Is it sin for a Christian to drink alcohol? Can believers drink wine, beer or hard liquor? What does the Bible say about consuming alcohol?
Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
This question has been a divisive issue for as many years as Christianity has been around. Many denominations forbid any consumption of alcohol at all and you can be disfellowshiped in some churches. What about the alcohol that is found in some cough medicines? Is it wrong for Christians to drink this too? Some churches have even divided over this issue. It is a stumbling block for some believers while for others they see no problem at all with having a beer once in a while or a glass of wine at dinner.
In the Old Testament and the New Testament there are many Scriptures about alcohol and I could not find even one Scripture that strictly prohibits the drinking of alcohol. Even strong drink is mentioned but this may refer to something that is more fermented than wine, much like that of hard liquor.
The Bible is clear that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God. First Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists will inherit the kingdom of God.” Romans 13:13 has another warning about drunkenness: “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”
The problem of drinking alcohol is not the alcohol itself because Paul tells Timothy to “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Tim 5:23). Surely if alcohol was a sin, Paul would not have recommended it to Timothy who was a pastor. There is some medical evidence that a little wine is helpful, not only to the stomach, but for the body in general, however anything in excess is nothing but trouble. Solomon wrote, “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Pro 20:10). Here, Solomon mentions strong drink being a “brawler” and I have heard too many experiences where there are fights in bars and clubs due to excessive alcohol consumption. The same would apply to having too much wine or beer.
Isaiah addresses the effects of drunkenness by writing, “But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, [priests were not allowed to drink at all - Lev 10:9] They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment” (Is 28:7). This makes me think about drunk drivers who frequently kill innocent victims on the highways, kill themselves on deserted roads and even died from an alcohol overdose. Making someone else drink for immoral reasons is terribly sinful as Habakkuk records, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness” (Hab 2:15)! Isaiah also writes, “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks” (Is 5:22).
Alcohol lead to a judgment in error even for Noah: “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness” (Gen 9:20-23). Solomon seems to speak from experience where he wrote, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things” (Pro 23:29-33). Some of these verses show that too much alcohol will make us utter things perverse (unseemly things for a Christian to say) and see strange things (blurred vision or the proverbial pink elephant).
Drink But Not to Drunkenness
We have already read that strong drink or wine in excessive amounts is sin and leads to poor decisions and sometimes to immorality, but this does not mean that God forbids wine and strong drink altogether. During the Feast of Tabernacles, God told Israel that they could, “exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice” (Duet 14:24-26). This does not mean that they can get drunk but alcohol in moderation is permissible, just as Paul told Timothy to drink “a little wine” (note that Paul said a little) for his stomach (1 Tim 5:23).
Solomon wrote that God provided blessings for His people writing, “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts” (Psalm 104:14-14). He also wrote, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do” (Eccl 9:7).
No Stumbling Blocks
I do not believe that Paul was against drinking wine because he recommends to Timothy to drink some for medicinal purposes but we know that he called drunkenness sin. For those who have had problems with alcohol or are alcoholics, we should not drink in their presence because we can put a stumbling block of offense before them (2 Cor 6:3). Other Christians who do not believe in drinking alcohol should be given the same respect for their abstinence. Paul wrote about creating a stumbling block before those whose conscience does not allow them to eat meat sacrificed to idols but the same principle can certainly be applied to drinking alcohol. Paul wrote, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall” (I Cor 8:9-13).
This article is not recommending that a Christian drink or that they should not drink, but only to consider the conscience of others who might be offended by your drinking. Some are recovering alcoholics and are overwhelmed by the urge to take a drink even if they see it or smell it. A key here is to know where your Christian friends stand on the issue of alcohol and if you do drink, do so in moderation only. Nothing ever good comes from drunkenness. Never try to encourage others to drink (Hab 2:15). They are free to do what their own conscience allows them to do. If they feel it is sin to them, leave it at that and don’t make an issue out of it. Many scholars have even said that wine was consumed in the Middle East because much of the water in biblical times was unsafe and had to be mixed with wine in order to make it safe. There is much debate about this but there should be no debate when it comes to alcohol. If it makes my brother or sister stumble, I will not drink in front of them. If they do drink, I will not keep filling their glass against their will. Let all things be done in moderation and all things for the glory of God.
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