21. Use of Alcohol
What does the Bible say about alcohol?
The Bible never says, do not drink alcohol. There is a positive reference to the drinking of alcohol in the Bible. The Apostle Paul says to Timothy, No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. Paul here commands Timothy not to drink just water but to add a little wine for medicinal purposes.
The fact that Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in John 2 also gives validation to the idea that the Bible does not condemn the drinking of alcoholic beverages.
Also noted in Matthew 11:19, Jesus was accused of being a drunkard by the Pharisees. This accusation would have been ridiculous if Jesus did not drink alcohol.
What is condemned in the Bible?
Drunkenness is condemned in the Bible. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul wrote, and do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. It is interesting that this verse contrasts the power of alcohol with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is saying that if we want to be controlled by the Spirit of God we cannot also be controlled by alcohol. As Christians, we are to always “walk in the Spirit”. So, drunkenness for a Christian is never an option on any occasion because there is no occasion when we should not be walking in the Spirit.
Proverbs 20:1 states, wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. There are some dangers to drinking alcohol.
There are many verses that condemn drunkenness: Ephesians 5:18; Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3; Galatians 5:21; 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:10.
Should a Christian drink alcohol?
This is the important question. Is it right for a Christian to drink alcohol? Here are the conclusions:
- It is never right or good for a Christian to be drunk.
- However, the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol and has several instances where it appears acceptable.
- Romans 14:21 states that it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. If you do decide to have an occasional glass of wine, do not do it in such a way as to become a hindrance to another brother or a lost person. In today’s world, there are many alternatives to alcohol.
How should a Church approach the issue of drinking alcohol?
- Churches should teach what the Bible says clearly.
- Churches should not encourage or have meetings where alcohol is served. (The only exception might be if the church chose to use wine in their communion service).
- Churches should have a biblically-based approach for helping people who struggle with alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a form of idolatry, as is any addiction. Anything we are using besides God to meet or medicate deep heart needs is an idol. God views it as such and has strong words for idol worshipers. Alcoholism is not a disease; it is a choice. God holds us accountable for our choices.
Followers of Christ should strive to love their neighbors as themselves, regardless of the problems or addictions those neighbors may have (Matthew 22:29). But contrary to our modern idea that equates love with tolerance, real love does not tolerate or excuse the very sin that is destroying someone. To enable or excuse alcohol addiction in someone we love is to tacitly participate in their sin.
There are several ways Christians can respond in Christ-like love to alcoholics:
- We can encourage the alcoholics in our lives to get help. A person caught in the trap of addiction needs help and accountability.
- We can set boundaries in order not to in any way condone the drunkenness. Minimizing the consequences that alcohol abuse brings is not helping. Sometimes the only way addicts will seek help is when they reach the end of their options.
- We can be careful not to cause others to stumble by limiting our own alcohol use while in the presence of those struggling with it. It is for this reason that many Christians choose to abstain from all alcohol consumption in order to avoid any appearance of evil and to not put a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
- We also recommend participation in a Christ-centered recovery program.
We must show compassion to everyone, including those whose choices have led them into strong addiction. However, we do alcoholics no favors by excusing or justifying their addiction.
Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 5:11; Proverbs 23:20-21; Habakkuk 2:15; Matthew 22:29; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:22