The Bible and Drinking

The Bible and Drinking

by Jose Viana

In a country where there are at least twenty million problem drinkers, and millions of others who use alcohol to excess, it is important to discuss what the Bible has to say on the subject. It is very true that the Bible does directly condemn drunkenness but not the occasional drink. So we know The Bible does not say having a glass of wine at the dinner table is a sin. At least five major denominations call for total abstinence from alcoholic beverages: the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, United Methodist Church, and United Pentecostal Church.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1 The writer of Hebrews is making a clear distinction between things that are sin and things that don't directly sin but “hinders” us. Just because The Bible doesn’t clearly state drinking as a sin does not give us a pass to attend Mardi Gras! (but that’s for another day) Christians have to know how to set an example morally.

I believe it is important to answer two very questions. One, is drinking alcohol a sin? Two, is drinking alcohol wrong? One of the several reasons why I personally refrain from drinking alcohol is because my conduct should be governed by the law of love (see Romans 14:14-21). If I love my brother, I will not cause him to stumble and be offended. My conduct might cause someone else who is weak, to stumble. The apostle Paul established a rule of conduct that I think is very good. He said he would not eat meat or drink wine or do anything else which would cause a weaker brother to stumble. But if that’s not enough here is what we do know about drinking and alcohol. Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older (7.2 percent of this age group) had an AUD in 2012. This includes 11.2 million men (9.9 percent of men in this age group) and 5.7 million women (4.6 percent of women in this age group).

Youth who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use other illegal drugs, and fifty times more likely to use cocaine than young people who never drink. One survey found that 32% of the heavy Nearly 88,007 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol use and health. Available at http://2http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. In 2012, alcohol accounted for 5.1 percent of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide. In 2012, 60.3 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month.

Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries.12 In 2012, alcohol accounted for 5.1 percent of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide. 4 In the Old Testament, Aaron and his sons, the priests, were strictly forbidden to drink either wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle to minister before the Lord (see Leviticus 10:9).

We are called a Royal Priesthood by Peter, (2 Peter 2:9) and like the priests in the Old Testament we are to present our bodies as a holy sacrifice to the Lord. Nasserites were likewise forbidden to use wine while under their vow (see Numbers 6:1-3, 20; Judges 13:4-7). The Rechabites lived as noteworthy examples of permanent abstinence from wine, adhering strictly to the command of their ancestor, Jonadab, to refrain from it (see Jeremiah 35:1-8, 14).

The Bible book of Proverbs is filled with warnings against indulging in wine and strong drink (see Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:29-35; 31:4). Wine mocks those who use it (see Proverbs 20:1) and rewards them with woe, sorrow, strife, and wounds without cause (see Proverbs 23:29, 30). “In the end it [wine] bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (verse 32, NIV). The prophet Isaiah declared, “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks” (Isaiah 5:22, NIV). This speaks directly to beer pong championship medals.

As a follower of Christ, it isn’t an honorable plaque to hang on your wall. Daniel and his companions set a worthy example by refusing to drink the king’s wine (see Daniel 1:5-16). Later in his life, Daniel focused on abstaining from wine (see Daniel 10:3). In the New Testament, the usual word for wine, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is οινος (points). Jesus likened His revolutionary teaching to new wine, which would burst the old bottles of tradition (Matthew 9:17). Paul warned believers against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and declares that deacons should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8). He counseled Titus that the older women should not be “slaves to drink” (Titus 2:3). SAMHSA. 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 6.88B—Alcohol 3 Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 22, by College Enrollment Status and Demographic Characteristics: Percentages, 2011 and 2012.

 Yet, Paul did recommend that his friend Timothy should “use a little wine” for relief from a digestive ailment (1 Timothy 5:23, NIV). But keep in mind that in those days, physical ailments, such as dysentery, were common occurrences—often due to contaminated water. Consequently, other ways of quenching thirst were often recommended. Some Bible students believe that in this verse Paul was advocating the temperate use of fermented wine for medicinal purposes. They call attention to the fact that through the centuries wine has been used in this way. Other Bible scholars say that Paul is referring to unfermented grape juice. Since the Greek word translated “wine” can mean either fermented wine or unfermented grape juice, they believe Paul would not give advice inconsistent with the rest of Scripture, which warns strongly against the use of intoxicating beverages—and that he is, therefore, advising Timothy to drink pure, unfermented grape juice. So even if Paul is letting Timothy know he can drink a bit of wine if you feel you could also drink a bit of wine I think that would be okay. If you have the same stomach/digestive condition Timothy had.

Obviously, Paul wanted Timothy to be healthy. He was the administrator of the churches in Asia Minor and heavy duties rested upon him. It was imperial that he was focused both mentally and morally. His alertness would be gravely affected with the use of alcohol. So what about the case of Jesus who scripture mentions drank wine? Ample evidence exists that Jesus Christ drank wine. I completely agree with that. In fact, his first miracle, performed at a wedding feast at Cana (see John 2), was turning ordinary water into wine. According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus did not sin by drinking wine or at any other time: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, NIV) Jesus and his disciples drank wine at the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder. Some denominations argue that Jesus cannot be used as an example, since Passover and the Cana wedding were special celebrations, in which drinking wine was part of the ceremony.

Just like the case with Timothy, Jesus was sinless and blameless. He never sinned, He was never drunk, and He was never enslaved by alcohol or anything else. We can’t take the fact that on few occasions Jesus drank wine, as His approval for us to drink. We can’t drink because He drank. If you want to drink because He drank I would also recommend living all the other areas of your life as He did. Start by fasting from all types of food and beverages for 40 days and 40 nights, as He did before he even attended the wedding in Cana. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV). Drinking is not for everyone. Don’t trust your heart in thinking you will overcome it and never be enslaved by it.

By using alcohol, we participate in destroying not only our own life but often the lives of others. Even in moderation, alcohol use causes significant problems—physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s no wonder the Bible consistently warns us against it. God says, in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now and let us reason together.” With alcohol, use we temporarily and permanently stupefy our reasoning powers. So for a Christian, is it drinkable, or unthinkable? Considerations If you feel like you are not making any stumble, not acting out of selfishness, have to drink completely under control, if your conscience does not condemn you if you find it is not a sin and not even a hindrance then do a test. Fast and pray for at least 40 days. Ask God for wisdom on the matter. Are you really bringing glory to God in drinking alcohol?




Jose Viana
Jose Viana

Author

Jose is the Founder of JesusCentric. He recently celebrated the birth of his first child. He's the Director of Marketing of an agency and an Entrepreneur at heart. Currently residing in South Florida, he attends The Assembly of God, where he was ordained a Deacon. Let's connect: Email: vianajose7@gmail.com Instagram: instagram.com/vianaj7 Twitter: twitter.com/vianaj7



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