John The Baptist Came Neither Eating Nor Drinking, The Son of Man Came Eating and Drinking - A look at Christian Freedom

I have found that the Bible is very strict in many areas of life and practice for the Christian, but there are many areas that aren't strict at all. In the days of the early church up to today, men have either neglected important practices of the Christian faith, or they have added burdens to mankind in their quest to appear or be holy before men. It was no different in the days of Jesus. Matthew recorded a passage regarding this in Matthew 11. It is as follows:

11 "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear! 16 But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
Matthew 11:11-19 NKJV

John the Baptist lived the life mainly of an ascetic. He mostly kept to himself and ministered in the wilderness. He was a rough old guy who lived off of the land and never took part in wine or the delicacies of the world. Jesus on the other hand was among the people. He went places that no Pharisee or Sadducee would go. He went into the house of tax collectors, witnessed to Gentiles, shared conversation and truth with Samaritans, and even touched diseased and unclean men and women for which the outcome was favorable to them. Jesus never condemned John the Baptist for being a Tee-teetotaler and living like a hermit, and of course he never condemns the life that He lived on earth. The Written Word is very clear on many things, but in the area that is covered in this text, there is freedom. I think Matthew Henry says it right when he makes the following statement:

Matthew Henry's Explanation of verses 18-19
"In the explanation of the parable is set forth the different temper of John's ministry and of Christ's, who were the two great lights of that generation.
(1.) On the one hand, John came mourning to them, neither eating nor drinking; not conversing familiarly with people, nor ordinarily eating in company, but alone, in his cell in the wilderness, where his meat was locusts and wild honey. Now this, one would think, should work upon them; for such an austere, mortified life as this, was very agreeable to the doctrine he preached: and that minister is most likely to do good, whose conversation is according to his doctrine; and yet the preaching even of such a minister is not always effectual.
(2.) On the other hand, the Son of man came eating and drinking, and so he piped unto them. Christ conversed familiarly with all sorts of people, not affecting any peculiar strictness or austerity; he was affable and easy of access, not shy of any company, was often at feasts, both with Pharisees and publicans, to try if this would win upon those who were not wrought upon by John's reservedness: those who were not awed by John's frowns, would be allured by Christ's smiles; from whom St. Paul learned to be come all things to all men, 1 Cor. ix. 22. Now our Lord Jesus, by his freedom, did not at all condemn John, any more than John did condemn him, though their deportment was so very different. Note, Though we are never so clear in the goodness of our own practice, yet we must not judge of others by it. There may be a great diversity of operations, where it is the same God that worketh all in all (1 Cor. xii. 6), and this various manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, v. 7. Observe especially, that God's ministers are variously gifted: the ability and genius of some lie one way, of others, another way: some are Boanerges—sons of thunder; others, Barnabeses—sons of consolation; yet all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 11), and therefore we ought not to condemn either, but to praise both, and praise God for both, who thus tries various ways of dealing with persons of various tempers, that sinners may be either made pliable or left inexcusable, so that, whatever the issue is, God will be glorified."

 What is he saying?
Matthew Henry observed from this text that one should be careful how he or she judges a man. We cannot
simply determine one's faithfulness to God by what he eats or drinks, or where he lives. What needs to be discerned is whether or not this person's ultimate treasure is God. The truth is, men can live in the wilderness for the right reasons, and they can live in the wilderness for the wrong reasons. Men can eat and drink for the right reasons, and they can eat and drink for the wrong reasons. So one lesson I can draw from this text is that we shouldn't make judgments toward our neighbor based on whether he eats or drinks. Nor should we make judgments based on the fact that he doesn't eat or drink. The questions we should ask are: is Jesus Christ Supreme in this person's life? Is God his or her ultimate desire? Are they a slave of food and drink? Or are they hiding in the wilderness against the purpose of God? Or are they doing God's will while living the the wilderness? Are they doing God's will by eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners? The Pharisees and Sadducees were looking for reasons to discredit John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. They couldn't find it in Scripture, so they pulled a play out of their own playbook based on their own uninformed opinions about what Scripture truly taught. They were deceived and Christ proclaimed the truth of it.

A Little Bit on Wine
Proverbs 20:1 NKJV says: "1 Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise." 

Ephesians 5:18 NKJV says: "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,"

Ecclesiastes 9:7 NKJV says: "Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works."

1 Timothy 3:8 NKJV says: "Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,"

Proverbs 23:20-21 NKJV says:"20 Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; 21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags."

Proverbs 23:29-35 NKJV says:"29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. 34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 35 "They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?"

Before you say "Aha! Proverbs 23:30 says "mixed wine" I knew it was grape juice mixed with alcohol!" Below is a better understanding of the mixture Solomon was describing.

  • מִמְסָךְ   - mamcak -  wine mixed with spices. Prov. 23:30 & Isa. 65:11
Wine mixed with spices. Is alcohol a spice? Spices were added to increase the attractiveness and taste of the wine making it more palatable and desirable to drink more. 
I once heard a report a few years ago, and it was done by UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences). I don't remember the size of the glass, but they said that one glass of red wine everyday is good for your heart, and two is bad for your liver. Go figure. The Bible speaks against drunkenness, and says that partaking a little is ok. Imagine that! It is amazing how true science confirms what the Bible teaches. The Bible also promotes the medicinal qualities of wine. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul said: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities." Paul wasn't talking about grape juice. Wine was used often in ancient times to purify the water, and to ward off some sicknesses. It was mixed with the water so the water would be cleaner to drink. Now we just use chlorine. You cannot do that with grape juice. I have a friend who is a veterinarian and he has some kind of stomach issue that he can take a shot of whiskey for, and it will clear it up. The funny thing is that my friend is not really a drinker, and he doesn't like whiskey. I don't really either. I he has never taken a drink around me other than when he had to take the shot for his stomach. 
The point in bringing this up is that the text in Matthew 11 shows us that one must look beyond the outer characteristics of someone to make a good and righteous judgment. Drinking wine doesn't equal a drunk. Eating with Tax collectors and sinners doesn't equal a glutton and a sinner. Living in the wilderness doesn't equal craziness. Oversimplifying your judgment process will result in unrighteous judgment. The truth is that people are lazy when it comes to dealing with people. They don't want to work to figure out the truth. Many times they are scared because the person is a little different, or maybe they don't like to do things exactly like we do. John recorded Jesus saying in the Gospel of John 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." This takes a lot more work than just looking at someone from the outside and making a determination based on what they eat or drink, or where they live or minister. The New Testament tells us that all of God's created gifts are to be taken with thanksgiving. Paul does a great job summing up this issue in Romans 14. The context here is that there were some new believing Gentiles that had converted from the local idol worship of the region, and there was meat and drink offered to these idols and then distributed to the masses for a local feast. More mature believers didn't worship the idols, because they served the only One True God. They knew that the meat and drink didn't come from the idol, but was a gift from God on High not to be wasted. Nevertheless, the conscience of the new and weak converts struggled with the more mature believers eating and drinking the food. Therefore, Paul addresses this with the following:
"1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he
may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. "
A Little Bit on Single Celibacy
I am a married man and love it. However, there are some who choose to be single. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and many others were single and celibate men who served God with a loving heart.  Some great men of God throughout church history were single men. Paul said it this way:
"1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (Thank you Paul!) 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. 32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord--how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world--how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. 36 But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.(Thank you Paul!) 37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 38 So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.  1 Corinthians 7:1-7 & 28-38 NKJV  
Look at the parallel between verse 7 and what was written in Matthew 11! Matthew Henry truly hit it out of the ballpark with his comments. We are free in many ways to minister apart from what is sinful. I was once at a church that was looking for a pastor, and the question came up whether or not we should hire a single man. Many people stood up and adamantly protested the idea. Many reasons were given such as people were afraid for their single daughters (Like the pastor would be some kind of reprobate boogy man!), they didn't think that he could effectively counsel married couples (experience in their minds was more important than Scripture), they didn't think he would be effective with children, and the list went on. I finally stood up and said: "Jesus and Paul were single!" You would have thought that I had been transported into the room from an alien planet. People gave me the strangest look, and finally a deacon said:"Well, the man we are looking for isn't Jesus, and he isn't an Apostle." Then I said: "Well, many of the elders in the new testament church were single, and Paul encouraged it in 1 Corinthians 7." Then one man said:" Cobb's Church Manual says that all pastors have to be married (Cobb's Church Manual?). I then said:"Where is that in Scripture?" He then told me that the requirements for a pastor given in 1 Timothy imply such a requirement. But does it? If that were true, many of the elders in the new testament church were breaking this sacred requirement. Not all of them were married, and why would Paul encourage singleness if it would disqualify you from being a pastor? Paul said singleness frees you to do more for God. Why would marriage be required for eldership? Pastor does equal elder by the way! The Roman Catholic Church went the other way by requiring their priests to be single. Paul never required men or women to be single, he just said it would be better! Nothing wrong with being single, but there is nothing in Scripture requiring it. This and requiring marriage are both man-made stipulations apart from the mandates of Scripture. Paul said that we are free to do either.
Conclusion
So we are free to eat and drink, and we are free to not eat and drink. We are free to be single and live in the wilderness, and we are free not to. If my eating and drinking offends your conscience before God, then in love I should cease for the higher cause of Christ at least until a better understanding of Christian freedom comes into play for the weaker brother. God is supreme, and we should be free to partake and give thanks to God on high for the food and wine. However, there is a higher call to walk in love, so this must be our focus beyond food and drink.  Remember that Ecclesiastes 9:7 NKJV says: "Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works." We shouldn't look down on the single man or woman who wants to sell their life to God and not get married. We should celebrate it! Paul said that they make better ministers because they can devote more time to God. We should also celebrate the married man who wants to be an elder and minister, or the married woman who wants to devote her ministry to her husband and children. Truly we shouldn't require that one eat meat and drink wine to be a Christian anymore that we should expect eating meat and drinking wine would make one not a Christian. Drinking alcohol doesn't equal adultery or drunkenness. However, there are some today who almost view it that way. Being single and living in the wilderness doesn't equal demon possession or craziness. Those who heap up these requirements are Pharisees in their Theology and are dangerous. I pray that you will tolerate the brother who eats and drinks, and also the brother who ministers in the wilderness. In this we are free, but whatever is not from faith is sin. Let's look at a glimpse of what God is concerned about:


"16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. 20 My son, keep your father's command, And do not forsake the law of your mother. 21 Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, 24 To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. 25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. 26 For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. 27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. 30 People do not despise a thief If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. 32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy is a husband's fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts" Proverbs 6:16-35 NKJV
  

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