An Eschatological War Zone


No one can deny that we live in a time of drastic, even chaotic, cultural transition. Not merely the wide acceptance of homosexual and lesbian marriage, but also the growing hostility of the populace toward biblical Christianity and Christians and the drift of Christian churches and other institutions into what Francis A. Schaeffer termed “accommodation with the world spirit” are now stark realities. Religious persecution is on the rise, not just in Muslim and Marxist cultures, but also in the secular West. If we looked only at these trends, we’d likely be overcome with pessimism.

But a heartening counter-trend has emerged: a minority but increasing number of Christians cognizant that our culture is engaged in a moral suicide mission and won’t stand for it any longer. They are disturbed by the dishonor our culture brings to the name of Jesus Christ.  They are arming themselves to combat this cultural blasphemy. We Christians live in what Thomas R. Schreiner has called “an eschatological war zone.” The holy powers of the world to come have invaded the evil powers of the present world in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul writes (Eph. 6:10f.) that we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against the demonic powers of this age. We must not shrink from the implications of this biblical truth: in resisting secularism, illicit sexualization, socialism, multiculturalism, radical feminism, video-game machismo, and the other cultural evils of our time, we aren’t chiefly combating fellow humans, but Satan and his minions.  Let’s not succumb to a soft-core naturalism that strategizes with humanity alone in mind. We are fighting a supernatural battle with supernatural enemies; we must fight with supernatural weapons. The stakes are huge. We are battling for God’s good creation.  More importantly, we are battling for God’s honor. We are destined to win, but there are no victories without battles.

Ours is the eschatological war zone.


May Christians Share a Home Meal With “Christian Rebels”?

The letter below is a response to a dear friend who inquired whether it’s permissible for Christians to share meals in their home with professed Christian family members living in open rebellion against God’s moral truth. 

Dear —-,

That’s a great but complex question, one to which I’ve given serious thought over the years, but I’ll take a stab at it.

The text you are alluding to is 1 Corinthians 5:11 —

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.”

If we read that verse without context, we might get the idea that Paul is forbidding having common meals with disobedient believers (or rebels who claim to be believers). But 1 Corinthians 5 in its entirety seems to me to be about what we nowadays term excommunication. Paul uses the metaphor of leaven (vv. 6–8), teaching that if the pastors ignore unrepentant, persistent sin, the church body as a whole will gradually contaminate. He might also have used the metaphor John uses in 1 John 1 — sin breaks communion with God, and since the Lord’s Supper in the Bible celebrates communion not simply with our Lord but also our sisters and brothers (1 Cor. 10:16–17), for pastors to allow open rebellion is to impair the body’s unity.

Because much of the church today (not —-!) has such an impoverished view of communion, when they read texts like 1 Corinthians 5:11, they think it can only have in mind common household meals, which I think it does not. A revival of weekly communion and sensitizing Christians to its importance would help us to properly interpret scriptures like this and others.

But that doesn’t settle your vital question. The Bible warns (2 Jn. 10) about permitting false teachers into our homes. Unrepentant (notably immoral) Christians are not identical to false teachers, but it’s clear from this text that when we invite people into our homes for meals we are extending an invitation that implies an endorsement of some sort (this was particularly true in the ancient Near East, where hospitality was a social imperative, not just a Christian virtue). In Ephesians 5:2–13 Paul even implies that if we don’t rebuke the unrepentant whom we encounter, we’re participating in their sin. This is not a popular idea in a pluralistic culture, but it is the Bible’s idea.

This all means, it seems to me, that while the Bible doesn’t specifically forbid common home meals with professed Christians living in rebellion, in no way can we give them or anyone else the impression that we condone their sin; and if having a common meal in your home will imply an endorsement, you simply cannot do it. If, conversely, you make very clear to the rebels as well as other family members that you do not endorse this rebellion, I am not sure the Bible forbids such a meal.

I sure hope this helps. I’ll be praying.

Much respect, in Him,

P. Andrew Sandlin


What Does the Bible Teach About Drinking Alcohol?

Hello Andrew.  I know you’re not running an advice column, but I was hoping you could help me out anyway. I’ve been going to my church for 5 yrs now and I love it, but as I get closer with some of my fellow members I realize a lot of them drink alcohol.  They never get drunk but will have an occasional drink at dinner. This is completely new to me and how I was raised.  They have never even heard it was a sin. Where does the Bible stand on social drinking. My pastor does not drink, but I’ve never heard him preach completely against it. I’m afraid I might have been raised a legalistic.

Dear —-,

It does my heart so good to hear from you after so long, and especially to hear that you’re still following the Lord after all these years. God bless you and your dear family!

You pose a good question, and I’ll try to answer it simply and plainly from the Bible.

The Bible warns against drunkenness (what we today, in our compromise with sin, often call “alcohol dependency”) — Paul says this plainly in Ephesians 1:19 (see also 1 Peter. 4:3). A graphic picture of the tragic effects of drunkenness is found in Proverbs 3:29–35. Paul even warns that drunkards can’t enter the Lord’s kingdom (1 Cor. 6:10). This doesn’t mean they can’t become Christians (see v. 11a), or that they can’t fall into sin (1 Jn. 1:8–9), only that they can’t persist in their alcoholism and expect to enter heaven.

But the Bible doesn’t forbid drinking all alcohol under all conditions, and this is easy to prove. God allowed old covenant Israel to turn their rejoicing tithe into “strong drink” and consume it before him (Dt. 14:26). “Strong drink” here likely included the higher alcohol content akin to what we today call whiskey — not only lower-alcohol-content beer or wine.

In Leviticus 10:9 Moses warned Aaron and his sons not to drink wine or strong drink when they entered the tabernacle to do their service as priests. If God prohibited all alcohol consumption, these limited prohibitions would have been unnecessary. The same logic is true of pastors and deacons in the NT (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 2:3).  Why would God limit drinking alcohol for church officers under certain conditions if he prohibited it for all people at all times? God’s reason seems to be that he doesn’t want his spiritual leaders impaired by alcohol’s effects as they serve in their office.

And then there’s Romans 14:21. Paul has been arguing that he’s willing to surrender certain permissible actions if they truly cause a brother or sister to stumble in the Faith. He includes drinking wine in this class. Obviously, if God prohibited wine, he wouldn’t need to say this. Some people say that wine is equivalent to grape juice, but this doesn’t make sense. Why would anybody object to drinking grape juice? And the fact is that grape juice as a separate beverage wasn’t available in the ancient world. They didn’t have the refrigeration techniques we do today to keep it from fermenting. It’s true that people could drink the juice of immediately squeezed grapes, but that juice didn’t last long as unfermented!

Did Jesus Drink?

Christians sometimes believe that Jesus made (and drank) grape juice, not fermented wine, but this runs contrary both to the text and to common sense and history (Jn. 2:1–10). When the house ruler commented that the wine Jesus made was uncharacteristically better than the wine first served, he had to mean fermented wine. We don’t comment on the quality of grape juice in that way. We can easily compare and contrast the quality of wines but not that of grape juices. And, as I said above, there was no way to serve large portions of unfermented wine at a wedding anyway.

In Matthew 11:19, Jesus contrasts his ministry with that of John the Baptist. He points out that the Pharisees attacked John for being too strict and they attacked him for being too lenient! The Pharisees claimed Jesus was a glutton and a winebibber. These charges were false (and blasphemous), but Jesus admits that, unlike John, he did enjoy good food and wine. He obviously means alcoholic wine, or the Pharisees’ comments wouldn’t have had any meaning at all.

Was There Fermented Wine at Communion?

In 1 Corinthians 11:21 Paul rebukes the church for sins at the Lord’s Table. One of them is that some members were getting drunk. Obviously they were using fermented wine during communion. It’s true that in those days, the Lord’s Supper was a part of larger meal, and not a separate event, but this underscores the fact that early Christians consumed fermented beverages. Paul didn’t rebuke them for consuming alcoholic wine, only for getting drunk and otherwise not caring for their brothers and sisters.

There are many activities we engage in today that the Bible would consider at best questionable, but alcohol isn’t one of them. Christians in the Bible (and Jesus himself) did drink alcohol in moderation, and the Bible never rebuked them for it.

Does This Mean That All Christians May Drink?

This doesn’t mean that all Christians should drink alcohol. If a Christian can’t drink alcohol in moderation, he should never drink it (1 Cor. 6:12). This is often true in the case of those who were previously drunkards. And as I said above, if drinking will truly wound a weaker Christian (that is, one who doesn’t understand that the Bible permits alcohol, and will be led to drink it and thereby sin against his conscience), then we shouldn’t drink (Rom. 14:14–23).

But this only means that drinking is wrong in some cases, not all cases.

You mention legalism.  It’s true that Christians can impose standards the Bible doesn’t impose and in doing this they undermine the Bible (Mk. 7:5–9). But in specific cases they can also act with blatant disregard for their brothers and sisters by drinking (Rom. 14). This is a sin also.

We live in an alcohol- (and drug-) obsessed culture, so it’s understandable why Christians would not want to allow drinking. But we have to be guided by the Bible, not by our culture.

I hope this helps.