What about alcohol? Can a Christian drink? (Health Update)

Almost all Bible students agree on the basic underlying Biblical principles on the subject of alcohol. But, many disagree on the applications of these principles. When you understand the principles, I believe the Holy Spirit will help your conscience make the appropriate application of these principles in your life. However you decide the Holy Spirit is leading you, I hope you remember that alcohol is an intoxicant that can affect your judgment—and when abused can be dangerously destructive in your life and those around you—and can permanently damage your brain and liver—so you will use the same kind of care and consideration that you would use with a power tool or motor vehicle.

What does the Bible say about drunkenness?

Regarding alcohol, perhaps it is best to start with the obvious. All Bible believing Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin. And, it’s probably best to be clear that “buzzed” is a euphemism for “drunk.” Which means, someone who often habitually gets “buzzed”, is not just a moderate drinker, but is actually a drunkard.

The Bible is abundantly clear that drunkenness is a sin (Deuteronomy 21:20; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Matthew 24:29; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Romans 13:13; I Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18; I Peter 4:3).

The matter is so serious that no priest was to drink alcohol while performing his duties (Leviticus 10:9; Ezra 44:21), though he could consume while not working (Numbers 18:12, 27, 30). Additionally, no king was to drink while judging law (Proverbs 31:4-5), an elder/pastor cannot be a drunkard (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), and no drunkard can inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21).

Sins associated with drunkenness include incest (Genesis 19:32-35), violence (Proverbs 4:17), adultery (Revelations 17:2), mockery and brawling (Proverbs 20:1), poverty (Proverbs 21:17), late night and early morning drinking (Isaiah 5:11-12), hallucinations (Isaiah 28:7), legendary antics (Isaiah 5:22), murder (2 Samuel 11:13), gluttony and poverty (Proverbs 23:20-21), vomiting (Jeremiah 25:27, 48:26; Isaiah 19:14), staggering (Jeremiah 25:27; Psalm 107:27; Job 12:25), madness (Jeremiah 51:7), loudness combined with laughter and then prolonged sleep (Jeremiah 51:39), nakedness (Habakkuk 2:15; Lam. 4:21), sloth (Joel 1:5), escapism (Hosea 4:11), depression (Luke 21:34), and staying up all night (I Thessalonians 5:7). FAQ: What’s your stance on alcohol? by Pastor Mark Driscoll

Let’s consider these 3 broad groups of applications

I believe the Holy Spirit will help your conscience make the appropriate application of these principles in your life.

  • “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1).
  • “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink,” (Isaiah 5:11).
  • “Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,” (Isaiah 5:22).
  • “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter, Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more.” (Prov. 31:6-7).
  • “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15).
  • “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matt. 11:19).
  • “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Tim. 5:23).

Prohibitionism of alcohol

Prohibitionists … hold that the Bible forbids partaking of alcohol altogether, with some arguing that the alleged medicinal use of wine in 1 Timothy 5:23 is a reference to unfermented grape juice. They argue that the words for alcoholic beverages in the Bible can also refer to non-alcoholic versions such as unfermented grape juice, and for this reason the context must determine which meaning is required. In passages where the beverages are viewed negatively, prohibitionists understand them to mean the alcoholic drinks, and where they are viewed positively, they understand them to mean non-alcoholic drinks. Prohibitionists also accuse most Bible translators of exhibiting a bias in favor of alcohol that obscures the meaning of the original texts. Wikipedia

Related Posts on the Web
Reynolds: Scripture Prohibits the Drinking of Alhocolic Beverages
A careful study of Proverbs 23 in the original freed me forever from my bondage to the moderationist theory. This chapter contains a number of prohibitions addressed to all humanity in the second person singular as are some of the Ten Commandments. They forbid us, each and every human being addressed as an individual, to do certain things such as removing old landmarks (stealing land), withholding correction from a child, envying sinners, being among winebibbers, despising our own mother when she is old and looking at a drink which in Hebrew transliterated is yayin ki yith’addam. The word yayin is generally translated wine in English Bibles. In this passage it is correctly translated wine. It is a beverage we must not look at lustfully. It is alcoholic wine. Yith’addam cannot (being hithpa’el) mean simply “when it is red.” The following words are no doubt put in Holy Writ to distinguish the forbidden yayin from other yayin which is not forbidden.
Get On The Water Wagon by Billy Sunday (early 1900’s)
I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic. I have been, and will go on, fighting that damnable, dirty, rotten business with all the power at my command. I shall ask no quarter from that gang, and they shall get none from me. … It is my opinion that the saloonkeeper is worse than a thief and a murderer. The ordinary thief steals only your money, but the saloonkeeper steals your honor and your character. The ordinary murderer takes your life, but the saloonkeeper murders your soul.

Abstentionism from alcohol

Abstentionists believe that although alcohol consumption is not inherently sinful or necessarily to be avoided in all circumstances, it is generally not the wisest or most prudent choice. While most abstentionists do not require abstinence from alcohol for membership in their churches, they do often require it for leadership positions. Wikipedia

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I have yet to hear from anyone who drinks how alcohol enhances anything or blesses anyone. Max Lucado said, “One thing for sure, I have never heard anyone say, ‘A beer makes me feel more Christlike … Fact of the matter is this: People don’t associate beer with Christian behavior.” I’ve yet to see how it improves someone’s testimony or makes anyone a more effective witness for Christ. Quite the contrary, like Shaun White mentioned above, or Richard Roberts, Oral Roberts’ son, who was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, driving under the influence, the result doesn’t enhance your testimony. Rather, it takes away from what testimony you had.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
Let me ask a simple question: Why should you drink? If you never take the first drink, you’ll never become addicted. If you don’t drink, even if you could handle it, you won’t be a stumbling block to those who can’t handle it (and I believe Paul said something about not causing your brother to stumble). And if you don’t drink, you won’t be supporting an industry that has caused untold heartache for millions of people.

Moderationism of alcohol

Moderationism argues that, according to the biblical and traditional witness, (1) alcohol is a good gift of God that is rightly used in the Eucharist and for making the heart merry, and (2) while its dangers are real, it may be used wisely and moderately rather than being shunned or prohibited because of potential abuse. Moderationism holds that temperance (that is, moderation or self-control) in all of one’s behavior, not abstinence, is the biblical norm. Wikipedia

Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit wine and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshipped. Shall we then pluck them out of the sky? Such haste and violence betray a lack of confidence in God. –Martin Luther (1500’s)

Summary of applications

takes years to build
seconds to destroy
a lifetime to rebuild

I have not covered a possible 4th application, which might be titled “Unlimited” because I don’t believe there is any godly support for treating alcohol carelessly. Alcohol is an intoxicant that can affect your judgment—and when abused can destroy your life (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and the lives of your loved ones—it requires due care and consideration.

Related Posts on the Web
Can a Christian Drink Alcohol?
This article is not recommending that a Christian drink or that they should not drink, but only to consider the conscience of others who might be offended by your drinking. Some are recovering alcoholics and are overwhelmed by the urge to take a drink even if they see it or smell it. A key here is to know where your Christian friends stand on the issue of alcohol and if you do drink, do so in moderation only. Nothing ever good comes from drunkenness. Never try to encourage others to drink (Hab 2:15). They are free to do what their own conscience allows them to do. If they feel it is sin to them, leave it at that and don’t make an issue out of it.

What Does the Bible Really Say About Alcohol?
Even though some Christians advocate for the total abstinence of alcohol as a moral mandate for all believers, the Bible never requires all believers to abstain from alcohol. It condemns drunkenness and being enslaved to wine (Ephesians 5:18; Titus 2:3), but it never says that tee-totaling is the better way to obey God. In fact, the Bible never says that abstaining from alcohol is the wisest way to avoid getting drunk. Think about it. Alcoholism has been rampant through every age, but the Bible never says that all believers should therefore refrain from drinking.
FAQ: What’s your stance on alcohol?
This position is both reasonable and Biblical because wine itself is neutral and can be used in both good and bad ways (1 Samuel 1:14, 24; 25:18, 37; Joel 1:9,10). When used in a right and redeemed way, alcohol is a gift from God to be drunk with gladness, particularly when associated with feasting (Psalms 104:14-5; Ecclesiastes 9:7; 10:19). When used in this way, feasting and drinking is a foretaste of the Kingdom that will contain new wine (Joel 2:24; Isaiah 25:6; 27:2-6; Jeremiah 31:12; Hosea 2:22; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14). This also explains why in Scripture a lack of wine reflects the absence of joy (Isaiah 16:10; Joel 1:5, 12).
Related Books
God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol by Kenneth Gentry
For the past 200 years Americans have been told that biblical teaching forbids the drinking of alcoholic beverages. But does it? In this greatly revised and expanded version of his controversial book, (formerly titled)The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. takes a thorough look at the issue, concluding that Scripture allows wine to be consumed both for health and pleasure-but in moderation. By careful lexical, exegetical and theological examination, God Gave Wine demonstrates from the Bible the error of those who demand either prohibition or abstention. With the backdrop of Psalm 104:14-15, Gentry shows that wine is God’s blessing to man. Written in a pleasing and irenic style, Gentry’s approach avoids the common pitfalls of emotionalism, cultural conditioning and ecclesiastical tradition, while remaining distinctively biblical.

What does the Bible say about consideration for others?

I do not believe that Paul was against drinking wine because he recommends to Timothy to drink some for medicinal purposes but we know that he called drunkenness sin. For those who have had problems with alcohol or are alcoholics, we should not drink in their presence because we can put a stumbling block of offense before them (2 Cor 6:3). Other Christians who do not believe in drinking alcohol should be given the same respect for their abstinence. Paul wrote about creating a stumbling block before those whose conscience does not allow them to eat meat sacrificed to idols but the same principle can certainly be applied to drinking alcohol. Paul wrote, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall” (I Cor 8:9-13).

This article is not recommending that a Christian drink or that they should not drink, but only to consider the conscience of others who might be offended by your drinking. Some are recovering alcoholics and are overwhelmed by the urge to take a drink even if they see it or smell it. A key here is to know where your Christian friends stand on the issue of alcohol and if you do drink, do so in moderation only. Nothing ever good comes from drunkenness. Never try to encourage others to drink (Hab 2:15). They are free to do what their own conscience allows them to do. If they feel it is sin to them, leave it at that and don’t make an issue out of it. Many scholars have even said that wine was consumed in the Middle East because much of the water in biblical times was unsafe and had to be mixed with wine in order to make it safe. There is much debate about this but there should be no debate when it comes to alcohol. If it makes my brother or sister stumble, I will not drink in front of them. If they do drink, I will not keep filling their glass against their will. Let all things be done in moderation and all things for the glory of God. Can a Christian Drink Alcohol? by Jack Wellman

Health information about alcohol on the web [UPDATED]

The short-term effects of alcohol can take on many forms. The drug alcohol, to be specific ethanol, is a central nervous system depressant with a range of side-effectsCell membranes are highly permeable to alcohol, so once alcohol is in the bloodstream it can diffuse into nearly every biological tissue of the body. — Short-term effects of alcohol (Wikipedia)

The long-term effects of alcohol (ethanol) consumption range from cardioprotective health benefits for low to moderate alcohol consumption in industrialized societies with higher rates of cardiovascular disease[2][3] to severe detrimental effects in cases of chronic alcohol abuse.[4] High levels of alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of alcoholismmalnutritionchronic pancreatitisalcoholic liver disease, andcancer. In addition, damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur from chronic alcohol abuse.[5][6] The long-term use of alcohol is capable of damaging nearly every organ and system in the body.[7] The developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol.[8] In addition, the developing fetal brain is also vulnerable, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) may result if pregnant mothers consume alcohol. Long-term effects of alcohol (Wikipedia)

Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness. In psychiatry several other terms have been used, specifically “alcohol abuse“, “alcohol dependence,” and “alcohol use disorder” which have slightly different definitions.[1] Alcohol misuse has the potential to damage almost every organ in the body, including the brain. The cumulative toxic effects of chronic alcohol abuse can cause both medical and psychiatric problems.[2] Alcoholism, Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol Dependence (Wikipedia)

How alcohol damages DNA and increases cancer risk — Scientists have shown how alcohol damages DNA in stem cells, helping to explain why drinking increases your risk of cancer, according to new research.
     These new findings therefore help us to understand how drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing 7 types of cancer including common types like breast and bowel.ScienceDaily

Alcohol and endogenous aldehydes damage chromosomes and mutate stem cells. Nature, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/nature25154

Even the world knows that the excesses that often happen during November and December are too much. A recent trend is “Dry January” which has been coined “#Drynuary” to take a break from alcohol for a whole month.

Final thoughts

However you decide the Holy Spirit is leading you, I hope you will remember that alcohol is an intoxicant that can affect your judgment — and when abused can destroy your life and the lives of your loved ones — so you will exercise care and consideration.

If anyone does not take care of his own relatives, especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

I will never forget the first time I ever saw two drunk homeless men standing toe to toe and senselessly pummeling each other while the blood flowed down their bleeding faces and dripped on their unwashed clothes. It was a powerful warning of the dangerously destructive results of abusing alcohol..

It might be better to conclude that even though the Bible doesn’t prohibit drinking, common sense and health considerations should. At least limit drinking much more than is socially common.

  • If you are “buzzed” you are drunk because you have over-imbibed
  • If you are often “buzzed” you are not spiritually-minded or health-conscious
  • If you cannot keep from getting “buzzed” you are probably a drunkard

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5 Replies to “What about alcohol? Can a Christian drink? (Health Update)”

  1. Scientists call for lowering drunk driving threshold –New York Post

    The report points out that “alcohol-impaired driving remains the deadliest and costliest danger on U.S. roads,” accounting for 28 percent of traffic deaths. Each day, 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-related crashes and many more are injured. Forty percent of those killed are people other than the drunken driver.

    The report cites studies that show the United States lags behind other high-income countries in preventing drunken driving fatalities. More than 100 countries have adopted the lower 0.05 threshold. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the National Transportation Safety Board said in 2013. The safety board has also recommended the 0.05 threshold.

  2. There is some stupid play-on-words reasoning that alcohol is called “spirit” because it comes from the Arabic “al-kuhl” which was the name of a body-eating spirit. This is not true. Distilled beverages are called spirits because the Middle Eastern alchemists, who invented distillation, called “the vapor given off and collected during an alchemical process (as with distillation of alcohol) … a spirit of the original material.”

    Even if this play-on-words reasoning made any sense at all, it wouldn’t apply to wine, beer, or cider, which are not distilled beverages.

    Furthermore, if alcohol is a sin because it was derived from the Arabic “al-kuhl”, then it would include any alcohol product “in beverages, medicines, organic synthesis, lotions, tonics, colognes, rubbing compounds, as an automobile radiator antifreeze, and as a rocket fuel.” –Dictionary.com

  3. If alcohol consumption was automatically a sin, then Jesus would have aided and abetted sinners in their sin when he turned water to wine. (John 2; John 4)

    Also consider the law of the tithe for the children of Israel…

    Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27; Leviticus 27:30-34; Deuteronomy 26:1-15; Nehemiah 13:10-14)