To Drink Or Not Drink?

Is drinking alcohol a sin?

Many years ago, God convicted me of the use of alcohol.  I have never had a problem my whole life.  I liked to have a margarita or glass of wine now and then with my friends.  But, for some reason, after becoming a Christian, I felt increasingly guilty about it the further I got in my faith walk.  Why?  Was drinking alcohol a sin?  I decided to research it for myself and find out what God had to say about alcohol.  Whatever He said, I decided I would do.  After my studies, I made a lifetime decision for Him, I would never touch alcohol again.  Why would I make such a strict commitment?  Read my research for yourself and see how God convicts your heart on this issue.  You may be surprised at how often and under what terms alcohol is referenced in the Bible…

Wine is described as venomous poison in Prov 23:32, Deut 32:33.  It’s called the ‘cup of trembling’ in Isaiah 51:17, the ‘cup of fury’ in Jeremiah 25:15.  And drinkers of intoxicating wine are described as ‘sick’ and ‘inflamed with wine’ in Hosea 7:5.  These don’t sound like very favorable terms to me!

Let’s take a deeper look into references to wine (alcohol) in the Bible…

The life and patterns of the drunk are spelled out in Proverbs.  You would think the writer of Proverbs was alive today. 

  • Prov 23:29-35 “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 lingers long over wine, trying out new drinks.  Don’t let the sparkle and the smooth taste of wine deceive you.  For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent; and stings like a viper.  Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things.  And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea (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 seek another drink.”

How true are the verses from Proverbs 23.  Alcohol’s appeal is great to many.  One’s inhibitions are down, one feels ‘more fun and open,’ but these lures are deceptions from Satan, himself.  Those who get drunk will sometimes have black outs, not remembering what happened (:35) and will more than likely compromise themselves in ways that they would not if they were sober.  You say things you would never say (:33) and see things you would never see (Prov :33).  You stagger and make a fool out of yourself for all to see (:34)

  • Isaiah 28:7-12 shows how man is turned away from God by drinking.  It clearly shows God’s disgust with it.  God is so angered by it, that He plans to make them prisoners in foreign lands…  “…Israel is being led by drunks!  The priests and prophets reel and stagger from beer and wine. They make stupid mistakes as they carry out their responsibilities.  Their tables are covered in vomit; filth is everywhere….”  :11 “Since they refuse to listen, God will speak to them through foreign oppressors who speak an unknown language.  God’s people could have rest in their own land if they would only obey Him, but they will not listen.”
  • Deut 32:32-35 states that alcohol destroys life and that harsh punishment is coming. “Their vine grows from the vine of Sodom, from the vineyard of Gomorrah.  Their grapes are poison and their clusters are bitter.  Their wine is the venom of snakes, the deadly poison of vipers.”  God goes on to say in :35 “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it.  In due time their feet will slip.  Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will over take them.”

It’s bad enough that you drink yourself, but when you invite others over to party and drink with you, you are heaping an even harsher judgment. 

  • “How terrible it will be for you who make your neighbors drunk.  You force your cup on them so that you can gloat over their nakedness and shame.  But soon it will be your turn! Come, drink, and be exposed! Drink from the cup of the Lord’s judgment, and all your glory will be turned to shame.” Hab 2:15-16

God clearly sees drunks as being fools. 

  • Hosea 7:5 “On royal holidays, the princes get drunk.  The king makes a fool of himself and drinks with those who are making fun of him”  The verses go on to say that the king’s destruction is already being plotted.

Who else does God call as ‘fools’ in the Bible?  For starters, those who: commit adultery, carry resentment, are ignorant, slander, do wrong for fun, are quick tempered, despise their parent’s discipline, feed on lies, don’t desire wisdom, wander, are dishonest, scheme, are not trusted, repeat their sins, lets anger rule, are proud, plot evil, are blind to the truth, will die, ramble on and on, thinks only about having a good time now, doesn’t think about the future, make their own gods, store up earthly wealth, do not do good deeds.

Drinking leads to condemnation and eternal ruin:

  • Isaiah 5:22-25 “Destruction is certain for those who are heroes when it comes to drinking, who boast about all the liquor they can hold.  They take bribes to pervert justice.  They let the wicked go free while punishing the innocent”  :24 “Therefore, they will all disappear like burning stray.  Their roots will rot and their flowers wither, for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty.  They have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  That is why the anger of the Lord burns against his people.  This is why he has raised his fist to crush them…”
  • Jer 25:15-16  “Then the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me, “Take from my hand this cup filled to the brim with my anger and make all the nations to whom I send you drink from it.  When they drink from it, they will stagger, crazed by the warfare I will send against them.”

You might not have an issue with alcohol, but there are many Christians who have had that problem and are prone to relapses.   If you drink in their presence, you are tempting them to sin and if they give in, you are guilty of sin. 

  • 1 Cor 8:9-13  “But you must be careful with this freedom of yours.  Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble.”  :12 “You are sinning against Christ when you sin against other Christians by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong.  If what I eat (or drink) is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again [or drink] as long as I live – for I don’t want to make another Christian stumble.”

In the final days, God describes his judgment as being put through a winepress (where wine was made).  If God relates punishment to the making of wine, how does it appear He really feels about wine? 

  • Rev 14:19-20 “So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  And the grapes were trodden in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.”

If God is so against alcoholic drink, what about ‘wine’ that was served with the last supper?  Why did Jesus say his blood was the wine? 

Think about it.  God forbid yeast (leaven) to be present in the ‘Festival of Unleavened Bread” and thus the “Passover Meal.”  It is mentioned 57 times in scripture in a negative sense.  Exod 23:18 states “Sacrificial blood must never be offered together with bread that has yeast in it.”  & Ex 34:25 “You must not offer bread made with yeast as a sacrifice to me…”  In order for grape juice to become wine, it had to be fermented, or in other words, the frosty-looking skin of the grape, called “bloom,” would need to catch the airborne yeast and enzymes that ferment the juice of the grape into wine  (Today, yeast is added to speed up the process).

  • “For seven days, you may eat only bread made without yeast. On the very first day you must remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast at any time during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel.”  Exod 12:15

Yeast is also seen as a devastating & multiplying effects of sin in the Bible…

  • Matthew 16:6  “Watch out!  Jesus warned them.  “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  16:11-12 “How could you even think I was talking about food? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ “Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about yeast or bread but about the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • Luke 13:21 “It is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough.”
  • Gal 5:9 “But it takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others–a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough!”

Since God did not allow yeast (a sign of sin) in an offering to Himself, He would have never allowed it be used in this meal or in the Last Supper.  Jesus would have never disobeyed God’s laws. 

In the literal Bible translations (those that are not made easier for reading purposes), the Last Supper drink is never referred to as wine in any of the Gospels, but rather the fruit of the vine (or grape juice) (Matt 6:29, Luke 22:18, Mark 14:25)

Why, then did Jesus change ‘water’ into ‘wine’ at the wedding in Cana?  This was again, grape juice.  Grape’s were from God’s creation, wine was man’s creation (adding yeast).  Intoxication is not the process of God (or desired by God).  It’s man’s additive.  Jesus could not have provided wine at Cana because it would have been in direct opposition to the commands from Proverbs 23:31.  Sweet grape juice would have brought joy to the party from the Lord as it would have been a heavenly drink compared with the bitterness of water.  The Bible never teaches that happiness is the result of an artificial stimulant such as alcohol.  In fact, it teaches that true happiness is only found in the Lord.

So, the only conclusion would be that what Jesus called, “wine” was really unfermented (with no yeast) wine, or essentially grape juice.  Jesus would have never violated this verse from Prov 23:31 “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup , When it goes down smoothly.”

So, does God come right and say “Thou shall not drink.”?  No, He doesn’t, but He does say that you should not get drunk:  Eph 5:18 “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.”   And, He does say that we shouldn’t even look at it (Prov 23:31).

God also states that drunks will not inherit the Kingdom of God…

  • 1 Cor 6:9-10  “Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers–none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.”

How about those in the Bible who would not drink alcohol? 

  • Levitical Priests:  Lev 10:9 “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be kept by all future generations.”  Ez 44:21 “The priests must never drink wine before entering the inner courtyard.” After Jesus, we, as Christians are called priests.

God’s followers from the families of Recabites:  Jer 35:6 “but they refused [the wine]. “No,” they said. “We don’t drink wine, because Jehonadab son of Recab, our ancestor, gave us this command: `You and your descendants must never drink wine.”  :8 “So we have obeyed him in all these things. We have never had a drink of wine since then, nor have our wives, our sons, or our daughters.”  :12-14 “Then the Lord sent a message to Jeremiah “The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says.  Go and say to the people in Judah and Jerusalem. ‘Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me.  The Recabites do not drink wine because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to.  But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to listen or obey.”

John the Baptist wasn’t even allowed to touch alcohol.  He was called ‘great in the eyes of the Lord.’:  Luke 1:15 “for [John the Baptist] will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or hard liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.”Matt 11:18 “For John the Baptist didn’t drink wine and he often fasted, and you say, `He’s demon possessed.’”  – As a Christian, we are called to do as John did and make disciples.  Wouldn’t we, therefore, want to model John’s example?

  • Matt 28:19 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Samson was never allowed to touch alcohol, even while he was still in his mother’s womb: 

  • The Lord said to Samson’s mother:  Jud 13:4 “You must not drink wine or other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food.  You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut.  For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth.”

If we are to oversee in any area of the church, whether we teach Sunday School, or lead a small group, we are to be blameless… 

  • 1 Tim 3:1-3 “For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach.  He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money.”

I think that it is very clear from the scriptures referenced, that is the wisest choice to refrain from all alcoholic beverages for all of the above reasons.  It should be very apparent how God really feels about alcohol.  As a devout follower of Jesus Christ it is our job to be above reproach in every area possible.  This is an easy area for us to control – just abstain!  Do you really need a drink to make you feel good?  If so, then you are not living by God’s spirit.