As Christians, are we allowed to drink beer or wine?
I don't usually like to give answers that aren't black and white, but I'm afraid that this is one of those issues that has so many aspects to it that my answer is going to appear to be very gray, and I apologize for that in advance. So if you'd like to see the various aspects from a Biblical perspective, read on... If not, then I'll cut to the chase and give my final answer right off the bat - let the Holy Spirit be your guide as you should in any activity that you aren't sure of, and He will never lead you astray. When you pass the buck, make sure you pass it to someone who can catch it!
So here's what the Bible says...
- The sin that is an issue is being drunk, regardless of the source of the alcoholic content (1 Cor 6:9-10). This is the only sin issue for most people, but for most people, a drink of beer or wine will not cause you to get drunk.
- There were classes of people who were exceptions, though. Those who had taken the Nazarite vow (Num. 6:1-8) or who had priestly duties (Lev. 10:8-9; Eze. 44:21), for example, were under a prohibition against drinking any alcohol, regardless of whether or not they would get drunk. If you read the text, for the Nazarites, the prohibition was even stronger.
- The Bible warns repeatedly that there is a line between sober and drunk and that it is very easy to go from one to the other without realizing you have crossed over into sin. So if you drink at all, you are putting yourself at risk of committing sin, even if you don't plan on drinking enough to fall into that trap. It also repeatedly warns of the costs - both financial and spiritual of drinking too much. See Dt. 21:20-21; Pr. 4:17, 20:1, 21:17, 23:21, 29-32, 31:4,5; Ps. 104:15; Isa. 28:1-3; Hos. 4:11; Joel 1:5; Nahum 1:10
- In the New Testament, we are warned to not give offense to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the catch all command that is why I suggest you let the Holy Spirit be your guide in this issue. Whether you agree or disagree with temperance, it does have an established recent history in the church. The temperance movement partially came about because of all of the problems families had with adult members drinking.
It is easy to give offense by doing something that may be lawful for you by your own convictions but would hurt a young Christian who either is not as strong as you are in your faith or who had problems with alcohol or those who abused alcohol in their past. See Rom 14:19-15:1; 1 Cor. 5:11; Eph 5:15-21.
- Finally, we are told that we are to be temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17). We shouldn't foul our bodies any more than we would foul the church. This is another spot where the Holy Spirit Himself must guide you in how much - if any - constitutes fouling your body. Some scriptures to note with regard to drinking and living a sober (clear thinking) life can be found in:
- For leaders - as found in 1 Tim. 3:2-3 and Titus 1:7-8
- Particular individuals - John the Baptist - Luke 1:15-17
- General instructions for wives of leaders - 1 Tim. 3:11
- Older men - Titus 2:2
- Young men - Titus 2:6
- Older women - Titus 2:3
- Young women - Titus 2:4
- For everyone - 1 Pet. 1:13, 4:7, 5:8; Titus 2:12; 1 Th. 5:6-8; Phil. 4:5
There are some people who by genetics or social conditioning or body size and chemistry cannot deal with alcohol. They lose control after ingesting only slight amounts of alcohol. There are others who, for whatever reason, lack the capability to stop drinking once they start. Sometimes you know you have a risk of these conditions from relatives who are also afflicted. Perhaps you are the first so afflicted in your family.
Since you never know for sure, that is the primary reason why all churches will take the safe course and just say don't drink. It isn't strictly Biblical - since the issue in the Bible is drinking to excess and becoming drunk. But since there are those who cannot handle alcohol, that is the safe course to take when making recommendations, and it is the one I emphasize here.
You should also realize that your normal state will start to drift off normal with any alcoholic consumption. How far off of normal constitutes drunk is a matter for God and the courts to decide, but you should note that the legal limits for blood alcohol levels for driving while intoxicated, for example, have been becoming more strict as time has gone on with the realization that impairment occurs sooner than most people think.
If there is the slightest risk that any activity you are thinking of undertaking could end up with you committing sin, you should refrain from participating in that activity. Your eternal life is far more important than any temporal pleasure you might enjoy from any thing the world has to offer you.
In all things, listen to the Holy Spirit, and you won't get into trouble because He will lead you into paths of righteousness. God will not put a bigger temptation in front of you than you and He are able to combat if you will listen to His leading (1 Cor 10:1-15).