• The Blessings of Total Abstinence

    The Blessings of Total Abstinence
    by Howard B. Rand

    The issue of temperance is more acute in the world today because of the consumption of intoxicating beverages. It is contributing to the increase in violence and crime of all kinds. Because we are frequently faced with the argument that this subject is not dealt with in the Bible, we feel we would be negligent in our duty in view of conditions in our land if we did not bring the facts expressed in this article to your attention. This is being published in line with our policy that no facts of Scripture are more important to the individual than an answer to the question, "What doth God require of thee?"
    Every movement for the betterment of mankind has a scriptural foundation. Yet today we are aware that, instead of citing scriptural facts to condemn questionable practices, men are continually trying to justify their acts by declaring the Bible does not specifically prohibit the thing they wish to do. While Scripture does not specify by name the many injurious and evil things men may do, it does set up standards and lay down rules which amply cover all human requirements. Paul's statement alone that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and to defile that temple is sinful lays down a principle that definitely discounts all excuses given by men to justify them in their indulgences. Here is a scriptural teaching establishing a basic principle for all time, which it would be well for men to remember if they would posses health in body, mind and spirit and be at peace with God.

    The present assumption that prohibition, as it applies to the consumption of intoxicating beverages, is not found in the Bible arises from a superficial study of Scripture rather than from conclusions resulting from a careful search of its record. The Bible is very clear in its pronouncement of special blessings for those who, through self-restraint, voluntarily abstain from harmful indulgences.

    The doctrines of Modernism have so undermined the faith of multitudes that few today believe implicitly in the admonitions of Scripture and many Christians have come to accept a mode of living far below the standard set by the prophets and by Jesus Christ and His disciples. Few indeed are willing to pay the price that would enable them to attain to membership in the Ancient Order of Master Shepherds. The initiation fees are too high and the full price is too great for the average individual.

    Paul declared that he could not speak to some of the Corinthians on spiritual matters because they were carnal—as babes in Christ. He declared that in teaching them he had fed them milk and not meat because of their spiritual incapabilities. He pointed to the evidence in their midst which demonstrated their lack of spiritual perception because of the envy, strife and division among them (1 Cor. 3:1-3). This is the standard of Christian men and women who fall short of attaining spiritual perfection. Those in that classification cannot hope to be numbered among the overcomers, whose conduct and living must be upon at least as high a standard as that of the Godly and righteous men of Old Testament days who were set apart from the multitude in their service to God.

    The nearest example in Old Testament times of the type of living required of the overcoming Christian is furnished by those who took the Nazarite vow:

    "When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord (Yahweh): He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried." (Num 6:2-3).

    The Bible records the blessings which have followed individuals who maintain this high standard and abstain from injurious indulgences. An interesting account is given by Jeremiah who was instructed to invite the men of the house of Rechab into a room in the House of the Lord and place wine before them to drink. The prophet did as he was instructed and the following is the account of the result:

    "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. 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." (Jer. 35:5-6).

    Later, the House of the Rechabites was informed by the prophet of a special blessing promised them:

    "And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord (Yahweh) of Hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the Lord (Yahweh) of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever." (Jer. 35:18-19).

    Another account of unusual rewards bestowed upon men who were worthy has to do with Daniel and his companions who were carried away captive to Babylon:

    "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." (Dan. 1:8).

    Daniel had become a favorite with this Prince but he feared that, if he acceded to Daniel's request, Daniel would suffer physically and he would be blamed. However, Daniel said:

    "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse [vegetables] to eat, and water to drink." (Dan. 1:12).

    The Prince did as Daniel requested, with the result that the test vindicated Daniel and his companions. As the result, God gave to Daniel and his three companions:

    "Knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." (Dan. 1:17).

    In addition to giving him wisdom and understanding, Daniel was rewarded for the position he had taken by becoming the prophet through whom God revealed the times and seasons of the coming of the Messiah. See Dan. 9:24-26. In the time of the judges we have the record that, before Samson's birth, the Angel of the Lord appeared to his mother and said:

    "Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: for lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." (Judges 13:4-5).

    Later, the Angel of the Lord appeared again and instructed both Samson's father and mother as follows:

    "And the Angel of the Lord (Yahweh) said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto a woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe." (Judges 13:13-14).

    The heritage which was to be Samson's rested upon the necessity that his mother strictly observe these prohibitory injunctions. It would apparently follow also that the life of many a man and woman has been blighted by the folly of indulgence by parents in things harmful to their physical well-being prior to the birth of children. This fact is here recognized. Through Amos the prophet, the Lord condemned Israel for giving drink to the Nazarites and for forbidding the prophets to prophesy:

    "And I raised up of your sons for the prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites .... But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not." (Amos 2:11-12).

    Solomon said: "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted." (Proverbs 31:4-5).

    This is prohibition taught in the Scriptures and required of all those who hold positions of authority and responsibility in the land. If this is the requirement of earthly rulers, certainly the standard of those who will be invited to the Marriage Supper and who will become a part of the administrative body in the Kingdom can be no less.

    Follow our Lord's prediction regarding the destruction of the Temple, the disciples asked Him not only about that event, but concerning the end of the age and His own return. In the famous Olivet discourse Jesus gave the order of events and told His disciples of the signs which would indicate the imminence of His triumphant return. He closed that discourse with the description of the faithful servant carrying out his duties and of the evil servant who would say in his heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming."

    In the parable (Matt. 24:45-51), when the attitude of the evil servant changed, he began to ill-treat his fellow servants and sit down to eat and drink with the drunken. This servant had turned away from the austere life of those who set themselves apart from men that they may be called to serve the Lord. While this evil servant turns to worldly pleasures and the companionship of the drunken, it by no means implies necessarily that the servant himself becomes drunk. But it does suggest that, when his associates are the worldly-minded, the vision of the soon coming of the Lord fades away. The spiritual life of this servant deteriorates accordingly for, having lost sight of the original high purpose of his life in turning to worldly pleasure and entertainment, he no longer seeks the society of the godly. Moreover, in his support of the worldly wise, he finds himself on their side and in support of their opposition to the righteous. Thus, he had ceased to live according to the requirements for the overcomers.

    The story goes on to relate that the Lord does return in a day and at an hour when the servant is not expecting Him, and the judgment is that he is compelled to sever all relationships with the Lord and His program which would have insured him a place among those who will be the companions of the Lord and share in the administration of the affairs of the Kingdom. Instead, he is compelled to accept his portion with the hypocrites since his conduct has been no different from theirs.

    With these examples before us, it is impossible to agree with those who undertake to declare prohibition cannot be found in the Scriptures. There will be many who cannot attain to this high calling; the Lord expressed this in His own way when He said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him listen." While we sit in judgment upon no man, we suggest that Paul's advice is worth taking into account:

    "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." (Romans 14:22).

    As we approach the end of the present age and desire to share in the administration of the affairs of the Kingdom of God, what better thing can we do than to emulate the virtues of the overcomers, the record of whose lives and activities are given to us in both the Old and New Testaments?