This past weekend, a pastor resigned from his church over the abuse of alcohol, which has cause some Christians to wonder about the use of the alcohol. Some Christians believe that drinking alcohol is a sin. That's it, no questions asked. Even if you have it once a year, it is still a sin. There are some Christians that believe that alcohol is a gift of common grace from God but must used carefully like everything God has given us.
What does the Bible say about the use of alcohol? For starters, there is no single verse that condemns the use of alcohol. Some would say, Jesus might have condemned it. Really? If that were the case, why was his first miracle turning water into wine (John 2)? Last time I checked it was not grape juice. What about the Apostle Paul? He told Timothy, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Timothy 5:21). Nehemiah with the Levities said to the people, after Ezra read the Law:
“This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
Many of us know the last part of verse 10, but ignore the first part. The Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol even though he told Samson's parents that he must not drink wine or strong drink as part of the Nazarite vow (Judges 13:4).
Even though the Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol, it does condemn abusing it. The Bible speaks a lot on the issue of drunkenness:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21).
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry (1 Peter 4:3).
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy (Romans 13:13).
There was even a controversy in the Corinthian church where people during the Lord's Supper would eat and drink as if it was a buffet. People got drunk on the communion wine. The book of Proverbs condemns drunkenness along with another sin:
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags (Proverbs 23:20-21).
Gluttony is basically when you eat in excusive amounts, which is funny because many in the church will condemn drinking alcohol, but will say nothing about gluttony. What does gluttony and drunkenness have in common? They are abusing good gifts God has given mankind in His common grace. Been a glutton is the same as being drunk. Don't believe me. Test that theory next time you decide to go for your fourth plate in a Chinese buffet or your fourth donut after Sunday School.
Does this mean Christians should drink alcohol? If you believe you can have a drink that does not hinder your fellowship with God and believe it is a good thing from Him, then yes, you have the freedom to do so. However, that does not mean you should do it that might cause someone to stumble. During my youth ministry days, I refrained from drinking alcohol because I do not want to cause any teenager or parent to stumble and not trust me. I certainly do not want to have a drink in front of someone that has abused alcohol in the past and, by God's grace, has been sober for a long time.
Paul said, "But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Even though the context of this verse refers to eating food that was offered to idols, the principle can apply to the freedom you and I have in drinking alcohol.
The issue of Christians and the use of alcohol is one that will draw some heavy disagreements. Whatever your position is on the subject, please interact with those who disagree with you in the bonds of unity. Whether you drink alcohol or not, it does not make you less or more of a Christian than the person that does or does not.