By John C. Carpenter
After mentioning the lust of the flesh, Peter said, For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings [to drink liquor deeply and freely], banquetings [drinking bouts], and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you (1 Pet 4:3-4). In these verses, Peter gives us another symptom of running in the excess of riot: reveling and banquetings. Additionally, Peter provides us with valuable teaching regarding the use of alcoholic beverages. The Scriptures have much to say about the excessive use of alcohol. An early mention of the dangers of excessive drink is found in the book of Genesis. Noah, a man who walked with God, planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent (Gen 9:20-21). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructed believers in Ephesus to not drunk [intoxicated] with wine, wherein is excess [asotia; i.e., unsavedness, extravagant self-indulgence]; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). In this verse, Paul, as Peter, defined "drunkenness" as excessive, extravagant self-indulgence in the drinking of wine. Paul's teaching here is not that drinking wine is sinful or will result in eternal damnation, but that the excessive, uncontrolled use of alcohol leading to drunkenness is prohibited. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was apparently not against drinking of wine in moderation. In fact, Christ probably occasionally drank at least some wine, because the Jewish leaders accused Christ of being ...a gluttonous man, and a winebibber [a tippler, one who drinks wine excessively], a friend of publicans and sinners(Luke 7:34). Although Christ was certainly not a glutton or winebibber, the Lord must have given these Jewish leaders at least some cause to accuse Him by occasionally drinking wine. Christ even performed His first documented miracle by turning water into wine during a marriage ceremony in Cana of Galilee. Scripture tells us: And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine [by Christ], and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him (John 2:3-11). At the time of Christ, wine was also used for medicinal purposes. The apostle Paul knew the value of, and even promoted, the medicinal use of wine when he instructed the apostle Timothy to Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities [maladies, sicknesses, diseases] (1 Tim 5:23). Paul apparently knew the importance of moderation because it is noted that Paul clearly told Timothy to drink a "little" wine for his maladies, as opposed to excessive over-indulgence. Jesus told us another story regarding the medicinal use of wine: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him (Luke 10:30-34). In this story of the good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us that wine was routinely used two thousand years ago to treat wounds. However, caution must be exercised. Despite the sometimes useful qualities of wine, and although drinking wine in moderation is permitted, Scriptures also instruct us that nothing, including drinking wine, should be done if it causes a fellow believer to become weak or stumble. Paul told those in Rome, ...if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak (Rom 14:15-21). Paul clearly taught that "drinking wine" was permitted if it did not weaken or cause a brother to sin. Although drinking wine is permitted, sometimes there are exceptions According to His plans and purposes, the Lord not only called past Biblical individuals to complete, partial or temporary abstinence, but may call you or someone you know to abstinence from wine or intoxicating drink. If this calling occurs, it should and must be honored. For example, an angel of the Lord told Zacharias and Elisabeth that they would have a son, John the Baptist. The angel later said John shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). The angel of the Lord prophesied John's abstinence from intoxicating drink in order for God to fulfill His purposes in the life of the prophet. In another example, during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Roman soldiers gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not (Mark 15:23). Guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ clearly had a reason for not partaking of wine during His crucifixion. Referring to the character requirements for Christian Church leaders, Paul instructed Timothy,A bishop [superintendent, officer in charge, overseer] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to [staying near wine, tippling] wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous (1 Tim 3:2-3). The words "given to" mean to drink liquor habitually or excessively. The teaching here is not that drinking alcoholic beverages is prohibited, but that a bishop should not drink wine habitually or excessively. Paul then promptly gave very similar instructions regarding Church deacons when he said, Likewise must the deacons [teacher, pastor, minister, servant] be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre (1 Tim 3:8). Paul also instructed Titus that bishops ...must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7), and The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (Titus 2:3). The Holy Scriptures clearly teach that, although God may call individuals to complete abstinence from alcohol, drinking of wine in moderation is not prohibited. As Paul said, not drunk with wine, wherein is excess... (Eph 5:18). As Peter mentioned in our subject verses, what is distinctly prohibited is the incontinent, excessive, and habitual use of wine or alcoholic beverages by all believers in Christ (1 Pet 4:3).
Peter also taught that idolatry is considered one of the excesses of riot. He said, For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries (1 Pet 4:3). In the very next verse, Peter advised Christians not to run in this excess. If Christians are not to participate in the excess of idolatry, we should ask then "what is idolatry?" In the New Testament, "idolatry" is the Greek word "eidololatreia," which means "image worship." Merrill Unger, in Unger's Bible Dictionary [Third Edition, Moody Press, 1987], says, "In a general sense idolatry is the paying of divine honors to any created thing; the ascription of divine power to natural agencies." Unger goes on to say that idolatry can be classified as (a) the worship of inanimate objects, as stones, trees, rivers, etc.; (b) of animals; (c) of the higher powers of nature, as the sun, moon, stars; and the forces of nature, as air, fire, etc.; (d) hero- worship, or of deceased ancestors; (e) ideals, or the worship of abstractions or mental qualities, as justice; (f) the worship of Jehovah under image or symbol; (g) the worship of other gods under image or symbol; and (h) the worship of the image or symbol itself. Unger further adds "The term idolatry is used to designate covetousness, which takes mammon for its god (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13; Eph 5:5; and Col 3:5). Appetite or gluttony is also included under idolatry (Phil 3:19; 2 Tim 3:4)." Additionally, Holy Scriptures help us understand idolatry. The Old Testament judge, prophet, and priest, Samuel, told Saul, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness[to press, urge] is as iniquity and idolatry [idol, image]. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice (1 Sam 15:22-24). In this verse, Samuel is suggesting that having a human spirit and personality that is unyielding and disobedient to God is considered to be idolatrous, as well as sinful. In the New Testament, Paul instructed the faithful brethren in Colossae to Mortify [deaden, subdue] therefore your members [body parts] which are upon the earth; [that are involved in] fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness [excessive desire for wealth or gain, often involving fraudulence and extortion],which is idolatry (Col 3:5). In this verse, Paul defines excessive desire for gain, financial and personal, as idolatry. Paul gave us the main characteristic of idolatry when he told the GalatiansNow the works [acts, deeds] of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21). Paul clarifies that idolatry is one of the acts of the flesh, or results from the operation of fleshly tendencies in the individual, which results in eternal damnation. In the Old and New Testaments, idolatry is strictly prohibited by God. In the Old Testament, God instructed Moses to instruct the children of Israel Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God (Lev 19:4). In the New Testament, the apostle John said, Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21). Paul similarly preached against idolatry, saying to the Corinthians, Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee [run away from, escape]from idolatry (1 Cor 10:14), because as Paul told the Galatians, they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21). Peter makes it abundantly clear that idolatry is an excess of riot that is strictly prohibited for believers in Christ, and that God the Father rewards idolatry with eternal death.
Although Peter did not specifically mentioned "eating" in our subject verses, the "banquetings" that Peter did mention probably involved gluttony as well. Peter did, however, warn against living in the flesh to the lusts of men, (1 Pet 4:2) which, for many Christians, includes excessive eating. Holy Scriptures teach us that excessive eating is not only associated with sins of the flesh, but separates us from God and His Holy Spirit. God the Father knew from the beginning of time that the lust for food [and drink] would cause mankind great difficulties, as evidenced by one aspect of the temptation of Eve and Adam. In the book of Genesis, we read And when the woman [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Gen 3:6). The result of giving in to this temptation was that God brought judgment: ...the LORD God sent him [mankind] forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken (Gen 3:23). Eve and Adam gave in to their lust for food, as do many believers in Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, lusting for food and drink resulted in sin, brought God's anger and judgment, and led to separation from God. Regarding the excesses and sins of Jerusalem and Judah, God said through the prophet Jeremiah ... when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? (Jer 5:7-9). In these verses, God clearly connected the gluttony of Jerusalem and Judah with the sins, especially sexual sins, of Jerusalem and Judah. The city of Sodom also had a problem with gluttony, which contributed to her sin. Scriptures tell us, Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good (Ezek 16:49-50), yet those of Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh [homosexuality], are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 1:7). Many Old and New Testament verses warn against the excessive use of food and drink. In His mercy, however, God provided fasting as one means of crucifying the flesh. The Scriptures teach that fasting, the partial or complete abstinence from food or drink, is an essential element in the life of any true believer. Speaking to the multitudes and His disciples, Jesus Christ instructed, Moreover when ye fast [to religiously abstain from food], be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward(Mat 6:16). In this verse, Christ did not say "if" you fast, but "when" you fast. Christ obviously considered fasting the norm for believers in Christ, and true believers should too. Just before His temptation, Scriptures tell us Jesus ...fasted forty days and forty nights, [and] he was afterward an hungered (Mat 4:2). Fasting was utilized by many biblical characters in the Old Testament, by prophets and teachers in the early Christian church (Acts 13:1-3), by disciples of John the Baptist (Mark 2:18), and even by Pharisees in the Jewish church (Luke 18:12). Although fasting is multi-faceted and performed for many reasons, Christians should recognize that fasting is a beneficial, effective tool in dealing with the excesses of riot.
In addition to the verses dealing with excess, the apostle Peter also gave us valuable advice on how to deal with the excesses of riot. In our subject verses, the last thing the apostle Peter said was, But the end [point, goal, conclusion, result] of all things is at hand:be ye therefore sober [moderate], and watch [to be discreet, sober, alert] unto [with and through] prayer (1 Pet 4:7). The word "sober" means to "be of sound mind, sane, moderate." The word "watch" means to "keep sober, be discreet." Peter was teaching that excesses can be countered by living in moderation, prayerful alertness, and discretion. Peter later said, Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care [worldly distractions] upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions [hardships, suffering] are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world (1 Pet 5:6-9). Peter clearly said that unbelievers walk in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, reveling, banquetings, and abominable idolatries. He also taught all believers that the excesses characteristic of the unsaved should and could be avoided by the Christian through moderation, prayer, humility, vigilance in the faith, and suffering. Finally, Peter explains the reward of not running in the excesses of riot. He says that, the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect [mended, complete, restored], stablish [confirm, fix], strengthen [provide spiritual knowledge and power], [and] settle [consolidate] you (1 Pet 5:10).  AMEN.
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