Did Jesus frequent the pub or the bar? After all, he did mix with the sinners, the tax collectors and the prostitutes, didn’t he? Wasn’t he, being a rebel, just like one of them?
There are two quite opposite views on this question. Some people who may not even believe that Jesus ever existed nevertheless invoke his person and example to bring a measure of respectability to their drinking, claiming that Jesus drank beer and wine with the best of them and just lived like one of the boys. Others, who profess to have faith, are convinced that Jesus wouldn’t be seen dead carousing with the riff-raff or the low-life of the town, and would certainly never condone touching a drop of that demon-infested alcohol stuff. If you drink, they think, you can’t really be a Christian, and you may be on your way to hell.
One Biblical passage used by pro-drinkers is this one:
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13. ESV
Note in verse 10 that this event was “in the house” not in the pub, tavern, bar, inn or otherwise. Note also that Jesus is not said to be glugging down his fourth flagon of ale as he makes his speech, or even his first: he was eating (verse 11).
To be fair, the Luke account does say that Jesus was “eating and drinking with sinners” (5:30). However, he openly agreed that the people he was mingling with were “sinners”, saying that he’d come not to buy them all a round of drinks but to call them to repentance (Luke 5:32). So Jesus, though loving and respecting these people, was mingling not to join in their way of life or to have a swinging party with them, but to call them out of their way of life.
WINE OR WHINE
This subject can’t be considered without also looking at the issue of whether or not we should indulge in alcohol.
Some Christians insist that when Jesus turned water into wine, and when Paul said “drink a little wine for your stomach” (1 Timothy 5:23), the wine referred to must have been grape juice and wasn’t alcoholic. Jesus would never make alcoholic wine for a party, they say. I disagree, and some of you are likely to be gasping and hitting that little “x” in the top corner at this point…
If New Testament wine were only grape juice, how could anyone get drunk on it? Paul said:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery…” (Ephesians 5:18).
Why should a deacon “not indulge in much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8) if wine is only grape juice? How could wine be used as an effective metaphor for Mystery Babylon’s intoxications if it’s only non-alcoholic grape juice (Revelation 18:3)? How can you offend anyone by drinking grape juice (Romans 14:21)?
The Greek word used to describe Miss Babylon’s wine and that which Paul warned deacons about is the same word used to describe what Jesus made out of water at a wedding feast (John chapter 2), and he made plenty of it. It was also used to describe what would be good for Timothy’s health in small doses (1 Timothy 5:23).
Ah, but there is a Biblical counter-weight to this argument, which is the frequent warning not to become a drunkard. If you don’t get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) you won’t turn into a drunkard and you won’t get addicted to wine (Titus 2:3). It’s the “drunkard” part which leads to ungodliness, a denial of faith, offended people and separation from God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21). In fact, if you don’t touch wine in the first place you can’t become a drunkard, can you? However:
“Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Romans 14:22).
That’s not a license to get drunk, it’s a license to freedom and enjoyment, in close association with godly self-control.