What does the Bible say about Drinking?

Posted: April 22, 2012 in Discipleship
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone take a drink

I was raised in a church environment that frowns on drinking alcohol. My earliest training as a follower of Christ was that Christians should not drink liquor and there were plenty of Bible verses supporting the conviction. I quickly was convinced that drinking was a bad idea for me and that my spiritual growth would be hindered by alcohol consumption. It has always concerned me when I meet believers who drink. It seems that these “boozing believers” also had spiritual issues in other areas of their lives so I assumed it was the liquor messing them up.

As you can imagine I’m really concerned with the trend among younger (20’s) believers who drink alcoholic beverages and especially when the younger pastors seem to even encourage the drinking. It seems this new group of believers have totally cast off the rules of prohibition and run headlong into alcohol use. So, I’m doing a lot of research into the topic. I don’t think my 20’s drinking friends are doing any research, they seem to just be content that I can’t produce a Bible reference that supports prohibition of alcohol. They smugly chug their Guinness while enjoying their liberty and biblical superiority. Jerks.

Let me give a warning. The lack of a prohibition against drinking alcohol is NOT permission to drink like the people in our culture drink. If we are to drink, we want to drink like Jesus not like the world. If drinking is good (as they claim) then surely the world has perverted it.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. – Ephesians 5:18 The early believers lived in a world of idol worship. One such idol was Bacchus or Dionysis, the god of wine and the worship involved lots of drinking and drunkenness. There were drinking songs and games and lots of revelry, as well as the standard debauchery that goes with drunkenness and idol worship. God is always telling us not to be like them. 1 Thessolonians 4:2-5   For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 

The problem with our drinking is that we drink like people who don’t know Jesus with the purpose of drinking alcohol. Our focus becomes the drinking. This is not God’s plan. Through extensive research I’ve found that the Bible does NOT forbid drinking alcohol, but God doesn’t give free-reign to drink alcohol either.

The Bible’s attitude about drinking can be found in the first three instances of drinking in the Bible. The first is Noah getting drunk after the flood, the second is Melchizedek blessing Abraham, the third is Lot’s daughters getting him drunk after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Melchizedek, you have this most awesome and deep spiritual event, a man who is a type of Christ, or possibly a pre-incarnate Christ, coming out with wine to bless Abraham, the father of the Jews. This is sandwiched in between probably the two most heinous and horrible examples of drunkenness you can imagine; Noah’s drunkeness led to nakedness and possibly a homosexual encounter while Lot’s drunkeness led to incest with his own daughters. While alcohol use can be very good, alcohol use can be very bad.

Let’s look briefly at what they were drinking. We can’t assume that what we call wine is what they called wine back in the day. The most used word in the Hebrew for wine “yayin” could have been fermented fruit juice or unfermented. The context usually let you know. We can’t say that all the good references were unfermented and the bad were fermented. There is plenty of contextual cues to know that people were naturally drinking alcoholic wine. Only the men drank alcoholic wine. The women and children were forbidden. They made their wine the old fashion way; picked grapes and squeezed them into a vat. Fermentation started about six hours after squeezing. The fermentation starts because there is sugar in the grape and there is naturally occurring yeast on the grape and in the air. Wine was sealed in skins and stored in a cool area. After three days they had wine at 8% alcohol content. If they left it for a while it could get up to 12%. By comparison, our table wine is 12.5% and some wines are as low as 8%. Many are fortified with some getting up to 22% alcohol content.

They didn’t drink the wine straight. They mixed it. The standard mix was 2:1 up to 5:1. We find many sources and various mixes and recipes. Rabbinic literature said that the wine used during the Passover meal was to be 3:1. Let’s use that as the standard for everything. (Jesus drank it). 8% wine mixed to three to one with water will make a concoction with 2% alcohol content. So a fellow might come home from work and have dinner and celebrate his day of hard work and his success in the field. He has a choice of water, milk and wine. He’ll have wine (about 5 ounces) and it will contain about 2% alcohol. If he wants to get drunk, he’ll need to drink it less mixed or drink a lot (and empty his bladder a lot). He’ll have to work at it. He’ll need to “tarry long at the wine.”

There was nothing wrong with his drinking a little wine. In fact, we have these three verses that speak to the blessings of drinking. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. Psalm 104:14-15 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Ecclesiastes 9:7 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. Deuteronomy 14:26

It seems that drinking alcohol was OK and a “merry heart” seemed to be the result of the drinking. (Sounds like that warm euphoria that you get).

But there are rules about drinking.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Cor 10:13

  • Do not get drunk – Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 23:29-35
  • Don’t be mastered by alcohol – 1 Corinthians 6:12, 2 Peter 2:19 It is addictive.
  • Don’t cause a brother to stumble – 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 People want to fit in, you don’t know what effect it will have on your friend, even if they claim it is fine. You don’t know why they are drinking, what idolatry they are dealing with, etc.
  • Don’t drink while performing your duties as a priest – Leviticus 10:9 (1 Peter 2:9 says we are a kingdom of priests. Let me give you the idea that we should be sober and not drinking when we come to worship or bible study or some ministry activity. Like the priest in the OT, we need to be in our right minds completely when we serve God.
  • Don’t drink during a Nazarite vow. (2 Cor 6:17 tells us to not be like the world. I highly recommend a period of time, often, where you separate yourself completely from this dirty world; the music, the television, them movies, the language, the drinking, etc.)
  • Don’t “love” it – Proverbs 21:17
  • Don’t make it such a big thing in your life – getting an identity from it , spending a lot of money, doing it often)
  • Don’t desire alcohol, love it, hang around it, seek it, chase it, etc – Proverbs 23:29-30, Is 5:11, 22, This has everything to do with our motivations. In this culture, which is fallen and evil, the focus is the drinking. That is the trap into which we fall. We make the focus on the drinking and the party and the buzz.
  • Don’t hang around drunkards and gluttons (in bars, at drinking parties, etc?) – Prov 23:20
  • Don’t drink while you are the king or responsible for people – Prov 31:4-6 Don’t hang around it as a pastor or deacon (the things which go with hanging around it) 1 Tim 3:3,8 (My guess is the over-drinking, the drinking games, the revelry and debauchery) Same for older women – Titus 2:3
  • Don’t cause someone to drink or get drunk – Habbabukuk 2:15

I think these prohibitions will rule out most of what we think goes with drinking; the bars, the dance clubs, the drinking games (beer pong), the drinking songs (Red Solo Cup), the debauchery (flirting, body shots, revelry, etc). Even our parties where our guests are excited about the fact that we’ll be drinking is wrong. It is easy to violate the rule of “loving” it and seeking, hanging around, and chasing it. The rule against causing someone to stumble could easily be a way the teetotaler control you (don’t drink I’ll stumble).

But let me give you this. You do not know why your friend is drinking, you do not know what they are thinking or what the effect of this one drink will have on them. You don’t know if they are drinking in order to fit in, or if they are ready to become a drunk, or if they are of the they type to get addicted, you don’t know and when you drink with them, you could easily be the one to cause them to fall into all sorts of drunkenness and debauchery. Let me give you one more piece of information.

Since we drink like the world we also think like the world and we think that the official level of drunkenness is the driving limit of .08 BAC. Let me give the biblical level of drunk.

In Proverbs 11 and 23 we find the symptoms of drunkenness; Red eyes, reduced inhibitions, “room spinning,” numbness, bad behavior – lusting after other women, saying inappropriate comments, clumsy, staggering, pass out.

Wikipedia gives us these similar symptoms; slurred speech, euphoria, impaired balance, loss of muscle coordination (ataxia), flushed face, vomiting, reddened eyes, reduced inhibition, and erratic behavior. In severe cases, it can cause coma or death.

What is the BAC that produces these symptoms? .055 is the highest BAC you can reach before the positives turn to negative .04 is where the general positives fall off…mild euphoria, warm feeling, social lubricant, etc. We could say that official biblical drunkenness occurs somewhere between .03 and .04 (somewhere after .04 lightheaded and dizziness occurs – staggering and spinning). The point is different for each us since our bodies react differently. We do find that the symptoms for the lower BAC being mild euphoria, relaxation, a warm feeling, may be the “merry heart” of Psalm 104. Ladies process alcohol differently than men and get drunk faster and stay drunk longer. (Hence ladies were not allowed to drink back in the day)

If you check the many BAC calculators on the web you can find out how much you drink to stay in this zone. Essentially, one ounce of alcohol consumed in one hour will raise the BAC of a 100lb man to .032 (right close to the edge of drunkenness.) If you chug it in 10 minutes, then head for another, you’ll be over the line in no time. If you are a 180lb man and you drink one 5 oz glass of average 12% table wine in 10 minutes you’ll be at .022 BAC. It takes time for this to work out of your system. If you have another in the next 10 minutes, so that you’ve had two in about 20 to 30 minutes, you’ll be at .047 BAC which is biblically drunk. It does not take that much to cross the line. Females get a high BAC for the same amount of liquor. (They get drunk faster and stay drunk longer).

How did the early believers avoid drunkenness. They were drinking a glass of wine with a 2% alcohol content. The average man weighed 110lbs and could drink 32 ounces an hour (their cups were 5ounces – this is a lot) and would be at .031 BAC. If he wanted to get drunk, he’d have to tarry long at the wine.

So, what is my heart and the bottom line. I wish you wouldn’t drink alcohol.

  • First, it is not a cultural necessity like it was for them. We have 129 flavors of drink at BK or Firehouse Subs. McD has 10 different coffee style drinks.
  • Second, alcohol is addictive and you never know when you could get hooked.
  • Third, the world over does their drinking and when we join them we lose a chance to be different and not among them. We lose a change to show how God is different. We also run the risk of falling into worldly behavior and debauchery.
  • Finally, we don’t know what drinking will do to our friends. We don’t know how they will be effected and we can’t be sure we won’t cause them to stumble.
  1. I just have one question … how often do you see a 100 to 110 lb MAN?!? HeHe! Talk about small guys. 😉

    I really liked this. Very well-researched. Your third point at the end is my favorite. That pretty much sums up my views on drinking alcohol.

  2. […] What does the Bible say about Drinking? (kornonia.wordpress.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s