In most parts of the world − in different cultures and throughout history − you can find the usage of alcoholic beverages in different varieties and applications; for different celebrations, recreation, hobbies, rituals, traditions, and even medical purposes. You can find the earliest account of fermented drink in the story of Noah when after the flood he made wine from his vineyard (Genesis 9:20-21).
It has to be made clear that drinking alcoholic beverages is not a sin. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that. In fact, wine is very much part of the ancient Jewish culture and religious tradition. In the Old Testament, you can find that new wine is even used for tithing (Deuteronomy 12:17), seen as a blessing from God that fully satisfies (Joel 2:19 Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:). And in the New Testament, it is used as a symbol of the blood of Christ in communion, to commemorate His sacrifice for our salvation.
Consuming alcoholic beverages may not be sinful but it is also clear in Scripture that drunkenness is a sin and that drunkards cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). In other words, drinking wine does not make a person sinful, but drinking to intoxication makes a person sin. The Bible also warns us of the dangers of drinking too much wine. Alcoholic beverages are described as a poisonous snake (Proverbs 23:29-35) and a mocker and a brawler that leads people astray (Proverbs 20:1). It impairs memory and judgment, leads a drunkard to poverty (Proverbs 23:21), and creates disunity in the church (1 Corinthians 11:18-22). Drunkenness can also easily lead a person to other sins (Ephesians 5:18). Practically, drunkenness has caused much damage and loss of lives around the worldꟷ car accidents while drunk driving, overspending the family budget, violence because of an alcoholic parent, sexually immoral activities, whether intentional or unintentional, due to getting drunk while partying, and many other bad situations.
There is also that question about whether a Christian is allowed to drink or not. Again, drinking small amounts of alcoholic beverages is not a sin, but drinking to the point of intoxication makes a person sin. So, does that mean that a Christian can drink wine, beer, or any alcoholic beverage but in just small amounts? The answer to that will be dependent upon the motive behind it, personal conviction, and its effect on a Christian’s testimony.
Before engaging in drinking alcoholic beverages, even in small amounts, one should ask themself what the motive behind it is. If one drinks because of peer pressure or to please other people, then there is something wrong with that. The Bible tells us not to fear man more than we fear God. Why should we be afraid of those who can only destroy the body but not the soul (Matthew 10:26-29)? We must no longer conform to the practices of the world (Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God). Pleasing God is of the utmost priority. There are many other reasons that a person can come up with to justify drinking. But we have to ask ourselves first, “Will this please God or not?” This leads us to personal conviction.
The Christian has freedom when it comes to food and drink. Drinking wine is not a sin, just as eating pork is no longer a sin since Christ already declared all foods to be clean (Mark 7:19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?). But Paul also tells us that everything may be permissible for a believer, but not everything is beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). If drinking alcoholic beverages draws a person to drink more, especially when one has been in a struggle with alcoholism, then it is no longer beneficial or constructive to one’s faith. Why should we subject ourselves to something that causes so much temptation? Jesus tells us to remove everything that causes us to stumble in our walk with God (Matthew 5:29-30). It is never worth risking our faith for such temporal pleasure. This will also lead us to contemplate the effects of drinking on a Christian’s testimony in his community, even in small quantities.
While a Christian’s personal conviction may not be bothered about drinking alcoholic beverages, we also must consider that we no longer live for ourselves. We are ambassadors of Christ and represent Him in this world (2 Corinthians 5:20 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.). Whatever we do will affect how the lost world views Christ and Christianity. There may be some cultures that are not bothered by the consumption of small amounts of alcohol, but there are some that consider any alcohol as something bad, and some even see it as taboo. Drinking a little may not be a sin, but one also has to consider the sin of becoming a stumbling block to others. We must not destroy the work of God for the sake of food or drink and cause others to stumble (Romans 14:20-21).
We have seen missionaries enduring the lifestyle of not eating pork. It may have been very uncomfortable for them, but they did it because they are reaching out to people who consider eating pork prohibited. There is also this man who used to be a heavy smoker and heavy drinker but gave that all up when he had a life-changing encounter with God. After the encounter, he felt that God was removing his desire for smoking and alcohol, and miraculously, he immediately stopped. By the Holy Spirit’s power, he never suffered any withdrawal syndrome. He also did it because he wanted to reach out to his former drinking buddies; in his early walk with God, they never believed him because he was still drinking, even though it was just very moderate. Most of his friends now are starting to go to church.
We may have strong faith and conviction, but we must also be aware of those who may be looking at our livesꟷthose who may also emulate us but cannot handle the tug of the desire to try drinking more, or those who used to have an alcohol addiction and have been trying to get out. Lost people, new believers, young people, and, especially, kids who may be of weaker faith or find themselves curious. Jesus tells us that “if anyone causes one of these little ones − those who believe in Him − to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). As Christians, we are called to be the salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16); it may not be easy to do that, but it will always be worth it as we do it all for the glory of God.
For those who have been struggling with alcohol and find themselves still going back and forth even if they have already been through rehabilitation, there is hope in Jesus. If Jesus was able to change the murderous Paul into a loving and compassionate person, He can also change an alcoholic into a person that is Spirit-filled rather than alcohol-filled. Nothing is impossible with God.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;”
(Ephesians 5:18 KJV)