Drinking alcohol beverages is outside of God’s will when we:
1. Overdrink or overindulge (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
2. Become addicted (1 Cor. 6:12).
3. Cause others to sin (Rom. 14:21).
4. Hurt ourselves or others (1 Cor. 6:20).
I had rather be a sober heathen than a drunken Christian.
I’m tired of hearing sin called sickness and alcoholism a disease. It’s the only disease I know of that we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to spread.
In respect to the consumption of wine, both the Old and New Testaments nowhere prescribe total abstinence. Only those bound by the Nazirite vow (Num. 6:3-4) and a few others are told to abstain (Lev. 10:9; Jer. 35:6, 8, 14; Eze. 44:21). The Scriptures, however, denounce the drunkard and warn him about the spiritual consequences of his intemperance.
Drunkenness is condemned in the Scriptures with the strongest of warnings. First Corinthians 6:10 tells us that “drunkards…will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.” In Galatians 5:21 it is listed with the other “deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19). Jesus spoke against drunkenness in Luke 21:34. All the examples of drunkenness in the Bible (Noah, Nabal, Belshazzar, etc.) resulted in bad consequences. Drunkenness makes it impossible to worship God. Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” We are to not fellowship with drunkards when they are professing Christians (1 Cor. 5:11; cf. Pro. 23:20). Drunkenness also often leads to other moral relapses. No wonder Proverbs 20:1 instructs us, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”
Another sinful use of alcohol is under-age drinking. In Romans 13:1 we read, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” It is our responsibility as Christians, unless they command we sin, to obey the government God has ordained over us. By law, the drinking age is 21. Consumption before that is not only unwise for several reasons, but is also sinful.
We all know people who are no longer with us as a result of drinking and driving, both being drunk and also being hit by someone who was drunk. Not only is drinking a motor vehicle while being impaired a violation of the law, it is also one of the most selfish actions we can commit. To strip a family of a parent or child simply because the person wanted to consume too much alcohol and was too cheap or too prideful or too lazy to call for assistance is in my opinion one of the most heinous sins. I believe Matthew 7:12 comes into play here: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Another occasion where alcohol is sinful is when our drinking causes another Christian to stumble. In Romans 14:12 we read, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” The same principle is repeated in 1 Corinthians 8 where we are told to not take our liberties in Christ and use them to erect “a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). As long as sin is not involved, believers have Christian freedom to use alcohol if their conscience permits. However, God is very concerned that our freedoms do not cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. The Greek word for stumble is “skandalon.” What we are talking about here is someone for whatever reason chooses to refrain from alcohol but is now being tempted to drink by your consumption of alcohol in their presence. The Christian premise – we always restrict our freedoms if it means honoring the convictions of those we love in Christ.
Alcohol is sinful when a person becomes addicted. It’s all over the Bible: In 1 Timothy 3:3, “[Elders must] not [be] addicted to wine.” The same is true for deacons (1 Tim. 3:8). The same is true for all believers. Isaiah 5:11 says, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!” Titus 2:3 calls “older women…to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine.” It is undeniable that alcohol is addictive. The consequences suffered as a result of alcoholism are devastating: Divorce, job loss, traffic accidents, breakup of families, destruction of the addict’s health and so on. We are called to be slaves to Christ (Eph. 6:5-6) which promises liberation, not slaves to a substance which always results in unrelenting bondage. 2 Peter 2:19, “for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” 1 Cor. 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” And let’s be clear, this is not a disease problem, this is a sin problem. It is mastery by an idol that one is in submission to. The question is this – is Jesus Christ your Lord or are you mastered by alcohol? Are you addicted? Ask yourself: When stressed out, is alcohol a better solution than Jesus? Do you forget what happens when you drink? Do you feel the need to have alcohol? Has a family or close friend shared concerns about your drinking? Do you make excuses for your drinking? Are you unable to stay within a prescribed limit of drinks? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be facing a problem. I’d encourage you to get some help!
The Hebrew word translated wine in Genesis 14:18 is “yayin.” This word is used over 130 times in the Hebrew Bible to mean fermented wine, not grape juice. Alcohol is advised for medicinal purposes. Paul told Timothy, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (cf. Pro. 31:6; Mk. 15:23; Lk. 10:34). Wine was used in the Old Testament ceremonies of worship (Ex. 29:40; Lev. 23:13; Num. 15:5). Wine is described positively in the Bible (Gen. 27:28; Psm. 104:15; Psm. 104:14-15; Pro. 3:10; Ecc. 9:7; Jo. 2:24). Water needed to be purified in the biblical times so wine was added to it. And although the alcohol content was less than today, it was still considered wine and still commonly consumed by the people. I believe Jesus drank this wine (Mt. 11:18-19), made a better wine during His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11) and used wine when He instituted the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 26:29). Yes, people like Daniel (Dan. 1:8) made a choice to abstain. Others like the Nazirites (Num. 6:3; Lk. 1:5) and the Levites (Lev. 10:9) were commanded to go without alcohol. Kings are advised to avoid it (Pr. 31:4-5). Yet I do not believe Scripture necessarily forbids a Christian from drinking alcohol. Consuming alcohol may be a sin. But I believe to declare that drinking alcohol is always a sin is a legalistic addition and should be avoided. We are free to abstain from alcohol. I personally think that’s the best position. But we are not free to condemn those who choose to drink in moderation as being either sinful or less spiritual.
Even if you are not violating any clear passages regarding the consumption of alcohol, here are a few thoughts to consider if you chose to drink: Are you in any way being deceived by alcohol? Does alcohol in any way damage your testimony for Christ? Does alcohol affect the positive example you are trying to set for your children? Do you in anyway need alcohol to be a part of your life? Does alcohol lead you to commit other sins? Can you drink alcohol for the glory of God?
Drunkenness is the devil’s back door to hell and everything that is hellish. For he that once gives away his brains to drink is ready to be caught by Satan for anything.
Whereas the Bible explicitly forbids drunkenness, it nowhere requires total abstinence. Make no mistake: total abstinence from alcohol is great. As a Christian you are certainly free to adopt that as a lifestyle. But you are not free to condemn those who choose to drink in moderation. You may discuss with them the wisdom of such a choice and the practical consequences of it, but you cannot condemn them as sub-spiritual or as falling short of God’s best.
Whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell…. The saloon is the sum of all villainies. It is worse than war or pestilence. It is the crime of crimes. It is parent of crimes and the mother of sins. It is the appalling source of misery and crime in the land and the principal cause of crime. It is the source of three-fourths of the taxes to support that crime. And to license such an incarnate fiend of hell is the dirtiest, low-down, damnable business on top of this old earth.
Alcoholism…has only gone from sin to disease. Because of the horrible consequences of heavy drinking on both the drinker and the family, no one is willing to say it is normal. Yet there are very few who would say that the abuse of alcohol is sin or, at least, solely sin.
The [unbiblical] language of alcoholism captures this [“disease”] experience.
1. “Treatment is best done in the hospital by professional medical personnel.”
2. “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. There is no true cure.”
3. “One drink, one drunk.”
4. “That’s the disease talking.”
5. “Medical treatments might soon be available.”
6. “You didn’t choose this, so how could it be anything but a disease?”
If you have ever been to an AA meeting, you know that while the cause is always spoken of in disease terms, the cure is decidedly moral. There are no medications dispensed or surgeries to be had. You arrest the course of the disease by saying no. You both give up your will to a higher power and determine, with the help of others, to live and abstinent life. According to the AA tradition and the disease model, you are not responsible for the cause but you are responsible for the cure.
The Bible has a different view of how we first get involved in addictions. Instead of explaining the overpowering urge for [something] as a disease, the Bible talks about our motivations and desires, forces so powerful that they can take over our lives. The Bible says that we first choose our addictions, and only then do our addictions choose us.
AA has been helpful for many people. It provides accountability, mutual understanding in an environment that doesn’t judge and wonderful support for many people. It does not, however, strive to find distinctively biblical answers to the problems of life. As a result, it is bound to have some problems:
1. Its disease model doesn’t really let anyone get to the heart of the matter… When we examine our hearts, we find is that the greatest danger is that we are hooked on ourselves… This means that even if I give up alcohol, unless I deal head on with my biggest problem, I will never truly find freedom. I will just find something else to serve my desires.
2. Its theory of change does not reveal the against-God nature of the addictive behavior. Even though we are not always consciously aware that our addictions are disobedient before God, the reality is that they are.
3. Jesus is optional. If it is true that addictive behavior is rebellion against divine authority, then addicts have no hope but to run to Jesus for forgiveness, cleansing, and power.
The knowledge of God [must become] our most important goal. After all, if the root of our problem with addiction is a problem of worship, then we need to learn who should be the true object of that worship. As this idea takes hold of your heart, you will find that you feel more at home in a good church than in an AA fellowship. You will draw strength and wisdom from sermons, find encouragement in corporate singing, be spiritually fed in communion, and search the Bible for the living God. You will come to know more about the God who is bigger than you ever thought: bigger in justice, in power, and in love. You will see how His greatness works in your behalf. One problem with AA is that the “God as you understand Him to be” is never large enough.
One of the problems [with the] disease model doesn’t really let anyone get to the heart of the matter. The addictive substance can be dangerous, but our hearts are more so. When we examine our hearts, we find is that the greatest danger is that we are hooked on ourselves. If I am an alcoholic, my ultimate idol is not the bottle. It is I. I idolize myself. My desires are of first importance. My cravings rule – cravings for popularity, freedom from pain, revenge, or freedom from frustrations at home or work. Addiction is self-worship. This means that even if I give up alcohol, unless I deal head on with my biggest problem, I will never truly find freedom. I will just find something else to serve my desires.
What about cravings? The Bible understands them well. It refers to them as temptations. The Bible recognizes that people with years of sobriety often still struggle with huge temptations. Sometimes this is just a normal part of the slow process of change. Sometimes it is simply a consequence of being reminded of something we once loved. But at other times it can be a result of mentally cherishing and nurturing the addiction while physically abstaining from it. Instead of asking God for a desire to hate sin at its roots, some people cling to the pleasant memories associated with their addiction. They remember that they once had a potent escape, whereas now they experience the pain of facing daily problems.
Idolatry…includes anything on which we set our affections and indulge as an excessive and sinful attachment… Idolatry includes anything we worship: the lust for pleasure, respect, love, power, control, or freedom from pain. Furthermore, the problem is not outside of us, located in a liquor store or on the Internet; the problem is within us. Alcohol and drugs are essentially satisfiers of deeper idols. The problem is not with the idolatrous substance; it is the false worship of the heart.
The biblical view of drunkenness – the prototype of all addictions – is that it is always called sin, never sickness. Drunkenness is against God and His law. Scripture is unwavering in this teaching and relentless in its illustrations. Noah (Gen. 9:18-27), Lot (Gen 19:30-38), Elah (1 Kings 16:9), and Nabal (1 Sam. 25:36) all portray the moral foolishness of being mastered by alcohol.
When you look at it closely, drunkenness is a lordship problem. Who is your master, God or your desires? Do you desire God above all else, or do you desire something in creation more than you desire the Creator? At root, drunkards are worshipping another god – alcohol. Drunkenness violates the command “You shall have no other gods before me.” Heavy drinkers love alcohol. They are controlled by it as if they were its subjects and it was their ruler-lover. This alcohol-worship, however, is actually a form of self-worship. We worship people and things to get what we want. Those who worship money do so in order to get what they want. Heavy drinkers drink neither to glorify God nor to love their neighbor. They drink to indulge their own desires, whether those desires are pleasure, freedom from pain, alleviation of fear, forgetting, vengeance, or a host of others.
[Alcoholism] is not like a disease. It is something we do rather than catch, we confess it rather than treat it, the disease is in our hearts rather than our bodies, and only the forgiveness and cleansing found in the blood of the Great Physician is sufficient to bring thorough healing.
It is interesting to note that secular approaches have embraced an approach to confrontation that mirrors church discipline. It is technically called intervention. In essence it says that we can no longer wait for people to destroy themselves and others. They must be presented with the facts about their problem. They are out of touch with reality and need others to present it to them. Furthermore, this is best done by a group of people who deeply love the substance abuser. Curiously, intervention is hailed as one of the most significant advances in drug treatment. Yet church discipline is the original and intervention the imitator.