Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Abstinence from Alcohol

“A bishop then must be…not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 NKJV)

Calvin comments, “By the word πάροινον, which is here used, the Greeks denote not merely drunkenness, but any intemperance in guzzling wine.”[1]

It is interesting that some preachers—mostly among the young “reformed” movement—champion study around a table in a beer joint, Bible in one hand and a brew in the other.  That they are free to do that under grace, could be debated, but whether they are wise to do it is another matter.  One might find this personally permissible (though I do not), yet to be publicly promoted is a dangerous thing.

In our culture, the intentionally hyped up levels of alcohol bring a particular danger.  They are not to be compared to Jesus sitting with His disciples and drinking a small amount of wine with a meal—a wine that was the product of natural fermentation and then typically diluted with water.  That was a different time and a different culture than where the pastor serves today in America.  Drinking the types of beverage alcohol popular today is playing with fire—and many will be burned.  You will not become a drunk if you never take a drink—and the risk is not worth any kind of reward associated with frequenting a pub.

Even in twenty first century America, many who might indulge in booze, will be surprised to find a preacher doing so.  It can needlessly damage your testimony, and recklessly become a stumbling block to others.  There are simply too many other things to drink—flavored waters, teas, coffees, sodas, and the like—which are safe and tasty to consume.  When Paul said to Timothy, No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23), he was speaking to a “tee-totaler,” advocating that polluted water could be treated with a little alcohol to purify it.  Dave Miller’s article is helpful: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1208.

Alcohol never did one good thing for me prior to my conversion, but it did nearly destroy my life—and had my life ended then, Hell would have been my fate.  I have no need of it now.  In the course of ministry I have seen its horrible effects on too many people, and cannot justify even “social drinking.”  The perils exceed any positives.  The shepherd must lead his people to safe pastures instead of into risky places—by his actions and not only his speech.


Help us resist the tide of popular opinion and stay with a clear mind, focused vision, and steady gait as one who abstains from alcohol.
In the Name and for the Glory of Your Son,

[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (p. 80). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Sobriety of Shepherds

“A bishop then must be…able to teach; not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)

The Word of God must govern the pastor’s life.  He is given over to serve the Lord, and not liquor.  There can only be one Master—and if a man is dominated by drink, He cannot be directed by Deity.  A faithful shepherd will be filled with the Spirit and not filled with booze (Eph.5:18).  His intoxication is to be with God alone.  The message of Scripture is to be given with clarity and not with the confusion of a clouded mind and slurred speech!

The Old Testament priests were forbidden to minister while under the influence of alcohol.

Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die.  It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations…” (Leviticus 10:8-9) 

We, who represent our Lord to the flock dare not risk the marring of that model by being drunk.  How can we become a drunk, if we never partake of alcohol, even the so-called, “social” sip?
“A godly pastor would certainly want to give the best example and not be an excuse for sin in the life of some weaker brother.”[1] 

John MacArthur states,

More than a mere prohibition against drunkenness…An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker; his judgment must never be clouded by alcohol (cf. Pr 31:4, 5; 1Co 6:12), his lifestyle must be radically different from the world and lead others to holiness, not sin (Ro 14:21).[2]

This may seem an antiquated idea, and there could come the accusation of legalism.  Instead, it is a wonderful thing to be free from the enslaving potential of this powerful force.


My Lord,
Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of alcohol.  Now, I am mastered by a strong Savior and not strong drink!  Help me to ever be an example of holiness—not just in what comes from my mouth, but also in what goes into it.  May I lead others to the same liberty from liquor I have experienced by the power of Christ!
In Jesus’ Mighty Name,

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 220). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 3:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.  For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12-13 NKJV)

Epaphras is not a household name.  He is one of the more obscure figures in the New Testament.  We are told little about him, but the little we know means a lot.  His name was known in heaven, and his activity—though not bringing celebrity on earth, was commended for eternity.  This man was a prayer warrior.  He was devoted to the ministry of intercession—making a difference for others by praying for others.

The ministry of intercession is inspired by sympathy.  Epaphras was “one of you,” that is, a fellow member of the same church and facing similar circumstances.  He understood how to pray because he knew their needs.  When we pray for others, our hearts are stirred by sympathy—we’ve often been through hurts and needed help—and so are inspired to pray for others as we would want them to pray for us.

The ministry of intercession is rooted in obedience.  He is called, “a bondservant of Christ.” Epaphras prayed because he knew he should.  If we only pray when we think we have time or when we feel like praying, then we won’t be effective intercessors.  The bottom line is that Jesus taught, “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).  We pray for others because it is the right thing to do!

The ministry of intercession is to be persistent.  Note the word, “always.”  Epapahras understood that there would not be a day that passed without some of his fellow Christians facing great need.  Therefore, he had to be faithful to consistently intercede for them.  Sometimes we will find that prayer is like the force of water running over a rock, gradually wearing away the rough edges—it takes a long time to see some of the rough times that are resistant to change smoothed out.

The ministry of intercession is demanding in effort.  Epaphras was, “laboring” in prayers.  It has been said that prayer doesn’t just fit you for the work—it is the work!  When I work, I accomplish what a man can do, but when I pray I can see what God can do.  There is effort required to be a faithful intercessor.  Jesus prayed until His sweat became as great drops of blood.  There is as much perspiration called for in our praying as inspiration!

The ministry of intercession calls for passion.  “Fervently” and “great zeal” are the key terms.  Cold, casual prayers rise no higher than the ceiling.  God is sickened by a lukewarm ritual.  Formalism must give way to fervency.  Vain repetition is to be supplanted by intense passion.  If you saw someone drowning, would you say to the lifeguard, “Have you thought about the possibility of helping that person?”  Or would you scream to the top of your lungs, “Help!  Help them they are drowning!”  People have real problems and there is a real God who will intervene if we intercede intensely.

The ministry of intercession is about others.  Paul says that Epaphras prayed, “for you.”  How infrequently we pray and when we do pray how self-centered are those prayers at times!  We come with a list of stuff we want God to do for us, as though He is Santa Claus in the sky.  While there is certainly a place for making our needs known (that’s need, not greed), intercession is about others—and that is the nature of love.  Love is the distinguishing mark of the Christ-follower (John 13:35).  If love is in our hearts, then it will be expressed from our lips, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt.12:34b)

The ministry of intercession is focused on God’s purposes.  The specific petition was, “that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  Our prayers are not about getting our will done in heaven, but getting heaven’s will done on earth.  We may, with the best of intentions, sometimes pray cross-purposes to God’s designs.  For example, it is a quick reaction for us to see a fellow Christian suffering and ask God to remove the problem.  Yet, our perspective is only on the immediate, while God’s goal is for His glory and the ultimate good—which is shaping us in the image of Christ, to stand before the throne, “perfect and complete.”  Pain and problems are part of that pressure to mold us into vessels that are useful here and trophies of grace to be displayed in heaven.  So, we seek the Spirit’s guidance about how to pray and when we don’t always know say, “Your will be done!” (Matt.6:10b)

Give yourself to the ministry of intercession.  Doubtless, God has gifted you in other areas of service and you should get busy in them.  But, none of these will be fruitful in performance, if we are not faithful in prayer.  There are many things we can do after we pray, but nothing until we pray!