The argument rages among Christians as to the moral rightness of alcohol consumption. Conservative Christians view the drinking of alcoholic beverages in any form and in any quantity as a sin. More liberal Christians do not see anything wrong with the moderate consumption of alcohol, citing drunkenness instead as the sin that people should abstain from. What does the Bible say about the consumption of alcohol? We shall examine relevant portions of Scripture in an attempt to find the answer to this contentious issue. In the first part of this article, we will focus on what the Bible says about excessive consumption of alcohol that leads to drunkenness. The second part of the article will examine the issue of moderate consumption of alcohol in the light of Scripture.
Drunkenness may be defined as a temporary state of intoxication caused by excessive consumption of alcohol (Offline English Dictionary). The first recorded case of drunkenness in the Bible involved Noah, a righteous man who found favour with God to escape the catastrophic judgement that befell the ante-diluvian world. He planted a vineyard after the flood, drank from the wine thereof, and had a profound mind-altering experience.
Genesis 9:20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.
Genesis 9:21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.
Genesis 9:22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.
How sad that the first recorded incident of drunkenness in the Bible involved a prophet of God! This shows no one is immune from the powerful influence of alcohol on the mind, when taken in large quantities. That a prophet of God could lose control of his mind and lay totally naked and exposed to the view of all, without a care in the world, shows what a cruel mocker alcohol can be! Alcohol has the potential to bring such shame and reproach to a man! That is exactly what Scripture says.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Proverbs 23:31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
Proverbs 23:32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
Proverbs 23:33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.
Proverbs 23:34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
Proverbs 23:35 They struck me, you will say, but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.
This is what excessive consumption of alcohol is capable of doing: taking over a man’s mind and distorting his perception of reality. The picture of drunkenness depicted above shows someone who has lost control of himself and has ceased to act responsibly. Inebriation disinhibits people, making them act without restrain or caution. It makes people talk and act without self-control. Insobriety also makes people do dishonourable things they regret later when they become sober. Above all, chronic consumption of large quantities of alcohol is addictive, with the potential to make one become dependent on it and want more of it, in spite of its deleterious effects. Alcohol, when taken without moderation, has the potential to enslave, and what a wicked slave master it can be!
Genesis 19:30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.
Genesis 19:31 And the firstborn said to the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.
Genesis 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.
Genesis 19:33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
Genesis 19:34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.
Genesis 19:35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
Genesis 19:36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.
Genesis 19:37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day.
Genesis 19:38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
Lot, a righteous man who, along with his two daughters, had just escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, was made drunk with excessive alcohol consumption (masterminded by his daughters). In his insobriety, Noah’s daughters raped him, got pregnant thereby and sired children for their father! What an abomination! Under the influence of excess alcohol, people can do abominable acts, and can be taken advantage of, to be made to do despicable things they can only regret when they come back to their senses, after the effect of the alcohol has worn off.
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink,
Proverbs 31:5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
Proverbs 31:7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
Ecclesiastes 10:17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
Inebriation blurs the senses and alters perception of reality, leading to errors in judgement and regrettable actions. Wine and strong drink, taken immoderately, mask pain and awareness, and transport people into a world of fantasy. Acting as an anaesthetic, they numb people’s mind and make them forget their problems, instead of confronting them. Hiding from reality is no way to live! No wonder the Bible warns us to flee from drunkenness.
Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
Leaders of God’s people are enjoined to abstain from drunkenness, as this will affect their judgements, actions and reputation. A drunkard cannot lead God’s people. Aaron and his sons were warned not to drink alcohol before going into the tabernacle to minister before God, to avoid ministering in drunkenness!
Leviticus 10:8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying,
Leviticus 10:9 Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.
In appointing elders (overseers) and deacons for the New Testament assemblies, those addicted to much wine are to be excluded from consideration. A drunkard cannot lead himself, and so cannot lead God’s people!
1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
1 Timothy 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1 Timothy 3:3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.
1 Timothy 3:9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
Titus 1:6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
Titus 1:7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,
Titus 1:8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
Markers of moral responsibility and spiritual maturity among believers include sober-mindedness, self-control and moderation in all things. Addiction to alcohol and dependence on it negate all these characteristics outlined above.
Titus 2:2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.
We are admonished in Scripture to walk in an honest, orderly manner, and to avoid drunkenness, which will certainly derail our Christian race. Drunkenness overcharges and weighs down our hearts and numbs our spiritual sensibilities, thereby reducing our alertness. It is therefore capable of making us miss the coming of the Lord!
Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
Luke 21:34 But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
Luke 21:35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Luke 21:36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
The Scripture not only warns us against excessive consumption of alcohol and the attendant drunkenness, it also forbids us from associating with fellow Christians who are drunkards! Not only does avoiding them help preserve us from the temptation of being lured into their sinful act, it’s also a way of shaming them, to help them reconsider their sinful practice and repent.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Drunkards are sure to come to poverty, because not only do they spend the bulk of their income and time on wine and strong drinks, alcoholic intoxication renders them weak, sickly and unable to work. Chronic alcoholism destroys health, wastes income, steals time, lowers productivity and leads to poverty. That’s what the Scripture says.
Proverbs 23:19 Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.
Proverbs 23:20 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
Proverbs 23:21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
The Scripture makes clear the fate of drunkards: unless they repent and become converted, they will end up in the lake of fire, for they cannot inherit the kingdom of God as drunkards!
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
1 Corinthians 6:10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
Galatians 5:21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In conclusion, we see that drunkenness, occasioned by immoderate consumption of alcohol, is expressly forbidden by Scripture and constitutes a grievous sin. The act alters the mind and one’s perception of reality, inhibits self-control and opens the door to other vices and sinful acts. Drunkenness also affects health and relationships with both God and man, as well as greatly impoverishing the addict to wine. Finally, unrepentant drunkards will be excluded from God’s kingdom and will instead have their portion in the eternal lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone. Christians are therefore enjoined to flee from drunkenness because it kills physically and spiritually!
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