Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?

Question from a Site Viewer
Is it a sin for Christians to drink alcohol? Should Christians be drinking alcohol at all?

Our Answer
There are some clear prohibitions in the Bible on drunkenness:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit …
Ephesians 5:18

And there are clear instructions to avoid causing others to stumble:

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
I Corinthians 8:13

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Romans 14:21

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Romans 14:13

Drinking alcohol to excess typically caused problems for characters in the Bible. A prime example of the negative effects of drinking alcohol can be seen in the story of Lot and his daughters. One night, his daughters gave him wine and he got drunk. His oldest daughter came in and had sex with him. The next night they gave him wine again, and his youngest daughter had sex with him. The Bible then records the birth of Moab and Ammon. These sons became the fathers of Moabites and the Ammonites. These races became major enemies of Israel and they worshipped other gods. The Moabites’ chief deity was Chemosh, and the King Mesha of Moab made war with Israel by the supposed command of this god. The Moabites also offered human sacrifices (II Kings 3:27), a practice God abhorred. There is much more to be said about the evil the Moabites practiced and their long history of fighting with Israel, but let’s talk about the Ammonites for a moment. They also had a very long history of warring with Israel (II Samuel 12:26, II Chronicles 27:5, II Kings 24:2). They also worshipped other gods (namely Molech), and practiced human sacrifice (I Kings 11:7). So, the results of Lot’s drunkenness were disastrous. Had he not drank wine that night, perhaps none of this evil would have occurred. Who knows? The Bible makes clear, however, that these races of evil people were a result of a couple of nights of drinking alcohol.

Scripture records other instances in which drinking alcohol produced negative results (I Samuel 25:36-38, II Samuel 13:28,29, I Kings 16:9,10, I Kings 20:16-21). There are more, which I’ll leave for you to discover.

Still, despite all this, there are no clear commands in Scripture for Christ followers to completely avoid alcohol. On the contrary, Christ drank wine. We see in Proverbs 31:6,7 and in I Timothy 5:23 situations in which it is clearly permitted for one to drink:

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Proverbs 31:6,7

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
I Timothy 5:23

And clearly, we have freedom in Christ to make decisions on debatable matters:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Romans 14:1-6

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
Romans 14:14

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
I Corinthians 10:25,26

Yet, whenever people were separated to God for holy service, they were prohibited from drinking (specifically Nazarites):

Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.
Leviticus 10:9

Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried.
Numbers 6:2,3

. . . for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. (speaking of John the Baptist)
Luke 1:15

And Proverbs tells us that kings should avoid alcohol:

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Proverbs 31:4, 5

And then … we are kings and priests, as Revelation 5:10 makes clear:

And You made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign over the earth.
Revelation 5:10

Addition by Tim
I note that Jesus is abstaining from wine until he can drink it with us in His kingdom (Matthew 26:29). I find it interesting that He did not drink wine during the 40 days He was on earth after the resurrection. Overseers of the church are not to be given to wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), while deacons are forbidden to be given too much wine (1 Timothy 3:8). The difference seems to be stating that as one takes on more responsibility in the church, the drinking of wine should diminish. And meat and wine are the two matters Paul uses as an example of something to give up if it causes a brother to stumble (Romans 14:21). I also note that there is no command to drink and lots of warnings about the enticements of wine and strong drinks.

One thought on “Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?

  1. Clair Ramsdale

    Hi.☺

    What are your thoughts on the idea that just as Paul was referring to the fact that meat possibly offered to idols would cause offense to weaker Christians, in the same way the wine is referring to unfermented grape juice that was offered in pagan worship? Thus, it is not the alcohol that is the issue, but the offering of wine (which could be fermented or unfermented grape juice) to false idols.

    Reply

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