The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 6, 2011


1) 1 Peter 4:3 (conclusion) (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Peter 4:3

by Tom Edwards

In our last lesson we considered three things from 1 Peter 4:3 that the Christian is to put off: sensuality, lusts, and drunkenness.  Let us now look again into this verse to see three other things the child of God is also to abstain from: "...carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries."

The Greek word for "carousing," in 1 Peter 4:3, is "komos."   Thayer defines it as, "1) a revel, carousal.  1a) a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honour of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry."

Guy N. Woods points out that this word "was first used innocently of village merrymaking, but later came to be applied to rioting, drinking parties, and is so used here [in 1 Peter 4:3]."

It, too, is listed among the other works of the flesh in Galatians 5:21 that will keep one out of the kingdom of God.  

Other translations render this Greek word for "carousing" (in 1 Peter 4:3) as "drunken orgies," "revels," "revellings," "revelries," "orgies," and "wild celebrations."

Being a sinful activity, it is forbidden by God in Romans 13:13: "Let us behave properly as in the day, not in CAROUSING and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy."

Another term used in 1 Peter 4:3 with regard to alcohol consumption is "drinking parties."  The KJV renders this as "banquetings," but it has nothing to do with eating, as we would normally think of a banquet.  This is now the third term in a row that has something to do with drinking alcohol.  

I would think that most people, who view themselves as Christians, would believe that becoming drunk is a sin.  But how many of them also see social drinking or drinking just 1 beer or 1 glass of wine as also being wrong?  This term we are now considering is what they need to know.  It comes from the Greek word "potos," which Bullinger defines as "a drinking, esp. a drinking bout [contest], carousal."  Notice that it can mean just "a drinking," which the Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary defines as "2. of, pertaining to, or indulging in the drinking of alcohol, esp. to excess. n. 3. habitual and excessive consumption of alcohol." Keep in mind that since it says "esp. to excess" that also indicates that a "drinking" doesn't have to necessarily be to an excess for the definition to apply.  Richard C. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, also  shows that the Greek word "potos" does not necessarily indicate "excessive" drinking,  though it can involve an "opportunity for excess."  This word, therefore, does not always imply intoxication.  So it is a good verse to turn to in order to set forth one of the reasons why social drinking is wrong today, or why we shouldn't be given to the drinking of any alcoholic beverages of any kind. 

Clearly, God's word shows that "drinking parties" are not to be engaged in.  So even if we would drink just one beer or one glass of wine at a "drinking party," could we really say that we didn't participate in it?

In addition, the New English Bible translates "potos" in this verse as "tippling," which is defined as "to drink liquor, esp. to excess."  Again, we see the "esp. to excess," which would also imply that it doesn't have to necessarily be that to be called "tippling."  The American College Dictionary defines "tippling" as "1. to drink (intoxicating liquor), esp. repeatedly, in small quantities.  2. To drink intoxicating liquor, esp. habitually or to some excess."  And Webster's Dictionary of the English Language shows "tippling" to mean, "To drink spirituous or intoxicating liquors habitually; to drink frequently, but without getting drunk.  To drink, sip, or imbibe often."  So in considering these definitions, "tippling" doesn't have to involve drinking to an excess or to the point of intoxication. 

As we think more about this, how do folks today often try to justify social drinking for our time, or assert that it is okay to drink alcohol just as long as you don't get drunk?  Some cite John 2 in which Jesus miraculously turned the water into wine.  But in doing that they are assuming that the wine the Lord made had an alcoholic content.  Would Jesus, however, make a wine that would make people drunk?  Wouldn't it be more reasonable to view the wine as being unfermented -- like freshly made grape juice?  In this miraculous account in John 2, we read about the governor of the feast.  He actually had the responsibility of tasting the wine to make sure it was properly mixed.  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, when fermented wine was made in those days, it was often greatly diluted: "The proportion of water was large, only one-third or one-fourth of the total mixture being wine."  Another way of saying this is that 2 to 3 parts water would be added to just 1 part of wine.  And that wine was only about 3% of an alcoholic content when starting out.  So if one had 10 ounces of wine,  20 to 30 ounces of water would be added to it -- which would make it considerably weaker.  But, again, why should we think there was any alcoholic properties in the wine Jesus made?  Though He had the power to make a wine in just an instant that could be as if it had been fermented for months, why should we assume He did that?   

Another argument some people make today is that "Paul told Timothy to drink wine."  But why did Paul tell him that?  This is answered in 1 Timothy 5:23: "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."   The wine, therefore, was for medicinal purposes.  

Another point we can infer from this is that Timothy must have been a total abstainer from wine, for Paul had to instruct him to use a "little" of it.   And make note of that adjective "little."  

Today, however, we have better medicines for stomach problems and frequent ailments.  

Still others who try to justify social drinking might cite Romans 14:21, and say that as long as it doesn't offend a brother, it is then okay to drink.  The verse states, "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles."  Rather then one strengthening his argument for social drinking today, this passage actually weakens it.  For if wine in those days, which was much weaker than our wines today, would be causing some to stumble spiritually, then how much more would our wines today? As mentioned, wine, which began at about 3% alcohol, was then greatly diluted with 2 to 3 parts water.  Our wines today, however, can be anywhere from 10% to 14% alcohol; and if fortified, 20% alcohol.  Even beer today, which can  be from 4% to 6% alcohol, is a much higher alcoholic content than these water-downed wines of long ago.  

We can also add that though some people might feel that as long as they abstain from the "hard stuff," they'd be doing okay, that a 10-ounce glass of beer (at 4.5% alcohol), a 2.5-ounce glass of wine (at 20% alcohol), and a shot glass of whiskey would actually be all the same in the amount of alcohol consumed.  

Something else to consider with regard to social drinking or even being one who drinks alone occasionally is the type of influence that would have on others.  Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 10:32, "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God." There is such a stigma attached to alcohol in our nation, due to all the terrible things it has caused (See the statistics in last week's  Gospel Observer); and as Christians, we should not want to allow that to mar our own name or bring disgrace or discredit upon the church. Rather, we are to live above reproach.  Therefore, how do  you think that other Christians would feel about a Christian given to social drinking -- or even just drinking to some degree in the privacy of his home?  And with America having the highest known rate for alcoholism, how do you think that even some non-Christians would view a Christian who would do so?  When we hear about people at the office getting together for a celebration with a drink or two, do we normally view that as being an innocent activity and something we can approve and participate in with drinks of our own?

We need to also remember that even if it were all right to social drink, which I don't believe it would be, one could still become guilty by doing that which he believed to be wrong.  This is seen in Romans 14:23: "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin."  The "faith" here refers to one's conscience, one's personal conviction.  And, again, we are not saying that social drinking is okay as long as it doesn't bother your conscience; for it would be wrong regardless.  But for sake of argument, we are saying that even if it were okay, it would not be okay for the person who believed it to be wrong.  So, could you drink a beer or a glass of wine or have a shot of whiskey and then stand before God in the judgment day without any doubt that you should not have taken that drink?

In reflecting more on one's influence, what if by social drinking it would encourage other brethren to do so?   Now, it would not merely be one person guilty of it; but others as well, through that person's influence.  Matthew 18:6,7 is certainly applicable here: "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of  its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!"

Have you ever wondered why people drink?  If they say it is not to get drunk, then why else?  Would it not be for the delightful effect it can have?  Beer contains lupulin, a chemical that is closely related to the narcotic substance in marijuana.  If I can drink beer to obtain this effect, would I be able to smoke marijuana if they legalized it?  In other words, is the only thing keeping us back from it the law of the land?  Of course not.  For just because the law of the land considers something to be acceptable, doesn't mean that it is also acceptable in God's sight -- and His law is the higher law that we must subject ourselves to.

Of course, some people drink because they are psychologically and/or physically addicted to it.  For alcoholic drinks contain ethyl alcohol which is a habit forming, narcotic drug, poisonous and harmful to every form of life.  In thinking more of the dangers of alcohol, did you know that it takes only 2 beers to hinder a person's braking ability from 20 to 60 feet, depending on the speed of the car?  No wonder we hear that 50% of all fatal wrecks on the highway, involving two or more cars, are alcohol related; and 65% of all fatal highway crashes involving just one vehicle are also alcohol related -- and these percentages don't even include the non-fatal accidents caused by alcohol.  No wonder we hear that alcohol-impaired drivers are costing American taxpayers about $21 to $24 billion per year.  Plus, highway accidents are just one of the ways in which alcohol-impairment has manifest its dangerous nature.  For as we also saw in last week's bulletin, 40% of all suicide attempts, 54% of all violent crimes, 60% of all emergency room admissions, and 80% of all domestic disputes are said to be alcohol related.  The cost of alcohol abuse in America has been estimated to be about $136 billion annually.

No wonder giving oneself to alcohol has been likened to a game of Russian Roulette: For one out of every 15 social drinkers becomes an alcoholic, and 10% of all alcoholics become that way from their first drink.  These, as well as various other reasons, show why one is taking such a great risk by giving himself to alcohol consumption.  So, to never take that first drink truly is wise advice for everyone to live by.  For it is not only something to live by, but also that which has enabled many who live by it to even live longer -- and with a better quality life.  Though the advertizers often portray successful, good-looking people enjoying a great life while drinking their alcoholic beverages, this isn't always the case in real life.  Many lives have very much been ruined by it.  It has sometimes led to loss of work, a breakdown of the family, loss of wealth -- or even poverty, loss of health (physical and mental), as well as other regrettable losses.

So these are some of the reasons why we, as Christians, should be total abstainers from alcoholic beverages -- and be that way for ourselves; for others; and above all, for God.  Rather than being like the man who made a very sad and unwise choice of rejecting Jesus Christ -- rather than giving up the bottle.   

The last thing Peter mentions in 1 Peter 4:3 that should not be something the Christian is given over to is "abominable idolatries."  As pointed out a while back, Peter is writing primarily to the Gentiles; and this passage also verifies that.  For the Jews, after coming out of Babylonian captivity, finally learned their lesson to not resort to idolatry, as a nation.  Many of the Gentiles, however, were steeped in that, as we can see throughout the Scriptures, such as when Paul came to Athens in Acts 17; or in Ephesus, where the people worshiped the goddess "Diana," also known as "Artemis" in Acts 19.  

Peter refers to these idolatries as being "abominable," which is from the Greek word "athemitos" and defined by Thayer as "contrary to law and justice, prohibited by law, illicit, criminal."  It is actually translated as "unlawful" in Acts 10:28.  

The Greek word for "idolatries" is "eidololatria" and defined by Strong as "image worship (literally or figuratively)...."  Thayer defines it as "1) the worship of false gods, idolatry  1a) of the formal sacrificial feasts held in honor of false gods 1b) of avarice, as a worship of Mammon  2) in the plural, the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it."

Other Bible translations render the phrase "abominable idolatries" as "unlawful idolatries," "unclean worship of images," "worshiped disgusting idols," "unhallowed idolatries," "unlawful worshiping of idols," "lawless idolatry," "detestable idolatry," and "unholy image-worship."

We noted in Thayer's definition that when this word is in the plural, as it is in 1 Peter 4:3, it is then focusing on "the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it."  Idolatry had an effect on the lives of many of the Corinthians, prior to their conversion.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:2, "You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led."

Going back again to that list of sins in Galatians 5:19-21 that will keep one out of the kingdom of God, we find "idolatry" mentioned with them in verse 20.  We are reminded, too, of the first two of the Ten Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exo. 20:3).  And the second: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous  God..." (Exo. 20:4,5).

Paul commended the Thessalonians for having "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9).  That is also a good example of Bible repentance.  For it not only involves turning from the wrong, but also turning to the Lord.  

Idolatry would certainly be one of the "unclean" things that the Lord's people are not to be involved in, according to 2 Corinthians 6:16 to 7:1.  

Thayer had shown that the Greek word for idolatry can also involve "avarice."  This we see in Colossians 3:5: "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (See also Ephesians 5:5.)

We can close this section with what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."

In this lesson, we noticed (in 1 Peter 4:3) three more sins that the Christian is to abstain from: carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  The "drunkenness," from the previous week's lesson, and the "carousing" and "drinking parties" in today's, set forth three levels of drinking alcohol.  For these terms can also mean intoxicated, half-drunk, and not drunk at all, respectively.   Therefore, in consuming alcohol even when drunkenness doesn't occur, there are still other factors to consider, which would make it wrong; such as the influence that drinking alcohol would have on others; whether it would make us guilty in conscience to do so, even if it were all right (which I don't believe would be); the addictive properties of it, and the various other dangers of it.  We also noted that idolatry today is not limited to the worship of heathen gods or the representations of them, but even greed or covetousness is also a form of it.  For an ungodly covetousness is aiming one's desire toward something else rather than the true and the living God -- and exalting that above the Lord. 


News & Notes

Melba Reed of the South College Drive church of Christ in Lafayette, Louisiana, recently passed away.  She was a kind and gentle lady.  Let those of us who are Christians be remembering her family and friends in prayer.

Let us also continue to remember Agnes Shuff, who has been on hospice care for over a year; Pam MacDonald who recently had neck surgery; and Cheryl Anderson who had surgery on her knee.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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