii] It’s almost dramatically comical that people use the lies of the Pharisees against Jesus to justify their winebibbing.
Questions Answered: Isn’t Aged Wine Fermented?
On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined (Isaiah 25:6, ESV).
This eschatological passage is sometimes used against teetotalers to defend drinking aged (fermented) wine. The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is a victory celebration in Heaven given by the Lord for the saints. Apparently, some people find it easy to believe the Lord will happily get all the saints drunk in Heaven. Interestingly, this is a newer misunderstanding or misconstruing of Scripture, likely due to the English Standard Version’s uptick in popularity. The English Standard Version and many other translations butcher this verse and outlandishly alter its intended meaning by inexplicably adding the descriptors “aged” and “well-aged” to the word wine. Leaving hapless, low-information readers with the impression God approves of fermented wine. So much so that He will personally provide it for His people. One can only wonder if some of these modern translators had a pro-alcohol agenda? The King James Version is accurate although dated:
And in this mountain, shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isaiah 25:6).
The words “aged” or “well-aged” are not in the Hebrew text. “Lees” is a good King James word meaning dregs or pulp. A banquet of “aged wine” (shemarim) is translated literally as “a banquet of preserves,” which probably refers to luscious grape juice that had been preserved for a long time for a particular purpose.[xlviii] And “refined” (zāqaq) is a Hebrew verb meaning to refine or to purify. The literal meaning of this word is to strain or extract. “Refined” is used about gold (1 Chronicles 28:18), silver (1 Chronicles 29:4, Psalms 12:6), and water (Job 36:27). It is also used regarding the purification of the Levites, comparing it to the refining of gold and silver (Malachi 3:3).[xlix] Interestingly, the prophetic wine Isaiah envisioned will be purified in every sense of the word.
Questions Answered: Did God Ok Strong Drink in the Old Testament
And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household (Deuteronomy 14:26).
This verse applies to special occasions for worship and thanksgiving by the entire household, including men, women, youth, and little children. The Hebrew word used here for “wine” (yayin) can indicate either fermented grape juice or unfermented grape juice. The Hebrew word for “fermented drink” (shekar) can be rendered “sweet drink.” This clarity removes the difficulty of suggesting that adults and children are commanded to worship God by consuming addicting and intoxicating beverages.[l] The purpose of the worship service was “that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). To properly worship God and learn to revere (regard with respect and honor) Him, we need to be alert and self-controlled (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).
We should note that the Levite priests were present at the worship service (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). As we’ve already covered, the priests were absolutely forbidden to have anything to do with strong drink. Breaking that commandment invited the death penalty (Leviticus 10:9). It would be contrary to God’s holy character to commend the free use of intoxicants by the worshipers while in the company of the priests. Also, the nature of the festival was a harvest feast, during which time fresh harvest products would be used (Deuteronomy 14:23). This suggests that new fresh juice (non-alcoholic) was available. In this instance, the New King James Version gives an accurate English translation:
And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).
Some conservative scholars think (shekar) is best rendered “strong drink” and that it was fermented but low in alcohol content. Others note that Numbers 28:7 uses this same word for the content of a strong drink offering, indicating perhaps that the strong drink was not drunk by the people but used in a drink offering to the Lord.[li] While those are interesting thoughts, I lean heavily in favor of the viewpoint that the word “strong drink” is mistranslated in the King James Version. The New King James Version gives a much better picture of the original Hebrew wording. Regardless, we can rest assured God was not promoting a drunken worship celebration involving children in honor of His holiness.
Questions Answered: Did Jesus Turn Water into Fermented Wine?
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now (John 2:9-10).
A quick Google search will show there’s a raging debate as to whether the Hebrew word for “wine” (yayin) only refers to wine that has fermented. Of course, pro-drinkers insist wine mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments is always fermented. For example, this is often cited to affirm the belief that Jesus’ first miracle endorsed the use of alcohol by turning water into fermented wine (John 2:1-11). “When men have well drunk” does not mean that they were intoxicated, though it is usually employed in that sense. In this context, it means when they have drunk sufficient, and the keenness of their taste has waned so that they could not readily distinguish the good from that which was worse.[lii]
There are numerous reasons to conclude that Jesus did not contribute to a drunken wedding celebration. Foremost in my mind is the reality that Jesus would not violate His Word: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken (Habakkuk 2:15). It would have been scandalous to the highest degree had Jesus done such a thing. And not just in pharisaical circles but also among ordinary Jewish people. Furthermore, creating aged (fermented) wine would have been antithetical to the miracle’s message. Jesus demonstrated that His new wine is superior, as is everything tied to the new, Messianic age He was introducing.[liii] This introduction miracle is directly linked to the Feast of Pentecost, where the new wine of the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the Church (Acts 2:1-18). The new fresh superiority of the wine at the wedding feast typified the new fresh superiority of the wine poured out at Pentecost. Ironically, skeptical onlookers at Pentecost also mistook the miracle for drunkenness, and Peter quickly assured them they were intoxicated by the Spirit, not alcohol (Acts 2:13-16).
Questions Answered: Does Yayin Always Mean Fermented Wine?
Those who argue that the Hebrew word yayin (wine) and its Greek equivalent oinos (wine) always refer to fermented wine are forced to ignore several salient Scripture passages. In both cases, the biblical word wine is used interchangeably to describe fresh juice or various levels of fermented juice, depending on the context. Yayin is a generic term used approximately 141 times in the Old Testament which speaks of all sorts of wine (yayin). Sometimes, yayin is applied to all kinds of fermented grape juice. On the other hand, yayin is used for describing the sweet unfermented juice of the grape. It can refer to fresh juice as it is pressed from grapes. Isaiah prophesied, “The treaders shall tread out no wine (yayin) in their presses” (Isaiah 16:10).” Likewise, Jeremiah said, “I have caused wine (yayin) to fall from the presses; none will tread without shouting (Jeremiah 48:33).” Jeremiah even refers to the juice still in the grape as (yayin) in Jeremiah 40:10-12.
Further evidence that yayin at times refers to unfermented juice of the grape is found in Lamentations, where the author describes nursing infants as crying out to their mothers for their everyday food of “corn and wine (Lamentations 2:12).” Also, The Jewish Encyclopedia  states: “Fresh wine before fermentation was called yayin-mi-gat (wine of the vat).”[liv] Fermentation is just another word for corruption. The potato must first rot (corruption) to make vodka. There is no corruption in God’s kingdom! Fermentation, corruption represents sin which is contrary to the holiness of God (Galatians 6:8).
Deeply welded into our sinful nature is the predisposition to seek confirmation for our preconceived ideas. Just like two thieves could hang next to Jesus and reach completely different conclusions about Him, we are vulnerable to misperceiving Truths hanging all around us. Why can two people read the same Scripture and walk away with opposing views? And why can those two people be wrong at the same time? Often, it’s because they view Scripture through the grimy lens of existing beliefs and confusing distortions.
Simply put, our flesh tends to believe what it wants to believe. That’s why Paul exclaimed that he died daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). A carnal unsubmitted mind will never understand spiritual things. While I do pray, this treatise will persuade someone to walk away from the alcohol. I realize it will take more than mere words formed into arguments to break that yoke. Whether I’m completely right or entirely wrong will make no difference to a person locked into a position or bound by addiction. Perhaps this will strengthen wavering resolve in the hearts of unsure saints. Maybe a leader’s tired hands will be lifted by this work. Hopefully, a sincere-hearted questioner will find food for thought in this resource.
Like so many others, I’ve seen first-hand the wreckage and waste accompanying even so-called moderate drinking. I’ve seen personalities freakishly changed by drink. I’m firmly planted in the category of people who do not need a Bible to be convinced that alcohol is harmful beyond measure and without redeeming value. I realize that for some people, the dilemma isn’t so black and white. Those people look for gray areas and live in the shadows. There’s no long-term warmth or comfort in those shadows. But I chose a long time ago to live in the light.
[i] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “πίνω πίω πόω,” paragraph 4016. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#4016
There are at least six interpretations about the nature of this crime:
1. It was an act of incest between Ham and his mother. This is based on the later use of the phrase father’s nakedness to refer to the mother as translated word for word in the NASB (e.g., Leviticus 18:8). This interpretation sometimes suggests that Canaan was the result of this act of incest.
2. It was an act of homosexuality between Ham and his father. This is based on taking the phrase what his youngest son had done to him (Genesis 9:24) as referring to a physical act.
3. It was an act of trespassing by Ham into his father’s tent.
4. It was an act of castration. This view is found in the Talmud, a Jewish collection of rabbinical law, law decisions, and comments on the Laws of Moses. It is seen as a power struggle in the family.
5. It was an act in which Ham attempted to achieve authority over his father by “blackmailing” him with his indecent exposure. Ham, in this view, desired to be head of the family.
6. It was a viewing (accidental or purposeful) in which Ham did not treat his father with respect because he spoke about his condition to his brothers.
The last interpretation seems the most natural, when all the circumstances are considered. Any improper action can be seen as an attempt to embarrass the father and as a result possibly to take leadership from the father. The actions of the brothers Shem and Japheth seem to contrast with the actions of Ham. Since they actually covered Noah’s nakedness, Ham apparently saw and left his father in a compromising position and then gossiped about it. Since Canaan has been mentioned previously (Genesis 9:18, 22) and Noah’s curse on Canaan appears immediate, Canaan is best seen as living at the time of this incident.
[ii]Kenneth O. Gangel and Stephen J. Bramer, Genesis, ed. Max Anders, vol. 1 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2002), 94-95. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#1043
[iii] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 1747. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#1747
[iv] Joe Cathey, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “DRUNKENNESS,” paragraph 4819. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#4819
[v] Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Joel 1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/joel-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
[vi] William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Sc. 3. Line 285.
[vii] McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 27: Hosea & Joel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.
[viii] J. Vernon McGee, Proverbs—Malachi, vol. III of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), paragraph 30067. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#30067
[ix] Trent C. Butler, Isaiah, ed. Max Anders, vol. 15 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2002), 164. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#57819
[x] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 11539. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#11539
[xi] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), 212. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#35650
[xii] David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 27 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 64. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#38672
[xiii] Stephen R. Miller, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, ed. Max Anders, vol. 20 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2004), 63. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#73119
[xiv] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 19110. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#19110
[xv] Eugene Carpenter, “Daniel,” in Ezekiel Daniel, vol. 9 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 374. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#77030
[xvi] Kenneth O. Gangel, Daniel, ed. Max Anders, vol. 18 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2001), 132. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#67248
[xvii] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16837
[xix] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 14336. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#14336
[xx] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330-1331. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16838
[xxi] J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians—Revelation, vol. V of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 454. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#60675
[xxii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985
[xxiii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), paragraph 3077. https://accordance.bible/link/read/MacArthur_Study_Bible#3077
[xxiv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10:9”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.
[xxv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.
[xxvi] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.
[xxvii] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.
[xxviii] Roger M. Raymer, 1 Peter (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 2:845. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#30327
[xxix] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 97601. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#97601
[xxx] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 17181. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#17181
[xxxi] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 105. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#59428
[xxxii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 3685. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#3685
[xxxiii] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 5239. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#5239
[xxxiv] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 14458. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#14458
[xxxv] A. H. Sayce, ISBE, s.v. “Baal (1),” paragraph 6416. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ISBE#6416
[xxxvi] Max Anders, Proverbs, ed. Max Anders, vol. 13 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2005), 198. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#49971
[xxxvii] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs, Volume Two, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), 56. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#24180
[xxxviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 4746. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#4746
[xxxix] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 12568. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#12568
[xl] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “νήφω,” paragraph 3443. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#3443
[xli] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 22602. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#22602
[xlii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985.https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985
[xliii] Craig Keener, The Bible in its Context, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: Oak Tree Software, 2015), 39. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Keener-Context#433
[xliv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11961. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11961
[xlv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 10620. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#10620
[xlvii] David L. Turner, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in Matthew Mark, vol. 11 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 162. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#89927
[xlviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 5293. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#5293
[l] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 1627. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#1627
[lii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 6497. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Barnes’_Notes_(NT)#6497
[liii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 23006. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#23006
[liv] Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for ‘Wine’. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/w/wine.html. 1901.
Charles A. Rhodus’ new book, The Argument for Holiness, is not a teaching resource defending the minutia of biblical holiness. It isn’t a handbook or a study guide. Instead, it’s a concise and straightforward defense of the necessity of holiness preaching in the twenty-first century. The author makes a heartfelt plea to church leaders, asking them to acknowledge holiness as salvifically necessary. Rhodus is clear; holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth. He implores saints to value holiness in their church and church leadership.
Holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth.Tweet
The Spirit of Jezebel
In four short chapters, Rhodus lays the case for his concerns. He begins by pinpointing the spirit of Jezebel, which seeks to infiltrate our churches and destroy the love of holiness. And by extension, our genuine love and relationship with the holy God of the Bible. Rhodus doesn’t deeply define the spirit of Jezebel. Instead, he uses it as typical of seducing spirits that promote lust, immorality, indecency, immodesty, and rebellion.
The Watchman on the Wall
Rhodus gives his most robust clarion call in chapter two, The Watchman on the Wall, by invoking Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman see the sword come and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” Reminding spiritual leaders of their Divine responsibility to warn of danger and the personal consequences if they do not. Chapter three quickly pivots to a passionate look at the spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). In keeping with the book title Rhodus argues that feelings are not superior to the Word of God. However, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Feelings are not superior to the Word of God, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).Tweet
Aggressively Cleansing the Temple
In my opinion, chapter four is the most insightful area of study in the book. Rhodus draws comparisons between Jesus’ aggressive cleansing of the temple and our obligation to do the same spiritually with our bodily temples. I gleaned nuggets of inspiration during the process of reading The Argument for Holiness. For example, Rhodus cites James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded,” and I noticed an element previously overlooked. The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness. I especially enjoyed my conversation with Rev. Rhodus in the Apostolic Voice Podcast featured below. We were able to rabbit trail in all kinds of interesting directions. Rhodus’ commitment to preaching hard truths with love and sincerity resonated with my spirit. The hour-long conversation flew by which is always an indicator of good content and spontaneous flow. I’m confident it will bless you while you’re listening.
The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness (James 4:8).Tweet
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Charles A. Rhodus’ brand new book, The Argument for Holiness (www.charlesarhodus.com), makes a case for outward holiness. Ryan and Rev. Rhodus discuss holiness from a balanced and biblical perspective. Topics discussed include defining holiness, the spirit of Jezebel, the role of a pastor as a watchman on the wall, the spirit of holiness, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord, aggressively cleansing the temple, and dealing with church hurt. You can read Ryan’s review of The Argument for Holiness at www.ryanafrench.com.
Initially, I started this blog specifically to answer questions I repeatedly received from people in my church and community. This format was just an easy way for me to answer a lot of people at the same time. I know, I know, that’s a very introverted thing to do. Also, it probably demonstrates my conversational laziness as well. I knew, too, that the questions being asked were pretty common questions in other church settings as well, which turned out to be truer than I realized at the time.
Often people will write with a question and begin by apologizing for being a bother. I always try to respond by assuring them that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And, if pastors can’t or won’t answer the difficult questions, they aren’t fulfilling their God-given leadership role (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a sentiment floating around asserting that we shouldn’t respond to questions asked in the spirit of entrapment. That is to say, a question designed to back someone into a corner and elicit a response that can be misconstrued or used against the answerer. I sympathize to a certain degree with that mindset. However, it’s worth noting that Jesus still responded to the Pharisees when they poised their poisonous questions.
Regardless, if we’re not careful, we will fall into the trap of viewing every questioner as bad intentioned when they are just uninformed or misinformed. Even the first apostolic sermon on salvation was preached in response to a question (Acts 2:37-38). Many years ago, I was influenced by the book by Conrad Gempf called Jesus Asked. That little book opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious to me as a prolific reader of the Gospels. Jesus avidly employed the Socratic method of answering questions with a question. Jesus rebuked with questions (Luke 8:25, Mark 8:21), provoked deeper thought with questions (Mark 11:28, Mark 12:16), and asked rhetorical questions (Matthew 21:31, Mark 8:19). It’s nearly impossible to find a passage where Jesus interacted with people that He did not ask a question or a series of questions. That illumination forever impacted my thinking on preaching, teaching, and engaging in thought with others.
I believe Jesus utilized questions for several reasons: One, it forced the other person to think and engage. Two, it introduced new lines of thought and brought clarity to issues. Three, it was more approachable than domineering. Four, it put the questioner on the defensive rather than the offensive. Five, it took Him out of the faulty framework of preconceived ideas contained within the original question. Six, it invited people to find Truth in answering His question rather than simply believing a declaration. There is a time for declaration, and Jesus made plenty of bold declarations (John 14:6, John 10:7). Still, there is also a time to ask questions and invite others to find the answers with us, which has always been the philosophy of Apostolic Voice.
That was a ridiculously long way of saying keep the questions coming. Sometimes your questions send me on a journey of discovery. Some questions are humbling because they show me how little I know about the Bible. In a recent podcast (click here to listen), I thoroughly enjoyed tackling some great questions from you folks. I’m posting that Q&A in written form for those who prefer reading over listening. Or for those who might want to easily reference back to this article in the future. No names are mentioned because I wouldn’t want to risk embarrassing anyone.
Q1: How should we feel about going to church when a threat or danger is at hand?
Before jumping into a biblical discussion of this topic, allow me to begin by pointing out the obvious: There is always a certain level of danger when we physically gather for worship. I know this question is likely referring to COVID-19. I think it helps if we put a few things into perspective. Here’s some simple math, 38,000 people tragically die in car accidents each year in the United States. Meaning, just driving to church has some inherent risks. Sadly, 28,000 people die of the common flu each year in the United States. Also, I think we have to weigh the physical and spiritual risks of not attending church.
Some Common Sense Observations
I’m not qualified enough to emphatically argue the suicidal impact of the shutdowns, but I have the common sense to know it’s been substantial. People have been alienated from friends, sequestered away from family, blocked from healthy social interaction, kept from education, hindered from church attendance (and church socialization). We’ve all been fed a steady diet of fear, politicized, marginalized, and handcuffed by despair with seemingly no end in sight. You can’t tell me all that hasn’t harmed people in ways we can’t even fathom right now. Books and studies will look back over these things and tell countless stories of tragedy. My heart breaks for children who endured 2020-2021 (and maybe 2022) during their most formative years. They will deal with neuroses and developmental disorders that go far beyond the ordinary. On the other end of the spectrum, elders who are certainly the most vulnerable to COVID-19 among us have suffered tremendous emotional pain and loneliness in their twilight years as we have tried our best to protect them. It’s truly sad.
The Long-Term Fallout of Fear
I’ve written about spiritual problems and solutions related to COVID-19 in the past (A Christian Manuel For Navigating Uncertain Times, Unmasked – Cogent Covid Thoughts). However, we are only just now seeing the overwhelming negative spiritual impacts of our churches being severely impaired and restricted for over a year and a half. An alarming 7% of past churchgoers claim they will not be resuming in-person services again even once the pandemic is over.[iii] That stat is probably higher because many who will not return to church aren’t willing to talk about it with pollsters. And the falling church attendance is minor compared to the spiritual devastation many people have experienced due to increased carnality and lack of accountability. Countless churches are reeling from that reality. Not to mention how the media has demonized worship or the social stigma of churches being labeled super-spreaders.
What Does the Bible Say?
Before jumping straight to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), let’s go a few verses back and examine the context of that often-quoted verse. Remember, Paul (the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion) was no stranger to danger. He was beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The First Church met under threat of death, persecution, imprisonment, and more. So, Paul did not write from the Western standpoint of one who has never genuinely suffered for the Gospel or to gather. Hebrews 10:22-23 are admonishments to remain pure (holy), faithful, hopeful, unwavering, and uncompromising. Hebrews 10:24 is a call to think carefully about how we can encourage one another to do all of the above, love our fellow Christians, and do good deeds. All of that was Paul’s way of leading up to the importance of Hebrews 10:25, which is a familiar verse to most churchgoers.
So, when Paul said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).” He emphasized the universal human need for the people of God to gather regularly if they are to remain strong in faith, love, and works. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) had already considered the intrinsic dangers of gathering in that apostolic command. Yet, he gave no caveats or wiggle room for the Church to use as convenient excuses. In fact, he doubles down by denouncing those who had already forsaken assembly and encouraging the future church to gather more often as the rapture draws closer.
To drive the point home, Paul continues in Hebrews 10:26-29 with a grave warning about sinful Christians and backsliding. Christians who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth have no further sacrifice for their atonement (Hebrews 10:26). They can live with terrifying anticipation of the fiery judgment of God because they become adversaries of God even while calling themselves believers (Hebrews 10:27). If people were put to death for breaking the law of Moses, shouldn’t we expect far more significant punishment for disrespecting the blood of Jesus, trampling the son of God, and insulted God’s grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)? These four verses aren’t randomly placed after Paul’s apostolic command to gather. They are a continuation of that discussion. Because gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.
Gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.Tweet
To be fully transparent, I do believe in being careful and using wisdom. I’ve lost friends and loved ones during this pandemic. My church has experienced heartbreaking COVID-19 related deaths. My father almost died when he contracted COVID-19, and it turned into COVID-pneumonia. My church has socially distanced, rearranged seating, canceled Sunday School for over a year (to protect the elderly teachers), worn masks, sanitized the building, provided sanitizer to saints, launched a live stream, and canceled many services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during peak outbreaks. We’ve made hard calls and tried to use as much wisdom as humanly possible. But we also realize that fear cannot become hysteria, and our church is an essential service. Indefinite shutdowns are not an option, and any shutdown is the last resort.
There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral. If you have a fever or feel like you’re contagious to others, you should feel excused to stay home. Do your best to stay connected to that service remotely, either through technology or word of mouth. And remain accountable to your pastor or other saints (depending on your church’s protocol). Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership. If you are especially vulnerable (age, preexisting conditions, compromised immune system) and your church hasn’t canceled services, consult your leadership about it. Take extra precautions when you attend, wear a mask, keep a distance from others (wave hands, don’t shake hands), and ask to be temporarily excused from church responsibilities that might cause too much direct contact with people. Trust that your pastor is making godly decisions to keep you physically and spiritually safe.
There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral.Tweet
Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership.Tweet
If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church. If you feel comfortable being around people outside of the church, you should go to church. It really is that simple. The Church is an essential service for your soul. And if you are responsible for children, you should be factoring their spiritual well-being into your decision-making process too. Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.
If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church.Tweet
Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.Tweet
Power, Love & Sound Mind
In 2 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charged Timothy to have peace (inner calm and spiritual well-being). Then, Paul praised the faithfulness of his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). He reminded Timothy to keep the gift of God stirred up inside of him, which he had already received by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Then, Paul launched into a verse that we often quote, and you’ll quickly recognize it even though I’m citing the Amplified version: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7). Notice the entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.
The entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.Tweet
Q2: What age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating?
My daughter Julia Lynn is fourteen, and she is lovely, talented, brilliant, sweet, introverted, kind, and godly. Needless to say, I have strong opinions and emotions related to this topic (you’ve been warned). Also, I’ve written an in-depth article on apostolic dating called 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles. So, I’ll resist the temptation to repeat all of that here. If dating questions are relevant to you or someone you love, I recommend thoroughly reading that article. However, I did not specifically address this question in 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles, probably because I had older singles in mind at the time. Still, this is a very relevant and essential question to answer. It’s a question that should be taken seriously and not frivolously.
Real Life Dating Principles
Let me lay some framework around my answer. The Bible clearly states that we should abstain from sex outside the marriage covenant (Hebrews 13:4). I also know that human nature makes that incredibly difficult, especially in our current culture, unless we have careful guard rails in place (1 Corinthians 7:2). Keeping that in mind, I do not support long engagements or dating for years on end. Also, I do not believe an apostolic should marry outside the faith. And I don’t endorse casual dating. I think all dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end. Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.
All dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end.Tweet
Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.Tweet
The Answer… Kinda
Because of everything stated above, I feel that it is unwise to date before seventeen. For most people, even seventeen is probably far too young to begin dating. Why? Because you shouldn’t date unless you are mature enough to realistically get married within a year or year and a half (at the latest) of dating an individual. Most people are simply not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to get married by eighteen or nineteen. You would be an extremely rare exception to the rule if you are that person. Furthermore, you can’t be the one to decide if you are mature enough to be dating. You must allow elders, parents, church leaders, and godly friends to make that assessment for you (and with you).
A Few Quick Guard Rails
Before you reach an age where you could realistically think about getting married, all your relationships should be kept on the friendship level, at arm’s length, and never exclusive. You certainly shouldn’t be spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex or engaging in long intimate conversations via phone, text, or social media. That’s basically the definition of dating, whether you call it dating or not. This answer is probably a little frustrating, but I don’t think there is a one size fits all age where everyone should start dating. Seventeen at the absolute earliest and probably early twenties is a good average timeframe to begin dating safely. But even then, I default back to an earlier dating guard rail, never date just to date or to cure loneliness. Only date an individual if you see real marriage potential in that person and have the approval of godly mentors around you. Never date secretly or without consulting godly elder mentors (not just your best friends and peers).
Love God First & Foremost
Again, if you’re interested in a more in-depth conversation about dating, follow this link (6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles). Don’t be that flaky, wishy-washy, needy person who can’t live without a dating relationship. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are before you start the long, complex process of loving someone else. Keep God first, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.Proverbs 3:5-6
Q3: I’m sitting with a dying friend suffering with stage 4 lung cancer. I would like topics on learning to trust Jesus and faith.
First, let me say to you, and everyone suffering from similar pain, that I’m so sorry for your situation. I know the heartbreak and helpless feelings are difficult to endure. And we can be forgiven for wondering how and why awful things like this happen. The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18). Sometimes the hurt numbs us to the presence of the Lord. Allow the Lord to draw close to you and give you the peace that only He can provide.
The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18).Tweet
Encouragement from Mother
My mother has written and spoken about this subject beautifully from her suffering and fiery trials. I encourage you to read her article called Praising the Lord in All Things and listen to her talk about it in this conversation called Talking with Mom (Rebecca French) About Pain, Sickness, Parenting, Faith, Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and People with Special Needs. She has a unique perspective and special anointing that ministers to the hurting. I know her words will help you and anyone suffering or watching helplessly while a loved one suffers. Know that you’re not alone, and ultimately peace always comes while we wait on the Lord.
Four Simple Strategies for the Brokenhearted
I could write a lengthy essay about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Or I could wax eloquent about how sin ushered pain and suffering into the human condition. And I could write philosophically about how God is good even when we don’t understand His plan. But I know none of those things will help you right now. But I do know a few simple things that have helped me through similar situations.
One, turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation. When the pain is deep, don’t turn to anything other than God for relief. Two, keep connected to prayerful friends who will encourage you and pray for you. Our flesh wants to withdraw when hurting but resist that urge and stay (or get) closely connected to godly people. Three, find an encouraging Bible verse (if you don’t already have a favorite one) and quote it to yourself all the time. Write it down and read it. Write it over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all-around your house and car. Make it your screen saver on your phone. Let it penetrate past your mind and settle down in your soul. Four, don’t miss church. Again, it’s tempting to pull away when we’re hurting, but skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.
Turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation.Tweet
Skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.Tweet
Q4: How many books will be opened on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be opened?
Two passages of Scripture mention a plurality of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment. The prophet Daniel described an apocalyptic vision (waking thoughts) and wrote, “the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Daniel 7:10)”. He was alluding to a courtroom scene where everything was rightfully placed, the court was called to attention, and the books were opened. In this particular context, the books shown are books of judgment. The book of Revelation seems to be referencing the same future apocalyptic scene where there will be a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). If these two passages are describing the same future event, John the Revelator (the writer of Revelation) received more details in his vision:
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).
The Book of Life & Books of Judgment
There are at least three books described in this vision. The names of all believers are listed in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The “earth dwellers” names are not in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). The first set of books mentioned appear to be the same books Daniel saw in his vision (Daniel 7:10). But John saw an additional book of life, and God revealed that anyone whose name is not in that book would be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). That will be the final eternal sentencing by God upon each individual human.
According to What They Had Done
The lives of all who did not obey the Gospel and live according to God’s eternal Word will be completely exposed before God. Every selfish and defiant act and ungodly thought will be called into account. Even the secret sins, which it seemed no one knew about, will be brought to light and judged (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16). All will be judged individually for their works according to God’s standards and principles, with consideration for motives and opportunities (Luke 12:47–48), which indicates differences in the sentencing and degree of punishment but not in the duration. The torment of the lake of fire is unquenchable. It will last forever (for a detailed examination of what the Bible teaches about Hell, consider reading What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know).
It appears to me that the names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them. However, the names listed in the judgment books (we have no idea how many books there will be) will be adjudicated based on their works. And because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that will be an unwinnable case for them (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, it appears that hell will bring forth the dead who are unsaved before the final judgment (Revelation 20:13). Meaning, the Day of Judgment will be more of a formality than an actual legal proceeding. The unsaved will have already tasted Hell, and the saved will have already experienced a sample of Heaven’s splendor.
The names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them.Tweet
A Final Possibility
Some scholars speculate that one of the judgment books mentioned might be the Bible itself. In my opinion, it would make sense for one book to be a record of every individual’s earthly conduct contrasted to God’s divine law recorded in Scripture. If God judges us according to our deeds, the standard of judgment will also be present, which is the Word of God. I have no problem accepting that as a possibility. All speculation aside, I just know my name needs to be in the book of life.
Q5: In Genesis 6:1-4, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters?
Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most highly debated topics among saints and theologians alike. I’ll give my humble opinion on the subject as best I can. There are two (some would argue four) possible answers to your question. First (and most plausibly), the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain. God’s covenant people are often referred to in the Bible as “God’s sons” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Romans 8:14). This view would explain why God eventually forbade the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3).
Most plausibly, the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain.Tweet
However, it is a widespread opinion that the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis were fallen angels marrying mortal women and producing giants. Although, you should know the word Nephilim or giants could mean giants in the sense of their fame, strength, or renown and does not necessarily refer to actual giants in the sense of height. There is some credence given to this idea in Peter’s epistles and the epistle of Jude (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). I don’t believe this view to be accurate. Proponents of this view still leave us with more questions than answers.
It would be far more plausible, in my opinion, to say demon-possessed men married and produced wicked offspring rather than believing literal angelic (spiritual beings) married and had half-human half-demon offspring. As best we can tell from Scripture, actual angels (or demons) are incapable of doing such a thing. Otherwise, Satan and all the fallen angels would most certainly be doing just that regularly trying to wreak havoc in this world. They do not, and that alone is enough to convince me that such a thing is impossible.
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Ryan explains The Narcissism of Knowing from ryanafrench.com. And in a new segment, Ryan answers five questions from readers and listeners: One, how should we feel about going to church when there is danger or a threat at hand? Two, what age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating? Three, I am sitting with a dying friend with stage four lung cancer. I want a topic on learning to trust Jesus and faith. Four, How many books will be open on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be open? I was reading Daniel chapter seven. Five, in Genesis six, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters? I know God’s angels are spiritual and are unable to reproduce. The lovely Taylor French (Ryan’s wife) joins the fun for another adventure of Gross-Good-Great featuring Krispy Kreme flavored Jelly Bellies. Finally, Ryan unveils his newest poem called The Glittering Edge of Truth.
My kids inherited my deep love for music. But, unfortunately, they’re also picky and opinionated about the music we listen to regularly (also something they inherited from me). So, my iron-fisted reign over the music played in the car is being overthrown a little more each day. Complicating things further, my kids aren’t in total unity about which songs are “super great.” So, when they both like a particular singer, a tiny shred of heavenly peace fills our daily commutes.
Recently, we accidentally discovered Matthew West, a Christian solo artist. His lyrics are godly, and the kids are wild about it. Julia loves Becoming Me, and Talmadge thinks Amen is the anthem of the ages. After about a week straight of playing the “Anthem of the Ages” and the “Sweetest Song Ever Penned,” I couldn’t take it anymore. It turns out you can have too much of a good thing. So today, I gathered the kiddos around my outdated iPhone, fired up the iTunes store, and started sifting through all the Matthew West songs available. Fifteen dollars bought us all a little much-needed peace and sanity.
For those that don’t know, when you’re searching for music on the iTunes store, it allows you to listen to short clips of the songs before making a purchase. This had my kids up in arms. They reasoned that people couldn’t possibly decide if they liked a song in just a few seconds, which is kinda true. Their recommendation was to buy every song, but Matthew West has a big musical portfolio, and that was out of the question. So, we settled for doing our best to sort out which songs we truly enjoyed with limited information.
This whole process conjured up all kinds of happy memories from my childhood. Memories I happily shared with my kids. They were shocked to hear that you couldn’t buy one song at a time in the good old days and store them on your phone. They gasped at the concept of having to buy an entire CD and needed a detailed explanation of the word cassette tape. But, on the other hand, my eyes probably shined with joy telling stories of running into the Family Christian Store to buy the newest Steven Curtis Chapman album and listening to the entire thing from beginning to end. Not only would I listen to every word of every song, I’d open that slipcover and read all the lyrics, credits, and thank you’s too. Yep. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories.
Those days are long gone. The only album I’ve purchased in full in the last several years is this one – and you should too. People typically buy one song per album. Usually, it’s a song they heard on the radio. Anyone with any musical taste knows the radio hit is rarely the best song on the album (I told you I was musically opinionated). We miss so much great music in the age of iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and whatever the other newfangled digital platform is ascending nowadays. We bypass wonderful songs because the little five-second clip doesn’t do it justice. We ignore songs because they’re not on the local Christian radio charts. Charts that increasingly seem to only have about five songs in rotation.
I may be pining for the old days now, but in reality, I love the convenience of not carrying 300 CDs around in my car. Also, it’s nice having all my music available at the touch of a button. Music is much cheaper when you aren’t forced to buy the entire album. In other words, there’s no going back now. And musically speaking, maybe that’s fine.
Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences. For example, many people approach the Bible like an iTunes playlist. They get little biblical snippets here and there, mostly from easily accessible digital sources. They’re familiar with the top ten Bible verses but rarely know the context or framework of their favorite scriptures. Their theology and understanding of the Gospel are based on sound clips and abbreviated versions that sound great but lack depth and richness. This is evidenced by nationwide lagging attendance during midweek Bible study services and further demonstrated by Christians who lack transformation and basic biblical knowledge. Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.
Every cultural revolution and technological advancement have unintended (or at least corresponding) sociological consequences.Tweet
Unbelievers see and hear the lack of mainstream Christianity’s depth and want nothing to do with that slick, naive, cheap, polished brand of empty believe-ism.Tweet
It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out. Jesus put it this way: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel. And the world is full of people who have rejected the iTunes version of the Gospel because they quickly recognized it as inconsistent, indefensible, and unsatisfying. You see, cheapening the Gospel doesn’t make it more palatable. It actually renders it worthless to the world. A little fly in the perfume gives the whole bottle a rotten smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1).
It’s not possible to pick and choose the “highlights” or the “best of” moments of the Bible and leave the rest out.Tweet
Many churches are filled with sincere unsaved people who have not truly obeyed God’s Word because they unwittingly settled for an iTunes version of the Gospel.Tweet
The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Before you can even enter into the plan of salvation, you must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Many people believe in the idea of God but reject Jesus. But to embrace the Gospel, we first must believe that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31, John 3:18, John 4:42).
The saving power of the Gospel is more than mental assent, a moment of sincere belief, or an ecstatic emotional experience. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.Tweet
The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse, and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. Next, the apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.
The heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13).Tweet
There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse…Tweet
Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).
Baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).Tweet
After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s excellent news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.
After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).Tweet
We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4).Tweet
I know that isn’t the slick version of the Gospel many people have seen on TV or heard on the radio. It doesn’t fit nicely on a bumper sticker. God didn’t design the Gospel to blend in with our overly commercialized culture. No. The Gospel is timeless, changeless, and sacred. So please don’t settle for an iTunes version of the Gospel that doesn’t save or satisfy.
Podcast Featuring the Above Article
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Ryan exposes easy-believism from his www.ryanafrench.com article titles Don’t Settle For an iTunes Version of the Gospel. Then, Julia and Talmadge French join the fun for an extended segment of Gross-Good-Great, where they take their job very seriously of rating Jelly Belly Gummies, Skittles Gummies, and Caramel Apple Chews.
Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/message
Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support