The only alcoholic drink identified in the Bible is wine. Another term is used, strong drink, however this is still to be understood as wine. The NIV uses the term "beer" (i.e. Proverbs 20:1), but this is a loose translation.
Alcohol in the BibleEdit
The Old Testament uses wine symbolically as an example of God's blessing, and it was also acceptable as an offering on the altar (Exodus 29:40). It also metaphorically represents something good that God has prepared for those who receive it (Proverbs 9:5; Isaiah 55:1). Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding in Cana by turning water in to wine (John 2:1-11), and even included the drinking of wine at the Last Supper as remembrance of his shed blood (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25-26).
In contrast, Scripture also reminds us that alcohol can have bad effects. After consuming too much, alcohol causes one to stagger (Isaiah 28:7), prevents rulers from making wise choices (Proverbs 31:4-5), brings sorrow and contention, and that it "bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper" (Proverbs 23:29-35). The writer of Proverbs even says that, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1).
Be that as it may, Christians should also be wise about when they drink. Paul reminded those in his letter to the Romans that a Christian should never put a stumbling block in the way of another (Romans 14:13ff). Christians should be aware if alcohol is a stumbling block to those around them, and if so, temporarily abstain (cf. 1 Corinthians 8).
The Bible is clear concerning drunkenness. Paul tells Christians that they are to not get drunk on wine, but are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The idea here is that Christians are to be controlled (i.e. filled) by the Spirit in the same way that a person is controlled by the alcohol they have consumed. Paul also tells us that drunkenness stems from our sinful nature and is a "work of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21), and that it is a deterrent to inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). Paul goes so far as to say that Christians should not associate with others who claim to be Christians but are still drunkards (1 Corinthians 5:11). Lastly, those who are appointed to leadership positions in the church are also not to drink excessively (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7, 2:3).
The term temperance can mean either "self-control" or "moderation". This is the biblical idea that can be related to the drinking of alcohol (Galatians 5:23; Titus 2:2). Christian liberty permits one to either abstain or to partake, however this should be based on whether it will cause another Christian to stumble, or if one is aware of their own temptations to consume too much. Christians should not be afraid of consuming alcohol, but should be wise in their choices that involve it. G.K. Chesterton gives helpful advice:
- "Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice."
Effects of alcoholEdit
- Main article: Effects of Alcohol
- God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol, by Ken Gentry (ISBN 0970032668)
- Drinking With Calvin and Luther!: A History of Alcohol in the Church, by Jim West (ISBN 0970032609)