The Bible’s Answer
The Bible’s answer to this question is no, drinking alcohol is not a sin. If it were, we would not expect Jesus Christ to turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:3–10; 4:46), or for Paul to suggest Timothy to drink a little wine for his “stomach” and “frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). Furthermore, Jesus instituted both bread and wine as the elements to be used during Holy Communion (Matthew 26:29)—which he would not have done if the consumption of alcohol were a sin.
Drunkenness Is a Sin
We should take note of the fact that while the consumption of alcohol itself may not be a sin, drunkenness is. Paul wrote: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, …” (Ephesians 5:18, ESVUK). Drunkenness is a sin because to get to that stage one must drink in excess. Rather than fill ourselves with wine, though, we ought to be filled with the Holy Spirit, who wants us to exercise self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
Isaiah also condemns drunkenness, when he said: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!” (Isaiah 5:11). Moreover, King Solomon writes some of the side effects of drunkenness:
Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. … Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. … “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. (Proverbs 23:31–35)
When people are drunk, they do not behave normally. Some may become rude, others violent, others lascivious, or others silly and inept. Is this the sort of state that Christians—ambassadors and followers of Jesus Christ—ought to willingly put themselves in? What sort of image would this give of the church to non-Christians? Clearly, such sinful behaviour would not glorify God, either.
Requirements for Christian Leaders
Furthermore, one of the requirements for being a pastor or deacon is that they must be “sober-minded”, “not a drunkard”, and “not addicted to much wine”:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:2–3)
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. (1 Timothy 3:8)
The fact that drunkards are not allowed to enter such high, noble, and important offices of the church shows how serious God is about wanting us to exercise self-control and only drink in moderation. Christian leaders, more than anyone else can give the church a bad image when they give themselves over to debauchery. Their debaucherous behaviour can also negatively impact Christian laypeople who are struggling with alcohol addiction.
Alcohol As a Stumbling Block Vs Legalism
We need to be careful, when dealing with this topic, to not take one of two extremes. The first is to carelessly drink alcohol on any social occasion, even while knowing that it might cause some people to struggle. For example, certain people may be in the process of recovering from alcohol addiction. Paul said that if our eating or drinking of particular foods or drinks causes a brother or sister in Christ to stumble, we should cease doing so:
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Romans 14:20–21)
The second extreme is to condemn all those who drink alcohol, even those who only do so in moderation. Some Christians abstain from alcohol for personal religious reasons. There are Christian denominations, such as the Baptist Church, and other religious groups, which abstain as a whole, for the same reason. Abstaining from alcohol shows commendable faith and dedication, especially since social drinking is popular in most Western cultures, but to condemn all who drink in moderation is to commit the sin of legalism. That is to say, they are creating their own law, which God has not established, and imposing it on others as if it were divine. Paul warned against this when he said:
Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (Colossians 2:16)
Paul continued by saying that prohibitions of certain foods and drinks have “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20–23). In other words, abstaining from alcohol, or any other food, should only be for personal religious convictions or health reasons, and should never be forced or imposed on others.
The Bible teaches that it is okay to drink alcohol, but only in moderation. To drink in excess and thus become drunk is condemned by the Word of God. This is especially true for Christian pastors and deacons, who can only enter into such roles if they are not drunkards or addicted to wine. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we should exercise this in all that we do, including our drinking. Furthermore, we need to be careful that we do not drink alcohol in the presence of someone who may struggle with us doing so. Finally, it is perfectly fine to abstain totally from drinking alcohol for personal convictions or health reasons, but we should never turn this into a “divine law” and impose it on others.
If you have ever gotten drunk, are genuinely sorry for it, and desire forgiveness from God, then please read the article below.