Alcohol and social drinking is always a hot topic in today’s society. In most places in the world, alcohol use and social drinking is widely accepted and often times encouraged. You see it everywhere you go – bars and restaurants, sporting events, liquor stores, even grocery stores. You can’t even avoid it at home – there are ads all over TV and the internet.
It’s also been a hot topic in my personal life, and a bit of a touchy one. Not that I myself have ever had a problem with, but there are plenty of people in my life that I care deeply about who drink, and I’m sure there are plenty of people in everyone’s life who do as well. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to people about the effect that drinking has not only on their own lives, but on the lives of people around them. It makes it even harder when you want to make Christianity a part of the conversation as well, since religion in general is a tough topic for many.
A good place to start when looking at alcohol is comparing the kinds of “wines” we find in the Bible, and how the alcohol we have today is different.
When we look at the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, we see that the word “wine” can refer to one of two things: fermented (alcoholic) drinks, and unfermented grape/fruit juice. We see some examples of fermented wine as follows:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
1 Samuel 1:14-15
14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” 15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
Clearly in these examples, this wine is a strong drink. Here, the wisdom of Proverbs warns against it, the stupor of sorrow was mistaken for drunkenness, and it made an otherwise strong man lose his inhibitions and embarrass himself. That should show us that this type of drink is a dangerous thing that we should stay away from.
We also know that ancient peoples knew how to preserve unfermented wine. Through many secular sources of history like encyclopedias, we know of at least 4 ways that people did so:
- Boiling – kills bacteria, and sealing the juices in a jar similar to canning, creating a syrup-like substances to be mixed with water.
- Filtering – removes the yeast
- Cooling – no fermentation happens below 45 degrees. Obviously ancient people could not measure temperature, but they understood the concept.
- Adding Preservatives – sulfur or the like.
- Dilution – adding other things to lessen the strength of the wine
Clearly people knew how to preserve unfermented juices, which means that not all
“wines” were necessarily alcoholic. In fact, it was just as difficult to make fermented wine/grape juice as it was to preserve unfermented wine/grape juice. If not done properly, the fermented juices have a chance of turning into vinegar.
Now that we have a better understanding of different wines from ancient times – and before someone throws it up in my face – let’s analyze the obvious question posed by John chapter 2; which is, did Jesus drink wine? The obvious answer would be no, considering how much of the Old and New Testaments warn against such behavior, and we know that Jesus was a perfect man with no fault in Him. But still, the passage does mention that, after all of the wine at the gathering had already been drunk, Jesus Himself provided more wine for the people. If this “wine” was alcoholic, then Jesus would have been providing for excessive drinking, which is – again – clearly spoken of unfavorably through the entirety of the Bible. So we can understand, by rightly dividing the Word, that Jesus was not a drinker of alcohol. And since Jesus is God and God cannot cause anyone to sin, we know that Jesus did not provide strong drink or wine for these people to consume in excess. There is, therefore, no way that the wine Jesus provided the people with was alcoholic, as that would contradict the fully revealed Word of God – because Jesus IS the Word.
So then what does the Bible actually say about drinking alcohol? We’re going to look at 5 things the Bible teaches about alcohol:
- Intoxication or Drunkenness
- Avoiding Temptation
- Social Drinking or Banqueting
- Setting an Example
- Health Concerns
First off, we have intoxication or drunkenness. What does it mean to be intoxicated? Webster’s defines it as:
“affected by alcohol or drugs, especially to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished; especially: drunk”
Intoxication is something that we actually see that is expressly condemned throughout the New Testament.
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 5:11
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 6:10
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Clearly, anyone who makes a habit of allowing themselves be intoxicated is in sin, and should examine themselves to correct this behavior, as these people are not going to be entering into Heaven.
Next, we have to look at avoiding temptation. This is something that obviously applies to everyone, but if you introduce alcohol into the equation, it can make things much more difficult. We know that alcohol can lead to sexual immorality, lying, stealing, and death. We have to remain vigilant and in control of ourselves so that we can recognize temptation and turn away from it. We shouldn’t be weakening ourselves and putting ourselves in a position to become tempted. What kind of sense does that make?!
1 Peter 5:8
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Corinthians 9:27
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Again, if we look at the wisdom found in the Old Testament, we see the warnings pointing towards alcohol, which should remind us to always be in control of ourselves.
31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it swirls around smoothly;
32 At the last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like a viper.
On the subject of modern social drinking – going out to the bar with your buddies or having a group of people over at home and drinking together – we see that it is also expressly condemned in 1 Peter chapter 4.
1 Peter 4:3
3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
You can’t really confuse what’s being discussed here – drunkenness, revelries, and drinking parties. All these things can be considered social drinking.
We also should of avoid alcohol and it’s affects because of the image and example that we are supposed to set for the world
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The last point I’ll make is that drinking is indeed harmful to your health. There are some cases where alcohol can be used for medicinal purposes – in moderation. But we are talking about recreational drinking and drunkenness here. Excessive and habitual drinking can lead to host of problems with many different organs:
- One of the main causes of Cirrhosis in the liver is alcohol abuse.
- Brain damage – brain cells are irreplaceable. Even in moderation, you are still losing brain cells.
- Pancreatitis – studies have proven that you’re more likely to have repeated episodes of pancreatitis when you drink heavily.
- Stomach and intestines – drinking too much can cause acid reflux, ulcers, and intense vomiting – which can also tear your throat.
To wrap this all up, it’s very clear that we as Christians should not practice social drinking, consume modern alcohol, or encourage this type of behavior. There are many places in the New Testament where such actions are specifically mentioned and forbidden, and even in the Old Testament, we find lots of wisdom concerning alcohol and drunkenness.
By these teachings, we also see that anyone who is a drunkard or practices these habits cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But we also know that anyone and everyone can be forgiven, and can come to know the grace of God, if they only justify themselves in the name of the Lord, repent, and – if they haven’t been – be baptized (undeniably necessary!).
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
A pretty lengthy post, but I want to thank you for reading today. If you have any thoughts or questions, I invite always invite people to leave a comment. And if you enjoy this content, I ask that you please share it, either from the Facebook page or any other means. The goal is to get people to see this, so spreading the word really helps!