Within the complex fabric of religious doctrines, the issue of whether adherents should engage in the intake of alcohol continues to be a subject of discourse and contention. When considering this matter from a biblical perspective, it is crucial to carefully manage the fine line between cultural interpretations and spiritual instructions. This investigation focuses on the concept of holiness within the temple, highlighting the similarities between the laws in the Old Testament and the belief in the New Testament that believers are themselves temples of the Holy Spirit.
THE OLD TESTAMENT MANDATE
The book of Leviticus provides a clear directive from God to the ministers serving in the temple, emphasising abstinence from alcohol during their sacred duties. “Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. You must observe this as a permanent law from generation to generation. You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean” (Leviticus 10:8–10, NLT). This command extends beyond mere abstinence and emphasizes the sacredness of the temple as a place dedicated to the worship of God. These priests in the Old Testament were set apart for a holy purpose, and they had to maintain a level of purity and reverence.
THE NEW TESTAMENT PARADIGM
With the advent of the New Testament, a transformative shift occurred in the understanding of believers as temples of the Holy Spirit. This paradigmatic change is articulated in 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NLT), which declares, “Don’t you realise that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” As recipients of the Holy Spirit, New Testament believers carry the divine presence within them, altering the dynamics of their relationship with God and the temple concept.
A CHOSEN RACE, ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, AND HOLY NATION
In 1 Peter 2:9, the apostle Peter bestows upon believers a profound identity: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. This designation emphasises the elevated status of believers in the New Testament era. As royal priests, the call to holiness extends beyond ceremonial duties, permeating every facet of life, from personal conduct to lifestyle choices. This elevated identity underscores the transformative impact of the New Testament paradigm on the way believers navigate their existence, recognising their sacred role in the world.
THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD
Delving deeper into the concept of believers as temples of the LORD, 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NLT) reinforces the sanctity of the body. “Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.” This profound truth places a divine claim on the believer’s body, urging them to honour God through their actions and choices.
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN THE CONTEXT OF HOLINESS
The central question arises: Should New Testament believers, identified as holy temples of the Holy Spirit, engage in alcohol consumption? Despite cultural and societal variations, a biblical examination is crucial to assessing the impact of such choices on the sanctity of the temple.
Contrary to a common misinterpretation allowing drinking but condemning drunkenness, a nuanced reading presents a more comprehensive view. Passages like Haggai 1:6 (NLT) say, “You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink, but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!” illuminate the spiritual consequences of indulgence, highlighting the persistent emptiness despite material consumption. This challenges the notion that moderate drinking is innocuous for believers, urging a deeper reflection on the spiritual implications of such practices.
MAINTAINING REVERENCE DURING FESTIVE SEASONS AND BEYOND
In the backdrop of the festive season and beyond, where celebrations often include the consumption of alcoholic beverages, the call to holiness within the temple becomes particularly pertinent. The juxtaposition of joyous occasions with the sacredness of the temple prompts believers to navigate these celebrations with mindfulness and spiritual discernment.
In the temple of the LORD, believers are called to uphold a standard of holiness that transcends cultural norms and personal preferences. The mandate against alcohol consumption in the Old Testament, reinforced by the New Testament paradigm of believers as temples of the Holy Spirit, underscores the need for conscientious choices. As the Christmas season unfolds, the invitation is extended to believers to partake in the festivities while maintaining a deep reverence for the sanctity of the temple within—the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
Written by Pastor Emmanuel Foster Asamoah (Abasraba District)