Is Drinking Alcohol A Sin
The topic of alcohol is on the top of the list of top controversial topics in the Christian community. More than just providing a simple yes or no answer, in this blog I aim to break down different Scriptures regarding wine, in hopes of answering some of the most common questions. Among them, are, “Is drinking wine a sin?” “Was the wine that Jesus made alcoholic?” “How does wine apply to Christians today?“
Biblical Definition of Wine
Although there are many Hebrew words for wine mentioned in the Bible, the main Hebrew words are Yayin (mentioned 137 times) and Tirosh (mentioned 40 times).
Tirosh usually speaks of wine from grapes. ‘Wine’ is used to describe both fermented and unfermented drinks in Scripture. However, throughout the Bible, it’s impossible to determine with certainty which type of drink is being referred to in the verse where it is mentioned.
For instance, sometimes in Scripture, the word wine speaks of grapes,
“As the new wine is found in the cluster.”Isaiah 65:8
Other times ‘new wine’ refers to the substance being pressed out of the grapes, or that which still remains in grapes. Therefore, it is impossible to determine if every reference is fermented or unfermented wine.
However, there is one thing that is certain, all throughout the Scriptures–both in the Old Testament and New Testament–drunkenness is condemned, and there are deadly consequences.
8 Ways Wine Was Used in The Old Testament
There are many instances in the Old Testament where we see ‘wine’ mentioned.
1) As part of offerings
The wine was mixed or included in the offerings that were brought to God.
With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering.Exodus 29:40
On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine.Leviticus 23:12-13
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh.1 Samuel 1:24
(See also Numbers 15:5, Numbers 28:14, Deuteronomy 32:37-38, Ezra 6:8-10.)
The wine was also part of the tithe—they would tithe out of their new wine and grain. That meant it was a part of the culture of Israel because God expected them to tithe out of it.
2) A sign of blessing
We also see that wine was a sign of blessing.
“Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.”Genesis 27:28
In this Scripture, we see that grain and wine were both on the same plane, both were seen as a blessing from God.
So Israel will live in safety Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew.Deuteronomy 33:28
The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine, and olive oil enough to satisfy you fully, never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.Joel 2:19
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.Proverbs 3:9-10
(Also see Joel 2:22-14, Joel 3:18, Amos 9:13-14).
3) Use of wine in the presence of God
In the Old Testament, drinking wine was acceptable in God’s presence. This is not to be confused with what we do today when we partake in Holy Communion, wherein some churches may still use fermented wine.
In those days, there were three portions of tithes that the children of Israel were required to give to God. A portion of it was spent on purchasing. If you could not bring your tithe to the temple physically, you would sell your oxen or sheep, convert it to currency and then go to the temple. Around the temple you would buy things as described in the following verse:
“And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.”Deuteronomy 14:26
God allowed and expected the Israelites to be in the temple and in the proximity of His presence, especially during their feasts, in order to use the second portion of their tithes on food and wine.
4) The withdrawal of wine
The withdrawal of wine in the Old Testament was evidence of God’s judgment.
“The new wine fails, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh.”Isaiah 24:7
“Joy and gladness are taken from the plentiful field and from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses; no one will tread with joyous shouting—Not joyous shouting!Jeremiah 48:33
The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up,the olive oil fails.Joel 1:10
(Other verses that demonstrate this include Deuteronomy 28:38-51, Isaiah 24:7-9, Haggai 2:14-16)
Throughout the Old Testament, part of the consequences of the people living in sin was evident in their lack of joy, grain, and wine. This was a part of the Old Testament covenant and demonstrates how God dealt with people then.
5) Alternative to drinking water
In the Old Testament, wine was an alternative to water. Today when we go to restaurants, water is the default drink that is brought to the table. In those days, water was not the basic, default drink—it was wine. This was because the water that they had was contaminated and impure in comparison to the treated and/or bottled water that we have and drink today.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.”Genesis 14:18
In this verse, Melchizedek, who is a representation of Christ, brought out bread and wine—not water.
“We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and bread and wine for myself, for your female servant, and for the young man who is with your servant; there is no lack of anything.”Judges 19:19
Here we see there is no mention of water as the main drink. In those days, most people did not drink water because it was very unhealthy to consume.
If we can digress to the New Testament for a moment, we see that Paul encourages Timothy to drink wine instead of only consuming water because of his constant stomach problems.
“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”1 Timothy 5:23
It was a common practice for people of this time.
6) Consumed with meals
The wine was often drunk with meals. We see this when Isaac ate meat and drank wine in the following verse:
He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate, and he brought him wine, and he drank.Genesis 27:25
7) Wine brought joy in the Old Testament
But the vine said to them, ‘Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, and go to sway over trees?’Judges 9:13
This is an excerpt from a parable that Jotham, a son of Gideon, spoke about when he was exercising authority. In the parable, the vine is asking if it should stop producing wine, which brings joy to both God and man.
Other verses also show that wine was associated with joy.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.Ecclesiastes 9:7
And wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.Psalm 104:15
These verses are also a good indication of what the basic diet of the Israelites was back then—meat, wine, and bread. Today, we are often discouraged from eating too much bread, but it was a staple for them. Here you can see the cultural disparity.
8) Total abstinence from wine for a season
There were instances in the Old Testament where total abstinence from wine was practiced for a season for priests and for Nazirites.
Priests were required to practice this because they were not allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies or perform their priestly duties while intoxicated. This was instituted by God after the two sons of Aaron died, which is why many assume that they were intoxicated while trying to perform their priestly duties after being appointed by God.
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them, and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.Leviticus 10:1-2
Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean.Leviticus 10:8-10
Another group of people who practiced this for a season was the Nazirites. These people were not Nazirites their entire lives, but they would take a vow for a season. During this season, they could not cut their hair, go near the dead, or drink any alcoholic beverages or wine. When their vow was fulfilled, they would resume their normal lives.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist was an example of this. However, God instructed his parents that he should completely refrain from wine for his entire life.
Warning Against the Abuse of Alcohol
In the Old Testament, there is a clear warning against the abuse of alcohol.
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!Isaiah 5:11
Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.Proverbs 20:1
“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!Habakkuk 2:15
These Scriptures describe people who are often drunk in the morning, or who give alcohol to their neighbors to take advantage of them sexually.
Here are a few instances in Scriptures which show the dangers of alcohol:
Noah’s drunkenness caused his son to act inappropriately, which led to Noah cursing his family (Gen 9:20-25).
Lot’s daughters also used wine to get their father intoxicated so that they could sleep with him, therefore committing incest (Gen 19:31-32).
In 2 Samuel, Absalom, the son of David, gave clear instructions to get Amnon drunk so that he could have him killed (2 Samuel 20-39).
In Esther, we see King Ahasuerus was drunk with wine when he asked Queen Vashti to appear in his presence just prior to him dethroning her as Queen (Esther 1: 10-11).
10 Dangers Of Drunkenness
In Proverbs 23, Solomon lays out the consequences of the abuse of alcohol in the Old Testament.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?Proverbs 23:29
People who abuse and consume alcohol experience sorrow. Alcohol causes people to become lost after they turn to alcohol. This can lead to people becoming angry, rebellious, and violent. This results in divorce, abuse, and the neglect of those who are meant to be held near.
Alcohol creeps into happy, thriving families and relationships, and often leads to fights, arguments, and violence within families.
We are all guilty of complaining. However, while intoxicated, all of one’s restraints are removed, and inhibitions are lowered. This causes one to make foolish decisions that have detrimental and long-lasting effects.
4. Wounds without cause
Alcohol produces a huge death toll through car accidents, murders, homicides, and domestic violence. Being under the influence of alcohol often leads to sin; for example, crimes are often committed, and premarital sex is often engaged under the influence of alcohol.
5. Redness of eyes
The redness of the eyes is associated with mental anguish seen when one weeps or lacks sleep. Sadly, people often drink today to find happiness, but instead, they are the ones who experience the least amount of happiness. While some may experience “fun” while drinking and partying, the joy is often short-lived and never truly satisfies.
One verse compares alcohol to a snake saying,
At the last, it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.Proverbs 23:32
6. Poison in the body
As a serpent’s bite releases poison, in the same manner, alcohol is like a poison in one’s body. Alcohol is associated with 7 types of cancers, high blood pressure, depression, and even dementia. People often vomit after excessive drinking because their stomach has “more sense” than their brain to get rid of the toxins. When you are drunk, you are filling your body with poison.
Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.Proverbs 23:33
7. Immorality and hallucinations
Alcohol causes hallucinations—or one to see strange things that don’t actually exist. Immorality comes from releasing perverse words out of your heart. Alcohol causes one to lower self-control, which directly leads to the trap of sin.
Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”Proverbs 23:34-35
Alcohol makes one become as if they were seasick. You can’t talk or walk straight.
9. Senses become dull
“They have struck me, but I was not hurt.”Proverbs 23:35
You lose your sensitivities and your conviction. God has given you sensitivities and your senses for you to operate as a human being. Alcohol causes a dulling of the senses.
“When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”Proverbs 23:35
Alcohol is extremely addictive. You may think you are just drinking one glass, but many times the drink takes over you and you can become addicted.
Wine In the New Testament
As mentioned before, John the Baptist was a Nazirite, who was commanded to abstain from alcohol. Even his mother was not allowed to drink wine before giving birth to him. It does not say this same restriction about Jesus though. Towards the end of Jesus’ life, when He was offered alcohol to lessen His pain on the cross, we see Jesus chose to decline it.
Then they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it.Mark 15:23
Another instance in the N.T where we see Jesus and wine mentioned is in the story of His first miracle. Jesus was turning water into wine. This can be seen as controversial for us because a lot of times we as believers want to impose our meaning onto Scripture to justify our lifestyle or to justify why we believe the Lord is leading us into certain things.
One statement that is commonly heard to justify this is that the wine that Jesus made was a “refreshing, non-alcoholic juice.”
As much as we would love for this to be true—it is incorrect.
The word for wine used in that story is the word Oinos in Greek, which is the same word used in Ephesians 5 where it says,
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”Ephesians 5:18
This verse is clearly not speaking of grape juice because you cannot get drunk off of grape juice. It is speaking of an alcoholic/fermented wine.
So does this mean that Jesus promoted drunkenness because he made wine that was better than the one that was served initially at the wedding? (John 2:11)
If we used that logic, then that leads us to another question– Did Jesus promote gluttony because He made more bread than people needed?
Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were leftover. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.Matthew 14:18-21
Both drunkenness and gluttony are condemned, but Scripture shows us that Jesus made an abundance of both.
Creating a substance that can be abused does not make one responsible when another person foolishly chooses to abuse it.
For example, when someone makes a knife, are they responsible if one commits murder with it?
Or, if someone makes a gun, does that make them responsible for every murder on the earth?
When God created rocks, does that mean God was responsible for Abel’s murder?
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.Genesis 4:8
Jesus did not promote drunkenness by creating wine. Neither did Jesus promote obesity or gluttony by creating more bread than people needed.
Jesus did not promote drunkenness by creating wine. Neither did Jesus promote obesity or gluttony by creating more bread than people needed.
Jesus’ creation of wine was actually very prophetic according to Jeremiah and Amos.
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds.They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.Jeremiah 31:12
And I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.Amos 9:14
There was an association of the Messiah bringing an abundance of new wine, which makes Jesus’ miracle even more meaningful. This was a part of the culture of Israel. It is still a part of the culture of the Israeli Messianic believers to drink wine for Passover, for Shabbat, and for weddings.
Jesus Accused of Drunkenness
In Matthew 11, Jesus talks about how He was accused of being a drunkard.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”Matthew 11:19
Now, I don’t believe that Jesus was drunk, but this confirms that Jesus did not live like his cousin, John the Baptist, a Nazirite. He ate, He went to many places and weddings, and He created feasts. He essentially was a very upbeat, happy Man, which is why His accusers called him drunk.
There are other instances of people in the Bible accused of being drunk with wine, although they weren’t—including Hannah and the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, we don’t take the accusation of the Pharisees as the truth. Jesus was never drunk or a drunkard.
Drunkenness Prohibited in The Old Testament and New Testament.
In Jesus’ day, the wine used was fermented and contained alcohol. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that they drank grape juice. However, it is also incorrect to say that the wine that they drank is the same thing that is used today because the alcohol content was not as high as it is today.
Bread and wine were not sinful, but gluttony and drunkenness were!
Scriptures Condemning Drunkenness
Jesus, whose first miracle was making wine, condemns drunkenness and explains that a drinking servant is not prepared for the Lord’s return.
But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk.Luke 12:45
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.Luke 21:34
We also see the apostles teaching others not to walk in drunkenness or immorality (Romans 13:13).
Romans 14:21 warns us to not do anything that will cause another believer to stumble, and he specifically talks about drinking alcohol or wine.
1 Corinthians 5:11 warns that if a believer is a drunk or a constant drinker, to not associate with them.
1 Corinthians 6:10 explains that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:21 also warns that acts of sinful nature, including drunkenness, will prohibit one from entering the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:18 explains that instead of being drunk with wine, believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:6-7 explains that Christians should be alert and sober with self-control, belonging to the day because the drunkards belong to the night and darkness.
1 Timothy 3:2-3 explains that bishops and elders should be temperate, sober, and not given to wine.
1 Timothy 3:8 and 11, deacons and their wives should be sober.
Titus 1:7-8 says the overseer is to be disciplined.
Titus 2:2-3 says that older men should be temperate and older women should not be addicted to wine.
1 Peter 4:3-4 tells us that the past life of drunkenness and carousing has no place in the Christian’s life.
My Reasoning For Abstinence From Alcohol
In both the Old Testament and New Testament, we see that drunkenness is condemned. Although we don’t see clear cut instructions which teach that drinking is a sin, here are some of my personal reasons why Christians should practice total abstinence from alcohol, wine, and beer:
1. Alcohol does not deliver what it promises –
According to a quote from Alcoholics Anonymous,
“Alcohol promises to bring about an escape from one’s problems, freedom to forget their problems, to feel heavenly; but it ends up making one’s problems multiply, makes people become enslaved and become haunted by their bad decisions. Alcohol promises us many things such as pleasure, good feelings, and relief; but it always fails on its promises and produces remorse later!”A.A
2. God delivers us from evil –
God does not lead us into evil; He delivers us from sinful living. Many people have been delivered from alcoholism which began with “just one drink.” Many addicts start with just social drinking, which then leads to a loss of control. That one “innocent” drink has caused lives to be ruined by the loss of licenses, jail time, and opened doors to demons. Although the power of God can deliver them through repentance and counseling, it is unwise to put yourself in a place where you are vulnerable to demonic attacks. Demonic attacks can lead to a stronghold not only in your life, but it can carry on as a generational curse.
Alcohol directly attacks the brain, which dishonors God, who wants us to worship and connect to Him with our minds.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mindMatthew 22:37
Alcohol interferes with that because it attacks the brain. And we can no longer hear God as clearly because the brain is under the influence of alcohol.
3. Can’t have a sober mind without a sober body –
Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.Titus 1:8
Titus explains that we need to have a sober mind, which requires self-control over our body and their carnal desires. The consumption of alcohol allows toxins into your body which leads to many diseases. You can prevent the need for healing and deliverance from alcoholism by making the decision to abstain from all alcoholic drinks in the first place. You are not missing out on anything by not drinking, because you and your body do not require it. You have clean water or other refreshing drinks that you can consume, which do not mess with your brain or allow poison in your body.
4. Numbing mechanism –
Alcohol numbs your senses. Many people drink to numb their pain, but alcohol is not medicinal. Your personal relationship with God should be your medicine. If you have a physical problem, you should go to a doctor. Alcohol cannot fix a problem that is spiritual in nature which may require confession of sin. Do not think alcohol will numb your loneliness or depression, because it turns into an idol and every idol disappoints its worshiper.
Alcohol may numb your loneliness and depression, but only Christ can remove it and replace it with joy.
5. Used as a substitute for a spirit-filled life –
The more alcohol you have and crave, the less you’ll want and “need” the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the Old Testament believers not having clean water, they did not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. But, we have the new wine, called the Holy Spirit, inside of us. We should live like Nazirites—fully dependent and dedicated (body, soul, and mind) to the Holy Spirit. The more Holy Spirit you have the less you would desire alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a slippery slope that the devil uses to push you further from God.
6) Takes away self-control –
One aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. When you do not live in the Holy Spirit, you have very little self-control. By drinking alcohol, you lose control and have something else controlling you. If you have no self-control, you are not acting as a true disciple, who is supposed to deny himself and crucify his flesh. Drunkenness leads to not inheriting the kingdom of God. Forsaking drinking will help one to improve in their health, relationships, and walk with God.
7) Sipping saints become slipping saints –
Alcohol always leads to other sins: attempted murder, loss of license, loss of virginity (Refer to Proverbs 23.)
Sipping saints become slipping saints.
8) Drunkards do not inherit the kingdom –
The Bible does not define what it means to be drunk. It is in your best interest not to try to get as close to the line as possible before you fall, but to stay as far away from the line as possible. The goal should not be to see how close you get to sin without falling in it, but instead how close you can get to Jesus. You should not be drawn and lured by these things. It is best to try to not find the undefined line to cross from the Bible in order to focus on God, instead of entertaining practices that can place you in dangerous waters.
9) Your sipping may cause someone’s tripping –
There are people who struggle with alcohol. If a believer drinks a glass of wine, even if it “does not lead to any other sins”, it may still cause your brother or sister in Christ to fall. You, therefore, cannot say that you refuse to let someone else’s problem control your liberty. Love requires that your liberties have restraints because of other people’s weaknesses and problems.
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.Romans 14:21
We don’t live for ourselves—we live for God and each other. The one glass you may drink may cause a fellow believer to not only turn to one glass, but to a bottle, or a bucket—which can eventually bring them back to the bondage that God already delivered them from. We have responsibilities as a believer to help other believers to walk in purity and be sober in Christ.
10) What leaders do in moderation, others do in excess –
Although some people may still argue that drinking in moderation is okay, it is important to recognize that if you are a person who influences others (spiritually, as a parent, or mentor) what you do in moderation, people will do excess. Therefore, use your influence wisely because God has entrusted you with it to lead them to Christ. You should not be leading people away from Christ, partaking in worldly culture, which leads to compromise and sin.
What leaders do in moderation, others do in excess.
Instead of being drunk with wine, be drunk in the Spirit. Be filled in the Holy Spirit and live a crucified, sacrificial life in the presence of God. If you still believe you need alcohol in your life, you need to really ask yourself if Jesus is not enough? Our new wine is the Holy Spirit. We should live holy, walking daily in the anointing, and full of the Holy Ghost so that we live without regret. Not drinking alcohol is not about living as a legalist, but about living in freedom. You should be free to love God while staying free from alcohol, which is a gateway to oppression, calamity, strongholds, and death.
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