Is it alright for a Christian to drink moderately?

The fol­low­ing sev­en state­ments appear in the arti­cle “Wine” in the fourth edi­tion of David Cloud’s Way of Life Ency­clo­pe­dia of the Bible & Chris­tian­i­ty. The state­ments are sev­en answers to the ques­tion, “Is it alright for a Chris­t­ian to drink moderately?”

The impli­ca­tions are impor­tant to rec­og­nize and are the rea­son I am post­ing my replies to the state­ments: (1) If mod­er­ate drink is wrong, one can­not par­take of the wine of the Lord’s sup­per, and (2) if mod­er­ate drink is wrong, Jesus Christ is a sin­ner, for He drank and was accused of being a drunk­ard for it. Regard­ing point 2, I like that Jesus point­ed out that even if He had abstained from wine — as did John the Bap­tist — objec­tion would have been found with that as well! 

Is it alright for a Chris­t­ian to drink moderately?

No, even slight drink­ing impairs one’s think­ing and low­ers alert­ness to spir­i­tu­al dan­ger (1 Pe. 5:8,9).

Here is 1 Peter 5:8, 9 for those who do not have a Bible handy:

Be of sober spir­it, be on the alert. Your adver­sary, the dev­il, prowls about like a roar­ing lion, seek­ing some­one to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, know­ing that the same expe­ri­ences of suf­fer­ing are being accom­plished by your brethren who are in the world. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

The verse says to be sober. It does not say, “Don’t drink alco­hol, in mod­er­a­tion or oth­er­wise.” Be care­ful not to add to the bib­li­cal text: sobri­ety pre­cludes drunk­en­ness, but it is very pos­si­ble to drink wine while remain­ing sober.

When I was in my ear­ly teens, I was shown that a very tasty milk shake can be made by mix­ing togeth­er vanil­la ice cream, milk, vanil­la extract, and a wee bit of orange juice. Now, accord­ing to fed­er­al guide­lines, “pure vanil­la extract” must be at least 35% alco­hol. I can’t say for sure what we used at the time was the pure stuff and not imi­ta­tion, but assum­ing it was pure and that I did ingest just that tiny bit of alco­hol, was I in vio­la­tion of the “Be sober” com­mand? Does a few mil­li­liters of alco­hol make one a drunkard?

If you say no, you are forced into the very mud­dy, very tra­di­tion­al (not scrip­tur­al) grounds of “how much is too much,” rather than let­ting the Scrip­tures stand by mak­ing the divi­sion “sober/drunk” rather than “sober/any alco­hol at all.”

No, Chris­tians are not to be con­trolled by liquor (Ep. 5:18).

Here is Eph­esians 5:18 for you:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dis­si­pa­tion, but be filled with the Spir­it. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

I have no dis­pute the Scrip­tures for­bid drunk­en­ness. When one is speak­ing of “drink­ing in mod­er­a­tion,” how­ev­er, one hopes to avoid the sin of drunk­en­ness. The same sit­u­a­tion is par­al­leled in food: we eat in mod­er­a­tion to avoid the sin of glut­tony. Note that eva­sion of glut­tony is not achieved by per­ma-fast­ing; why then is it taught that the only way to avoid drunk­en­ness is by being a teatotaler?

No, Chris­tians are priests, and the Bible for­bids priests to drink (1 Pe. 2:9; Le. 10:8,11).

Here are the verses:

But you are a cho­sen race, a roy­al priest­hood, a holy nation, a peo­ple for God’s own pos­ses­sion, that you may pro­claim the excel­len­cies of Him who has called you out of dark­ness into His mar­velous light. 1 Peter 2:9, New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

The Lord then spoke to Aaron, say­ing, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, nei­ther you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meet­ing, so that you may not die–it is a per­pet­u­al statute through­out your generations–and so as to make a dis­tinc­tion between the holy and the pro­fane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spo­ken to them through Moses.” Leviti­cus 10:8–11, New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

I’m amazed that any­one would try to impose Levit­i­cal guide­lines upon the church, but alas, here we are. Read the quote from Leviti­cus a few times and take care to note that the priests are not told to always abstain from alco­hol. Rather, they were told that when they come into the tent of meet­ing, they were to be sober. This would be equiv­a­lent, then, to instruct­ing Chris­tians to, when they come to the place of assem­bly (church), not to drink strong drink or wine.

It should also be not­ed that Christ, our High Priest, is a priest after the order of Melchizedek and not of Levi. Christ’s priest­hood is ancient and eas­i­ly pre­dates the Levit­i­cal Law, so it can­not be made to show that Christ did not drink wine either.

No, Chris­tians are not to touch the unclean thing (2 Co. 6:17–7:1).

The vers­es:

“There­fore, come out from their midst and be sep­a­rate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will wel­come you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daugh­ters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. There­fore, hav­ing these promis­es, beloved, let us cleans our­selves from all defile­ment of flesh and spir­it, per­fect­ing holi­ness in the fear of God. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

Wine is not the sub­ject in ques­tion here. Upon what basis is it “unclean”?

No, Chris­tians are to abstain from every form of evil (1 Th. 5:22).

Abstain from every form of evil. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

For this verse to apply to wine and not sim­ply to sin, one must imag­ine it to mean such. Wine is nowhere termed to be evil. Indeed, even our Lord Jesus Christ enjoyed it, for He came eat­ing & drink­ing and found Him­self accused of being both a glut­ton and a drunk­ard (Matthew 11:19)! One does not get accused of being a drunk­ard by not drink­ing wine! By not drink­ing wine, you may get your­self accused of hav­ing a dev­il, but cer­tain­ly not of being a drunk­ard (Matthew 11:18)!

If drink­ing wine is “a form of evil,” Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, the Son of the Liv­ing God.

No, Chris­tians who drink cause oth­ers to stum­ble (Ro. 14:21).

It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do any­thing by which your broth­er stum­bles. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

Please take a look at the pre­ced­ing verse, which gives the con­text of verse 21. Verse 20 says, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.”

Did you catch that? All things indeed are clean. That means the objec­tion raised above about Chris­tians touch­ing no unclean thing is invalid — wine is clean, and the Bible says so. So why does verse 21 say that it is good not to drink wine? Again, verse 20 pro­vides the answer, that being if some­thing we ingest offends some­one else, that thing is evil for us.

The whole of Romans 14 is an enlight­en­ing chap­ter in this mat­ter. In it we find that noth­ing is unclean in and of itself, unless one per­son­al­ly believes it to be (v. 14). We also find that we should not judge oth­ers by what they eat, yet we our­selves should not eat any­thing which caus­es a broth­er to stum­ble (v. 13).

If you are with a broth­er who would be offend­ed by wine, it is your Chris­t­ian duty not to drink wine around them. If you are with a broth­er who would be offend­ed by the eat­ing of meat, it is your Chris­t­ian duty not to eat meat around them.

How­ev­er, sim­ply because there are some who are offend­ed does not dic­tate how we may live when they are not around.

Per­haps most impor­tant is that regard­ing eat­ing & drink­ing, we are unable to judge our brethren, being remind­ed that we shall all give account of our­selves before God on our own (vv. 10–12).

No, wine is a mock­er and a deceiv­er (Pr. 20:1).

Ah, this one seems to be a “case closed” thing, does­n’t it? Let’s see the verse:

Wine is a mock­er, strong drink a brawler, And who­ev­er is intox­i­cat­ed by it is not wise. New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible

We have already seen in the New Tes­ta­ment that not only is wine con­sid­ered “clean” for believ­ers, but it was also a drink enjoyed by our Lord Jesus Christ.

So it comes as no sur­prise that even Proverbs 20:1 fails to make wine out to be evil. Rather, intox­i­ca­tion — the sin of drunk­en­ness — is point­ed out again. For the mod­er­ate drinker, wine is not a mock­er nor is strong drink rag­ing. Only those who are deceived by wine, enrap­tured by it, led astray by it find out that rather than bring­ing hap­pi­ness, they find sor­row. Wine mocks the drunkard.

That’s it, all sev­en rea­sons why a Chris­t­ian should­n’t even drink wine in mod­er­a­tion. If you take any­thing away from this short response, I hope it is that care should always be tak­en in using the Scrip­tures. Far too often to sup­port tra­di­tions, Scrip­tures are used as proof texts whol­ly dis­con­nect­ed from their own con­text or with lit­tle regard to what the verse actu­al­ly says.

Such wrest­ing of the Scrip­tures to sup­port all man­ner of man’s tra­di­tions is destruc­tive, and it is about as spir­i­tu­al­ly fruit­ful as an athe­ist attempt­ing to use Psalm 14:1 to sup­port his case that “there is no God.”






18 responses to “Is it alright for a Christian to drink moderately?”

  1. Keith Avatar

    It isn’t for me…not so much from a “Bib­li­cal” per­spec­tive, but more because my father and broth­er are alco­holics. I’ve seen and lived the dam­age alco­hol does. I can’t think of one pos­i­tive things re: alco­hol in our soci­ety today.

  2. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Well, there is the whole remem­brance sup­per… “bread and wine.” ;)

    I under­stand your point, though. And such is the nature of human­i­ty. Some peo­ple fall into glut­tony the moment they walk through a buf­fet restau­ran­t’s doors, oth­ers over-indulge on drinks, and so on.

  3. Justin Avatar

    The way I see it, the Bible con­demns get­ting drunk, not drink­ing. But, what is the best way to not get drunk? Don’t drink. So, I’ve decid­ed, per­son­al­ly, that I won’t drink except for the month­ly shot of church wine. But this is just my con­vic­tion, and I don’t enforce it on anyone.

  4. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Care­ful with that log­ic, how­ev­er. The best way to not be a glut­ton would be to not eat, yet we know that is a ridicu­lous demand. Wine was an assumed part of life through­out the his­to­ry of both the Bible and the Church itself; the con­cept of total absti­nence is quite recent.

  5. Justin Avatar

    Ah, but where­as food is nec­es­sary for the body, wine isn’t. :)

  6. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Tim­o­thy was told by the Holy Spir­it-inspired Paul to use wine to improve his life. For Tim­o­thy, it was nec­es­sary. If not, one must con­cede that the Holy Spir­it gives unnec­es­sary advice, which I’m cer­tain­ly not pre­pared to do.

    Most of the food we eat is unnec­es­sary any­way. (I say as I’m munch­ing on a bag of Lay’s ‘tato chips…) So while wine may be unnec­es­sary (though the Lord’s Sup­per could pro­vide a grand rebut­tal to that), its lack of neces­si­ty is by no means a mark against it, any­more than choco­late being unnec­es­sary is a mark against it.

  7. Justin Avatar

    :) Where does Paul say this? I’m not doubt­ing you, I would just like to know.

    As for most of the food, this is true. But still, it is more nec­es­sary than wine. And, the Lord’s Sup­per, I think, is more nec­es­sary for our spir­i­tu­al life rather than the body, but I could be wrong.

    And I’m not say­ing any­thing is wrong with wine, I’m just say­ing that, because it is unnec­es­sary for my body and because it could pos­si­bly lead to drunk­en­ness, I would rather just avoid it except for the Lord’s Supper.

    I sup­pose you could ask if I avoid choco­late, which I hon­est­ly answer no, but that’s because I think I don’t need to wor­ry about glut­toniz­ing (is that a word? oh well), more than I would about becom­ing drunk. I think I would be able to rec­og­nize when I’ve had too much choco­late, but if I’m drink­ing, I might not be able to (then again, I’ve nev­er drank alco­hol apart from those sips of wine at hol­i­days, which I always hat­ed any­way. Hahaha!).

    I dun­no, like I said, this is just my view and I don’t enforce it on any­one else. I read­i­ly acknowl­edge that some peo­ple can han­dle an alco­holic bev­er­age mod­er­ate­ly with­out get­ting drunk, and as long as that is the case then I sup­port their deci­sion to drink. I just want to take cau­tion for myself.

  8. Angie Avatar

    It is impor­tant to know that the wine of today is much stronger than the wine in Bible days. The wine today is give a high­er alco­hol con­tent by grain alco­hol being added, etc. Nat­ur­al fer­men­ta­tion of grapes and their juice makes a weak­er form of alco­hol, which would require more to be con­sumed to bring about drunk­en­ness. Fer­ment­ed foods of dif­fer­ent kinds were very com­men in bib­li­cal days because, of course, there was no refrig­er­a­tion. So, God had them pre­serve many foods (veg­eta­bles [cab­bage, car­rots, beats, etc.], fruit [dates, grapes, etc.], etc.) through fer­men­ta­tion. This kind of fer­men­ta­tion is also good for the body due to the organ­isms that pro­duce the fer­men­ta­tion. Most pure fruit juices, espe­cial­ly grape and apple, will nat­u­ral­ly fer­ment and turn to wine and then vine­gar over time. It’s a nat­ur­al process and it is this kind of fer­men­ta­tion that took place in bib­li­cal days. Today, in a world that enjoys get­ting drunk, the wine has been made much more potent. Sad, but true.

  9. Rick Beckman Avatar

    It’s no sad­der than food por­tions increas­ing to Super-Sized pro­por­tions, though.

    The fact that strong drink exists isn’t over­looked in the Bible, as is attest­ed by the pair­ing of “strong drink” with wine. Even the rel­a­tive­ly tame wine of bib­li­cal times is called a “mock­er,” as some­one may wrong­ful­ly think they can drink lots of it and not get drunk.

    All it means is that par­tak­ers need to be that much more care­ful to have these things in mod­er­a­tion, avoid­ing the fra­ter­nal twin sins of drunk­en­ness and gluttony.

  10. matthew barbier Avatar
    matthew barbier

    i have avoid­ed get­ting drunk for many years (although in hon­esty when i was a lot younger and not a chris­t­ian i used to occa­sion­al­ly). i do how­ev­er still have a glass of port or mead now and then, sim­ply because i enjoy it.

    i was recent­ly told by a mem­ber of my fam­i­ly that drink­ing any alco­hol was in fact a sin, and some day i would have to answer for this.

    under­stand­ably this wor­ried me a lit­tle (i cer­tain­ly under­stood get­ting drunk was a sin but it had nev­er occurred to me that any drink­ing, even minor amounts, was also), so i decid­ed to look into it fur­ther (hence read­ing this arti­cle and sev­er­al others).

    after read­ing pieces both in favour of total absti­nence and against, and the asso­ci­at­ed bible pas­sages, i can­not hon­est­ly see that drink­ing alchohol, in itself, is wrong. cer­tain­ly drunk­e­ness is, but i think any chris­t­ian should pret­ty much take that for granted.

    after research­ing the mat­ter, and mak­ing a per­son­al deci­sion that so long as i take it in mod­er­a­tion and com­plete­ly avoid get­ting drunk in any mea­sure, that there isnt any­thing wrong with an occa­sion­al drink. i will give fur­ther thought to the audi­ence that i do it in front of (based, on among oth­er pas­sages, romans 19–21).

    i hon­est­ly can­not find any bib­li­cal evei­dence and that con­sum­ing alco­hol in itself (and not the act of drunk­e­ness or neg­a­tive­ly influ­enc­ing oth­ers) is a sin. if i am still wrong then, as i was advised, i will have to answer for it one day. but at least i can say i made an effort to under­stand both sides of the argu­ment before mak­ing a deci­sion between myself and God

  11. Rick Beckman Avatar

    I sub­mit that the sin of glut­tony is com­mit­ted by Chris­tians immea­sur­ably more than the sin of drunk­en­ness is. (I’m no stranger to over-indul­gence of non-intox­i­cat­ing food & drink, to be sure.)

  12. bear Avatar

    Thanks so much for this. This is extreme­ly help­ful for a group of us!

  13. Vanessa Avatar

    What a great read! I have cer­tain­ly found all of your posi­tions help­ful and insight­ful. I have been a Chris­t­ian for 12 years and I am still try­ing to work out my con­vic­tion regard­ing my con­sump­tion of alco­hol. Love your work!!!

  14. FERNANDO Avatar


  15. Rick Beckman Avatar

    The Son of Man came eat­ing and drink­ing, and the peo­ple called Him a glut­ton & a drunkard.

    So, what would Jesus do? He would drink, regard­less of what peo­ple think about Him, and He would allow oth­ers to do the same (remem­ber the mir­a­cle of turn­ing water into wine). Drunk­en­ness is a sin. But if one must deny them­selves all wine to avoid that sin, then should not one deny them­selves of all food to avoid the sin of glut­tony? Both are sins of excess­es, and I’d wager more Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists are com­mit­ting the sin of glut­tony than the sin of drunk­en­ness, but will they remem­ber their glut­tony when they go to judge the drunk­ard? One can hope that they will.

  16. Johnny G Avatar
    Johnny G

    the biggest prob­lem I see with most Chris­tians and their church­es is that you all beat your­selves up to much — Jesus did not expect us not to live. to love and to enjoy this earth of his and ours — the Catholics have it right, just have a beer and relax — if you belong to a church where you have to look over your shoul­der then leave that church and find one that does­n’t brow beat ya all the time — to all those who over­ly con­dem (light­en up baby, just light­en up)

  17. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Many, many evan­gel­i­cals get that right as well. The Catholics have far big­ger prob­lems than whether or not they can enjoy (in mod­er­a­tion — drunk­en­ness is always a sin) alco­hol. Get­ting the Gospel right would be con­cern num­ber 1…

  18. grace elsen Avatar
    grace elsen

    If you are a Chris­t­ian and spend time with the Lord, pray­ing, read­ing the Word, wor­ship­ing and hear God’s voice you will know the truth of things.Now a days there is no dif­fer­ence between Chris­tians and the world. Peo­ple just do what they think and feel is right or just because they heard some­one say it. This is very scary! We need to get in the Word and find out for our­selves! Because one day we will have to give account to the Lord for what we did on this earth.There are many things that are law­ful and per­mis­si­ble but are not ben­e­fi­cial. there are a lot of things I have giv­en up for the Lord, I don’t watch TV, have a my space or a face book, The only per­son I will date will be my hus­band. I spend most of the time with the Lord. The more time you spend with the Lord the more you become like Him, hear His voice(this also involves fasting!!!)you receive rev­e­la­tions from the holy spir­it. There are many things the Bible does not specif­i­cal­ly men­tion, such as who will be your future mate, things like this you have to hear from the Lord. These kind of things you have to get alone with the Lord and pray about. I don’t believe what any­one says, only what God has told me. It’s not about your own per­son­al con­vic­tion. Sin is sin, there are no excus­es or excep­tions. Drink­ing is sin.The Chris­tians that believe it is okay, it has not been revealed to them yet. There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to destruction.!I pray for every one to have an encounter with God!

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Rick Beckman