Is It a Sin to Drink Alcohol?

There are some scriptures that might, at first reading, seem to teach total abstinence from wine and other strong drink. Here is one example:

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” . . . “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
(Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-35)

These verses are among those often quoted by those who believe that it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages. They claim that this passage proves it is sin to drink wine, and by extension, any drink containing alcohol. However, this scripture does not say these things. What then does it say?

It warns that:

The excessive drinking of alcohol is a sin. The winebibber drinks too much and too often.

Improper use of alcohol is as poisonous as a snake’s venom (verse 32).

God’s children should avoid company with winebibbers (verse 20; see also Matthew 24:49; I Corinthians 5:11).

Poverty is just one potential negative result of drunkenness (verse 21).

Other potential—even probable—negative consequences of chronic drunkenness include woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, nightmares, addiction, lack of self-control in speech and other matters, and bodily injuries without apparent cause—the cause being forgotten because of drunken stupor (verses 29, 33-34).

We should not tarry long at wine (verse 30) [yeah, drink it fast…
{just kidding! 😝*}].

Seriously though; what the last warning is *actually saying, is that when a person lingers where alcohol is consumed he/she can so easily become a winebibber, or in plain, modern English, a drunkard. God, through Paul, lists drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh, warning that no drunkard will inherit God’s Kingdom:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,” . . . “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:19, 21).

OLD TESTAMENT APPROVAL

God’s Word shows that it is perfectly fine to drink wine in moderation. It is replete with accounts of the proper uses of wine—accounts of people considered righteous according to God’s standards. Here are some examples:

Melchizedek brought some wine to His meeting with Abram: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” (Genesis 14:18).

When giving his blessing to his son Jacob (who he thought was Esau), Isaac drank wine and asked for plenty of wine as a blessing from God:

He said, “And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.” . . . “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:” (Genesis 27:25, 28)

Is it likely that Isaac would have asked God to bless his son with an abundance of wine if he knew that He forbade it? Wine was included in other blessings too. Through His servant Moses, God told the Israelites that wine would be included in the many blessings He would pour out upon them if they would obey Him:

And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.” (Deuteronomy 7:13)

Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.” (Deuteronomy 33:28)

Here we read of wine promised by God for the Israelites as a blessing for obedience. Conversely, if they were to disobey Him, He solemnly warned them that He would take their wine and vineyards away from them as a curse:

Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.” . . . .
And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:39, 51)

In many scriptures in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—too many to list here—God commands that wine be used in Israel’s drink offerings to Him. In addition, God’s people are commanded to pay to Him His tithe of all the wine they produced: “The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.” (Deuteronomy 18:4).

In His instructions on the proper use of the festival tithe (or “second tithe,” as it is often referred to today) for the celebration of His feasts, God authorizes the purchase and use of wine and similar beverages (Hebrew shekar: “strong drink” or intensely alcoholic liquor):

And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.” . . . “And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,” (Deuteronomy 14:23, 26).

NEW TESTAMENT APPROVAL

The instruction and example continues throughout the Old Testament. However, in turning to the New Testament, let us begin with a question. In the transition between these two eras of time covered by the volumes we call the Old and New Testaments, did God change His mind regarding the use of alcohol?

It is certainly true that drunkenness and excess of alcohol are as clearly condemned in many New Testament scriptures as they are in the Old (see Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Romans 13:13; I Corinthians 5:11; 6:10; 11:21; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21; I Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 2:3; I Peter 4:3).

Jesus and His apostles mention wine and other strong drink numerous times in the New Testament, but nowhere do any of them say that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is wrong. A few verses strongly indicate that Jesus Himself liked the occasional glass of wine:

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34)

Why would anyone call Him a winebibber if it were anything other than wine that He had been seen drinking? Jesus drank wine with His disciples at His last Passover service, promising that He would again join them in a glass of wine after their resurrection: “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29).

The very first miracle Jesus performed was to turn water into wine (John 2:1-10). Some have argued that, at the Cana wedding, Jesus changed the water into unfermented grape juice, not wine. However, the Greek word translated “wine” throughout John 2:1-10 is oinos (οἶνος), which means “fermented wine.” Not only did Jesus condone the proper use of wine, but He knew what the qualities of a good wine were, a fact confirmed in Luke 5:39: “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

The apostle Paul follows His Master’s lead on this subject. In the same letter to Timothy in which he soundly condemned excessive alcohol consumption (I Timothy 3:3, 8), Paul advises him to drink some wine to help ease his chronic stomach problems: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (I Timothy 5:23).

God gave us wine and other alcoholic beverages for our enjoyment and so that we may learn to use them properly. We can develop character by properly exercising wisdom and self-control in consuming them. However, if one has a low tolerance for alcohol or one is an alcoholic, the wisest course is to abstain from them altogether (with the exception of the small amount to be taken during the Passover service {except of course an alcoholic} ).

The proper use of alcohol is a great responsibility, but it is only the wrong use of it that is sin.

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