Article by Casey McFall
A question that is finding a recent resurge amongst Christians is the question of alcohol. It is becoming more and more common for Christians to engage in “social drinking”. This kind of drinking is usually done with friends and in relative moderation. Since there is no verse that directly condemns drinking alcohol, is it possible that it is not a sin? Is it possible, that it may in fact be alright for Christians to engage in social drinking?
The easy answer:
Drunkenness is unequivocally (without a doubt) a sin! There are a great number of verses in the Bible that teach it is sinful to drink to the point of becoming drunk:
This is the easy answer because of the overwhelming number of verses that straight-up call out drunkenness as a sin and say that we should not engage in it. The Bible even goes so far as to explain some of the reasons why people should abstain from being drunk. Other than the fact that a propensity to over-indulging in alcohol is a recipe for a terrible life (Prov. 23:29-31), Ephesians 5:18 also explains that it is excessive, or lacking in moderation, to be drunk. The Bible is not simply a book of “thou shalt nots” but is a book of principles; and one of those principles, is that of moderation and temperance in all things. Unfortunately, this easy answer about drunkenness doesn’t answer the full question of drinking alcohol. Namely, is it alright to drink alcohol in moderation?
The harder answer:
The harder answer is that although the Bible does not outright condemn drinking alcohol in moderation, it is still a sin to do so. There are two main questions that are associated with this statement. The first, is “If it is sin to drink alcohol even in moderation, why do we see wine being consumed so much in the Bible. The second is, “How can you know that it is a sin to drink alcohol if the Bible doesn’t actually say that it is?”
The answer to the first question is much more in-depth than I can cover in this article adequately and I’ll discuss it more in-depth in a subsequent article. That article will examine Biblical wine in detail; but for now, the shortest answer to that question is that it was not necessarily a sin to drink alcoholic wine in moderation in Bible times. That statement may be surprising for many. After all, what is sin is sin is sin right? Why would something that was alright for those in the Bible be a sin for those of us living in this day and age? The truth is that while there are some sins that are declared to be an absolute transgression against the decreed will of God (read more about the different wills of God here), such as murder, there are also some sins that can not be defined with such absoluteness. Two examples of this:
The first example is Romans 14:23 “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” In this chapter, Paul is talking about the sinfulness, or lack thereof, of eating meat. He concludes the chapter with the quoted verse and the explanation that while there is nothing wrong with eating meat, it is wrong for those who feel that it is a sin. Please note that this does not mean that it is not a sin to drink alcohol as long as you can do it doubt-free! Unfortunately, too many Christians attempt to take this chapter and verse and twist it to excuse the sin in their lives in a feeble effort to justify themselves.
The second example is looking at ankles. Is it a sin to look at a woman’s ankles? Of course not! But it would have been a sin to do so in the past! There was a time when it was considered very immodest and indecent for a woman to expose her ankles. To do so would have been considered scandalous! The Bible doesn’t teach anywhere that it is a sin for a woman to expose her ankles or for a man to see a woman’s ankles. What the Bible does teach is the principle of avoiding temptation, and that to lust after a woman is the same as having an affair with that woman! (Mat. 5:28)
Tying it all together and bringing the focus back to the main question of alcohol; these two examples serve to explain that while sin does remain, the context of sin may change. In the case of drinking alcohol, both society and technology were significantly different in Bible times than they are now. It used to be that one of the only ways to ensure good health was to drink alcohol in moderation. Juice and wine were significantly less likely to carry bacteria than water was, and provided various nutrients. Juice could only last a limited amount of time before spoiling however, and turning the juice into wine allowed it to last longer. The health benefits for drinking wine in those days are well noted both in the Bible and in other historical works. Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake (I Tim 5:23), and the Roman citizens were encouraged to give their slaves a daily ration of wine because the health benefits were greater than the cost of the wine.
Moving forward to the modern day however, we no longer have those same constraints and problems. Advances in methods for sanitation, agriculture, preservation, and other such areas means that we are no longer reliant on wine for something safe to drink. There have also been advances in medicine which are significantly more effective than wine at resolving health-related issues. In short, there is no longer the need to rely on wine like there was before!
This brings us to the second question: “How can you know that it is a sin to drink alcohol if the Bible doesn’t actually say that it is?” While the Bible may not state in ten commandment fashion “Thou shalt not consume alcohol”, the Bible does clearly teach that drinking alcohol of any amount is a sin for several reasons.
It doesn’t bring glory to God
One reason, is because it does not bring glory to God. Isaiah 43:7 teaches that God created us in order to bring glory to Him. To glorify God is the purpose of our lives! This is reiterated in I Corinthians 10:31, which commands us: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Since this is a command, anything we do that is not to the glory of God is a sin! There may be some who would argue that drinking alcohol in moderation can be done to the glory of God since it shows a temperance in abstaining from drunkenness. Those who would argue this however must not understand what it means to bring glory to God.
One way we bring God glory is through our lives. I Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we are the temple of God, while verse 17 teaches that it is possible to defile the temple of God. Taken in context, this defiling is through the actions we take and the decisions we make. The Bible also says “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1). This doesn’t say “Wine in excess is a mocker”, but that all wine is a mocker! If you are allowing yourself be to deceived by wine (and are thus unwise according to the Bible) you are not keeping the temple of God clean and bringing glory to Him! Proverbs 23:29-32 describes the state of those who like to drink alcohol as full of sorrow and woe, and encourages others to not even look at wine.
Nor does it stop there! Proverbs 31:4-5 says: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” Other than the fact that Revelation 1:6 says that Jesus Christ has made us kings (thus it is not for us to drink), this verse in Proverbs is also once again clearly illustrating the disastrous consequences of drinking alcohol! Did you know that there isn’t a threshold for being drunk? It’s not like you go from being sober to suddenly being drunk at a certain point. The United States government has set certain limits for what is considered drunk based on the level of alcohol in the blood, but that level of alcohol was a gradual build-up and your brain functions were already impacted long before you crossed that legal threshold. Nor does God ever declare what is His blood-alcohol limit for what He considers to be drunk (something which He clearly calls a sin in the Word of God).
Doctor Carol DerSarkissian, former director of quality improvement for the Emergency Department of the Manhattan Veteran's Association Hospital, describes the affect that alcohol has on the human body. In as little as thirty seconds after the first sip, alcohol is already affecting your brain. Not after the first glass, the first sip. When it gets there, it begins to muddle the chemicals in your brain and slow down your neural pathways. Both of these affect not only mood, but also impede your decision making ability. Does this sound like something that would bring glory to God while keeping His temple pure?
It opens the door to temptation
Other than not bringing glory to God, drinking alcohol (even in moderation) opens the door to temptation. All kinds of temptation. As was mentioned previously, your brain begins to be affected after even just a single sip of alcohol. One of the results of this, is decreased inhibitions. Even if you are not drunk and are only drinking moderately, you are still more likely to say and do things that you would normally not do. According to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, less than one glass of wine is already enough to interrupt communication between the amygdala and parts of the prefrontal cortex. Is this really that important? Dr. Luan Phan, professor of psychiatry at UIC explains: “How the amygdala and prefrontal cortex interact enables us to accurately appraise our environment and modulate our reactions to it. Emotional processing involves both the amygdala and areas of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex responsible for cognition and modulation of behavior.” In other words, yes, it is very important. When this breakdown of communication in the brain happens, we literally lose our ability to respond to stimuli around us in an intelligent manner.
What this means, is that after sipping less that half a glass of alcohol, you are already significantly more likely to lust after a woman (sin), commit adultery (sin), say something dishonoring to God (sin), drink to point of being drunk (sin), ruin your testimony and any chance you have of bringing others to Christ (sin), and enter into any number of other sins. All without ever having been drunk. Matthew 26:41a says: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”. James 1:14-15 says that we are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lusts and that lust brings forth sin. To drink alcohol, any amount of alcohol, is to throw wide open the door to sin and temptation and to invite it willingly into your life.
As Christians, we live not only by the shalts and shalt nots of the Bible, but by the principles of the Word of God. And when you examine the Word of God the way that we are commanded to in II Tim. 2:15, it quickly becomes more than apparent that it is a sin to drink alcohol! Not only to the point of drunkenness but even just a little is already a sin. It is sad that so many see drinking alcohol as not a big deal or even perfectly acceptable. Christians who engage in social drinking or even who drink in the privacy of their own homes are destroying their relationship with God, inviting ruin into their lives, and willfully turning themselves into a joke for the devil to laugh at!
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In my opinion, this is your best article yet! These words of truth are very much needed in today's culture. Satan is deceiving many on this issue and leading people to think it is okay to imbibe. Every alcoholic started with that first drink. Why play with fire? "Woe unto him that gives his neighbor drink"......Habakkuk 2:15Darlene Hellmann            May 15, 2019, 10:59 a.m.
Well said. Well written. Well researched. This is an excellent article explaining about Christianity and alcohol. Thanks so much for sharing! God bless you to continue to bring forth truth. 🕊Sandra Hickman            May 14, 2019, 8:25 a.m.
This article was linked on social media, so I decided to take a look. While I disagree with this article, I have no reason not to consider you a Brother in Christ, so I will try and respond accordingly.
1) Jesus said we are not to relax or teach anyone to relax any of the laws God has given (Matt. 5:19). Hairs came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it. Additionally, adding or taking away is just as bad (cf
Mark 7:9; Rev. 22:18-19). Yet you clearly make a conclusion that drink of any kind is a sin outside of biblical times. This is truly absurd, seeing as how your principle of affect on the brain would be the same then as it is for us now. So they would be just as likely to enter a state of weakness as we are. It is a logical fallacy and biblical inconsistency to apply a different hermeneutic to different time eras due to medical advancement. Wine still has antioxidant properties and along with some beers have have additional medical benefits. So, not much has changed, even if it is not as "needed." Juice wasn't always just turned into wine so that it wouldn't go bad and could be used later
2) you fail to apply a full hermeneutic as well.
A) Proverbs is not always to be taken as command. It was the wisdom of Solomon in his experience. It is more about walking in the path of wisdom,not establishing God's rules for all life. Proverbs also says "beat your child with a rod" (Prov. 23:14). We know the principle behind this, not as a command to severe, physical beatings.
B) you fail twice when you do not follow you quote of Proverbs 31 with the rest of the relevant passage, which says to give your strong drink to the poor and destitute for aid in their distress and daily life-trials (vv. 5-7).
C) similarly you give no biblical reason why drink is commanded to be had by Paul, or why Jesus gives it to His Disciples (and commands further observamce, and that He will have this Cup again in the New Kingdom - Matt. 26:29), and why it is not permissible now...worse, why it is sin now!
3) you create a commandment that is not yours to make by laying a burden where it is notcalled for, and left what God commands unmentioned:
the Bible says "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Tim 4:4). This must include the dreaded alcohol because it is not expressly forbidden. Especially since the scriptures use the language, "not given to much" (1 tim. 3), or drunkard (see all your cited references).
4) lastly, godly wisdom and exhortation comes in helping align people with God's Word, not our take on things, our own experiences, or our perceptions. You could've been more salient and helpful by sticking to the express passages already given for us.
- not causing a Brother to stumble (cf. Rom. 14), yet our freedom in Christ should not trump how we live in front of others (Gla. 5; 1 pet. 2).
- all things may be lawful, but not helpful (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23).
- does it hinder.you or others? Then throw it off (Heb
Albert Mohler said once (paraphrasing as best as I can remember), "if you don't drink you can never get into trouble with it." Which better than a maze of fallacies you used to get to making a biblical commands for all Christians/people.
Please retract your harmful use.of scripture and encourage your Brothers and sisters To be wary with their witness, not lay a new command on Believers that even Jesus did not see fit to levy.Josh M.            May 12, 2019, 5:50 a.m.