Sunday, September 1, 2013

Is it always wrong to drink alcohol? What about a glass of wine for my heart? What does the Bible say about drinking in moderation?

Drunkenness is a Sin 
Being drunk is condemned in Scripture.
  • (Ephesians 5:18) “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery...”.
  • (1 Corinthians 6:10) “Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”.
In numerous passages in the Bible, being drunk is condemned. Why is this? Because when intoxicated, one no longer has “self-control”. (1 Peter 4:7) teaches; 
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”.
When a person is under the influence of alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered and they are in less control of their actions. God wants us to be “sober minded” and in control of ourselves. This is why the Bible makes this powerful statement in (Proverbs 20:1),
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise”.
What if I don’t get drunk?
A Christian needs to make wise choices concerning the behaviors in which they participate (drinking included). No place in the Bible will you find a verse that condemns every form of alcohol consumption. There are no verses that say “drinking is always a sin”.  Alcohol is not inherently sinful, however, in our culture it is often used in a sinful way. Some people drink regularly and do not assume they are intoxicated. Use wisdom, if you need a couple of beers to “relax” or “loosen-up”, that “loosing-up” is likely intoxication, which would be wrong.

It is difficult to draw the line between intoxication and sobriety. Although a small amount of alcohol may not intoxicate, it is hard to know when you are no longer “sober-minded”. It is for this reason, and the others listed below that I have chosen to completely abstain from alcohol. I believe I have made a wise choice, although I do not believe that I could biblically bind this decision on others.

Abstaining from Alcohol is a High Standard of Living.
When one took a Nazarite vow in the Old Testament, they were to completely abstain from alcohol. In fact, just to be sure, they were also to abstain from anything that came from grapes (Judges 13). In the New Testament, Elders are told to “not be given to wine” and deacons are said to be “not given to much wine” (1 Timothy 3). Although there is a dispute about whether or not these terms represent “drunkenness”, or just “drinking”, it does seem that God wants spiritual leaders in the church to NOT be noted as frequent consumers of alcohol.

What about “a little wine for my stomachs sake”?
In (1 Timothy 5:23) Timothy is told, 
"Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses". 
I am of the impression that Timothy wanted to steer so far away from drinking that he was neglecting his health, and Paul had to tell him that it was ok to drink a little for this purpose. (Timothy was doing what he thought God wanted, and made a judgment call to not drink at all, and had to be told that it was ok). It may be that Timothy had an understanding of the dangers of alcohol, and wanted nothing to do with it (to the point that he was refusing to consume it even for medicinal reasons),

What about having a drink in a bar or nightclub?
Although the Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol in every amount, it does condemn the environment where drinking often takes place (bars, clubs, parties etc)
"For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry." (1 Peter 4:3).
This is not to say that anywhere alcohol is served is wrong (I often frequent restaurants that also have a bar or serve alcohol). This verse is condemning those types of parties and environments where the purpose is drunkenness, excess and immorality. College frat parties, certain club scenes and other gatherings where the focus is drinking and revelry are what is being referenced.

Consider your influence.
If you choose to drink alcohol, please consider your influence on others. The world often views Christians as people who don't "drink, steal or swear". If my drinking or buying alcohol would cause someone to think less of me, I should think before doing it. God does not want us to cause others to stumble. Obviously, this is a judgment call that an individual would have to make on their own, but the teaching of (Romans 14:21) is clear,
"It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles".
Wine today is not the same as wine back then.
Dr. Dave Miller writes, 
“Wine in antiquity was far less potent. One would have had to ingest large quantities in order to receive even minimal alcoholic content” (AP). 
Keep this thought in mind when reading Bible verses that mention “wine”. It took a lot more effort to become intoxicated back then in comparison to now. This may be why you often see the sin of “drunkenness” mentioned alongside the sin of “gluttony”.

What is the answer? Can I drink?
One cannot Scripturally condemn drinking a small amount in moderation, if one is not getting intoxicated, if it is not affecting their example, and if they are not addicted to it. (People who say, "well I need it every night to unwind", that is an addiction). 

Understand that there is something to be said for not drinking at all, it seems as though God views abstinence from alcohol as a higher form of living. If this is the case, why ever drink alcohol?

I personally do not drink alcohol ever (except in Nyquil or other medicines), and I believe that I am making a wise choice. However, if an individual chooses to drink small amounts in strict moderation, and it does not hurt their example to the world, I could not condemn it. Make smart choices, just because something is not “sinful” does not mean it is a good idea.

By Cliff Sabroe
Scripture Quotes from NASB and ESV

Work Cited - Miller, Dave Elders, Deacons, Timothy and Wine.