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Why are SDAs opposed to drinking wine?


Jesus miraculously turned water into wine. And in 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul told Timothy that he was supposed to drink wine. So why are SDAs opposed to drinking wine?

Steve Answers:

Yes, as a denomination, Seventh-day Adventists are opposed to drinking wine.
Fundamental Belief 22, titled “Christian Behavior” (the Adventist lifestyle), involves the concept of caring for our bodies since they are where God’s Spirit dwells. This means being proactive when it comes to exercise, good nutrition, and adequate rest. It also means choosing to abstain from unclean foods, alcohol and tobacco, illegal drugs, and the irresponsible use of legal drugs (medicines). (See to read the whole belief and see the list of Bible verses it’s based on.)

I like the fact that your question is based on Scripture. I’ll respond with answers from Scripture. But I’ll also add science and society, because I think all three perspectives come into people’s thinking today.

Scripture. John 2:1-11 contains the story of Christ’s first miracle—turning water into “wine.” Ellen White says of this drink: “The wine which Christ provided for the feast, and that which He gave to the disciples as a symbol of His own blood, was the pure juice of the grape. . . . It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.’ Prov. 20:1. And He Himself provided no such beverage.

 . . . Christ did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink” (The
Desire of Ages, p. 149).

Here’s the reason so many people get confused by the use of the word “wine” in the Bible. It simply means the juice that comes from grapes—whether it’s fermented or not fermented. Bible writers didn’t say “grape juice” and “wine.” It was all “wine.” It’s usually not difficult to read the context and be able to tell whether or not the “wine” in a given verse in the Bible was fermented or not. Another thing to keep in mind is that it was customary to mix water with “wine” in Bible times. Mixing water with even fermented wine made it difficult to get drunk.

That verse in 1 Timothy 5:23 probably does refer to fermented wine.
Throughout history, in many places in the world, it has been and still can be difficult to get good drinking water. Alcohol can be used to disinfect or kill off the bugs that local water might contain. A paraphrase of Paul’s counsel in this verse would be: “You keep getting diarrhea from drinking the local water. Pour a little bit of alcohol in it so you won’t be sick all the time.” This verse in no way gives Christ’s followers permission to indulge in drinking alcohol, and those who think it does are just looking for anything to use as an excuse.

Science. The general public thinks that current science promotes the drinking of wine for health reasons. That’s simply not true. “Scientific studies” have shown both positive and negative health results from drinking alcohol. But only the positive results get promoted in the press. The actual scientific reports usually state that their results should not be taken to mean that drinking wine is healthy, but that’s what most people end up thinking.

The actual positive element in wine, called resveratrol, is also in grape juice—especially dark grape juice. So why not drink the totally healthy grape juice instead of alcohol? Imagine the irony of possibly living 10 years longer as a result of improved cardiovascular health from the resveratrol in wine—but dying 15 years earlier because of cirrhosis of the liver from drinking alcohol! Why don’t they ever report that?

Society. Even people outside of Christianity abstain from drinking wine because it can have such negative consequences. In some social groups, such as Jewish society and French society, drinking usually doesn’t lead to getting drunk. But in other social groups, such as Russian and American societies, people frequently drink alcohol in order to get drunk. This is often the case with young people.

Alcohol plays a pivotal role in 20 percent of all hospital care, 33 percent of mental illness cases, 50 percent of auto accidents, 65 percent of boating injuries, 67 percent of murder cases, and 80 percent of juvenile hall cases (statistics from Shall We Dance, p. 310, a book of collected articles by various authors, edited by Steve Case). Given all the negative effects of alcohol (in addition to what the Bible says against its use) I continue to firmly support the Seventh-day Adventist belief in living alcohol-free and promoting that in our society.

I think Paul summarized it well for us when he offered the following contrast: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, NLT).*

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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