I’m going to use the consumption of alcohol as an example here. If you are of the mind that every Scriptural reference to “wine” is really unfermented grape juice, then mentally substitute another example. If you can’t think of any, then I’m quite worried for you.
Need a few extra boundaries in your life? Totally understandable. With the exception of a sip of champagne at my aunt’s wedding, I haven’t ever knowingly consumed alcohol. I grew up in “grape juice” circles, and don’t want to unnecessarily offend my friends that are still in those circles, but that’s not the primary reason. To be honest, the main reason that I don’t drink is that I don’t know if I can handle it. Who knows? I may not have an addictive personality, but I’d hate to find out the hard way that I do.
I find nowhere in Scripture that forbids all consumption of alcohol. But for me, personally (and by “personally”, I mean “personally”), that’s the standard.
A few interesting Scriptures (emphasis mine):
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
And [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
At the risk of getting a Sesame Street tune stuck in your head, one of these things is not like the others. In the first reference, God gives a command, and in the last, He references that command. But in the middle passage — let’s be honest here — Eve lies about God.
Which leads me to a sidebar: If I interpret this passage correctly, the first human sin was not the consumption of the forbidden fruit or even the pride or lust that led to that consumption. Rather, it would seem that the first human sin was Eve’s lie about God. If someone has Scriptural reference to refute that, I’ll be glad to back off it.
Note that Eve did not say, “God said not to eat it, and I’m not even gonna touch it, because I know that I can’t eat what I don’t touch.” No, she ascribed to God something that He never said. I have to wonder if the serpent’s deception didn’t get easier with that statement, because she was already half-way “there”.
And so, here we see that legalism is older than dirt. It wasn’t invented in the 1950s by some preacher to keep his people from going to see Doris Day movies.
Now, granted, legalism often involves more than ascribing to God what He never said. It also involves imposing your personal extra-Biblical standards on others. But in some sense, is this not really the same thing? Perhaps I am not so bold as to quote from the book of Hezekiah. But if I put my personal standards on your life, am I not either claiming divine revelation and an open Canon, or at least claiming that God has told me what He wants for your life?
Seems that either way, you’re lying about God — something we might wanna do less of.