IS DRINKING ALCOHOL A SIN?
Recently, one of COI’s finest young men asked this question: “Is there any verse in the Bible that calls drinking alcohol a sin?” This young man came in earnest search of biblical truth about alcohol. His sincere quest deserves the best answer possible. In recent days, I have pondered this question anew and asked the Holy Spirit to help me provide the best biblical position on this topic to this responsible and treasured young man.
Pastor Dan Gayman
This particular question might be more easily answered if it were phrased as such: “Is drinking alcohol something a Christian would want to do?” As Christians, our sincere desire to serve God wholeheartedly should ensure that we never want to live on the edge, participating in something that might be sinful. If you have doubt, that might be the first tip off that the activity is likely something a sincere Christian should avoid. Having said, that let us proceed to respond to this question.
My first response to this question is to give all the verses that oppose the use of alcohol, as there are many well known citations. Obviously, citing these many verses that clearly build a case against alcohol has not been effective in discouraging its consumption, because far too many people professing to be Christians are not bashful at all about tipping the bottle. Sadly, many of them get to the point where they either cannot live without it or feel they cannot have a good time without it. Binge drinking has become common for high school and university students everywhere. Alcohol is routine in the lives of far too many professing Christians. In my humble opinion, this ought not so to be.
The use of alcohol among professing Christians is commonplace. Too few are willing to exercise self-discipline and say, “No. Alcohol is not for me.” America is drowning in booze. Alcohol is the number one cause of death on our highways. The human carnage that follows in the form of divorce and physical and verbal abuse is reaching critical mass. Alcohol is a gateway drug that has precipitated the eventual path to prison for literally hundreds of thousands. With all that said, the human carnage, suffering, broken hearts, and financial losses seem to be insufficient evidence to inspire people to leave this drug alone. Tens of millions of Americans continue to indulge in the America’s favorite pastime.
Let us return to the question: “Is there any verse in the Bible that calls drinking alcohol a sin?” Please allow me to pose my own question in response: what does it mean to be a Christian, to be a follower of Jesus Christ? What is required of a disciple of Christ? In answering these questions, we shall provide the response the young man from COI deserves.
For a Christian, rejecting alcohol is the only consistent and biblical path to choose. Why? Because Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, is the Captain of our Salvation, the Head of the Church, Savior of the Body, King of the coming Kingdom, and Lord of our personal lives. To become a Christian, a Christ follower, this is required: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). What does it mean to “deny ones self?” Self-denial is the essence of Christian living and a godly mind and conscience. *******
St. Paul, the inspired writer of about 50% of the New Testament, describes a Christian in this passage: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Can we be crucified with Christ and drink a mind-altering drug? In Romans 12:1, God said this: “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Do we really believe that a body which God finds holy and acceptable is also a vessel for alcohol?
Consider these inspired words found in I Corinthians 3:16-17: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” After reading this, should a professing Christian pour alcohol into his body, the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit resides? Do we have any right to take a harmful substance into a body that belongs to God? “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” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). How can a Christian claim to want to glorify God in his body, but use a mind-altering drug to corrupt that body?
We read this in I Peter 1:15-16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Can a person use alcohol and still be holy unto God?
Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Do you believe that the “narrow way” includes the use of alcohol?
In I Corinthians 6:10, the Bible says that drunkards, along with other sinners, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Drunkenness, along with murder and other sins, excludes us from inheriting the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21). Is it possible that consuming a substance that will keep us from inheriting the Kingdom of God cannot be a sin?
In Luke 21:34, Jesus warns His children in against “…drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” St. Paul warns the followers of God to “walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, . . .But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:13). It seems to me that alcohol is indeed a provision for the flesh. But let us return to the original question: “Is there any verse in the Bible that calls drinking alcohol a sin?” Please ponder these verses and the questions that follow:
Romans 14:23 reads, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin?” Is drinking alcohol an act of faith, or is it making provision for the flesh? The Bible says in James, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Is drinking alcohol something good? If it is not good, is it sin? If alcohol is good, can someone please explain why tens of thousands of people die every year from alcohol-related deaths and accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, brain dysfunction, and other health problems? If alcohol is good, why is it a number one contributor to broken and dysfunctional families, divorce, spouse abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual crimes? Why do tens of thousands languish in prison from alcohol-related crimes? Again, please read: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Is it not sin to partake of a poison that will destroy the temple of God?
I John 5:17 makes the point that “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” Consider this: do you believe drinking alcohol is an act of righteousness? If drinking alcohol is not an act of righteousness, would that mean it is a sin? Can drinking a substance that causes death on American highways, the break up of the family, addiction, and prison sentences be considered an act of righteousness? All the afore-mentioned “fruits” result from consuming alcohol.
Examine the Bible, God’s Handbook for living, Genesis to Revelation. Compile every verse that speaks ill of alcohol and compare it to the very few verses that people use to justify drinking alcohol. The case against alcohol is enormous, while the case for using alcohol is weak at best, and easily refuted. I make this appeal to all who read this: carefully ponder the words of Evangelist Reed Benson in his book As for Me and My House. On pages 201-218, Mr. Benson, a heavy-weight theologian of sterling reputation and a complete abstainer, lays out his case against both alcohol and tobacco. Anyone will be well served to read this succinct and well-stated position. Let your heart, the heart of a converted Christian, consider his words.
If all I knew about alcohol were the damage it can inflict to the drinker and the innocent by-stander, it would be sufficient evidence to abstain from all forms of alcohol. As Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, said, “If you never start drinking alcohol you will never become an alcoholic.” The President of the United States abstains from all forms of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
No alcoholic ever planned to become one. He becomes an alcoholic because alcohol can quickly morph into an addiction. Most addicts live in denial of their problem. But alcohol destroys not only the body and mind, but the lives of everyone associated with the drinker. On top of all that, it is an expensive habit. And, if that were not enough evidence to leave it alone, it also pumps men full of estrogen, reduces their testosterone levels, enlarges their breasts, reduces their libido, gives them a beer belly, invites poor friends, plays with their brain, and destroys their Christian witness. What else do I need to say?
Now, for a final question: does a Spirit-filled Christian really need a foreign substance, harmful to body and mind, to gin up his spirit? Will you allow the Word of God answer this question? “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24). Consider this admonition from I Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Finally, James said this: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).