My New View on Alcohol

Understanding the Tension of Modern Biblical Decision Making

The consumption of alcohol continues to be a controversial topic. I shared my personal thought process a while back (3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol). After a discussion with my wife about the topic and potential interpretations, I’ve come to realize it sounded more narrow-minded than I ever intended. I was hoping it would help readers come to their own conclusion.

My New View on Alcohol

So, since this blog is about our spiritual journey, let me apologize for my lack of clarity and let me share with you my new view on drinking alcohol.

Lessons learned…

No matter what your view may be, this topic is personal enough that not all will agree. Sometimes we can argue facts, but the reality is, much of this conversation is based on personal experience.

For example, a family impacted by an alcoholic family member, will almost certainly view this subject differently than a family who has created a culture of responsible consumption. And, if we were honest, there’s about thousand different situations in-between.  We have to respect each and every one of these situations.

I also wanted to give Christians (especially believers who abstain from alcohol) the ability to see an example of “thinking it through.” Growing up, I really wasn’t given the opportunity or space to ask questions to define my own answer to whether or not I would consume alcohol. Did my original post successfully help people think? Probably not the way I would have liked.

My 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol were never meant to be prescriptive to every Christian, nor do I judge any Christian who responsibly consumes alcohol. I have many Christian family members and friends who choose to consume – and do so in front of me. I certainly have no problem with that.

In fact, the reasons I give for not drinking, can easily become the reasons why a Christian could drink responsibly.  It’s a healthy tension that each believer must weigh out as they make their decision.

So in light of that new understanding, I’ll give you three tensions a Christian must weigh out. Remember these are personal tensions – one that each believer must work through.

1. “No alcohol” versus “conservative alcohol.”

We don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to say that Jesus and his disciples consumed wine.  It was part of their culture and it was never mentioned as being an issue.

Like I mention in my previous post, the only time the Greek word for “new wine” (gleukos, meaning “sweet unfermented wine”) is used, is in Acts 2.  When the disciples were filled with the spirit, several witnesses were making fun of them as if they could get drunk off of weak wine.1  Why? Because they weren’t known to be drunk.  Their view of alcohol was clearly on the conservative side.

THINK: How conservative do I need to be to gain the kind of reputation the disciples had?

2. “Sin” versus “Boundary.”

The only sin we see in scripture is drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-25).  Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol leads to drunkenness.  So the natural tension becomes one of sin versus boundary.  Because of his stomach and sickness, Paul told Timothy to have a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23).  Obviously, the journey wasn’t towards sin but towards a healthy boundary.

THINK: What boundaries do I have to put in place in order to stay away from drunkenness?

3. “Culture” versus “Witness.”

There’s a vast discussion here alone.  The tensions of particular situations, local cultures, and ethnic traditions, all impact how we understand alcohol.  That, paired with our potential witness to others, could dramatically impact our view.

Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Likewise, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).  No matter the situation, we need to be willing to put our own desires aside for the sake of the Kingdom and live in that tension.

THINK: How does my culture and witness impact my view of alcohol?

Your turn…

How do you reflect on these tensions regarding alcohol consumption?


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3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol

When I was growing up it seemed to be common knowledge that Christians didn’t drink alcohol.  As the phrase made clear, “Christians don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or hang around those who do.”  Interestingly enough, the only sinful behaviour you could point to was drunkenness, and protecting God’s temple (our bodies).  So it became common practice to stay away from these often damaging substances.  For me, however, the question has always been, “why?”  Is there a biblical reason why I should completely abstain from alcohol?  Since asking this question, I’ve arrived at an answer – I simply choose not to drink alcohol.  Here are three reasons why:

wine-drinking

1. Early Christians weren’t known to “loosely” drink alcohol.

Even though many before me have attempted to prove Jesus and his disciples never consumed alcohol, I think it’s a far stretch.  Jesus was a Jew and Jewish tradition included meals like the Passover.  The Passover Meal included four cups of wine symbolizing the four promises found in Exodus 6:6-7 – “I will bring you out”, “deliver you”, “redeem you”, “and will take you to me for a people.”1  In celebrating, Jesus and his disciples shared in this meal (The Lord’s Supper).  The third cup is of special significance to the believer – the promise to “redeem you.” Jesus and his disciples shared a “new covenant” by sharing in this cup of wine, and the symbolism of blood and wine is simply amazing.  I think it’s fair to say, that if Jesus didn’t drink wine during these important customs, the Pharisees would have gladly questioned him.

I choose not to drink alcohol; I want to remain in complete control of my thoughts & actions. Click To TweetBut just because Jesus consumed alcohol, doesn’t mean consuming alcohol is a good idea for us today.  The early church clearly continued this practice; however, one thing is really clear – they weren’t known for using strong wine or drunkenness.  In Acts 2 the early church was filled with the Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know.  A few witnesses mocked them by saying, “They are filled with new wine.”  This is the only time the Greek word gleukoV (gleukos) is used for wine.  It literally means “sweet new wine still in the fermenting process.”  So essentially, the mockery was based on the fact that they were somehow drunk on the “weak” and “conservative” wine they were known to consume.  And as Peter pointed out, no one was drunk, and all were reacting to the Spirit’s work in them.

In our context today, I choose not to drink alcohol because I want to be known as the early church was known – a conservative follower of Christ who remains in complete control of my thoughts and actions.

2. Drunkenness is always a sin.

Consuming alcohol is never mentioned in scripture as sinful.  In fact, if Jesus consumed alcohol than the action can’t be sinful because Jesus was sinless.  If simply consuming alcohol was a sin than Jesus died on the cross to cover his own sin, not ours.  Drunkenness, however, is mentioned and is always mentioned as sinful behavior (Pro. 20:1; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; and, Titus 2:3.)  Paul said it this way:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: [including]…drunkenness…and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit [include]…self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-25, ESV)

In our culture, the road to “drunkenness” seems a little ambiguous at best.  The results of a couple drinks could be innocent, but the spiral from “tipsy” to “buzzed” to “hammered” can happen quickly.  It’s a difficult one to argue.  To avoid this, I’ve chosen not to drink alcohol at all.

While Timothy seemed to have a similar boundary of abstinence, Paul was somehow able to create boundaries that included a little wine for health reasons and encouraged Timothy to do the same:

23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Timothy 5:23)

I choose not to drink alcohol; I want to create a boundary so there's no potential of drinking too much. Click To TweetPaul used the common Greek word for fermented wine (oinoV ; oinos) and clearly gave Timothy some boundaries by saying “little” and “for the sake of your stomach.”  If Timothy was trying to stay “pure”, as verse 22 implies, than Paul was simply showing him how to create a healthy boundary to allow one to take advantage of the health benefits of wine.

With that said, healthy living has come a long way in 2000 years and there are now many ways to gain health benefits without drinking wine.  Not to mention that too much wine can have negative health effects.  As a result, I choose not to drink alcohol because I want to create a boundary that distances myself from even the potential of drinking too much.  This leads me to my third reason.

3. Culture influences the consumption of alcohol.

Many traditions include the custom of drinking wine.  For the Jewish culture of the 1st century, drunkenness was an issue, but conservative wine drinking was still normal behavior and was included in many meals.  After all, drink options were limited and water wasn’t always clean.1  It’s possible to say the culture of the time, allowed for the consumption of alcohol.

My North American 21st century culture is quite different. Drinking has become a way to relax, have a good time, and forget about your troubles.  In reality, it’s normal for alcohol to be abused, rather than restricted.  For the same reasons why Timothy was trying to live a “pure” life, Christians need to avoid the cultural response and adhere to biblical ones.  In continuing in his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote:

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Drink options are now vast.  There are so many available and affordable options to choose from that don’t distort judgement and impair thinking.  Communion and sacraments can be used with red fruit juice with no impact to symbolism.  And social gatherings can include everything from clean water to juice to soda.

It may also be wise to note that there were no cars, or otherwise motorized vehicles that could have been operated under the influence of alcohol in the 1st century.  Whether we want to realize it or not, one of the best ways to stop drinking and driving is to either altogether stop driving or altogether stop drinking.  We know we can’t stop driving, so perhaps cutting out alcohol is a possible solution.

While the 1st century culture allowed for the consumption of alcohol, the 21st century culture I live in has disallowed consumption for me.

I choose not to drink alcohol; my culture doesn't allow for conservative consumption. Click To Tweet

This is not to say any Christian who chooses to consume alcohol on a social basis, with boundaries against drunkenness, should be looked down upon or disregarded in any way.  There is nothing in scripture to disallow the consumption of alcohol.  I am simply saying, that in our culture, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not wise for me, as a believer, to drink alcohol as the benefits aren’t as great as the possible risks and issues involved.

The challenge is to seriously evaluate the boundaries you have in your life regarding alcohol consumption.  For some, it may mean adjusting when and how much you drink.  For others, it may be best to discontinue the practice all together.

In the pursuit of holiness, our job is to create boundaries that bring us closer to God personally, and allow us to build up the kingdom socially.

Your turn…

While my evaluation may change in the future, I’ve personally chosen not to drink alcohol.

Have you thought about this before?  If so, what have you chosen to do?  If not, what will you choose to do?


If you liked this post, please take a moment to share on your social networks so others have a chance to read it as well!

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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