16 Feb Christians and Alcohol: Part 1
In John 2:1–12, we find Jesus performing the first of roughly three-dozen miracles. There, He takes ceremonial washing basins intended to hold water and turns that water into wine. Next time you are in church, just imagine the kerfuffle that would ensure if the preacher prayed over the baptismal and all of its contents consequently turned into a very high-quality cabernet.
The issue of alcohol is a controversial one in Christianity, with some groups having no problem with moderate alcohol consumption (e.g., Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian). Other Christian groups advocate for zero alcohol consumption (e.g., Methodists, Baptists, many Charismatic and Pentecostal churches). In this short series of devotions that are part of my yearlong study of John’s Gospel, we will examine alcohol use legally, biblically, historically, and personally.
God’s people are to obey the laws of God and government so long as the government’s laws do not contradict God’s law. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Pertaining to alcohol, this means that Christians should obey their nation’s age of consumption and drunk driving laws. When we violate these laws, a crime is committed.
In addition to crimes, the Christian is supposed to avoid sins. Sins are the violations of God’s laws that call us to a higher standard of living than the government’s laws. For example, if you are home alone and get drunk, you have not committed a crime that the police will arrest you for, but you have committed a sin that God the Spirit will convict you of at the level of conscience.
Regarding alcohol, perhaps it is best to start with the obvious. All Bible-believing Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin.
The Bible is abundantly clear that drunkenness is a sin (Deuteronomy 21:20; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Matthew 24:29; Luke 12:45, 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3).
The matter is so serious that no priest was to drink alcohol while performing his duties (Leviticus 10:9; Ezra 44:21), though he could consume while not working (Numbers 18:12, 27, 30). Additionally, no leader was to drink while making a legal decision Proverbs 31:4–5), a church leader cannot be a drunkard (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), and no drunkard can inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21).
Sins and poor behaviors associated with drunkenness in the Bible include incest (Genesis 19:32–35), violence (Proverbs 4:17), adultery (Revelation 17:2), mockery and brawling (Proverbs 20:1), poverty (Proverbs 21:17), late night and early morning drinking (Isaiah 5:11–12), hallucinations (Isaiah 28:7), legendary antics (Isaiah 5:22), murder (2 Samuel 11:13), gluttony and poverty (Proverbs 23:20–21), vomiting (Jeremiah 25:27, 48:26; Isaiah 19:14), staggering (Jeremiah 25:27; Psalm 107:27; Job 12:25), madness (Jeremiah 51:7), loudness combined with laughter and then prolonged sleep (Jeremiah 51:39), nakedness (Habakkuk 2:15; Lamentations 4:21), sloth (Joel 1:5), escapism (Hosea 4:11), depression (Luke 21:34), and staying up all night (1 Thessalonians 5:7).
Have you, in the past or present, abused alcohol by partaking in a way that was sinful and/or criminal? Do you need to get help for this problem? Do you know someone that needs help for this problem?