Alcohol and the Christian

The Apostle Peter, in the first of his epistles, wrote with deep emotion
to the young Christian church in his time:

1 Peter 2:11
    Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the
    passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul.

The "Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary of Synonyms" defines "beseech" as
a strong form of begging implying "eager urgency and often anxiety and
solicitude". Hence this is a very strong warning from a high ranking,
miracle working, original Apostle about warfare wherein Christians can be
killed by the passions of the flesh. This is very serious!

What could these passions be which are so deadly and warranted an
impassioned begging from such an important Apostle? This same Apostle
has written more details to the same group in the same epistle,
answering this question:

1 Peter 4:1-5
    Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with
    the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased
    from sin, {2} so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh NO
    LONGER BY HUMAN PASSIONS but by the will of God. {3} Let the time
    that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living
    in licentiousness, passions, DRUNKENNESS, revels, carousing, and
    lawless idolatry. {4} They are surprised that you do not now join
    them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you; {5} but they
    will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the
    dead.

Notice that one of these deadly lusts of the flesh is DRUNKENNESS. Peter
tells us that the "normal" people in these societies were "surprised"
that these Christians gave up drunkenness, implying that heavy drinking
was considered "normal" and desirable in those societies.

Was Peter a wowser? The "normal" non-Christian people would have thought
so. Was this only his opinion, or is there something more serious here.
Let us read the words of Paul to the Greeks at Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
    God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor
    adulterers, nor sexual perverts, {10} nor thieves, nor the greedy,
    nor DRUNKARDS, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of
    God. {11} And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, you were
    sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
    and in the Spirit of our God.

Was Paul a wowser too? He agreed with Peter, and wrote that drunkards
"will not inherit the kingdom of God". If they won't enter the kingdom
of God, they will be in the Lake of Fire.

The prohpet Isaiah was at it too. He writes that God goes so far as to
place a curse on drunkards:

Isaiah 5:11
    Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after
    strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames
    them!

Is drunkenness really that much of a sin? What's wrong with a little
merriment? Isn't this just a victimless sin?


                       Facts About Alcohol Abuse
                       -------------------------

Drug-Arm "Drug Resources No. 4", "Australian Trends", informs us that
Alcohol is second only to tobacco as the major cause of drug related
mortality in Australia with 6500 deaths in 1992.

The Centre for Education and Information on Drugs and Alcohol (CEIDA)
brochure 9, "Alcohol", states that, of teenagers who drink either
regularly or occasionally, 25% of males and 30% of females are drinking
at harmful levels. The 6500 deaths in 1992 represent about 26% of total
drug-related deaths or 5% of deaths from all causes. What a sad and
pitiful waste of life! Caused by one of the "passions of the flesh that
wage war against your soul". There were 6500 Australians from 1992 who
could be alive today if only they had heeded Peter's warning.

Orion magazine (on the Internet at http://irion.csuchico.edu/Archives
/Volume34/Issue2/Dimensions/Thdaofalab.html) claims one in four American
families is affected by alcohol, 18 million individual Americans are
affected, and 10 million are alcoholics. What a catastrophe!
Furthermore, alcohol is involved in 53% of all highway deaths, 50% of
spouse abuse cases, 38% of child abuse cases, 65% of drownings, 54% of
violent crimes, and 49% of murders or attempts.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is funded by the
government of the United States because of the seriousness of alcohol
related problems. In their booklet, "Alcoholism", available on the
Internet at http://WWW.NIAAA.NIH.GOV/publications/booklet.htm
they provide many alarming research facts and statistics, including the
following (the numbers in brackets identify the reference sources in the
original booklet):

    For most people, alcohol is a pleasant accompaniment to social
    activities. Moderate alcohol use -- up to two drinks per day for men
    and one drink per day for women and older people (A standard drink
    is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of
    wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits) -- is not harmful
    for most adults. Nonetheless, a substantial number of people have
    serious trouble with their drinking. Currently, nearly 14 million
    Americans -- 1 in every 13 adults -- abuse alcohol or are alcoholic.
    Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that
    could lead to alcohol problems. In addition, approximately 53
    percent of men and women in the United States report that one or
    more of their close relatives have a drinking problem.

    The consequences of alcohol misues are serious -- in many cases,
    life-threatening. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain
    cancers, especially those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and
    larynx (voice box). It can also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system
    problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. In
    addition, drinking increases the risk of death from automobile
    crashes, recreational accidents, and on-the-job accidents and also
    increase the likelihood of homicide and suicide. In purely economic
    terms, alcohol-use problems cost society approximately $100 billion
    per year. In human terms, the costs are incalculable.

And this is just in the United States! What a tragedy for humanity!

Apologists for alcohol consumption (frequently also apologists for the
``socially acceptable'' values Satan has inflicted onto humanity) should
note the NIAAA's definition of ``moderate alcohol use'' in the former
paragraph above. Lest any reader should misunderstand, the author is not
against alcohol drinking. Jesus and the Apostles drank wine. Paul
recommended to Timothy, for his stomach's sake, to switch to wine from
water (which was probably contaminated). Today Paul would probably
recommend using boiled water in place of an unchlorinated, untreated
water supply.

The NIAAA has a series of scientific publications on the dangers of
alcohol abuse. We treat just two of them here.

Here are some extracts from NIAAA Alcohol Alert Number 15, "Alcohol and
AIDS" (the numbers in brackets identify the reference sources in the
original booklet):

    Alcohol and the Immune System
    -----------------------------

    Alcohol can impair normal immune responses that protect the body
    from disease (6,7,8). Chronic alcohol consumption has been shown to
    reduce the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in
    laboratory animals (9,10,11) and in humans (12,13). Chronic alcohol
    ingestion or alcohol dependence can depress antibody production and
    other immune responses in animals (10,9) and in humans (14,15).
    Alcohol can suppress activities of certain immune system cells,
    called macrophages, that help keep the lungs free from infection
    (16,17). In addition, alcoholics appear to be more susceptible to
    bacterial infections and cancer than are nonalcoholics (18,19).
    Studies in animals and in humans indicate that consuming alcohol
    during pregnancy can decrease immune resistance in the offspring
    (20,21,22).

    Alcohol's generally immunosuppressive effects could mean that 1)
    drinking may increase vulnerability to HIV infection among people
    exposed to the virus, and that 2) among people who are already HIV
    infected, alcohol-induced immunosuppression might add to HIV-induced
    immunosuppression, and speed the onset or exacerbate the pathology
    of AIDS-related illness. These are complex ideas and areas of
    intense investigation, but so far only a few studies have been
    published. Researchers have learned that alcohol can impair white
    blood cell responses to HIV (23). A provocative study that warrants
    replication found that a single drinking episode depressed certain
    immune responses of white blood cells taken from healthy volunteers
    (24). In addition, white blood cells isolated after this drinking
    episode were more susceptible to HIV infection than were cells
    isolated from subjects who did not drink, hinting that even
    occasional alcohol consumption may increase the likelihood of
    infection upon exposure to HIV. Whether alcohol use influen ces the
    progression of AIDS in persons already infected with HIV has been
    explored in a recent study of homosexual men (25). While these
    researchers found that neither alcohol nor other drugs seem to
    influence the progression of HIV infection or the development of
    AIDS, their results await confirmation. Clearly, more research is
    needed to understand alcohol's role in HIV infection and the course
    of ensuing disease.

    Alcohol and Sexual Behavior
    ---------------------------

    ...

    Alcohol's relationship to high-risk sexual behavior may be explained in
    two ways. First, alcoh ol use may be a marker for a risk-taking
    temperament: those who drink alcohol may also engage in a variety of
    high-risk activities, including unsafe sexual practices, as a part of a
    "problem behavior syndrome" (26,27). Second, alcohol may influence
    high-risk behaviors at specific sexual encounters by affecting judgment
    and disinhibiting socially learned restraints (28,29). These are not
    mutually exclusive interpretations.


In the NIAAA Alcohol Alert Number 22, "Alcohol and Nutrition", they point out


    Impairment of Nutrient Digestion and Utilization
    ------------------------------------------------

    Once ingested, food must be digested (broken down into small
    components) so it is available for energy and maintenance of body
    structure and function. Digestion begins in the mouth and continues
    in the stomach and intestines, with help from the pancreas. The
    nutrients from digested food are absorbed from the intestines into
    the blood and carried to the liver. The liver prepares nutrients
    either for immediate use or for storage and future use.

    Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by
    decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas (2).
    Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the
    stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients
    into the blood (3). In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves
    may lead to further absorption problems. For example, folate
    deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in
    turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients including glucose,
    sodium, and additional folate (3).

    Even if nutrients are digested and absorbed, alcohol can prevent
    them from being fully utilized by altering their transport, storage,
    and excretion (4). Decreased liver stores of vitamins such as
    vitamin A (5), and increased excretion of nutrients such as fat,
    indicate impaired utilization of nutrients by alcoholics (3).

    Alcohol and Energy Supply
    -------------------------

    The three basic nutritional components found in food--carbohydrates,
    proteins, and fats--are used as energy after being converted to
    simpler products. Some alcoholics ingest as much as 50 percent of
    their total daily calories from alcohol, often neglecting important
    foods (3,6).

    Even when food intake is adequate, alcohol can impair the mechanisms
    by which the body controls blood glucose levels, resulting in either
    increased or decreased blood glucose (glucose is the body's
    principal sugar) (7). In nondiabetic alcoholics, increased blood
    sugar, or hyperglycemia--caused by impaired insulin secretion--is
    usually temporary and without consequence. Decreased blood sugar, or
    hypoglycemia, can cause serious injury even if this condition is
    short lived. Hypoglycemia can occur when a fasting or malnourished
    person consumes alcohol. When there is no food to supply energy,
    stored sugar is depleted, and the products of alcohol metabolism
    inhibit the formation of glucose from other compounds such as amino
    acids (7). As a result, alcohol causes the brain and other body
    tissue to be deprived of glucose needed for energy and function.

    ...

    Alcohol and the Maintenance of Cell Structure and Function
    ----------------------------------------------------------

    Structure
    Because cells are made mostly of protein, an adequate protein diet
    is important for maintaining cell structure, especially if cells are
    being damaged. Research indicates that alcohol affects protein
    nutrition by causing impaired digestion of proteins to amino acids,
    impaired processing of amino acids by the small intestine and liver,
    impaired synthesis of proteins from amino acids, and impaired
    protein secretion by the liver (3).

    Function
    Nutrients are essential for proper body function; proteins,
    vitamins, and minerals provide the tools that the body needs to
    perform properly. Alcohol can disrupt body function by causing
    nutrient deficiencies and by usurping the machinery needed to
    metabolize nutrients.

    Vitamins.
    Vitamins are essential to maintaining growth and normal metabolism
    because they regulate many physiological processes. Chronic heavy
    drinking is associated with deficiencies in many vitamins because of
    decreased food ingestion and, in some cases, impaired absorption,
    metabolism, and utilization (1,12). For example, alcohol inhibits
    fat absorption and thereby impairs absorption of the vitamins A, E,
    and D that are normally absorbed along with dietary fats (12,13).
    Vitamin A deficiency can be associated with night blindness, and
    vitamin D deficiency is associated with softening of the bones (6).

    Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins, also deficient in some
    alcoholics, are all involved in wound healing and cell maintenance
    (14). In particular, because vitamin K is necessary for blood
    clotting, deficiencies of that vitamin can cause delayed clotting
    and result in excess bleeding. Deficiencies of other vitamins
    involved in brain function can cause severe neurological damage.

    Minerals.
    Deficiencies of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc
    are common in alcoholics, although alcohol itself does not seem to
    affect the absorption of these minerals (15). Rather, deficiencies
    seem to occur secondary to other alcohol-related problems: decreased
    calcium absorption due to fat malabsorption; magnesium deficiency
    due to decreased intake, increased urinary excretion, vomiting, and
    diarrhea (16); iron deficiency related to gastrointestinal bleeding
    (3,15); and zinc malabsorption or losses related to other nutrient
    deficiencies (17). Mineral deficiencies can cause a variety of
    medical consequences from calcium-related bone disease to
    zinc-related night blindness and skin lesions.

    Alcohol, Malnutrition, and Medical Complications
    ------------------------------------------------

    Liver Disease
    Although alcoholic liver damage is caused primarily by alcohol
    itself, poor nutrition may increase the risk of alcohol-related
    liver damage. For example, nutrients normally found in the liver,
    such as carotenoids, which are the major sources of vitamin A, and
    vitamin E compounds, are known to be affected by alcohol consumption
    (18,19). Decreases in such nutrients may play some role in
    alcohol-related liver damage.

    Pancreatitis
    Research suggests that malnutrition may increase the risk of
    developing alcoholic pancreatitis (20,21), but some research
    performed outside the United States links pancreatitis more closely
    with overeating (21). Preliminary research suggests that alcohol's
    damaging effect on the pancreas may be exacerbated by a
    protein-deficient diet (22).

    Brain
    Nutritional deficiencies can have severe and permanent effects on
    brain function. Specifically, thiamine deficiencies, often seen in
    alcoholics, can cause severe neurological problems such as impaired
    movement and memory loss seen in Wernicke/Korsakoff syndrome (23).

    Pregnancy
    Alcohol has direct toxic effects on fetal development, causing
    alcohol-related birth defects, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
    Alcohol itself is toxic to the fetus, but accompanying nutritional
    deficiency can affect fetal development, perhaps compounding the
    risk of developmental damage (24,25).

    ...


We could go on and on relating the problems associated with alcohol
abuse but the reader should now have sufficient evidence to understand
Peter's warning against the "passions of the flesh that wage war against
your soul".


                Why the Difference in Outlook on Alcohol
                ----------------------------------------

Recall the words of Peter:

1 Peter 4:4
    4 They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild
    profligacy, and they abuse you;

Why? Because you have become weird, different from society, with a set
of values different from those accepted by "normal" people. Why is there
this difference? Why do our societies have a value on alcohol drinking
which is different from those of the New Testament Christianity?
Again, the answer is in the Bible. Peter gave us a clue in his phrase
"that wage war against your soul". There is a war going on, and there
are many casualties, but few people are aware of it. The enemy is most
effective when the victims don't even know there is a war being waged
against them, and the enemy will try to keep us asleep and in darkness
with blindfolds. Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Rev 12:9),
has the world in darkness, as the resurrected Jesus, shining brighter
than the sun with light that no man can behold, told Saul on the
road to Damascus:

Acts 26:16-18
    16 But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for
    this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things
    in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to
    you, {17} delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles -- to
    whom I send you {18} TO OPEN THEIR EYES, that they may turn FROM
    DARKNESS TO LIGHT and FROM THE POWER OF SATAN TO GOD, that they may
    receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are
    sanctified by faith in me.'

Paul passed this information on to the Greeks at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 4:4
    In their case the GOD OF THIS WORLD HAS BLINDED THE MINDS of the
    unbelievers, TO KEEP THEM FROM SEEING THE LIGHT of the gospel of the
    glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.

Paul passed this information on to the Greeks as Ephesus:

Ephesians 6:12
    For we are NOT CONTENDING AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD, but against the
    principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this
    present darkness, against the SPIRITUAL HOSTS OF WICKEDNESS IN THE
    HEAVENLY PLACES.

Jesus explained how Satan has control of the societies of this world and
uses social values and norms to its own advantage and to the harm of
humans.

Matthew 13:19
    When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand
    it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart;
    this is what was sown along the path.

Matthew 13:38-39
    the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the
    kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, {39} and the ENEMY
    WHO SOWED THEM IS THE DEVIL; the harvest is the close of the age,
    and the reapers are angels.

Jesus provided this insight into "normal" humans and how they are
manipulated by Satan, the great deciver and liar, the master
propagandist:

John 8:44
    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your
    father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has
    nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When
    he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is A LIAR AND
    THE FATHER OF LIES.

We can gather these facts:
1. Satan rules the societies of this world
2. Satan hates people
3. Satan uses lies, being the master liar and the father of lies
and draw the conclusion that Satan governs the world through lies and
false concepts to the harm of all people.

In the same theme of warnings in Peter's first epistle, he writes this
about Satan:

1 Peter 5:8
    Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like A
    ROARING LION, SEEKING SOME ONE TO DEVOUR.

We must recognize that Satan also knows that the "passions of the flesh" "wage
war against your soul" from millenia of observation of humanity, if for
no other reason. Satan will also know what are the "passions of the
flesh".

Putting these items of information together, we can expect that Satan
will exalt the "passions of the flesh" and manipulate social values to
harm people and cut them off from God to the greatest extent it can.
Hence we would expect that Satan would have influenced our societies to
consider heavy drinking a desirable value, and that is what we see. In
spite of logic and statistics, we have teenagers and adults engaged in
activities that are destroying families, devastating individuals, and
wasting resources and lives. In our societies true Biblical values are
overthrown. God curses those who call evil good and vice versa, putting
darkness (the values taught by Satan) in place of light, putting the
Satan's ways that bring bitterness in place of God's ways that bring
happiness and peace.

Isaiah 5:20
    Woe to those who CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL, who put DARKNESS FOR
    LIGHT AND LIGHT FOR DARKNESS, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for
    bitter!


                     The Word of God In This Matter
                     ------------------------------

Yet we live in a society which claims to be Christian, while rejecting
the plain warnings in the Word of God about alcohol abuse.

Proverbs 20:1
    Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray
    by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:20
    Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat;

Proverbs 23:29-31
    Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining?
    Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? {30} Those
    who tarry long over wine, those who go to try mixed wine. {31} Do
    not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and
    goes down smoothly.

Ecclesiastes 10:17
    Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of free men, and
    your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for
    drunkenness!

Luke 21:34
    "But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with
    dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day
    come upon you suddenly like a snare;

Ephesians 5:18
    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be
    filled with the Spirit,

Romans 13:13
    let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling
    and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in
    quarreling and jealousy.

Finally, let us return to Paul and another account of the words of
Jesus on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:18
    to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and
    from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of
    sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'


                          If This Has Been You
                          --------------------

If you exist in the chains of alcohol, there is help available to you
from the greatest power in the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of
Lords, who loves you dearly and died for your salvation  -- salvation
not only from eternal death but also for your salvation from whatever
enslaves you in this life. You need to see yourself for what you are, a
weak human, and call on God and his Son for the help you need.

Isaiah 66:1-2
    Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my
    footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what
    is the place of my rest? {2} All these things my hand has made, and
    so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to
    whom I will look, he that is HUMBLE AND CONTRITE IN SPIRIT, AND
    TREMBLES AT MY WORD.

Isaiah 57:15
    For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose
    name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also WITH HIM
    WHO IS OF A CONTRITE AND HUMBLE SPIRIT, to revive the spirit of the
    humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

2 Chronicles 16:9
    For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth,
    to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward
    him.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
    God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor
    adulterers, nor sexual perverts, {10} nor thieves, nor the greedy,
    nor DRUNKARDS, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of
    God. {11} And such WERE some of you. But YOU WERE WASHED, YOU WERE
    SANCTIFIED, YOU WERE JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
    and in the Spirit of our God.

Moulding Christ's words to Paul to your situation, the power of the Holy
Spirit from God is available "to open YOUR eyes, that YOU may turn from
darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that YOU may
receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified
by faith in me."


                              Conclusions
                              -----------

With modern water reticulation methods and the marketing of alternative
drinks (including tea and coffee), those in western societies no
longer need to consume wine daily as was the case in ancient societies.
An occasional alcoholic drink in modern societies can be beneficial and
enjoyable. However, it is no deprivation to miss a drink. Nobody ever
died from skipping a glass of alcoholic beverage, but, over the
millenia, millions have died from over-drinking it.

To be in the kingdom of God, Christians must turn from darkness to
light. Part of that turning involves a recognition of the sin of alcohol
abuse and a joining in thought with Peter, Paul, Isaiah, Jesus and God
against drunkenness.

Alcohol may be a good servant but, like Satan the father of lies, can
become a cruel master if given the opportunity. Those who are free from
this curse ought to strive to help those who are enslaved by it.



Selwyn Russell
March 1997


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