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What's the Big Deal About Christians and Alcohol?

Last week I posted a blog about the need for Christians to allow the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to play a more active role in their lives. One of the examples I used was social drinking among Christians. Of course, this leads to the question of “What is the big deal about drinking alcohol? Do you really believe that it’s a sin for a Christian to drink?” Here are my thoughts on the subject: We live in a society where alcohol is easily accessible and socially acceptable. It’s seen as an ingredient for a good time. I realize that even in Christian circles, it is becoming more and more common to condone social drinking. I know that this topic has become controversial among Christians over the last few decades.

I was in college when it began to be popular to argue that this was a “gray area” that fell into Paul’s teaching on freedom in Christ. So, yes, I’ve heard all of the pro-alcohol and pro-recreational drug arguments including that Paul told Timothy to “drink a little wine for your illness”. (1 Timothy 5:23).

However, this is just one side of a very weak argument. As Christians who are committed to doing whatever it takes to live holy lives, I believe it is very important that we hear a different perspective.

Starting with the fact that there is no doubt that the New Testament clearly states that as followers or Christ we are to avoid drunkenness and intoxication is regularly included among the list of sins Christians are called to avoid.

1 Peter 4:3 says: "You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good." (The Message)

Romans 13:12-14 says: "So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."

1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7 state that anyone who wants to be in leadership in the church should refrain from drunkenness.

But what about Timothy? Didn’t Paul tell him it was alright to drink a little wine?

Well, as the Assemblies of God Position Paper on Abstinence from Alcohol says, “Paul’s counsel is a recommendation for medicinal use. Timothy was probably drinking only local water or other nonalcoholic liquids (likely impure). That he needed to be encouraged to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake certainly indicates that regular use of wine was not his lifestyle.”

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about alcohol or drugs for medicinal use. (Let’s be honest: cough syrup has alcohol in it—I’m not teaching against Robitussin.) When it comes to the topic of alcohol’s role in living a holy life, we are really talking about social drinking—using alcohol in a recreational setting. This has nothing to do with Paul’s instructions to Timothy.

Instead, it is about making a choice to compromise and participate in an activity that has traditionally been considered to be outside of the realm of what is right for Christians. Throughout my years of studying the Bible, I cannot find any passage of Scripture that says participating in this type of activity is a good idea (although there are many that say that using alcohol is unwise.)

If you would like to read a thoroughly laid out Scriptural argument encouraging Christians to abstain from alcohol and recreational drugs, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read the Assemblies of God Position Paper of Abstinence from Alcohol.

For the sake of this article, here are a few reasons that I believe that alcohol and recreational drugs are not compatible with pursuing a holy life.

Reality is that alcohol is not a harmless drink. Actually, it is ethanol, which is a sedative. Above the Influence says “When alcohol is consumed, it's absorbed into a person's bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing. Some of the side effects of drinking can include difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory and blackouts, mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, difficulty with muscle coordination, persistent learning and memory problems, liver disease, and unintentional injuries.”

This is one of my biggest objections to alcohol and recreational drugs: Why would we want to give over this kind of control to any substance? Why do we want to have our judgment impaired in this way? How can we be a good representative of Christ while we are under the influence?

Here are a few “what if’s” to consider:

What if we say or do something that ruins our reputation, or more importantly Christ’s reputation, while we are under the influence of alcohol?

What if our inhibitions are so lowered that we commit a sin we would otherwise avoid?

God forbid, how will our testimony ever recover if we injure someone while driving under the influence?

These are real practical questions that we need to evaluate and ask, “Is it worth the risk?”

Personally, I do not believe it is. Instead, I believe that as Christians seeking to live a holy life we need to heed Peter’s warning and choose to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:5, NIV)

As Christians seeking to live a holy life, I believe we need to obey the teaching of Ephesians 5:18 that says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (NIV)

The truth in this Scripture is that alcohol is a cheap substitute for the Holy Spirit. He can fill every need that you have without alcohol. So for the believer, there is no excuse for drinking.

For instance, if you feel stressed, pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help.

Do you need courage? The Holy Spirit can give you all the strength and courage that you need.

You don’t need to drown your sorrows. The Bible says that God wants to heal our broken hearts.

Do you need to feel happier? The joy of the Lord is our strength.

The truth is that if you really take a hard look at the practicalities, there really is no benefit to alcohol and recreational drugs for a Christian. To those who still feel that these arguments are not enough and that they NEED to have the right to drink, I have to ask, “Why is this so important to you?

If alcohol and recreational drugs are no big deal—-just a pleasurable gray area—-why are you willing to go to the mat for it?

Why are you so aggressively willing to do whatever it takes to be able to drink instead of sacrificing this small pleasure to do whatever it takes to live a holy life and live out your calling?

The thing is that I believe I have solid Scripture and personal evidence for why I believe drinking is wrong. Coming from a long line of family members who caused tremendous pain in their lives and the lives of their families because of alcohol, I just do not see where it helps a Christian’s lifestyle or witness. It just isn’t worth it.

You lose NOTHING by choosing to abstain from alcohol; but there’s so much you could lose by drinking.

So these are my thoughts. Before you argue or disagree, I urge you to pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as

you answer the question, “Why is this such a big deal to me?”

It’s something to think about.


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