Alcohol consumption is rampant in the world today. We all know someone who spends their weekend attending parties where they drink heavily and act foolishly. We also have heard of drunk drivers killing innocent people and other tragedies where alcohol was involved.
However, we all know people who are able to drink alcohol without getting drunk and who don’t allow the alcohol they drink to make them act foolishly.
This leads us to ask what does the Bible say about alcohol and then is it okay for a Christian to drink alcohol.
What does the Bible say about alcohol?
We see the first mention of an alcoholic drink in the Bible within the narrative of Noah. He is said to be righteous man of God in his generation (Gen. 6:9). He honored God through building the Ark. After the LORD had stopped the flood, Noah is said to have built a vineyard, which, in turn, led him to get drunk and act shamefully (Gen. 9:20-21). This man of faith wasn’t able to control himself around liquor.
Also, Lot gets drunk on wine, which causes him to act shamefully (Genesis 19:11).
Bread and wine were refreshments for returning warriors (e.g., Judg 8:5; 2 Sam 16:1–2) and used in God-honoring celebrations (Gen. 14:18, 27:25; Ex. 29:40). Bread and wine were also elements that were part of Israel’s worship offered to God (e.g., Lev 2:4–16; 23:13; Num 28:14) and later functioned symbolically at the Lord’s table (1 Cor 11:26).
Proverbs also says that loving to get drunk is a sad (Proverbs 21:17) and unwise way to live your life (Proverbs 20:1).
The author of Ecclesiastes says that believers shouldn’t allow life to pass us by without enjoying our lives, so he writes, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do” (Ecc. 9:7).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says to not even be close friends with someone who often gets drunk (1 Cor. 5:11). And elsewhere Paul explicitly writes, “do not get drunk with wine” (Eph. 5:18). However, Paul actually encourages Timothy to drink wine, since Timothy had been only drinking water and having frequent ailments (1 Tim. 5:23).
Paul even says that Deacons are allowed to drink wine, as long as they don’t get addicted to it (1 Tim. 3:8). However, Paul says that if drinking wine causes your brother to stumble in their faith, then you shouldn’t drink it front of them (Rom. 14:21).
Now that we did a brief overview of alcohol in the Bible, let’s move on to applying what we found out to our own lives.
Is it a sin for Christians to drink alcohol?
Before we answer that question, we have to remember that our lives are meant to glorify Jesus (1 Cor. 6:20). He is King and we are His servant. We should seek to make His name known and His Gospel heard. And our lifestyle should be an authentic picture of the Gospel working in our life. We must preach the Gospel in word and in deed.
So, does drinking alcohol responsibly bring dishonor to Jesus?
As you can see by the above Bible verses, alcohol isn’t inherently evil. Someone can drink alcohol and still be completely in line with how Jesus wants us to live. The Apostle Paul demanded the utmost standard of moral conduct for leadership within the early Church, but responsibly drinking alcohol wasn’t something Paul saw as immoral (1 Tim. 3:8).
However, drinking alcohol, even without getting drunk, could be a sin.
As Christians, we have freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1). Jesus abolished the Law through His death and resurrection (Matt. 5:17).
Paul demonstrates our freedom in Christ by telling early Christians that freedom in Christ means that they were able to eat meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 10:27), which was once a no-no (Acts 15:29). However, Christ set us free from the Law, so now we’re under grace, not law (Rom. 6:14). Then, Paul quickly adds that if a fellow believer sees you eating meat that was sacrificed to idols and view it as a sin, then you shouldn’t eat it out of love for your fellow believer (1 Cor. 10:27).
We shouldn’t just think about whether drinking alcohol is okay for me to do, but instead we should think about if drinking alcohol is okay for the community of believers. We have freedom in Christ, but we should use that freedom to love God and love our neighbor, which Jesus said summed up all the Law of God (Matt. 22:36-39).
The most influential Church Father, Saint Augustine, explained the manner in which we should live out our freedom in Christ as by saying, “Love, and do what you will.” We should act through the lens of love.
The Corinthian Church had a very self-centered way of looking at things, much like us today. The Corinthians commonly said, “All things are lawful”, since they had heard a form of Paul’s teaching on the believers in Christ, but they distorted it for their own self-centered purposes, but Paul quickly challenged them by writing, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12).
Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that they had freedom in Christ, but that shouldn’t make them think solely about what they could do for themselves, but instead about what they ought to do for their neighbor.
Peter explained this freedom as, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 5:8)
I’m not saying that if you have someone in your church who doesn’t like drinking, then you’re never allowed to drink. Instead, I’m saying that you shouldn’t drink around them. I’ve also heard youth pastors who say they will have the occasionally beer, but they wouldn’t’ even consider drinking in front of the youth at their church out of respect for the kids and the parents of the kids. Again, remember Augustine’s words, “Love, and do what you will.”
Misguided Christians use Romans 12:2 (“Do not be conformed to this world…”) as a way of saying that Christians shouldn’t drink, since they aren’t comfortable with it. However, that’s the definition of legalism Paul attacks in the book of Galatians (Galatians 5:13-26). Legalism is making a personal conviction into universal conviction. We shouldn’t be an alcoholic or legalistic.
They’re also Christians who look down on fellow Christians for drinking and, to be honest, I was once one of them. Years ago, I thought it was a sin to drink, but Jesus lovingly corrected me, but even recently I mildly looked down on Christians for drinking alcohol, even when they did it responsibly. I wasn’t as intense about it as I was before, but I still mildly looked down on them. In fact, the hours spent researching and reflecting on the material I used for this blog actually helped to change my mind. I am now more accepting of it and respect people’s right to drink responsibility. I’m thankful for Jesus helping me to see Him a little clearer through the writing of this post.
Nothing is inherently evil about alcohol.
If you’re able to drink without getting drunk and acting shameful, then your freedom in Christ gives you the right to drink. However, you shouldn’t just think about what is best for you, but instead you should think about what’s best for the body of Christ.
If someone around you says they aren’t comfortable with drinking, then don’t drink around them out of love for them.
Finally, some of you might assume I’m just coming to the conclusion that drinking alcohol isn’t a sin for Christians, since I drink. However, I’m 25 years-old and I’ve never had a drink or alcohol. It’s just something that doesn’t interest me. I’ve never had the desire. I’ve also seen alcohol beat up people I love and heard about it being what led to a few close people of mine to be sexually assaulted.
For me, it’s just not something I have wanted to pick up, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever. I imagine myself drinking alcohol, but that will come when Jesus tells me it’s time. It’s something I have prayed about a lot over the years and Jesus has consistently told me to hold off on it. I have a lot of friends and I usually am the dude who makes everyone laugh, so I’ve felt Jesus telling me to hold off on alcohol to show my worldly friends that you could have fun without alcohol. That’s just what I’ve heard from Jesus, but I’ve recently felt like Jesus is now okay with me drinking alcohol. This is what what it means to live by the Spirit. I don’t look to stone tablet of commandments for what to do. Instead, I look to Jesus through the Holy Spirit for guidance. When He tells me it’s time, then I’ll drink alcohol.
We all have to discern this matter for ourselves. We have to not only act Biblically, but also thinking Biblically.
It’s better for someone to prayerfully bring this matter to the foot of Jesus, then faithfully honor Him through drinking responsibly than for someone to avoid drinking because they’re pastor tells them to.
We should make the practice of bringing everything to the foot of Jesus instead of just bringing things to our pastors. We should engaging with Jesus with everything that comes our way.
Jesus might be calling you to abstain from drinking to show your drinking friends that you don’t need alcohol to enjoy life, or maybe Jesus is calling you to drink with your friends as a way to show them that you don’t need to drink irresponsibly to enjoy life, or maybe Jesus is calling you to abstain from drinking because you’re not mature enough to handle. Whether you drink or don’t drink, make sure you’re engaging with Jesus throughout out it all to see whether you’re acting in accordance with His will.