I remember talking to a co-worker one day who told me that he didn’t drink alcohol because he was a Christian . . . But that got me thinking, “Is drinking alcohol a sin in Christianity? . . . But didn’t Jesus drink alcohol?”
It turns out that drinking alcohol is not a sin, and Jesus did drink alcohol (no, it wasn’t grape juice).
If Jesus drank wine, why do Christians feel the need to abstain from it? What does the Bible really say about alcohol? Clearly, there is more to the story here, so let’s dig in.
Jesus Turned Water Into Wine
One of the very first miracles ever performed by Jesus was when He turned water into wine. Some people like to argue that it was only grape juice, but I don’t think the text allows for such an irresponsible interpretation. Let’s see what it says in context.
“and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” – John 3:9-11
This was a wedding celebration; the wine was obviously alcoholic. Notice the master of the banquet said, “You have saved the best till now.” Not only was it wine, but it was the best of wine, probably the strongest of wine! Not to be mistaken with the cheaper kind. It would make little sense to assume that the best wine didn’t have alcohol in it, especially at a wedding banquet. People can try to spin it that way if they want, but I think it’s a whole lot easier to simply let the text speak for itself.
Jesus Drank Wine
When Jesus was at the wedding banquet, I imagine He would have drank the wine that was there, but I know the text doesn’t mention that, so I shouldn’t be presumptuous. However, here are some clearer examples to be sure:
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” – Luke 7:33-34
I can’t imagine others using the word drunkard when comparing Jesus to John the Baptist, but that’s exactly what Jesus said they did. Not that Jesus was admitting He was a drunkard, but He obviously didn’t deny drinking some.
During the Passover meal, we see that Jesus drank from the cup, and this cup contained the “fruit of the vine.” Once again, it would be weird to assume that it was something other than alcoholic wine.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”” – Mark 14:22-25
I wonder what this new wine is all about . . . sounds epic.
Paul Told Timothy to Drink Wine For Medical Reasons
Who knows what illnesses Timothy suffered, but Paul gave him instruction to drink wine because of it.
“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” – 1 Timothy 5:23
I imagine it could have been due to illnesses related to my next point, but I suppose it could have also been because of digestive issues. It has been shown that moderate consumption of red wine can actually yield positive benefits to aid in digestion, primarily with how it affects our gut bacteria. If the good and bad bacteria in the gut are outa whack, it can wreak havoc on digestion, causing problems with pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc. Studies have shown that wine has had a positive impact on our good gut bacteria.
Other studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine can also help with nonrelated digestive issues, such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing triglycerides and cholesterol, and reducing inflammation.
So, who knows what the culprit actually was, but since Paul specifically mentions Timothy’s stomach, I imagine it was something related to stomach pain or issues with digestion. Maybe it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome . . . before that was actually a thing.
Alcohol Was Necessary Back Then
For much of human history, water-borne pathogens caused massive death. It wasn’t until modern times, that water became acceptable to drink. In ancient Israel, and even in 1st century Palestine, water could be a very dangerous commodity.
We all know that water is essential to life, but in ancient times, it could most certainly cause death. It wasn’t safe to drink water without it being diluted with wine or “fermented drink.” This was done in an attempt to purify it and make it safe to drink. The inability to treat sewage and purify water was a problem for much of human history, resulting in cholera, dysentery, and malaria.
What Does the Bible Say About Drinking Too Much?
The Bible alludes to wine, as if it’s a blessing from God to “gladden the human heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).
While that may be the case, the Bible vehemently speaks out against drinking too much, or what it refers to as “drunkenness.”
The Bible says it is even unwise to drink too much:
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1
Paul warns the Galatians that those who practice “drunkenness” will not inherit the kingdom of God:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19-21
Paul also tells the Corinthians not to even associate with drunkards:
“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11
Drinking too much is obviously sinful, and for that reason, I think some have decided to avoid it entirely, so let me say brief word about that too.
What If Christians Choose Not to Drink?
Just like anything else we choose to do (or not to do), there’s nothing wrong with avoiding alcohol entirely. Paul touched on this as well:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Avoiding alcohol is really no different than having a preference for anything else: coffee, tea, soda, etc. In fact, it might even be preferable not to drink at all if you never have. Some people can easily become addicted, and that would be a huge problem. The issue is not whether you avoid drinking or not, the issue is why you do it. If you don’t enjoy doing it, don’t like the way it tastes, or think you might develop a problem that takes control of you, that’s one thing. Choosing not to drink because you think it’s sinful in moderate amounts, is quite another, and the Bible would not match well with that line of reasoning.
Simply put, nowhere in the Bible does it say that drinking alcohol is a sin. There are several occasions where it condones drinking alcohol. However, that does not mean that it’s okay to get drunk; the Bible is equally clear on that as well. Who wants to get drunk anyway? It makes you feel like crap; it can be very expensive; and there’s just no good reason to do it. Moderation is where it’s at if you’re going to do it at all. I, myself, like to enjoy a glass of wine every now and again, especially with dinner. I would hate to feel judged by others for doing so . . . I would also hate to have to show them why they’re wrong.
At the end of the day, if Christians choose not to drink, that’s perfectly fine. My goal is not to encourage people to drink; my goal is to encourage people to judge correctly. Realistically, it’s probably best to avoid alcohol around Christians who, for whatever reason, prefer not to drink. Not because it’s wrong, but because it might cause them to stumble, or perhaps something worse. For that reason, I would rather not drink at all . . . even if I do enjoy a nice Cab from time to time.