Alcohol and the Christian

by Dr. David Sampson on December 12, 2020

The use of alcohol is a controversial subject for many Christians today. Regardless of the debate, however, the only way to settle the issue from a Christian perspective is by analyzing the consumption of alcohol through the lens of a biblical worldview. Based on American culture, and even among some Christian circles, I am aware that my stance against drinking alcohol is not popular. However, believers are not guided by popular, worldly opinions nor liberal theology that is masked by a personal belief. The Christian must be guided by the truth of Scripture. The New Testament writers emphasize the danger of friendship with worldly compromise saying: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). James is saying—you are showing your desire for pleasure in the world is more important than the purposes of God. He is not talking about being friends with people, but an inner satisfaction with the world system that ignores the truth of Scripture. Dr. Kent Hughes argues:

"Believers who choose to pursue the pleasures of the world are ineluctably drawn to friendship with the forces of the world-system, which are at the very least indifferent to God and at the worst openly hostile to him. These friendships will ultimately spawn in the believer’s heart the same indifferences and hostilities, thereby turning a true Christian into a practical enemy of the God he claims and desires to love."[1]

Christians must embrace the noble practice of the Bereans mentioned in the New Testament. We are told the Bereans carefully examined the truth claims of Scripture—“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11…emphasis added.) The debate over alcohol consumption, which includes “social drinking” is nothing more than a clear departure from spiritual integrity which leads to a friendship with worldly desires. Many believers allow the culture to dictate what Christian ethics, spiritual integrity, and theological morals ought to be. Whenever worldly pleasures guide the believer’s way of life, you will find their spiritual influence as a witness for Christ impeded. Dr. John MacArthur explains the historical impact of Christians committed to godly living. He stated:

The only times the church has made any significant impact on the world are when the people of God have stood firm, refused to compromise, and boldly proclaimed the truth despite the world’s hostility. When Christians have shrunk away from the task of confronting popular worldly delusions with unpopular biblical truths, the church has invariably lost influence and impotently blended into the world.[2]

One cannot help to see the disturbing and damaging results of alcohol consumption in our world. In his 1991 book titled, Biblical Answers to Tough Questions, Dr. Charles Ryrie argues money used for alcohol consumption could quickly address some of the social problems we face. He writes,

"Think what could be done for other social problems if that money could become available for positive use! The grain used to make alcoholic beverages in one year in the U.S. alone would feed at least twenty million people for one year. If we could recover that grain for people in famine areas of the world, a basic resource could be used to save lives, instead of to destroy them."[3]

Since all humanity is corrupted by a sinful nature, man's depraved spirit possesses an insatiable appetite for pleasure, perverseness, power, and pride. The Apostle John says man's worldly desire stems from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). Sadly, our society is growing in their ungodly addictions the further they walk away from the truth of God's Word. Millions of Americans habitually use alcoholic beverages. No wonder domestic violence and divorce are increasing at an alarming rate—because many have given their lives over to alcoholism. Ironically, each one said: “I can control my drinking.” “I can socially drink without becoming drunk.” “My Christian liberty allows me to do what I want to do!” Friend, as a believer in Christ you are at liberty to do what you ought—not what you want.

To justify Christian social drinking, many will turn to (I Timothy 5:23), where Paul told Timothy to use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake. Let’s look at the context more closely. First, he said a little and not a lot. Secondly, it was for his infirmities (i.e., sickness), not for pleasure. Third, the Bible speaks of the evil of wine. It produces hardships on those who partake in excess (Isaiah 5:11). Alcohol will lead to disgrace and even judgment (Amos 6:6-7). Another thing to consider is the wine today is not like the wine of biblical times. According to Dr. Norman Geisler:

The wine that was used in the biblical times was mixed with three parts water to one part wine, thus diluting it to a relatively harmless amount of alcohol. When this was taken in this minimal amount in conjunction with a meal, there was little chance in a non-alcoholic society for it to be personally or socially harmful. The same is not true today, since the wine, beer, and whiskey being imbibed is by biblical standards “strong drink.” And this is even more problematic in an alcoholic culture where one out of ten persons who begins to drink becomes a problem drinker.[4]

I find it disturbing when believers try to justify why they should not obey the mandate of Scripture that clearly states: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Corinthians 6:17). My mind immediately goes back in history to the theologians who championed the cause of Christ around the world preaching— “be ye separate!” Where is the evidence of their work, effort, and legacy? Has it been buried beneath the moral decay of the church and the depraved culture of the day? It is extremely disconcerting that the craving of some Christians is liquor and not the Lord.

The believer in Christ, and especially the spiritual leadership, is to strive to be temperate. The Greek word translated “vigilant” in I Timothy 3:2 is (nēphalios) meaning without wine or to abstain from wine. The word speaks of sobriety—the very opposite of intoxication. The believer in Christ is—saved, sealed, sanctified, and should be sober! As one preacher said: “Many things can be preserved in alcohol, but Christian character is not one of them.”

 What’s The BIG Deal?

The big deal is the believer’s neglect to heed the various warnings given in the Bible concerning the consumption of alcohol and the repercussions social drinking brings upon our witness for Christ.   

  • Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
  • Proverbs 23:29-33 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
  • Isaiah 24:9 They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.
  • Habakkuk 2:15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
  • 1 Corinthians 6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Ephesians 5:18 "Be not drunk with wine."
  • Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest…drunkenness…”
  • 1 Peter 4:3 “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine…”
  • Romans 14:13 “…but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”

Digging a little deeper, let's consider Genesis 9 and the sad story of Noah's drunkenness. The Bible says in Genesis 9:20"And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard." After the flood, Noah planted perhaps the first vineyard, made the first wine, and ended up the first man to get drunk. From that drunkenness came the shameful episode where Ham saw his father's nakedness, which led to the family's breakup and the fragmentation of the human race. This example from biblical history stands as a warning to all who would minimize the dangers of drinking alcohol. 

My point is this—

The Bible warns us repeatedly about the dangers of alcohol and the damaging spiritual consequences of social drinking. It is deceptive, associated with sinful activities, becomes a stumbling block to others, and can lead to many tragic results. If you have been trying to justify your drinking while reading this blog, read the piece below from Ann Landers titled, Positively Negative, and see if you find yourself in the words: 

  • We drank for joy and became miserable.
  • We drank for sociability and became argumentative.
  • We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious.
  • We drank for friendship and became enemies.
  • We drank to help us sleep and awakened exhausted.
  • We drank to gain strength, and it made us weaker.
  • We drank for exhilaration and ended up depressed.
  • We drank for "medical reasons" and acquired health problems.
  • We drank to help us calm down and ended up with the shakes.
  • We drank to get more confidence and became afraid.
  • We drank to make the conversation flow more easily, and the words came out slurred and incoherent.
  • We drank to diminish our problems and saw them multiply.[5]

I want to encourage you to stop drinking alcoholic beverages and get under the spout where the glory of the Lord runs out! Don’t be a stumbling block to others. Begin today drinking from the Lord’s well of joy and start walking in humble obedience to His Word. In eternity when you stand before the Lord face-to-face—you will be glad that you did.

Missional Until He Comes,
Dr. David L. Sampson
Titus 1:3


[1] R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith That Works, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 176.

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr., Why One Way?: Defending an Exclusive Claim in an Inclusive World (Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group, 2002), 4.

[3] Charles C. Ryrie, Biblical Answers to Tough Questions (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1991), 127.

[4] Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask: a Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), 500.

[5] Ann Landers, The Chicago Tribune. (Positive Negative) Verse On Adverse Effects Of Alcohol (January 15, 1999) (accessed June 8, 2014.)

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