Should Christians Drink?

The Elephant in the Room
There is a lot of controversy and debate over the acceptance of, or abstinence from, the use of alcohol. It has been a topic of debate but I believe the Bible is very clear on the subject, and does not leave room for personal interpretation.

To begin with, we need to define what “wine” was in the Bible frame of reference. There were two types of drinks from grapes, one was fresh squeezed grape juice, as the Butler brought Pharaoh in Joseph’s dream, in Genesis 40:11. The second was fermented wine, which so happened to be what Jesus made in John 2. So much so that the wedding coordinator said the groom saved the best wine for last, after everyone was already a bit buzzed. Through-out the Bible when people drank wine they were warned to not get drunk. There is no way to get grape juice out of the Greek text without doing origami to the text and creating something that is not there.

The first mention of alcohol is in Genesis 9:21, Noah drank until he was drunk, and it caused some major issues for himself, as well as for his family. We have the same problem with Lot in Genesis 19, he gets drunk, and again, issues arise in the family.

The issue that is emphasized in these two stories is not the drinking of the wine, but in getting drunk. This is made clear in Genesis 14 when Melchizedek, which most see as a type of Christ, or a theophany – God appearing in a physical form,. He brings bread and wine to Abraham and then blesses him. Also in Genesis 27 when wine is offered to God as a “drink offering”, and in v. 45 God honors that offering and says he will be the God of the Israelites.

There are many more Scriptures that make the distinction between drinking wine and becoming drunk in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Paul is very clear, in Ephesians 5:8, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” He goes on to can in I Timothy 3:2 that an Overseer should not be given to drunkenness. Verse 8 gives the same requirement to deacons, and Titus 3 to the Elders in the church. I Peter 4:3 takes it to even another level, calling drunkenness a thing of the old life that we have left behind.

So, again, the issue in the Bible is becoming drunk. Or allowing yourself to be put into a situation that you no longer have control, or become a slave to something, in this case, a substance.

Jesus turned water into wine in John 2 as the first miracle he performed. Paul says in I Timothy 5:23, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” More proof that the issue is not over the wine, but the addiction to and loss of control of it.

So, why does the protestant church condemn alcohol in most instances? Some is out of fear. It is better to set the guardrail far away from the edge than to tempt fate. Some of it comes from a passage in in Numbers 6:3 there is a reference to taking a vow as a Nazirite. This was a specific vow to not drink anything produced from the grape vine, to not cut their hair, and they will not go near a dead body.” This has been taken to mean that the vow pertains to Christians today, but most considering hair on a man to be inappropriate. So we see discrepancies in the interpretation of the text.

John Maxwell in his commentary on this verse says that it refers to three principles that are applicable today:
1. The discipline to not allow addiction or over indulgence in your life.
2. The refusal to allow fashion to dictate your decisions and self image.

3. The commitment to remain pure, life-giving and not life-taking.

So, if you read the Scriptures as a whole, the principle issue here for the New Testament Christian is not about taking a special vow, but in maintaining a lifestyle above reproach.

This is a very important issue. Again, Paul says in Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.”

He is basically saying to do everything you can to avoid becoming a trip-hazard for someone else. He goes on to say in I Corinthians 8:9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

Now, I know this is talking specifically about eating a specific type of meat that was an issue in their time. But replace the word meat with wine, cigarettes, overeating, whatever. My job is to realize that while “I have the right to do anything,” not everything is beneficial. I may have the right to do anything—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (I Corinthians 10:23-24)

Our first responsibility, as Christians, is to each other. We have alcoholics in our church that need to be protected. The church should be a safe place. The leaders and people around us should be people leading by example, not tempting us. Paul says in I Thessalonians 5:22, to stay away from anything that even looks like it is evil.

So, what is the stance of our ministry, church, staff, leaders, Elders, Trustees, and Overseers? That is a great question. While Deidre and I have enjoyed a glass of wine together on occasion, we will always be mindful of who we are influencing. Who we are around that may be watching our lifestyle, and looking for permission to do something that would cause them to stumble, hurt their relationships, or cause damage to their reputation. You will probably never see us drinking alcohol. We will never put it on social media to promote our freedoms at the cost of someone else’s life.

My advise, if you have a problem with anything that causes you to become enslaved to it, stay away. The goal is purity. Purity is based on integrity. You cannot walk in integrity when you are drunk, high, or whatever. They call it impaired for a reason. Allowing yourself to get drunk, drinking to become drunk, or any variation of that is not acceptable behavior for a follower of Christ.

If you do not have a problem with loosing control, do not flaunt it. Be mindful that there are people who watch you, look up to you, and are going to do certain things because you do them. Do not be guilty of hurting the faith of a “weaker brother.” Show restraint and respect for them.

So, enjoy the freedoms and liberties that come in Christ. Follow after the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF-CONTROL. (Galatians 5:22)

So we believe the statement made by Mark Driscoll on The Elephant Room, it is an issue of:
1. Don’t break the law
2. Don’t cause anyone to stumble

3. Don’t violate your conscience
4. Don’t glory in your liberty