Can Christians Drink Alcoholic Beverages?
Drinking an alcoholic beverage is not a sin in and of itself. But it can be a sin – or, at least, unwise – for certain people or in certain environments, not to mention anything done without moderation becomes negative by default.
Obviously someone with an alcoholic past must stay away from alcoholic beverages altogether just as a man with a severe lust problem has to stay away from pictures or shows/movies that feature scantily clad females. It’s just common sense: If your flesh has a weakness for something, you wisely avoid anything that would stir it up and lead to a fall.
Yet Christ didn’t completely abstain from alcohol (Matthew 11:19) and Paul instructed Timothy to drink a little wine apparently for health reasons (1 Timothy 5:23). Moreover, the LORD permitted the Hebrews to drink fermented beverages at certain celebrations:
and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
Deuteronomy 14:26 (ESV)
This somewhat corresponds to the Messiah’s first miracle — turning water into wine at a wedding celebration, which obviously wasn’t grape juice (John 2:1-11).
Yet “Scripture interprets Scripture” and so these passages need balanced out by others, like these proverbs:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat.
30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
As you can see, the problem isn’t drinking an alcoholic beverage, but rather drinking “too much,” which is echoed in the New Testament:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery
So the issue isn’t the alcoholic beverage itself, but rather the individual who loses a proper sense of moderation – self-control – and, instead, becomes controlled by the alcohol, meaning drunk. Why is this wrong or unwise? Because drunkenness naturally “leads to debauchery,” which means decadence, aka immorality; in short, sin. For this reason, there are several warnings against drunkenness in the New Testament:
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:11
For those who sleep, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
1 Thessalonians 5:7
This explains why drunkenness is listed as a work of the flesh:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries, divisions, factions, 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
A similar sobering warning is given here:
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
These passages clearly show that living the lifestyle of a drunkard without care of repentance will keep the individual from inheriting God’s kingdom, which includes those who say they’re Christians (keep in mind that Paul was addressing believers that attended church gatherings in these passages). Put simply, anyone who chooses to live like this without concern of penitence can kiss eternal life goodbye.
Most Christians have probably missed it and gotten drunk on at least one occasion, but they humbly confessed and made things right with the Lord (1 John 1:8-9). There’s a difference between this and those who regularly get drunk as a lifestyle. These types have no intention of giving up their overindulgence in alcohol. They’re what the Bible calls stiff-necked – stubborn about their immoral behavior. These two passages are referring to this kind of person, not to those who miss it, honestly ’fess up, and get back up.
Yet there’s nothing wrong with drinking an alcoholic beverage and stopping, as long as you don’t make a weak brother or sister fall by your actions, which is what Paul was talking about when he said:
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
The brother or sister who “falls” due to seeing another believer drink an alcoholic beverage refers to either (1) someone who believes drinking such a beverage is always a sin, even though it’s not, or (2) an ex-alcoholic who could fall back into drunkard-ness upon observing the example of a believer s/he respects.
Since drinking an alcoholic beverage is generally looked down upon in Christian circles, particularly in parts of the USA, I suggest keeping it between yourself & the Lord if you occasionally choose to do so, as instructed in verse 22. In other words, only drink in private – like at home or at a campsite – and only in moderation, not to mention only with likeminded (freed-up, strong) believers. Why risk making a believer with a weak conscience or a weakness for alcohol stumble due to your actions? It’s a matter of selfless love for others, which trumps personal freedom.
I encourage you to read the whole chapter of Romans 14.
To walk free of any sin, addiction or bad habit see this article.
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