6 Truths About Alcohol in the Bible (is drinking a sin?)

Is drinking a sin? What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? 

Few topics have been debated in Christian circles as much as alcohol in the Bible. What’s interesting about the debate surrounding this topic is that it’s relatively new. Throughout most of Christian history the consumption of alcohol in moderation has been widely accepted and rarely condemned.

Not only has it not been condemned, but beer and wine have played a role in church tradition. The Guinness family created their famous Irish Stout as an act of worship to God. John Calvin had a 250-gallon wine stipend written into his church contract. And there were many monks that brewed their own beer. It wasn’t until more recently that we started to question whether drinking is a sin.

I’ve seen numerous articles written on this topic. Yet despite all the content, I see very little clarity. So in this article I want to look at drinking in the Bible and see what it really says.

What Does The Bible Say About Drinking Alcohol? 

What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? If you are a follower of Jesus this is the first and most important question that we should ask. In the midst of all our thoughts and feelings, what should take precedent is what the Bible actually says. 

Let’s start by looking at some of the most commonly used Bible verses about alcohol: Ephesians 5:18, Numbers 28:7-10, Proverbs 20:1, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 5:23, Proverbs 23:20-21, Romans 14:21, Isaiah 5:22, Leviticus 10:9, Ecclesiastes 9:7, 1 Timothy 3:8, Proverbs 31:6-7, Deuteronomy 7:13, 11:14

If you want a more exhaustive list check out: List Of Bible Verses About Alcohol

If you read through these passages what you will see is alcohol talked about in various ways. Sometimes the dangers of alcohol are warned against (Ephesians 5:18). While other times alcohol is talked about in a more positive light (Amos 9:14, Ecclesiastes 9:7). The Bible doesn’t take a black-and-white approach to drinking. It warns against the dangers and talks about the blessings. 

What often happens with the topic of drinking in the Bible is that Christians drift towards the verses that support their view and ignore the others. 

The Bible lives in this tension with the issue of drinking. It never condemns it, but it often warns against the abuse of it. And we should live in this tension too. So let’s break down these verses into truths we can pull from alcohol in the Bible. This will help us better see if drinking is a sin. 

6 Truths About Alcohol In The Bible 

Here’s what the Bible teaches us about alcohol. 

1. The Bible Portrays Alcohol As A Blessing From God 

This might be surprising to some, but throughout the Old Testament alcohol is regularly seen as a blessing from God. 

Deuteronomy 7:13, 11:14 for example say that wine is a blessing from God and a few chapters later it says having no wine is a curse (Deuteronomy 28:38, 51). Psalms 104 says that wine gladdens the heart of man. And let’s not forget that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine… and no it wasn’t grape juice.

These are verses you will likely never hear preached on in church. But the reality is the Bible teaches that alcohol can be a good and enjoyable thing. That’s not to say there’s no warnings. We’ll deal with those in the next point. But anyone who wants to claim drinking is a sin has to face the sometimes positive light the Bible talks about alcohol in. 

2. The Bible Continually Warns Against The Abuse Of Alcohol

The Bible holds drinking in tension. On one hand it talks about how it can a blessing. But on the other hand it warns of the damaging effects it can have if it’s abused. 

Many times the Bible says that drunkenness is a sin (Ephesians 5:6, Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3 to name a few). Oftentimes the word that is translated as drunkenness also carries with it the connotation of a perpetual state of being drunk. In other words, the Bible is warning of the damage that being addicted to alcohol can bring.

The Bible is clear that alcohol can be abused, and that is a sin. 

These passages have led many to the conclusion that all drinking is a sin, because of the dangers of abusing it. However, we ought to be careful and not add to the Bible. What is clear is that the abuse of alcohol is a sin. 

3. The Bible Says People Are More Important Than Your Freedom

It might seem that up to this point that as long as you don’t get drunk or become addicted it’s okay for Christians to drink. But this issue isn’t just a personal decision; it’s one that needs to be made in community. We should consider how our decisions affect those around us. 

The Bible talks about this in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. We should be considerate of others’ struggles, and we should strive for unity rather than creating division. 

4. The Bible Says The Gospel Takes Precedent 

The primary mission of Christians is to tell those around us about what Jesus has done (Matthew 28). Nothing should hinder that. 

There are certain cultures and countries where drinking would prohibit the spread of the Gospel. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 is trying to drive that home. If your drinking hinders someone coming to know Jesus then we should abstain. The Gospel is more important. 

5. The Bible Says Alcohol Is Good For Medical Reasons 

The Bible talks about the medicinal qualities of alcohol. Paul told Timothy, “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness.” (1 Timothy 5:23)

There are some that say drinking is a sin because there’s no health benefits. And as modern medicine advances there’s much better options to deal with issues. But in the First Century there were certain benefits to the occasional drink. 

6. The Bible Never Forbids Alcohol In Moderation 

Here’s the bottom line. Alcohol is never outright forbidden. There isn’t a single verse in the Bible that forbids drinking in moderation. There’s also no verse that classifies exactly how many drinks you can have and exactly what drunk is. It’s a grey area of the Bible. The only thing that’s clear is the abuse of alcohol through drunkenness or addiction that is a sin. 

Those claiming that all drinking is a sin don’t have support from the Bible. The Bible keeps this issue in the grey, up for each Christian to decide what’s the wisest and most loving thing for them to do. 

So, Is Drinking A Sin? 

So, is drinking a sin? No, drinking is not a sin. There’s simply nothing in the Bible that says all drinking is a sin. 

Why then do so many Christians push for the abstinence of drinking when it’s not in the Bible? I think it comes from a good place. The abuse of alcohol has caused incredible damage and pain in so many lives. Rather than advocating for moderation many simply claim that we must avoid it altogether.

But again, we ought to be careful not to add to what the Bible says. When we add rules that aren’t in the Bible we are making it harder for people to come to know Jesus. The Bible never condemns the consumption of alcohol but rather the abuse of it.

Just because something CAN lead to abuse doesn’t mean it has to be avoided. Under that logic, we should all get rid of our money to fend off materialism. The Bible talks a lot about the dangers of money, and yet almost no one is advocating for Christians to rid themselves of their money. 

Just because alcohol can be abused doesn’t mean it needs to be avoided in all situations. It means that we should act cautiously. We should keep a close eye to make sure nothing takes the place of God in our life. 

Whether that be alcohol, money, sex, pride, our desires, or even our own family. We don’t need to avoid those things just because they might do us harm. Rather we should see them as they are intended and not elevate them to an unhealthy level.

There are some topics that the Bible never gives a straight answer for. I know this makes some uncomfortable; we like to know exactly where that line is. Exactly where our actions become sin. But in some topics the Bible just doesn’t do that. 

So, how should Christians decide if they are going to drink or not? Here’s two questions to help you wisely make that decision. 

  1. What’s the wisest and most loving thing for me to do?
  2. How will this affect those around me? 

A hard lesson for us to learn is that while we may have the freedom to do something, it still has a consequence. We may lose influence because of the choices we make. There are people in our life that we have the opportunity to positively influence. There are relationships worth holding onto. How will your decision in these grey areas affect people in those circles? 

You will never leave an impact on anyone if you just hold onto your freedoms and do what you want. Sometimes you have to give up something so that you can gain influence in someone’s life to help them see the change they need to make. That’s why Paul said, “I will become all things to all people so that I may win a few.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Each person is in a unique situation and will have to determine this themselves. Who’s around you that you can impact? And in light of them what is the wisest and most loving thing for you to do? We might have the freedom to do something, but that doesn’t always make it the best thing for us to do.

FAQs About Drinking In The Bible 

I want to end by answering some of the frequently asked questions about alcohol in the Bible. 

1. Wasn’t Wine Basically Grape Juice In Bible Times? 

This is an argument that’s gained momentum in recent years, that wine in the Bible is really nothing more than grape juice. Or it was so diluted with water it doesn’t really count as alcohol. You could drink as much as you wanted and not get drunk. Therefore Jesus nor the Biblical writers advocated for drinking. But the problem is that it is not substantiated in Scripture.

It is true that many of the wines probably had a slightly lower ABV (Alcohol by Volume) than today’s wine. However we know from the Bible that the wine still had plenty of kick in it to get wasted on. That’s why Jesus was accused of being drunk on wine (Luke 7:34). And that’s why the Bible warns against getting drunk on wine. 

Also, wine isn’t the only alcoholic drink mentioned in the Bible. The Bible also talks about a “strong drink” made with fermented barley, aka beer. This rudimentary beer contained an average ABV of 6% – 12%, certainly not a low alcohol count.

The Bible strongly warns against the overconsumption of beer. But in moderation, it is encouraged. God even commands the Israelites to go buy beer and celebrate before the Lord (Deuteronomy 14:26).

The alcohol in the Bible did not have as low alcohol content as some claim. We know this from what the Bible says and from historians who have studied alcohol during this time period. 

2. Will Drinking Hurt Your Witness? 

We’ve already touched on this a little above. But this is a common question, so I wanted to address it from the other side. Some people claim drinking is a sin because it hurts your testimony. 

Now there is some truth in that. In some cultures drinking will hurt your ability to reach those around you.

However, the vast majority of non-Christians are not put off by drinking in Western culture. But they are put off by arbitrary rules created by Christians. I doubt my unbelieving friends will ever be turned away from God because they see me sipping a beer. It might actually help your witness to have a beer with your neighbor and break down some of the misconceptions about Christianity.

In the majority of cases drinking will not hurt your witness in America. Of course that will depend on where you live, that’s not universally true. However for the most part drinking in moderation will not hurt your witness in Western societies.

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Jeffery Curtis Poor
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