A surprisingly common question often asked by Christians is can a Christian drink Alcohol?
The answer that is given varies from preacher to preacher and so depending on who you are listening to you may be told yes and you may be told no. This only adds to confusion.
Those who say no a Christian cannot drink alcohol normally point to the biblical verses that refer to drunkards. They will refer to 1 Corinthians and say that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6- 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
They will likely point to Galatians 5-19 and say that drunkenness is a work of the flesh.
Galatians 5- 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
We know that we should not live in the flesh but the spirit.
Romans 8-5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Those who live after the flesh do the things of the flesh which drunkenness is as we just saw.
And they will often cite Ephesians 5-18 and say that we are not to be drunk with wine but rather to be filled with the spirit
Ephesians 5-18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
I have heard people use this verse and say that everytime you drink you kill a little bit of the spirit.
Those who say that a Christian can drink alcohol will often cite the fact that the first miracle that Jesus performed was to turn water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana.
John 2- 1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
They will also usually point to Jesus at the last supper instigating Holy communion with wine and bread.
Matthew 26 – 26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Jesus then said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine henceforth ( from then on) until he would drink it in his father’s kingdom.
Matthew 26-29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
This would certainly imply that Jesus drank of the fruit of the vine BEFORE the time he wouldn’t drink of it again until that day.
Jesus is clearly stated as having come drinking and is even referred to as a winebibber
Matthew 11-19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
So it would seem that there are passages of the Bible that prohibit the drinking of alcohol while there are passages that would condone it and even have Jesus partaking in the drinking of.
However those who say that we cannot drink alcohol will normally say that the “wine” that Jesus drank at the last supper and that he created from the water at the wedding was not proper wine but simple grape juice. It was not intoxicating.
This is simply incorrect. Those that claim this are simply making an assertion that cannot be supported biblically only it has to be accepted as being non intoxicating grape juice.
When we investigate this though we will see this to be a false assumption. In John 2-10 we see a statement made by the ruler of the feast that drinks some of the wine that Jesus had just created.
John 2- 10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The Greek translated as well drunk is μεθύω methuó which means to be intoxicated.
The ruler very clearly alluding to those who serve good wine until the guests are intoxicated (more drunk) and then serves wine of less quality. There simply is no contextual reference to that of non intoxicating grape juice in fact the exact opposite is being asserted by the ruler.
Wine is the Greek word οἶνος oinos which simply means wine. It is used 34 times in the NT and is translated as wine each time.
This is the same word used for wine in Ephesians 5-18 which is used to show that we should NOT drink wine.
Ephesians 5-18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
They are the same type of wine on both occasions. The wine that we are told not to get drunk with is the wine that Jesus created at the wedding in Cana that the ruler referred to as the good wine. You cannot get drunk on grape juice so clearly the wine must have been alcoholic in content which means the wine Jesus created was alcoholic in content.
While this may seem a little contradictory at first, when we look at the texts a little closer along with other biblical texts on the subject of drinking alcohol we will see there is no contradiction and the message that is portrayed in the Bible remains constant and straightforward.
Notice that the passage in 1 Corinthians and Galatians 5 both speak of DRUNKENNESS and being a DRUNKARD. The verse in Ephesians 5-18 says be not DRUNK and wherein is excess.
It is not talking about NOT drinking wine at all but not being DRUNK to excess. Being a drunkard is not the same as someone who has had a small amount of alcohol obviously this will vary from person to person.
We see that there are very strong warnings against drinking alcohol to excess or to rely on alcohol.
In proverbs 21 we are told that he that LOVES wine shall not be rich
Proverbs 21- 17 He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
In another proverb it asks who has woe and sorrow? Who as babbling and wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?
Proverb 23- 29Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
The answer given in the next verse is they that tarry LONG at the wine
Proverbs 23- 30They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Those that are drinking for long periods of time. Clearly a reference to those that are getting drunk or being a drunkard
Isaiah attests to the woe of those who would rise up early and drink alcohol and continue until night.
Isaiah 5- 11Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
This is an obvious reference to alcoholism and being an alcoholic which Isaiah correctly deems as a bad thing. As we already saw drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.
BUT there are also verses referring to drinking alcohol as a good thing. In a Psalm we are told that wine makes the heart glad.
Psalm 104 15And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread whichstrengtheneth man’s heart.
Wine here is the Hebrew יַיִן yayin
This is the SAME wine, the same Hebrew word, that Melchizedek brought with him when he met Abram (Abraham)
Genesis 14-18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he wasthe priest of the most high God.
Melchizedek was the priest of God. There is NO condemnation for his actions. The bread and wine here offered by Melchizedek is also an allusion to the bread and wine that Jesus used at the last supper.
Now there are times that drinking any amount of alcohol is forbidden. Alcohol is not allowed to be drunk by the priests when hey enter into the tabernacle.
Leviticus 10-9 8And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 9Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: 10And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;11And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
Now when we go back and look at the context of this we will see this was as a direct result of the actions of Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron who had offered strange fire unto the LORD.
Leviticus 10- 1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Now we are not told if he actions of these two men were because they were drunk but clearly God was commanding that the priests have a clear mind that they could know the difference between holy and unholy when they came into the tabernacle.
This is also re emphasised in the book of Ezekiel
Ezekiel 44- 21Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.
The prohibition of the priest drinking wine was when they were entering into the tabernacle. There is no prohibition for priests to not drink wine at all or otherwise there would be no need to specify not drinking wine before entering into the tabernacle.
It is also forbidden to give your neighbour, another person, alcohol to make them drunk so that you can take advantage of them sexually.
Habakkuk 2-15 15Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
The Hebrew word nakedness here is מָעוֹר maor which refers to the genitals (especially a woman’s)
Lot’s daughters did this when they got him drunk that they could have sex with him In genesis 19 verses 30- 38
Genesis 19- 30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.36Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
Lemuel’s mother stated that it was not for a king to drink wine.
Proverbs 31- 4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
She states the reason why. That they may not forget the law and pervert judgement.
Proverbs 31- 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
A king should not drink alcohol so that they would not be inhibited in their judgement. His judgement should not be impaired while he is king. He should have a clear mind so that he may know what is good and what is bad. It is a good thing for a ruler to remain focused at all times and have the ability to not be affected in decision making or judgement.
However she continues that strong drink should be given to those who are ready to die.
Proverbs 31- 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Giving alcohol to help those who are dying is a thing that should be done.
Now there are those that are clearly called to abstain from alcohol. John the baptist did not drink alcohol for instance.
Luke 1- 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
But Jesus clearly did and was not at fault for doing so. Neither was he at fault for giving others alcohol.
The Bible is very clear when it comes to alcohol. In moderation it is perfectly fine. There is no prohibition not to drink of it however the Bible is also VERY clear that a person should not rely on alcohol or drink it to excess EVER.
If you feel a call to abstain from the drinking of alcohol then this is YOUR conviction. There is certainly nothing wrong with a person abstaining, HOWEVER, this is an individual calling. This is YOUR calling and you should not impose this upon anyone else.
So the answer is YES a Christian can drink alcohol but they should not drink to get drunk. There are times when it is not only best but also correct to steer clear of alcohol altogether. If you are a person that is unable to drink alcohol in small amounts then it is also best to stay away from drinking alcohol.
Alcohol is fine for those that are capable of drinking responsibly and moderately but the drinking of alcohol should most certainly be done in a responsible manner and in moderation.