WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT DRINKING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?

By Steven Chan

In recent days there have been some discussions on this subject matter in the local newspapers. In view, thereof some brethren have asked about this subject. So here’s what I believe the Bible teaches on this subject.

No one disagrees that drunkenness is a sin. The bible clearly warns the Christian against being drunk in Eph 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18 NKJV

Also, drunkenness is specifically stated as one of the deeds of the flesh and that one who is engaged in drunkenness will not inherit the kingdom of God:- ““Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 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.” Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

The same warning is also given in 1 Cor 6:9-10: ““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, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” I Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV

In Prov 23:29-34, the bible warns against being under the influence of wine:- “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last, it bites like a serpent,

And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink? ”” Proverbs 23:29-35 NKJV. “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1 NKJV

Inevitably the question that is often raised is that of defining when a person is “drunk”? The laws of different countries define the offence of “driving under the influence of intoxicants” (DUI) under varying legal limits. “Some jurisdictions have multiple levels of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for different categories of drivers; for example, the state of California has a general 0.08% BAC limit, a lower limit of 0.04% for commercial operators, and a limit of 0.01% for drivers who are under 21.” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Driving_under_the_influence
)

The different measurements for BAC to be applied for offences of driving under the influence indicate that there is no exact measurement for being drunk. The question becomes this: “When does one begin to become drunk and when is one actually drunk?”

Given that the bible warns against the danger of being drunk as well as warning that those who are drunk or are drunkards or engaged in drunkenness, will not inherit the kingdom of God, it would be unwise for a Christian to engage in the habit of drinking intoxicating beverages as one does not really know at what point one has crossed the line into being “drunk”! The bible does not define drunkenness as a “little bit drunk” or “very drunk”. It says “do not be drunk with wine,” instead be filled with the Spirit.

In 1 Tim 3:3, those who seek to serve as elders are not to be “given to wine”: “not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;” I Timothy 3:3 NKJV

For the Christian there’s another principle that he needs to observe as stated in Rom 14:21:- “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” Romans 14:21 NKJV. This principle of not stumbling a brother by what we engage in, for example drinking wine, needs also to be respected by the Christian. Why would the “drinking wine” be a potential cause for stumbling a brother’s faith?

It is the same as that of stumbling a brother when one goes to a temple and eat food offered to idols as discussed by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 8:- “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one….However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with the consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” I Corinthians 8:4, 7, 10-13 NKJV

As Paul explained in 1 Cor 8 with regards to eating food offered to idols, we understand that idols are not gods as such. It implies that eating food offered to idols is actually a matter of indifference. However if one eats food offered to idols in the temple and a brother who is weak in faith who sees you partaking in what idol worshippers engaged in, then his faith may be shaken as he may think that you are actually fellowshipping with idolaters or that he thinks that it’s okay to also participate in idolatry!

Then in such instances, the exercise of your freedom to eat whatever you prefer may have stumbled the weak brother – in which case you would have sinned against Christ for having caused the brother to compromise or corrupt or confuse him in his faith.

To be clear, Paul teaches that one may freely eat food offered to idols as discussed in 1 Cor 10:- “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.

But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other.

For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” I Corinthians 10:25-33 NKJV

We are not to eat or drink if it causes offence to the faith of the brother or encourages another person to engage in a practice that is not proper or right – such as the idolaters offering food to idols or participating in eating the food offered to idols (which is believed by the idolaters as bringing blessings to them).

So we are to apply the same principle of not stumbling another person in regard to faith in God, with respect to the habit of drinking wine or alcoholic beverages. We do not want to give anybody any idea that we are okay with the habit of drinking as they may then be encouraged or emboldened to also drink likewise which may cause them to actually become drunk and thereby lose their salvation or ability to inherit the kingdom of God.

Notwithstanding the above, the Bible states that wine for medicinal purposes is permitted:- “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” I Timothy 5:23 NKJV. The fact that Paul has to tell Timothy to take some wine for his stomach infirmities indicated that it was not the habit of Timothy to drink wine. Likewise I would think that using wine for cooking food etc would not be prohibited unless of course if the whole dish contains an inordinate amount of intoxicating substance so as to cause one to be drunk!!

It is wrong for one to say that the bible has been corrupted to permit the drinking of intoxicating beverages. The bible is consistent in condemning drunkenness or indulging in the habit of drinking wine because of the ill effects of drunkenness. And the Christian is also exhorted to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV

The bible also teaches that we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, “holy and acceptable ” to God:- “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 NKJV. Indulging in drinking intoxicating beverages which may lead to unholy activities or unholy actions violates the offering of our bodies as a living holy sacrifice to God.

It is advisable not to debate this matter with politicians or in the public forum. This is because unless one respects the Word of God and wants to submit to do God’s will, any such discussion on this matter is likely to appear to be foolishness to them! “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….. but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,” I Corinthians 1:18, 23 NKJV.

Jesus said in John 17:7: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” John 7:17 NKJV. So if the disputants really desire to want to know or understand the will of God, then they shall know the right teaching in regard to this matter. But if they have no such desire, then they will reject whatever may be shared with them.

This was exemplified by Stephen in Acts 7 when he told them the truth:- “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth…. Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.” Acts 7:51, 54, 57-58 NKJV

So let’s heed the advice of Jesus: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NKJV

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