And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 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 for ever throughout your generations: (Leviticus 10:8-9)
As a young adult being away from the watchful eye of my preacher father, I developed a problem with alcohol. No, I did not become an alcoholic, nor did I develop a habit of getting drunk – very often. I joined the Navy just before my 20th birthday, and I easily passed for 21, so I never encountered problems gaining admittance into bars. As a sailor, I felt encouraged to behave like a sailor and hit the bars with my Navy buddies. I tried hard not to allow myself to get drunk because I had seen how foolish drunks looked returning from “liberty” on a Friday night. I did not want to look like those guys!
The Holy Spirit strongly objects to His temples engaging in acts that do not pertain to them. As a result, I always experienced a twinge of guilt when I was out barhopping with my buddies. I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “My son, this is no place for you.” I attempted to atone for my sin by going to chapel on Sunday morning, but there I felt like a real hypocrite. As a result, I never felt comfortable in the bars or in church. I tried to rationalize my behavior by Scripture. The Bible does not say drinking is wrong. Even Jesus turned water into really good wine. The Bible only discourages getting drunk, and I was not doing that (except one or two times when a few got by me). However, the guilt never left me.
Finally, I yielded to the Holy Spirit. No more would I ride the fence. No longer would I “halt between two opinions.” I determined never to touch any form of alcohol again, and so far, I have been faithful to that commitment. However, I still maintain that there is nothing “sinful” about having a glass of beer or wine with dinner as long as one practices moderation. Drunkenness is another matter altogether. Drunkenness is sin and is strongly discouraged in the Bible. I have good Baptist friends who drink wine or beer occasionally, and I have no problem with that. If the Holy Spirit has not dealt with them as He did with me, what they do is between them and God. I love them and refuse to pass judgment on them. We are God’s children, and I think, as any parent, God deals with each one on an individual basis. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:10, 14).
With that said, I would like to offer some food for thought and let the Holy Spirit use it as He sees fit. As I read the 10th chapter of Leviticus this week, I came across the instructions God gave to Aaron, Moses’ brother and newly installed High Priest. The instruction had to do with the priests that entered the Tabernacle to minister before the Lord. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 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 for ever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 10:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “wine” is yayin. It is “from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication,” The Hebrew word translated “strong drink” is shêkâr, which is “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor.” Clearly, this is not talking about grape juice. It is worth noting that the prohibition was against drinking wine or strong drink, period. It is also worth noting that the prohibition specified serving in the Tabernacle. (Later the same would apply to the service in the Temple.) The prohibition did not apply to them when they were “off duty.”
I found that interesting, but how does that apply to us? Some will rightly point out that this was Old Testament Law which no longer applies to Christians of the New Testament era. Is that so? To those who reject the application of the Old Testament to our lives, allow me to remind you of what Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The New Testament did not exist when Jesus spoke these words; He referred to the only Scripture (Law) that existed in His time, the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul, who wrote 13 (arguably 14) of the New Testament books made countless references to the Old Testament. Every word of Scripture applies to us. We may be “under grace,” but that does not mean that the Law has become irrelevant. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7).
Well then, how does this prohibition given to Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, apply to us, who are “under grace”?
John, the beloved apostle, in his salutation to the seven churches of the Revelation said, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, emphasis mine).
Later John observed the saints around the throne of God singing, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, emphasis mine).
Clearly, we who are born again (twice-born) and call ourselves “children of God” are “priests.” The job of a priest is to intercede between God and man (humans). A priest carries the petitions of man before God and takes the Word of God before men. Is that not what we do when we pray on behalf of others and share the Gospel with others? We are priests.
Now, as long as the priest is not ministering in the Tabernacle/Temple, he is free to drink wine or strong drink. So, we might assume that as long as we abstain on Sunday, when we go to church (the building), we are not in violation. Let us look at that a little closer.
In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place was in the Temple. Even Jesus said as much. “And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him [God] that dwelleth therein” (Matthew 23:21). At the same time, Scripture is clear that God cannot be confined to a physical building. “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet” (Acts 7:48, emphasis mine). “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24, emphasis mine). In the Old Testament, God’s presence manifested in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple even though He is not confined to any one particular place. This has to do with God’s attribute of omnipresence.
The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A.D., so, where does God reside now? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christians, we confess Jesus as our Lord (Boss) and Savior and that His Spirit dwells/resides within us. If that is true, then we are the dwelling place, i.e., the Temple, of the Holy Spirit, and we are living temples not “made with hands.” We also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is fully God. Therefore, because God dwells in us, we are living temples of God. Does God only dwell in His temples sometimes or always? Always, of course. God promises, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5); therefore we are always His temples. At the same time, we are priests of God. We are priests occupying God’s temples continually. Since God prohibits His priests from drinking wine or strong drink while ministering in His temple, then it follows that we should abstain from wine and strong drink at all times. God has not abrogated this command simply because we are now living under the New Testament. Rather, the command has taken on greater significance. That is something to think about.
 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18
 Definition from Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words
5 responses to “Priests and Wine”
Perry Stone found that wine was not always fermented to contain alcohol..It had enough to kill bacteria in the water without intoxication.
It is great you can find nonalcoholic wine so you can still have the benefit of resveratrol.
I do not drink alcohol, but sat in many AA meetings and heard the stories of lives that were ruined by it’s grip.. God can restore them!
Thank you for your comment, Mary Ann. The wine referred to here certainly contains alcohol. This is further confirmed by the addition of “or strong drink.” Like leaven (yeast), which is also used to ferment beer, the fermentation process likewise represents sin. God’s holiness cannot allow sin in His presence, which is why sinners cannot enter heaven. The Tabernacle on earth represents God’s abode in heaven, therefore the priests could not enter with wine (sin) in their system. I find it appropriate that Baptists (and probably other denominations) use grape juice and unleavened bread in observing the Lord’s Supper. The unfermented juice (wine) represents Jesus’ blood which is sinless and the unleavened bread represents His sinless body. It makes sense to me, anyway. 🙂
Thank you for the insight Ernie,
It sure does make sense!
Excellent point in tying this to our appointment as priests under the New Covenant! I also vowed to abstain from alcohol in all forms when I got saved in 1993. There are many Christians who want to dance as close to the line as sin as they can, but there is blessing is staying as far as possible! The Rechabites were blessed by following the stand their father had set against alcohol. Jeremiah Jeremiah 35:5-6, 19 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine. 6 But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, [neither ye], nor your sons for ever: 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 for ever.
Amen! Thank you for your comment!