Christians and Alcohol: A Realistic Look at What the Bible Has to Say

Growing up in the church, I have heard many differing opinions on the topic of alcohol. Some argue that the Bible condemns drinking alcohol of any kind. I even had a professor in college who argued that Jesus turned water into grape juice, not wine. Most would agree that the Bible condemns drunkenness, but many teach that drinking in moderation is not a sin. Some would even go as far as to say that drinking is often celebrated in Scripture. So what does the Bible really have to say about alcohol?

Christians and Alcohol: A Realistic Look at What the Bible Has to Say | alyssajhoward.com

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5 Biblical Truths Regarding Alcohol:

  • Getting “drunk” is a sin. (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Drunkenness, or the overindulgence of alcohol, is always seen as a sin in the Bible. In fact, the overindulgence of anything food or drink related is often seen as a sin. (Drunkenness and gluttony are often paired together in the same passages.)
  • Alcohol is seen as a “foolish” and “deceptive” drink. (Proverbs 20:1) Drinking in moderation is never openly defined as a sin in the Bible, but God’s Word does warn us about how deceptive alcohol can be.

Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” – Proverbs 23:29-35 (NLT)

  • Drinking alcohol can often lead us to other sins. (1 Peter 5:81 Thessalonians 5:6-8) The New Testament tells believers to be sober-minded and alert. And while I don’t believe Paul was specifically talking about alcohol in these passages, the principle still applies. It’s simple really. When you are sober, you think more clearly and are more likely to make smart decisions. Alcohol can cause us to say and do things we wouldn’t normally do. We lose a little bit of our self-control, which can lead us to sin if we aren’t careful.
  • We are to avoid alcohol altogether if we are going to cause another believer to stumble in their faith. (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:9) If I had a friend over for dinner who was once an alcoholic, what kind of person would I be to bring out a bottle of wine? We also need to be careful to avoid alcohol around other believers who feel it is wrong to drink altogether. Many Christians feel this way, and the Bible teaches us to honor and respect their view of alcohol by not drinking around them.
  • Never allow alcohol to destroy your Christian witness. (1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Peter 4:3-6) We are known by the company we keep. Jesus was known for spending time with sinners, but He never took part in their sin. If you spend all your time drinking and partying, you will be known for your drinking and partying. The world is watching. We never want the light of Christ to be clouded by the darkness of this world. If we choose to act like the world by partying and getting drunk, then how are they supposed to see the light of Christ in us?

 

The Bible does have some positive things to say about alcohol as well:

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. – Ecclesiastes 9:7

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart. – Psalm 104:14-15

 

Alcohol is often seen as a celebratory drink in the Bible. In the Law of Moses, God actually told the Israelites to purchase food and “alcoholic drink” with their tithe money so that they could celebrate their plentiful harvest in His presence. (Deuteronomy 14:24-26) Alcohol was also regularly seen in wedding feasts. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding celebration. It’s when alcohol is consumed in excess or causes us to sin (or others to sin), that it becomes a problem.

Drinking in moderation may seem like a simple solution to avoiding the sin of drunkenness, but what exactly does drinking in moderation look like? Is it once or twice a week? A glass of wine with dinner? Drinking only on special occasions? This is where it gets tough. Moderation is impossible to define, and it is different for everyone.

I have many Christian friends and family members who drink, and I do not believe that the Bible condemns moderate drinking as a sin. In the end, alcohol is a very personal issue – one that is between you and God. As seen in the scriptures, alcohol can be a “merry” drink of celebration for us to enjoy, but it can also lead to destruction if we’re not careful. As deceptive as alcohol can be, it may be wise to avoid it altogether.


After reading through all of your amazing comments, I decided to write two follow-up posts to this article to address some of the thoughts and concerns presented. Be sure to check them out below!

Christians and Alcohol: A Realistic Look at What the Bible Has to Say | alyssajhoward.com

 

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

**Photo by Serge Esteve on Unsplash.


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15 Comments

  1. I think you explained this perfectly and included most all of the relevant scriptures. I think most people have a hard time with this topic because they want to impose their personal freedom or self-imposed limitations upon others. Thank you for writing this article so accurately and well.

  2. Well written, Alysssa! You have shared a good balance of what the Bible says regarding alcohol. May we all obey what the Spirit is leading us to do on this subject.

  3. Well collected. I have been amongst those who drink alcohol and to see their behaviour even after a glass or two is disgusting. Even with Christians who feel they need their night cap are gripped by it. It is the alcohol that kills the cells of the body. After all what do we preserve insects in? Alcohol!
    Please be aware that the biblical wine is twofold. One is of grape juice, drunk by most people. The other is alcoholic. One is refreshing , the other a killer. I agree that whom ever you are, the alcohol is a destroyer of morals and I am not connected with the Lord properly while under the influence of alcohol . Those of my friends who have their tipple after dinner etc, will always argue that even the Bible says its ok to imbibe.

    1. Where in the bible does it say wine is grape juice ? Jesus turned the water into wine not grape juice. Grape juice becomes wine when it becomes formented. At the wedding party jesus saved the best for last that would be wine not grape juice . It doesnt make since to be the best of grape juice because it all grape juice taste the same. Also at a wedding party that last for hours who would want to continue drinking grape juice the whole time its not that good!

    2. How do you know it’s grape juice?? I am not a drinker..BUT.. the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.. God breathed… if that is true, and I believe it is, “Turn water into wine” is exactly that.. Wine..not grape juice…Gods Word is intentional.. precise.. and meant to be taken as it is written.

  4. When I got saved, Yeshua delivered me from alcoholism instantly! I would be one of those that would never encourage drinking; for we don’t which person will end up alcoholic or which drink we’ll become alcoholic. Nor will I cause my brother to srumble!
    Yes, I understand those scriptures; but I’ll error on caution??

  5. My pastor preached several years ago about the difference between the wine of bible days and the difference between it and what we have today. In bible times the water was not always the greatest quality so grapes were added to make the wine which was easier to drink. But it was a very weak version of wine, hardly alcoholic at all. There is a difference in how long the grapes are fermented and it was a paste (I think) that they made to add to the water. Those who drank the stronger version and to excess were called drunkards and that was not a good thing. I personally have seen it destroy families including my own so for me it is not even a consideration. I did drink when I was in high school and early college but once I got saved (at 25) that was one of the things I quit doing.

    1. I too have heard a sermon similar to the one you describe. To say that this topic is controversial would be a serious understatement. Even in seminary, my well-educated professors taught differing opinions… everything from saying that it was always grape juice to saying that it was alcoholic like our wine today (and everything in between!) I am actually currently working on an article discussing the various theories, and I will post a link in these comments when it is finished. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  6. The Hebrew word for wine used in the Bible is “yayin” and the Greek word used is “oinos” and can be referred to being fermented or unfermented. Wine was often used to purify the drinking water. Biblical wine was mixed with water. New wine was not alcoholic, but simply juice! The wine sold today is the strong drink that the bible forbidden. Today, alcohol is not mixed with water for purification, but instead is drank in it’s strongest form for an altered state of mind (tipsy or drunk). People need to understand that clean water was sometimes difficult in those times. Mixing wine with water kept those from drinking contaminated water.

    Verses referring to wine (fermented grape juice) causing drunkenness is a sin. If you are drinking the wine sold today…it causes an altered state of mind…in other words, you’re going to get tipsy. Being tipsy is essentially getting drunk. John the Baptist did not drink wine or beer because he was to be filled with the Spirit. Jesus would not contradict God and Himself by partaking in the drinking of fermented grape juice because Jesus did not sin. We are not to fill our bodies with poison, but to fill out hearts with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

  7. “Tirosh” is the Greek word for wine, which means “freshly expressed grape-juice in its natural condition.” I’ve always heard wine referred to as “fruit of the vine.” Jesus never sinned, therefore He couldn’t have consumed fermented, or alcoholic wine. It was people’s own misinterpretation of the bible that led them to assume the wine was alcoholic.

  8. Jesus first recorded miracle was to turn the water into wine after the guests already had too much. He would NOT have done this if alcohol or getting drunk were a sin! Also, later Paul advises Timothy to drink more wine for medicinal purpose, so alcohol in itself is not a sin. So I conclude that it is a sin if you drink it simply to get drunk or if you cannot control yourself.

    and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
    John 2:10 NIV
    https://bible.com/bible/111/jhn.2.10.NIV

  9. I go by…..”When in doubt…….DONT”
    If you are in doubt about the sinfulness of drinking alcohol – just DONT DRINK.
    So simple. No issue whatsoever.
    Stay blessed everyone.

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