While the Bible doesn’t explicitly say “don’t drink alcohol,” God clearly warns us that alcohol is dangerous and deceptive, telling us only foolish people think they can control it (Proverbs 20:1). In two of the earliest Biblical mentions of the use of alcoholic beverages (Noah in Genesis 9:21-24 and Lot in Genesis 19:32-35), drinkers are subjected to abuse, shame, contention, and a curse.
Of course, the Bible labels drunkenness as a sin: I Peter 4:2 calls “excess of wine” a sin; Galatians 5:21 calls it a “work of the flesh;” and Ephesians 5:18 directly contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine.
Some seem to think those facts leave a gray area where moderate alcohol drinking is acceptable. But that conclusion misses out on the overall testimony of Scripture and fails to fully appreciate what it means to follow Jesus.
Here are 10 Biblical principles for Christian living that make alcohol consumption difficult, doubtful, and detestable:
Christians are salt and light in the world.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us that we are to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). That doesn’t mean we’re here to spice things up or make the party hop. Instead, Christians are to have a transforming effect–like turning on a light transforms dark, dreary rooms and like fertilizer (salt is actually a fertilizer) transforms an barren field.
Christians may not stop bad behavior, but we should have a positive influence on the world, which won’t happen if we’re part of the problem or even promote the problem (Romans 2:32).
Christians care about people.
With alcohol being a major contributor to murders, car accidents, hospitalizations, incarcerations, domestic abuses, birth defects, and suicides, why wouldn’t good people in any society be against it? How much more, Christians who believe that God made mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)?
Not only do we believe that mankind has inherent value, worth, and dignity worth fighting for, we should appreciate and fight for it even more since we’ve experienced the redeeming grace of Jesus.
Christians are controlled by the Spirit.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul writes that Christians are to be controlled by the Spirit of God, not by the chemicals in alcohol. That most certainly means that we should avoid being drunk. But it also means we should only be controlled by God.
If we aren’t to be “under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12), except the indwelling Holy Spirit, how can we justify needing alcohol for social settings or just to get through a day or weekend?
Christians are concerned about their brothers.
In Romans 14, Paul addresses a controversy in the early church where members had differences in their views of eating meat. In verse 21, he says “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” That’s after he says (verse 7), “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”
While I can’t be saved or live right for my brother, I certainly do have some level of responsibility to encourage or “edify” my brother.
With 1 in 8 Americans suffering from some sort of real drinking problem, the chances are pretty good (assuming we’re doing our job of reaching the world) that at least a few of our brothers have a drinking problem. Even if you argue (as many do; but I do not) that Christian liberty allows you to drink alcohol, you run the risk of allowing “this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (I Corinthians 8:9).
Christians take drastic action as needed to do right.
In the context of discussing lust in the heart, Jesus recommends taking drastic action to prevent the damage of sin, including cutting off body parts (Matthew 5:27-30). With that in mind, it’s perfectly reasonable to cut off alcohol if it threatens harm to us, our family, our church, or a Christian brother or sister.
Christians are sober in all things, because we are at war.
When addressing persecuted churches, Peter told them that the “end of all things is at hand” (I Peter 4:7). He says that should spark prayer, love (verse 8) and sharing of all that God has given (verse 9-10). But he emphasizes that these acts are to be done with sobriety (verse 7).
Later on in the book (5:8), Peter also warns that the devil is a lion looking for the snoozing antelope. The best defense? Be on the alert and be sober!
Christians operate by faith, not feelings.
In Romans 12, Paul begins the practical application of the glorious doctrine of salvation unveiled in the earlier chapters. Key to this application is having a renewed mind (verse 2), one that is not tuned to the world, but tuned to the will of God (understood through the revealed Word of God, the Bible).
While the culture around us (particularly in the United States) suggests that alcohol is just part of everyday life, the Christian should be taking his cues from Scripture. In addition to warning about alcohol, the Scripture defines being drunk differently that the state Highway patrol. The Bible says drunkenness is when you drink to the point of being unsteady (Job 12:25), disoriented (Psalm 107:27), contentious, having slurred of speech, having bloodshot eyes, and having unexplained injuries (Proverbs 23:29-30).
Christians are clear-headed, avoiding impaired judgment.
Christian leaders–specifically pastors and deacons–have been given specific orders to stay away from alcoholic beverages (I Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7). And these people are supposed to be examples to the rest of the church about how to best practice orthodox doctrine (Titus 2:7).
But pastors and deacons aren’t the only leaders in the Christian family. We have all been made Kings and Priests by the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:10). As such, we all have been advised to abstain from mind- and judgment-altering substances (Proverbs 31:4-6, Leviticus 10:9).
Christians take care of their bodies.
The Christian’s body is no longer his own, it is the home of God Himself, the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19, John 14:16-17). This truth certainly has implications for other things that we eat and drink, what we wear, where we go, and the regularity of exercise and other self-care habits. But it clearly has implications for the consumption of alcohol, which causes heart and liver disease, certain cancers, and pancreatic issues.
Christians separate from sinful things.
The Christian is encouraged to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22) and to be as holy, or distinct, as God Himself (I Peter 1:16). We are to be different and live lives that put off the scent of the Gospel (II Corinthians 2:15-16).
Alcohol consumption is, arguably, associated with a litany of sinful activities within the larger culture, notably binge and underaged drinking. And the scent emitted–both literally and figuratively–usually doesn’t connote the Gospel.
Even if you can successfully navigate the pitfalls, why do you want to drink alcohol? How close to wrong are you trying to get? What is your intent for arguing and indulging in what you claim as “Christian liberty?”