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 thoughts on “Is it alright for a Christian to drink moderately?”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  6. :) 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.)

  11. 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!!!


  13. 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.

  14. 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)

  15. 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…

  16. 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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