Christianity and Alcohol

The point of this article is to clear up misconceptions people have concerning the place of Alcohol in the Church. I would like to state, from the start, that drunkenness is a sin and clearly condemned in scripture.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery

1 Corinthians 6:10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive,  and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It is also important to remember that we need to be considerate of our brothers who struggle with drunkenness. We should not temp them if they are abstaining.

I am not saying in this article that Christians must drink, but rather, that they have the Christian liberty to do so and that those who condemn us who enjoy a good beer, should not kick us out of the kingdom or say we are sinning.

Testimony from History

  • The church has used alcohol from the Old Testament to the present.
  • John Calvin’s annual salary included 250 gallons of wine.
  • Christians were Europe’s only brewers.
  •  Martin Luther’s wife, Catherine, brewed beer in their bathtub.
  • When the puritans came to America they made it a priority to make beer.
    • The first permanent building in the USA was a brewery.
    • Christianity became very liberal and feminine.
      • In 1869 Pastor Thomas Welch made a “Christian drink” called  grape juice and replaced communion wine with it.

History, however, can be wrong. Our authority is the word of God. The previous section was just to show the importance alcohol played in the life of the Church.

Testimony from Scripture

Psalm 104:14-15 You [God] cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Here we see the Psalmist giving God praise for the things He has made, including wine. It is interesting that the Psalmist says the God makes the heart glad. This takes it beyond the realm of mere sustenance, but also a joy to partake in.

Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your food  with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, because God has already approved your works.

 

In Ecclesiastes 9, Solomon is proclaiming the blessing of life with a reality of the shortness of life: “a live dog is better than a dead lion” (verse 4) in verse 7 is the conclusion of how we should live according to this. That is, enjoy our food and drink. Solomon is not speaking in an Epicurean manner “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” but rather as a forerunner of Paul who says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

The Bible also advocates drinking Alcohol as a medicine:

1 Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking just water, but use a little wine for your digestion and your frequent illnesses.

The first miracle of Jesus was that He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

John 2:1-11  [1] On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

 [2] Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

 [3]     When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine.

 [4] And Jesus said to her, Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.

 [5] His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.

 [6] Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

 [7] Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

 [8] And he said to them, Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. So they took it.

 [9] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom

 [10] and said to him, Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.

 [11] This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Did Jesus do this miracle so that others can sin? No, He did this miracle so that His glory would be manifest (v.11). Notice, also that the wine was good (v.10).

In Deuteronomy 14, God commands the Israelites to tithe to Him. A portion of the tithe was set aside. The Lord tells the Israelites what they are to spend it on:

Deuteronomy 14:25-26 you may convert the tithe into money, secure the money, and travel to the place the LORD your God chooses for himself.

26 Then you may spend the money however you wish for cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or whatever you desire. You and your household may eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and enjoy it.

There are many scriptures that speak about wine. The verses that speak negatively about wine or “strong drink” are speaking of their being used for drunkenness. Many, who are against alcohol, see all verses that speak positively about wine and interpret them as grape juice. Others say that the wine in biblical times was much weaker than wine in our time.

John MacArthur, a teetotaler himself, admits that Biblical wine was alcoholic, but claims that the reason they did this was to purify the water. This may be true, but according to 1 Timothy 5:23 (cited above) they had a water only option. Also the Nazarenes took a vow (explained in Numbers 6) that they were not to drink wine or strong drink. This, by implication, makes it okay for others to do so and shows the option of a non alcoholic choice.

Saying that the Alcohol content in the wine of Biblical times was less than our own, only means that they got to drink more of it.

Another objection to alcohol is that it is dangerous. Someone may become drunk and sin. If this was the standard, we would have to carry this standard consistently and apply it to: women, money, music, guns etc. I may use my wife wrongly and not follow the teaching of Ephesians 5 to love her as Christ loved the church, therefore we should never get married. I may use money for drugs, therefore we should never use money. I may use music to hypnotize children by playing a record backwards, so we must never listen to music. I may use a gun to kill school children, so we must never have guns. This is not how Christians should get their moral standards.

Conclusions

  • Alcohol is not a sin, but Drunkenness is.
  • Do not drink light beer.
  • Give glory to God in your drinking.
  • Cheers!

 

Recommended Resources

Drinking with Calvin and Luther: A History of Alcohol in the Church – Rev. Jim West