The first man to get drunk that we know about was Noah. He’s given credit for consummate obedience in the matter of the ark, he’s given credit for cultivating science in the matter of the vine, and he’s given no free pass in the matter of his overindulgence. He sinned, albeit in the privacy of his tent, because he drank too much.
We ought to appreciate Noah’s viniculture. As the psalmist sings, God causes plants to grow that man cultivates for wine that gladdens man’s heart (Psalm 104:15). Drinking wine and beer and strong drink can be done for God’s glory; the Israelites were commanded to do it as worship during certain festivals (Deuteronomy 14:26). The goodness of fermented grain and grapes is something that not everyone is persuaded of, and it’s worth more attention at another time. But what must be received without question or qualification is that drunkenness is always wrong.
God prohibits it in both Testaments, before and after the coming of His Son (Ephesians 5:18). Drunkenness is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:21). Drunks are listed among sinners who cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
The reason for the prohibition is that drunkenness scotches the image of God in man. It disrupts, if not ruins, relationships and it impairs ability to fulfill responsibilities. Drunkenness is a state of control by something else when, for Christians, we are to be controlled by the Spirit.
Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, is no good god. The best he offers is forgetfulness and, even that is temporary and incomplete. As Jim West has written, unbelievers drink to forget but believers drink to remember and to give thanks to God for specific gifts. That can’t happen when the brain is foggy. Drunkenness is not funny and it is not godly, not ever.
God chose man-made products to represent something that man could not do for himself. Bread and wine are modest when compared to Solomon’s daily menu, yet bread and wine are too elaborate to be found in the world unprocessed.
Joe Rigney writes about this in chapter 7 of his book, The Things of Earth.
God mediates grace to us through created goods that have been cultivated and transformed by human effort. Bread is grain, but transfigured. Wine is grapes, but glorified. Human creativity and labor mingle with the stuff of God’s creation, and then God establishes the result as the church’s sacramental meal. (147)
God gave man grain and grapes, but men took those and developed more complex carbohydrates. This is the work of image-bearing, and God ratified the cultural advance by using bread and wine to honor the body and blood of His Son.
We can say that God gave us bread, but He gave it through agricultural and culinary discoveries. God continues to give to us through farmers and cooks. God also gave wine to gladden the heart of man, but no wineskin or bottle dropped from heaven. Other than the miracle in Cana, God has men plant and pick and press and wait. Communion, then, is a cultured meal.
Communion is also a meal that creates culture. This Table teaches us the way of love, of giving, of sacrifice. It also reminds us to depend on God and one another who share Christ’s body. The bread strengthens us and the cup gladdens our hearts, by faith, through earthly means that God ordained. Here the fruit of the field and the kitchen remind us of the fruit of the cross. Here is the seed that the Spirit will grow into more cultured fruit.
Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 117
On most Saturday nights our household makes dinner into an event. The food may be a bit more fancy as well as the decorations on the table. We get the kids involved with some quick-fire catechism type questions, we all sing the doxology, we pray, and then we feast as an appetizer for Sunday morning’s feast of worship.
One thing I usually do is poor the drinks. Everyone around the table gets a glass of wine, be it a large glass or a kid cup, and to whatever degree it is cut with seltzer water. It’s part of our celebration and my privilege to pour out the portions. Dad sets the tone by doling out the wine.
The Lord also fills cups. The wicked get the cup of fire and sulfur and scorching wind to drink as David described in Psalm 11:6. For the righteous, we can sing along with another of David’s songs,
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
The Lord is the one who gives us our cup. He gives it to us Himself and in it He gives us Himself. He gives Himself to us now, during worship, as a taste of a forever feast.
What more proof do we need than the word that declares the goodness of the Lord’s Supper? God gave Himself for us so that He could give Himself to us. He gave His body and blood, He gives us Himself. He is our cup and the cup today is an endowment for an eternal heritage of fellowship.