What Does the Bible Say About Drinking Alcohol?
- Christy Shipe Ask the Expert for Girls
- Updated Sep 15, 2023
Question. I have always been taught that drinking was spoken against in the Bible and that it was wrong. Recently, I've been talking to a Christian friend who told me that it was actually okay to drink alcohol according to the Bible. Can you help me sort out these conflicting values? What does the Bible really say about drinking alcohol? -Beth
Answer. There’s a very simple answer to this question when it comes to teens drinking: It’s against the law. Alcohol is absolutely off-limits until you’re 21.
God commands us to obey laws like these when He says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." (Romans 13:1) If you disobey the law, then you’re also disobeying God.
But what about after you turn 21? Is it okay for a Christian to drink then? Although there are some situations in which the Bible forbids alcohol, it never says that alcohol is always wrong. Since the Bible doesn’t absolutely forbid alcohol, whether or not you should drink as an adult becomes a personal decision you have to make for yourself.
Although I cannot make that decision for you, I can share with you 6 things the Bible does say about drinking alcohol:
1. The Bible allows Christians to drink alcohol for medical reasons.
Paul told Timothy, "Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness." (1 Timothy 5:23)
From this verse we learn that Timothy had many illnesses and Paul instructs him to use wine to help with his strength and ailments. In New Testament times, a little wine was considered good for one’s stomach. Where we may have modern medicine today to help, during Biblical times they turned to alcohol to provide relief from physical pain and suffering.
2. The Bible sometimes portrays alcohol as something good and enjoyable.
Jesus’ first miracle involved turning water into wine for a wedding celebration. (see John 2:3-11)
Psalm 104 says, "He makes grass to 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." (v. 14-15).
King Solomon enjoyed his meals and wine. It was important to gather with family and friends and enjoy time together with good food and wine. Ecclesiastes 9:7 "Go, eat your good with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved of what you do."
These examples show us how alcohol can aid in relaxation, laughter, and general enjoyment.
3. The Bible forbids drunkenness.
Although the Bible never says that alcohol itself is sinful, it does say many times that drunkenness is a sin. God says, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:6) In fact, there are many verses in the Bible which speak out against drunkenness. (For a few examples, see Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3.)
Proverbs 23:29-35 vividly describes the effects of drunkenness and warns against indulging in excessive alcohol consumption. It portrays the physical, emotional, and relational toll of drunkenness on an individual.
The prophet Isaiah condemns those who “rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink” and engage in excessive drinking (Isaiah 5:11-12). He depicts a society consumed by self-indulgence and calls attention to the destructive nature of drunkenness.
Jesus warns his disciples to “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life.” This caution from Luke 21:34 emphasizes the need for self-awareness and vigilance against the dangers of excessive consumption.
Paul exhorts believers to “walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” This passage in Romans 13:13 emphasizes the importance of living a life characterized by honesty, self-control, and moral integrity.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18). The apostle Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians warns against being drunk with wine, which is associated with excess and lack of self-control. Instead, believers are encouraged to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists drunkenness as one of the “works of the flesh” contrary to the Spirit. He emphasizes that those who practice such behaviors will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul includes drunkards in a list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). This underscores the seriousness of drunkenness as a sin that separates individuals from God’s kingdom.
(excerpt from What Does the Bible Say About Drunkenness by Britt Mooney)
4. The Bible forbids drinking if it offends fellow believers.
God explains in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 that we should be considerate of other Christians who have different convictions than we do. Some Christians believe that alcohol is always sinful. And their convictions should be respected. God says, "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. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit...Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification....It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall." (Romans 14:15-21) That verse says it loud and clear: Don’t drink alcohol if it will offend a brother or sister in Christ.
5. The Bible forbids drinking if it hinders the gospel.
Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 9 that even though he was allowed to eat and drink anything he wanted, he was very careful not to do things that would hinder the gospel of Christ. He said, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many a possible. "I became all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)If I was trying to witness to someone who thought it was bad for Christians to drink, there’s no way I would drink alcohol in front of that person!
6. The Bible warns that drinking is often dangerous and unwise.
The Bible contains lots of warnings about how tempting and dangerous it is to get involved with alcohol. A wise mother told her son, "It is not for kings, O Lemuel - not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights." (Proverbs 31:4-5) And Solomon, one of the wisest men who’ve ever lived, said, "Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper." (Proverbs 23:31)
These Bible passages suggest that it is often wise to totally stay away from alcohol since it can be a difficult thing to control. Alcohol can easily seduce you, and before you know it, it controls you. How many girls have had a few drinks and then ended up in bed with a strange man? How many adults have had a few drinks and then ended up in a serious car accident?
These situations are all too common. God is looking out for you when He warns you about the dangers of alcohol and drunkenness. Getting drunk causes you to lose control of yourself and do things - dangerous things - that you wouldn’t do if you were sober.
I think it is possible to live a godly life and enjoy a small amount of alcohol. But the person who chooses not to drink at all also lives a godly life, as long as he does it without condemning those who do.
Bravo to those of you who take some time to seek God’s will about drinking and prepare yourselves for the future.
Warning Sign You May Struggle with Drinking Alcohol
Understanding early warning signs of the increasing grip of alcohol dependence will help you make changes or seek help while it’s easier to do. So, here are four ways to determine if alcohol has become a stronghold in your life.
1. You Defend Your “Right to Drink It”
Christian or not, if you’re unable to discuss even the possibility of abstaining from alcohol—if you won’t allow it to be an option—without becoming protective and defensive, it’s a concerning sign of a potential stronghold.
2. You Go Out of Your Way to Have it
If you’ve ever driven to the part of town where you know you won’t run into anyone you know to buy alcohol, or have a secret hiding place in your home where you keep it, or ventured out after dark to buy some because you’re out, or the amount you drink in one sitting doesn’t matter—alcohol may have a potential stronghold in your life.
3. You’re Constantly Mentioning It
It’s a safe and perfectly reasonable conclusion to come to that alcohol is a stronghold in your life if you keep bringing it up in conversation, despite the fact that you might say you’re just “joking” about it.
4. You Can’t Imagine a Good Time without It
Birthdays, college graduations, vacations, work holiday parties, sporting events, get-togethers with friends—the list goes on and on for gatherings and events where people believe that alcohol is the only way to have fun or at least a bearable experience. If the thought of participating or attending these events without the consumption of alcohol is difficult for you, then you have to seriously consider that alcohol is a stronghold in your life.
*Section excerpt taken from 4 Signs Alcohol May Be a Stronghold in Your Life by Homer Purdy
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Alfonso Scarpa
Is it Wrong for Christians to Have a Drink of Alcohol by Joel Engle
This article is part of our larger Spiritual Life resource meant to answer your questions about the Bible, God and the Christian faith. Visit our most popular questions on “What does the Bible say about…” questions answered by well known Christians and theologians to find more inspiration. Remember that as you read these articles, the Holy Spirit will give you understanding and discernment to make the right decision for your walk with Jesus Christ! If you know others struggling with these faith questions, please share and help others discover the truth on these controversial topics.
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