Drinking Alcohol – What the Bible Says

Is It Okay for Christians to Drink Alcohol?

People have strong opinions on whether it’s ok for a Christian to drink alcohol or not. To answer this question we really have to ask two questions; is it ok for me to do this and is it wise for me to do this.

The Apostle Paul put it this way “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Cor 6:12

Paul is not saying anything goes in life. He clearly understood what was forbidden and what was not. However, in the areas where something might by permitted, “lawful” to do, it may not be the wisest “profitable” for them to do.

Is It Lawful to Drink Alcohol?

We see throughout scripture wine permitted and used for various things. Priests used it for drink offerings, and blessings. (1) God’s people, the Israelites, used it as a beverage, for medication, as part of their tithe and in celebrations. (2)

The Hebrew word used to describe this wine is yayin, and the greek word is oinos, both mean fermented wine. (3). In fact these words combined are used over 160 times in the Bible to describe fermented wine.

When Jesus performed His first miracle, He turned water into fermented (oinios) wine. (4) Therefore, except under certain circumstances such as vows or consecrations, Scripture does not specifically forbid a person to drink alcohol. (5)

What Scripture DOES forbid is the misuse of drinking alcohol. Lawful drinking becomes unlawful when a person gets drunk, when they drink as a means for comfort or stress relief or when they drink with no regard to it effecting a new believer or unbelievers. (6)

Most people feel they can drink “lawfully” but the truth is most can’t. Therefore they run the risk of sinning against God.

Jesus tells us in all things we are to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is week” Mat 26:41 The word “watch” means vigilant or keeping a careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.

The Dangers of Drinking

Legally, anything over 1 glass, or .05 fl oz, will cause impairment is considered legally intoxicated. (7) Therefore, anyone who consumes more than this amount is putting themselves at risk both physically and spiritually.

Physical Dangers

If you can drink more than 1 glass of alcohol without feeling impaired in anyway, does not prove you have a higher tolerance. It means your drinking has been going on for over a long period of time and the physical & spiritual consequences are inevitable.

Alcohol is made up of ethanol and affects every organ in the body. Binge drinking, commonly practiced by college students, can cause acute alcohol poisoning. Several medical sources describe any level of alcohol intoxication as a form of poisoning due to its ethanol damaging effects on the body.

Need proof? Here are a few statistics to the dangerous effects of alcohol:

An estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder.

  • Each year in the U.S., nearly 80,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country
  • More than 10% of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems
  • 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes
  • 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking
  • 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
  • In 2009, liver cirrhosis was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, with a total of 31,522 deaths—664 more than in 2008
  • Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2009, 48.2 percent were alcohol-related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis was highest (70.6 percent) among decedents aged 35 to 44.
  • In 2009, alcohol-related liver disease was the primary cause of almost 1 in 3 liver transplants in the U.S. (8)

Spiritual Dangers

Drinking destroys lives. (9) The Bible calls those who misuse alcohol drunkards and fools. “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise”; “ for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Prov 20:1,Prov 23:21

The Apostle Paul says drunkards are wicked and will have no part in God’s Kingdom. (10) Apostle Peter says those who drink unwisely are behaving like unbelievers “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness,… therefore be clear minded and self-controlled”. 1 Pet 4:3-7.

Drinking can become an idol. Those who rely on alcohol when stressed or hurting are substituting alcohol for God to comfort themselves.

Scripture tells us “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Eph 5:18. With alcohol the problems don’t go away but only increase. With God you will get true help and comfort. (11)

Drinking can affect our witness. As Christians we must always be mindful that drinking alcohol around nonbelievers or new believers can hurt our witness to them. (12) The Apostle Paul put it this way, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall., For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Rom 14:20-21

What God Permits

God has permitted many things in our lives but when misused, those things can be sinful. Sex misused is the sin of adultery or fornication. (13) Food misused is the sin of gluttony and idolatry (14). Alcohol misused is the sin of drunkenness, foolishness and wickedness. (15)

Since Scripture tells us the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, most people won’t be able to stop at one drink. Therefore, they put themselves in temptation and risk the spiritual and physical consequences that come from drinking in an unlawful manner.

The decision to drink should not be taken lightly but THOUGHTFULLY PRAYED OVER. If you do decide to drink, you should determine ahead of time the conditions for your drinking. For example, limit your drinking to 1 glass, never drink and drive and never drink in the presences of a new believer, an unbeliever or someone who has struggled with addictions.

Alcohol is an addictive drug. Not only is this drug destroying your body, but also those around you as families are torn apart by its abuse. While the decision to have a drink may be lawful, is it worth the risk of sinning against God, hurting our witness to others and damaging our lives and those around us?

1. Exo 29:40, 1 Sam 1:24 Lev 23:13; Gen 14:18-19
2. Deu 14:26-28 Prov 31:6, Luke 10:34, Psa 104:15, 1 Tim 5:23; John 2:9
3. Gen 9:21; 1 Tim 5:23; John 2:9
4. John 2:10, John 4:46
5. Num 6:2-8; Num 6:20
6. Prov 23:29- 35; Isa 5:11-13; Eph 5:18; 1 Pet 4:3; 1 Cor 10:32-33
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content ; http://www.alcoholscreening.org/Learn-More.aspx?topicID=8&articleID=26
8. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
9. Prov 23:29-35
10. 1 Cor 5:11-13; 1 Cor 6:10; Gal 5:21.
11. Mat 11:28; 1 Pet 5:7; NOTE: People abuse alcohol to self-medicate chronic pain, stress and other emotional problems and, over long-time misuse, more alcohol is needed for the same effects. http://www.hanleycenter.org/knowledge-library/addiction-glossary/alcohol?WT.mc_id=HanleyGrantsPPC&gclid=CKvR0Lu1iL4CFRIV7AodeggArA
12. 1 Cor 8:10-13, 1 Cor 10:32-33
13. Exo 20:14, Mat 5:27
14. Deu 21:20; Luke 7:34; Phil 3:19
15. Prov 20:1,Prov 23:21; 1 Cor 5:11-13, Gal 5:21

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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