From the pen of our associate editor, Mr. James Gunn, come some practical, needful and solemn comments on a vital matter which affects many professing Christians today.
During the conversational Bible study thoughts moved at a ready pace down the chapter; a brief yet spirited discussion followed each new concept that appeared.
“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine oft infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23), read out the class leader. From this there arose some comments in regard to the medicinal value of wine and its abuse, and these reflections resulted in a warning against social drinking.
The brother who spoke these words of caution added, “Thank God there is no one present to whom these ideas ever had any direct bearing.”
As the class dismissed, a middle-aged brother and sister said quietly to one of the elders, “Yes, to us they did have a direct bearing.” The brother had been an alcoholic.
In the short private conversation the brother continued, “I remember my first drink, and years later, my last drink. I also remember the difficult times I gave my wife.”
“Could you tell how those dreadful years began?” he was asked.
“Oh, yes! By just going with the boys for a glass.”
“Did they end abruptly?”
“Quite, for when God saved me, He not only gave the strength to resist temptation, but he placed in my heart and conscience a persuasive understanding that He had given me an entirely new moral beginning, and that by His grace henceforth I was responsible to keep my Christian life pure, both negatively and positively. These were the two factors which the Lord used to end my years of drinking.”
The Apostle Paul who had instructed Timothy in the use of wine exhorted him, “Keep thyself pure.” He also stipulated that an elder in a local church should not use wine.
In a country where water purification is at a minimum and probably not well known, wine is a necessity, but the apostle was not ignorant of its danger, so insisted upon caution.
This scene which occasionally arises in memory stimulates thanksgiving and praise to the Lord, but another related scene demonstrates the fraility of humanity and the power of temptation.
The funeral home was filled. Friends, neighbours and fellow-Christians had gathered in respect of the dead. The immediate relatives sat in the family alcove at the front of the chapel.
How under the circumstances was one going to minister comfort and assurance to those who sorrowed?
The brother in the casket was well known to most in the audience. He had possessed an excellent singing voice, and years before had “raised the tune” as the saints joined in hymns of truth, praise and worship, but he had died an alcoholic, excommunicated from the church and his Christian testimony lost.
The occasion seemed to activate memory so that a necessary conversation of years before returned in minute detail. That was a sad experience, for we were obliged to advise him that his secret sin had been discovered and that he himself should confess his hidden indulgence to the elders of the assembly.
His personal, private acknowledgement of guilt was sincere; there was proof of regret and repentance. Sorrowfully he related how it all had begun. He had accepted an invitation to a banquet of business and professional men.
There among business associates and friends, rather than be considered odd, he drank his cocktail.
How quickly since then the appetite had developed! How demanding the temptation had become! How soon resistance had broken down!
In that cocktail there was a sting as deadly as the strike of a venomous snake in the grass.
In his Word the Lord has given ample warning concerning alcoholic beverages. We have the shocking example of Noah in his intoxication, and the consequent curse upon his descendants.
Solomon asserts, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). He further warns, “Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Prov. 23:31-32).
A drunkard is to be expelled from the fellowship of the church (1 Cor. 5). He is to be disciplined in order that he be delivered from his folly and restored to the Lord.
The apostle exhorts, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess (riotousness)” (Eph. 5:18). The evil habit of drinking easily leads to dissolution. Bishop Moule writes, “The miserable exaltation of strong drink annuls the holy bonds of conscience with fatal ease and certainty.”
There is a definite need to pray for brethren in Christ who are so frequently exposed to the temptations of the social, commercial and professional worlds. May God give them the spiritual fortitude to resist the enticement of the cocktail custom, and the moral courage to witness for Christ even by their very abstinence.