Is a Christian is technically allowed to drink? Is it just a matter of conscience as long as we don’t offend anyone? I believe technically God desires that we don’t drink at all, so that we are sure we don’t offend God.
It reminds me of my own tendency to roll through a stop sign instead of stopping completely. What’s the law? The sign says to stop. “Aw, but I sort of stopped!” Well no. I didn’t. The Bible says to live a holy and God-honoring, Spirit-filled life. Someone may say, “Well I do! Except when I let a bit of my self-control go at the company party.” It’s not quite meeting the standard to disregard Christ-centered living while drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve. Is it?
Sunday School 101: “Sin” is missing the mark; to fall short of the Glory of God. Even one drink causes us to miss the mark. It is sin.
The false argument in favor of casual social drinking points to the fact that there is no direct command in Scripture to abstain from alcohol. Yet it is forgetting that there’s more in Scripture than just dos and don’ts (which most proponents of social drinking like to point out, ironically). There are clear biblical principles that must be followed as well. We must remember that just because an issue is not 100% clear to us, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t clear to God. God has no gray areas. (See my other article, Balancing Act.)
First of all, I do not see how anyone can read the Scriptures and come away with a “Go Ahead” attitude from God about drinking alcohol. It is a myopic type of Bible study that finds every instance a particular phrase or concept is mentioned in Scripture and then forms a conclusion based on those instances alone. We must seek to apply “the whole council of God” (Acts 20:27). As one who takes the Bible literally, I ought to take those specifics in Scripture in addition to the whole of Bible teaching in every area of life.
In other words, when an issue like drinking (or body piercings/markings, or gambling, or drugs, or dancing, etc.) is studied in Scripture, we must of course look at the Bible verses (if there are any) that deal with those words or phrases. It would be wrong, though, to say that since the Bible doesn’t mention smoking, it must be ok. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul’s words are erroneously used to show that drinking is really ok. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” But in fact, it shows that Timothy was abstaining from wine for his testimony’s sake as was proper for the Christians to do. The historical context reveals that a little grape juice was added to water to disinfect it in those days and thereby prevent dysentery and similar illnesses. Timothy was putting his own health at risk to avoid drinking any part of wine. So Paul is telling Timothy to go ahead and take the medicine so he can stay healthy and continue to minister to folks. Timothy’s prohibition might be analogous to never taking cough syrup because of its’ alcoholic content. Paul then tells him to go ahead and take the medicine. It is not at all telling us to go ahead and have a glass of wine as long as you don’t get drunk. Besides all that, there is also the view, that in fact the kind of wine that Timothy needed to help his stomach was the grape juice kind, not the fermented alcoholic kind.
Close-up studies of the issues (as above) don’t end there. The bigger picture is also important. We must remember Biblical principles for such things that touch that subject. This would include the principles involving wisdom, self-control, testimony, sanctification, decision-making, separation, holiness, priorities, historical context (because “wine” in the Bible is not the same as wine today) etc. Even if there were passages that allow for social drinking (which there aren’t any), the practice is not allowed under the myriad of other principles of sanctified Christian living. When someone comes away from the whole of Scripture with the conclusion that Christians are technically allowed to drink alcohol because of verses like 1 Timothy 5:23 he did the first part of Biblical interpretation, but not the second part. There are no explicit prohibitions about alcohol, at least not in American terms, but a Jewish or Gentile believer in the Bible eras would have understood the prohibition. In fact the understanding in our society had been until recently that “Christians don’t drink.” Drinking is not a virtue. It’s a vice.
THEREFORE, I believe it is wrong for a true believer to drink alcoholic beverages as we know them today. I believe a true Christian must abstain in order to be true to the faith.
How about these big-picture verses (emphasis mine):
- “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
- “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). What does social drinking have anything to do with the coming kingdom?
- “Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly” (1 Thess. 5:22-23).
- “Look not upon the wine when it is red” (Prov. 23:31). i.e. don’t even look at it.
- “Whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure…lovely…of good report…if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).
- “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
- “I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12).
- “Be ye filled with the Spirit” (1 Cor. 5:18).
- “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof…yield yourselves unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13).
Many more such concepts abound in Scripture. Alcoholic beverages are meant for human pleasure, not for glorifying the Lord. Drinking doesn’t even help a little to bring honor to the Lord’s name. Drinking hinders our ability to glorify God and to live a Spirit-filled life. I fail to see how anyone can honestly read the Scriptures and come away with anything other than abstention from social vices such as drinking.