Listen: 67 Question 3

The drinking of alcoholic drinks has divided many believers into opposing camps.  Some say that to drink any sort or amount of alcohol is a sin; others say that as long as a person does not drink to excess, there is nothing wrong with it.  For all of us, our desire should be to ask, “what saith the scriptures?”  First of all, we know without a doubt that the Lord does not want us to be drunk with alcohol.  Ephesians 5:18 says plainly, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  Alcohol, in excess, controls those who drink it.  Rather than be controlled by alcohol, the believer is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.

We have a warning in Proverbs 23:31 to, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.”  In this case, to look would mean to desire or long for the intoxicating effect of the wine.  Let’s compare this to the words of the Lord in Matthew 5:28, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  In both of these references, we see that to ‘look’ indicates the desire of the heart.  To desire to drink wine to become intoxicated is definitely wrong.

But, is it always wrong to drink an alcoholic drink?  Most of us are aware that the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to drink wine for its medicinal effects as we read in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”  We can see that to use wine as a medicine is deemed to be good.  Even today, many of the cough syrups and cold medicines have a high percentage of alcohol in them.  So, I think we can agree that alcohol can be used as a treatment in certain illnesses.

What about social drinking of alcohol, is that sin?  And what about the wine the Lord created out of water…was that really fermented, intoxicating wine?  In John, chapter two, we have the story of a wedding feast in the city of Cana.  The Lord Jesus and His disciples were there, along with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  At this feast, the wine soon ran out and the Lord learned of this.  Let’s read John 2:6-11, “And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.  When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”  The Greek word that is translated wine here is ‘Oinos’, which is an intoxicating wine.  The wine that Lord made was considered better than the wine that had been served previously.

Some among the Lord’s people would take a Nazarite vow as a way to dedicate their lives completely to the Lord.  One of the vows taken was to abstain from drinking alcohol.  John the Baptist had obviously taken this vow.  We read in Matthew 11:18-19,For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners…”  So, while John did not drink wine, we see that the Lord Jesus did.  He was even falsely accused of being a drunkard.

So, how are we to understand these things?  I’m sorry, but I think my answer will be contrary to what you long to hear.  To re-emphasize a point made at the beginning, let’s read again Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  To be drunk with alcohol is against the clear teaching of the scriptures, however to take a bit of alcohol is not condemned in the Word of God, as long as drunkenness does not occur.  However, if you have a conscience against drinking alcohol, I encourage you to not go against your conscience.  I don’t drink alcohol because of the possibility that it might stumble a younger believer.  As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we have many liberties; we also have the privilege of giving up some of our liberties if we think that it might hurt or offend someone else.

We need to be sensitive to the needs of our younger brothers and sisters in Christ.  In 1 Corinthians eight, we learn of the practice of some buying meat that had been previously offered to idols.  Although we learn that to buy this cheaper meat was permissible, some were offended by it.  The Apostle Paul gives us a Godly, caring principle when he says in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”  (67.3)