Alcohol and the Christian Faith
Copyright © July 1, 2019 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
All Scripture Verses are from the New International Version (NIV) of the Holy Bible.
The subject of whether or not a Christian has the right to consume alcohol in moderation is becoming a very sensitive topic in some Christian churches.
In order to impartially consider this question, the following sources will be examined in the following sequence:
- The Holy Bible: An unbiased discussion of this topic must begin with a review of what the Holy Bible says about alcohol. A review of scriptures from the Holy Bible must be balanced and it cannot focus exclusively on a few isolated scripture verses that are very carefully selected to support a specific point of view while ignoring an overwhelming number of other scripture verses that are in direct opposition to that point of view.
- The Beliefs of Several Major Christian Denominations: A fair and impartial discussion of this topic should include a summary of what several different major Christian denominations believe on this issue.
- A Brief Summary of the Above Information: This article will close with a very brief summary that will attempt to impartially answer the original question using the Holy Bible and a consensus of the beliefs of several major Christian denominations.
Alcohol and a Few Bible Verses
Most Christian Churches firmly believe that drunkenness is wrong because the Holy Bible says that it is wrong.
Romans 13:13 - Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
A careful reading of the above scripture verses will clearly reveal that all the above scriptures specifically refer to getting drunk, or drunkenness, and they do not prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in moderation by anyone, including the overseers or leaders of a church.
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 - But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 - Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Galatians 5:19-21 - The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
1 Timothy 3:1-3 - Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
The following scripture verse was written by the apostle Paul to Timothy who was a Christian minister of a local Christian church.
1 Timothy 5:23 - Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
The above scripture verse could be legitimately interpreted in at least three different ways as follows:
The above scripture verse does not say that a Christian minister can only drink wine if he has digestive issues or frequent illnesses. This type of interpretation would be in contradiction to other scriptures such as 1 Timothy 3:1-3 above and 1 Timothy 3:8 below.
- A minister should drink a little wine if he has digestive problems and/or frequent illnesses.
- A minister should drink a little wine because impure water could be the cause of his stomach problems and frequent illnesses.
- A minister should drink a little wine because wine could improve his overall health if consumed in moderation.
The following New Testament scriptures address the consumption of wine by deacons and by women:
1 Timothy 3:8 - Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
The above two scriptures give permission to deacons and to women to consume wine in moderation, but it also cautions them to avoid drinking too much wine and to avoid becoming addicted to wine, which is similar to becoming a drunk or drunkard.
Titus 2:3 - Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
However, the Holy Bible does have some restrictions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages by ministers. These restrictions applied to the priests whenever they entered the Tent of Meeting or the inner court of the temple.
Leviticus 10:8-9 - Then the LORD said to Aaron, "You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come."
In other words, ministers were not to drink alcoholic beverages when working. This is the same rule that most companies have for their employees -- employees are not to drink alcoholic beverages while they are working at their normal jobs.
Ezekiel 44:21 - No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court.
Therefore most Christian Churches believe that the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is not a sin.
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
The following is a direct quote of Jesus about Himself and it confirms that Jesus did sometimes drink alcohol:
Psalms 104:14-15 - He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate -- bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 - Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.
Isaiah 25:6 - On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine -- the best of meats and the finest of wines.
John 2:1-11 - On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
Matthew 11:18-19 - "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions."
When the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he was going to be the father of John the Baptist the angel made the following statement about John:
Luke 1:13 - He is never to take wine or other fermented drink,
John was the second of only two people in the entire Bible who were commanded to never drink any type of alcohol. Samson was the first person.
Therefore Matthew 11:18-19 tells us that John did not drink wine or other fermented drink but Jesus did drink some type of alcohol but the scripture does not specify what type of alcohol.
In spite of all the above scriptures that speak favorable about alcoholic beverages, there are a few Christian Churches that believe that anyone who consumes any type of alcoholic beverage is committing a terrible sin. They basically ignore Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast, and instead they focus on verses such as the following:
Romans 14:20-21 - Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
The above verse is frequently used to condemn the consumption of alcoholic beverages because drinking may offend someone. People who support this interpretation advocate the complete avoidance of all alcoholic beverages all the time by all Christians. However, they do not insist that Christians stop eating all meat all the time to avoid offending a Christian who happens to be a vegetarian. In addition, the above scripture only recommends not eating or drinking in the presence of someone who would be offended and it does not say that you should stop eating and drinking when you are not in their presence. The above scripture also says "or to do anything else" and this implies that a good Christian will avoid doing anything that offends someone if the verse is taken to the extreme. For example, if a Christian prays in public and this offends someone, then does this mean that all Christians should stop praying in public? I do not think so.
Another verse that is sometimes used to condemn alcohol is the vow of a Nazirite:
Numbers 6:1-7 - The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long. Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them,' "
During the time that a person was under the Nazirite vow he or she could not cut his or her hair, or go near a dead body, or drink wine or grape juice, or eat grapes, or raisins, or even the seeds or the skins. After the prescribed time had been fulfilled, the person would shave off his or her hair and then the person could once again drink wine. Christians who try to use the Nazirite vow to justify not drinking alcoholic beverages would need to obey all the rules and not drink grape juice, or eat grapes, or raisins, or raisin bread, or raisin bran, or participate in the Lord's Supper by drinking grape juice.
Numbers 6:19-20 - " 'After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast. The priest shall then wave them before the LORD as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.' "
The Opinions of Different Christian Denominations on the Subject of Alcohol
The Catholic Church has continuously supported the consumption of alcohol in moderation. For many centuries some monasteries have brewed beer to support their ministries.
The Methodist Church has consistently warned people about the dangers of overindulgence in alcohol. However, the use of alcohol is left to the judgment of each individual Christian, and a Christian may choose to completely abstain from alcohol, or to partake of alcohol in a reasonable manner. Ministers are allowed to consume alcohol in their own homes. A person's use or avoidance of alcohol is not a condition for membership in the Methodist Church.
In 2006 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution stating "our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages." The resolution was passed with 80% voting "yes" and 20% voting "no." The majority ruled but it was not unanimous. However, some Southern Baptist Churches now expect their members to 100% support this resolution, or individual members may be expelled from the church. Some Southern Baptists now believe that the conscience of individual Christians must conform to the majority collective view of the Church leadership. (Note: This is similar to the belief of the Catholic Church in the infallibility of their current Pope.) This is in contrast to the history of the Baptist denomination which was founded on the belief that all believers have an individual personal relationship with God and therefore Baptists traditionally rejected formal creeds and doctrines that would be binding on all their members. The reason Baptists traditionally objected to this was because they did not believe that newly constructed creeds and doctrines would be infallible. It should be mentioned that the Southern Baptist Convention does not represent the views of all Baptist Churches because a lot of Baptist Churches are not part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Episcopal Church does not prohibit the serving of alcoholic beverages to its adult members who have attained the legal age to drink. If alcoholic beverages are served at a Church function then food must also be served and non-alcoholic beverages must be made available to anyone who does not wish to consume an alcoholic beverage. In addition, all local, state, and federal laws must be observed, and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is expected.
In 1986 the Presbyterian Church adopted the following official statement: "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not advocate the prohibition of alcohol, a policy which would appear to attribute the entire problem to alcohol itself. Responsible and non-problematic uses of alcohol have been part of human experience and the Judeo-Christian heritage since the beginning of recorded history. The considerable risks and immense suffering that follow from excessive and unwise uses of alcohol do, however, impose upon all Christians individually and corporately the responsibility to make and encourage judicious and well-informed choices regarding personal and social uses of alcohol.
"To that end, the General Assembly encourages and supports personal decision to abstain from alcohol. For those who choose to drink and can do so without becoming dependent, the General Assembly urges a pattern of moderate and responsible drinking behavior. Finally, the General Assembly recommends and supports a comprehensive public policy approach to regulate the availability and use of alcohol in a manner consistent with its special character and the potential risk to persons and society inherent in its use; and it continues to recommend and support appropriate treatment for all who are affected by alcohol-related problems.
"The following general principles should guide … personal and corporate choices about the use of alcohol:
1. Abstention in all situations should be supported and encouraged.
2. Moderate drinking in low-risk situations should not be opposed.
3. Heavy drinking in any situation should be vigorously discouraged.
4. Any drinking in high-risk situations (e.g., during pregnancy or before driving an automobile) should be vigorously discouraged, as should all illegal drinking."
An independent survey conducted by LifeWay Research in the year 2007 found that 3% of Southern Baptist pastors and 29% of Southern Baptist members drink alcoholic beverages. This can be compared to the results of that same survey where 25% of Protestant pastors and 42% of Protestant members drink alcoholic beverages, where Protestants includes non-Southern Baptists as well as other Protestant denominations. A Protestant is any Christian who is not of the Orthodox or the Catholic faith.
As I have previously mentioned, a person can prove almost anything he or she wishes to prove by carefully picking a few scripture verses that appear to support their interpretation and by ignoring all the other scriptures that are in complete opposition to that interpretation. This is one of the reasons why there are so many different Christian denominations. Each denomination decides what it wants to believe and then they find specific scripture verses to support their beliefs and they completely ignore other scriptures that contradict that interpretation.
If there are not enough scriptures to support a specific interpretation then some individuals, who have very good intentions, will sometimes quote extrabiblical sources, such as the comments of a few Christian evangelists of the past who happen to agree with their interpretation, but these same individuals will completely ignore any evangelist or pastor who does not agree with their interpretation. They may also mention a variety of stories and statistics, and they gradually build a very strong case for their point of view. However, these same individuals would openly condemn anyone else who used this same deceptive strategy to support a scriptural interpretation that they did not believe was correct.
Unfortunately the above strategy eventually results in a Church doctrine, or a tradition, that is passed down from generation to generation. Jesus publicly condemned this practice when He said:
Mark 7:8 - "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
Jesus came to this world to save the lost. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone who would confess Him as Savior, and this includes alcoholics, prostitutes, and thieves.
If a person enjoys drinking alcohol occasionally in very small quantities, or frequently in moderation, but not to the point of becoming drunk, and if that person was interested in knowing more about Jesus, then would that type of person consider attending a church service where they knew that the people of that church preached prohibition and abstention in regard to the consumption of alcoholic beverages? Will each of the members of that church be welcomed by Jesus into heaven with a "Well done my good and faithful servant."?
I have been attending a Christian Church for about 65 years. I do not remember ever hearing the following topic mentioned in a Church sermon or in a Sunday School lesson:
Acts 15:13-15 - When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this," ...
The above letter to Christian Gentiles was drafted by James the brother of Jesus Christ, and by Jesus' disciple Simon Peter, and it was delivered by Judas (called Barsabbas), and by Paul, Barnabas, and Silas who were apostles to the Gentiles. A Gentile is anyone and everyone who is not a Jew. A Gentile believer is a Christian Gentile.
Acts 15:19-29 - "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul -- men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Each Christian can decide for himself or herself whether or not it is appropriate to alter the above Holy Scriptures in defiance of the expressed will of the Holy Spirit and add that Christians should also abstain from alcoholic beverages.
Each Christian can also decide whether or not God will be pleased with his or her behavior if he or she looks unfavorably on other Christians who do drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
Acts 4:19 - "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."
Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com