Is it wrong to drink alcohol?

Giotto The Marriage at Cana 1303

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Question: : I am somewhat confused. I have some Christian friends who drink wine with their meals and they have told me that in John chapter two Jesus was at a wedding and they had run out of wine and Jesus turned water into wine. And also in 1Timothy 5:23 it was suggested to stop drinking only water and use a little wine for your stomach. Now I was saved and raised in a Baptist Church. We were always told to be teetotalers. Is drinking wine a sin unto the Lord? Who is right?

Answer: The Bible makes several ideas about alcohol very clear.

One, alcohol is not to be consumed so as to make one drunk. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine instead of water for his stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23), but he also said in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” Proverbs 23:29-35 gives a vivid description of the poor soul who is given to much wine. Not being given to drunkenness is a requirement for elders (pastors, 1 Timothy 3:3). Those who find themselves craving alcohol are under the control of something other than the Lord, and this is wrong.

Two, alcohol is to be enjoyed in moderation by those whose conscience is clear that it is not a sin for them to drink. Psalm 104:14,15 says God provides “wine that gladdens the heart of man” and so it becomes a standard of the value of other things in comparison (Song of Solomon 1:2, “your love is more delightful than wine”).

But for those who have been taught that it is wrong to drink it would be violating their conscience if they drank and that would be a sin. Paul talks about this in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 under the concept of eating things sacrificed to idols. Those who had come out of a pagan culture and embraced the Way of Christ many times felt it was wrong to eat meat that had come from a sacrifice to an idol and then sold in the market place. And since they did think it was wrong, for them it was wrong.

However, this does not mean it is wrong for everyone. If your conscience allows you to drink alcohol within the Biblical guidelines, then you may drink and no one should judge you for this. But because many who may feel they have the freedom to drink know that it causes others to drink contrary to their consciences, or that it causes undue issues and questions, gladly sacrifice this freedom to better serve others.

For Jesus to create wine by miracle (and apparently it was high quality wine, which surprised the guests there) at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2) means He did not feel it was wrong in and of itself to drink, or he would have been encouraging sinful behavior in the wedding guests.

Randall Johnson

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