What the Bible says about Drinking

To get a comprehensive and balanced view of what the Bible says about the consumption of alcohol, I've divided this study into verses which speak on allowances and those which speak on prohibitions.

Allowances

Under the Law of Moses one was allowed to spend part of their tithe for the consumption of alcohol.
Deut 14:23-26 "Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away),  then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 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."
Its allowance is also spoken of in  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."

Furthermore in John chapter 2 Jesus himself miraculously provides about 150 gallons of wine for a wedding he attended where they had run out of wine.

And Paul advised Timothy, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities." 1Tim 5:23  But notice that he says, "a little".

Prohibitions

However one should not read into those verses a condoning of drunkenness. For while there are allowances for the consumption of alcohol, the Bible speaks strongly and extensively against drunkenness.

Isaiah 5: 22  Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks.

Proverbs on Drunkenness

Pr 23:29-35 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?"

Pr 20:1  Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Pr 21:17  He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

Pr 31:4-5 "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink;  Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted." However it goes on to say, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more." Pr 31:6,7

Of course those last two verse need to be interpreted in view of what the rest of the Bible says. My interpretation is that while those who need to be constantly alert should not drink at all, it is OK to provide some pleasure or attempt to relieve the pain of those who are in misery - as long as it doesn't cross the line into sin, like drunkenness.

New Testament on Drunkenness

Drinking alcohol or any other type of pleasant thing, we are free to partake of as long as we stay within the boundaries God has established, and realize that we will be called to account as stewards for everything we've done with what God has provided us. For example it says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." 1Tim 6:17,18

But as for drunkenness - or as it is often referred to today "alcoholism" - the Bible says, "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." 1Cor 6:9,10 So also Galatian 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." Alcoholics will be eternally condemned. They do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

According to 1Cor 11, God was even killing Christians who were getting drunk at the communion service.

It says in Eph 5:18 "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit"

Concerning church leadership it explicitly states, "a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money ..." Titus 1:7 and "Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money ..." 1Tim 3:8 and so also of overseers in 1Tim 3:3 And so also "the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things——" Titus 2:3  Thus there are clear prohibitions concerning drunkenness.

Conscience

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

Now while as a matter of one's own conscience, Christians have a good deal of freedom. But in the name of love Christians should restrict themselves from activities which bother the conscience of other Christians. It's written,

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 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. Rom 14:13-20
This includes the consumption of alcohol. There are some who struggle against an addiction to alcholism. But while others don't have such an addiction or are not tempted along those lines, yet their free exercise of their right to partake of alcohol may lead those who are weak into temptation and into addiction.

Therefore it is best if Christians abstain from alcohol. And while they have the freedom to drink, they certainly don't have the right to get drunk. And, in the name of love for others, they should be careful that the exercise of their rights does not embolden the weak to fall into the sin of drunkenness.



The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015