Questions & Answers
Is it a sin to drink alcohol?

When Jesus performed His very first public miracle at Cana and "manifested His glory," did He merely make grape juice (John 2:11)? If the wedding at Cana was conducted according to Jewish custom, the guests were certainly drinking fermented wine at the wedding feast. When the guests ran out of wine in their time of rejoicing, Jesus helped them by turning water into what Scripture calls "wine." If Jesus had made grape juice for the guests, they never would have said to the bridegroom what is reported in Scripture: "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" (John 2:10).

In the above verse, John used the Greek word oinos for "wine"—and it is important to recognize that oinos always refers to a fermented beverage. The Bible uses 13 Hebrew and Greek words for "wine," and we can find their meanings by noting the contexts in which they are used. The word "wine" is first used in the Old Testament when Noah "drank of the wine and was drunk" (Genesis 9:21). The Hebrew word used here is yayin. That wine caused Noah to become intoxicated. Yayin always means "fermented wine." God Himself gave "wine" to Abraham—the father of the faithful: "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine [yayin]; he was the priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18). Melchizedek was the one who became Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament; if you are not familiar with Melchizedek’s identity, please write to the regional office nearest you to request, absolutely free, our reprint article, Who Was the God of the Old Testament?

The phrase "fruit of the vine" is only used three times in the Bible—Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:18—in reference to the Passover service Jesus instituted on the night before He died. Passover was held in the spring, long before the annual grape harvest, so any "fruit of the vine" consumed on that evening would have had to be fermented, as grape juice would long since have spoiled in the containers used for storage in Jesus’ day. Some ludicrously claim that the item consumed was "molasses"—another way of preserving grapes without making wine. This does not make sense, if we remember that this was a meal, and Jesus and His disciples would not have been drinking molasses with their meal.

The same Greek word oinos used in John 2:3–10 is also used in Ephesians 5:18: "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation." Grape juice does not cause "dissipation." Note also this description of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost: "Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine [oinos]’" (Acts 2:13): Furthermore: "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine [oinos] nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak" (Romans 14:21). Paul wrote to Timothy: "A bishop then must be… not given to wine [oinos], not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous" (1 Timothy 3:2–3). Were we to substitute "grape juice" into these contexts, the verses would make no sense. When Paul explained to Timothy the medicinal value of wine, he wrote: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities" (1 Timothy 5:23). Once again, the Greek word used is oinos—fermented wine, not grape juice. As you can see, while the Bible condemns drunkenness, Scripture also teaches that it is acceptable to drink alcohol in moderation.