“There is a special corner of hell reserved for religious wine drinkers.”
“It is a sin not to drink; you’re going against the freedom you have in Christ.”
Both of these statements are real. The first one is from a book (thankfully, I’ve forgotten the title) and the second from a friend of mine. And both statements show how Christians can hold two extremely different views concerning alcohol. In this past Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 5:15-21 (you can listen here), I spent some time speaking on the issue of alcohol. Since the main point of the passage was walking in wisdom and not alcohol, I was brief. Yet, it is good for us as Christians to think biblically about such an issue and to do so carefully and humbly. In my sermon, I set forth three guiding principles that we should have toward alcohol:
1. Some Christians should never drink either because of their past, their conscience, or their devotion to God.
2. Some Christians can drink to the glory of God when doing so in moderation and with concern for others.
3. All Christians should be extremely cautious with the issue of alcohol.
Because of limited time, I couldn’t go too in depth with each principle. It is my goal over the next three post to unpack each one, provide a biblical basis for each principle, and give some practical suggestions. Let’s look now to the first principle:
Some Christians should never drink either because of their past, their conscience, or their devotion to God.
While the Bible does say that wine is a good gift that God has given to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:14-15), this doesn’t mean that everyone should drink. In fact there are some very good reason why some people should never let a drop of it touch their tongue.
First, someone who has struggled with a past of drunkenness should never drink alcohol. The Bible has some very harsh things to say about drunkenness. Drunkards have no place in God’s Kingdom (1 Cor 6:10). Drunkards have no place in the church (1 Cor 5:11). God’s curse is upon drunkards (Isa 5:11). God is clearly not pleased with someone who is habitually drunk. Now there is more than enough grace in Christ to forgive a drunk. But those of us who have been saved by Jesus should seek to put away absolutely everything in our life that doesn’t please God – including drunkenness. If you have struggled in the past with getting drunk – even if it was last weekend – then you should never drink. Why would you want to keep doing something that will more than likely lead you fall into something that God hates? Would you encourage an unmarried couple who is struggling with sexual immorality to continue laying with each other on the couch in the dark at 2 in morning? No. Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off,” (Mark 9:43). For some Christians the best thing they could do for their souls is to cut alcohol completely out of their lives. If you have a past of falling into drunkenness, then you should serve your soul and never drink.
Second, another reason why some Christians should never drink is their own consciences. One of the reasons why this issue is so difficult and touchy is that it falls under the category of conscience in the Bible. The Bible has no ultimate command to abstain from drinking. There is also no command to drink. In fact Paul would say that in issue like this, “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” (Rom 14:5). And some people are fully convinced that it would be a sin against God for them to drink alcohol. If this is where your conscience is set, then you should never drink. You should never let anyone pressure you into doing it. You should never do it to fit in socially. You should never feel ashamed to tell someone you don’t drink. If in you heart and mind drinking alcohol is disobedience to God, then you should never violate you conscience.
Third, another reason why some Christians should never drink is out of devotion to God. The fact that God gives us good gifts to enjoy is clear in the Bible. Yet, the Bible also points us to people who give up these gifts for their devotion to God. Paul gave up marriage to be devoted to the Lord and his mission (1 Cor 7:6-7). When we fast, we give up food for a time of prayer to grow in our devotion to God (Matt 6:18). Giving up alcohol out of a desire to be more devoted is a good thing. Part of the Nazarite vow in Numbers 6, was abstaining from alcohol (Num 6:2). John the Baptist had taken this vow to be devoted to God and God’s purpose for his life (Luke 1:15). If abstaining is something that you believe will help your devotion to the Lord, then by all means abstain. Don’t let someone convince you that you’re being unreasonable. Don’t let someone convince you that your being legalistic. Don’t let someone convince you that your missing out. No one who gives up anything to gain more of God is missing out.