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By Les Sherlock


All scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The drinking of alcohol is a matter of keen debate in some parts of the Christian Church. For those who have a high regard for the Bible, the key point is the teaching found within it on the subject. So here is a brief study. There are 224 references to wine in the Bible.

In the Old Testament

God has given wine to make the heart of men rejoice: Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 104:15.

It is a gift and/or blessing of God: Genesis 27:28, Numbers 18:12, Deuteronomy 7:13; 11:14; 33:28; Proverbs 3:9–10; Isaiah 25:6; 55:1; Jeremiah 31:12; Hosea 2:8; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13, 14; Zechariah 9:17; 10:7.

It is an acceptable sacrifice/offering to God: Exodus 29:40–4; Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:5, 7, 10.

It cheers both God and man: Judges 9:13.

Hannah’s gift to God was wine: 1 Samuel 1:24.

Used by David: 1 Sam. 25:18, 35; 1 Chronicles 12:38–40.

Some Levites were responsible for looking after it: 1 Chronicles 9:29.

Perhaps the verse which sums up the Old Testament teaching is:

Deuteronomy 14:26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

In the New Testament

Jesus drank wine: Matthew 26:27, 29; Mark 14:25; Luke 7:33–34; 22:18; 1 Corinthians 11:25–28.

Jesus turned water into wine — even when guests ‘have well drunk’!: John 2:1–10.

Jesus told His disciples he would be drinking wine with them in the future Kingdom of God: Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18 (See also Amos 9:13).

Paul told Timothy to ‘use wine for your stomach’s sake’: 1 Timothy 5:23.

The Entire Bible

Drunkenness was a problem throughout the Bible — even for servants of God:

  • Noah: Genesis 9:21
  • The priest and prophet: Isaiah 28:7
  • The Corinthian church: 1 Corinthians 11:20–21

But in spite of drunkenness during the celebration of communion (which proves they used alcoholic wine for the purpose), the remedy was not abstention, but moderation: 1 Corinthians 11:33–34.

This can also be seen in Paul’s advice to the Ephesians, when saying we should be filled with the Spirit. He does not say we should abstain from wine, but avoid being drunk with it: Ephesians 5:18.

The Bible warns against abusing (rather than using) alcohol: Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:30–31; Isaiah 5:11; Joel 1:5.

‘Not given to wine’ - in other words, not addicted to wine: 1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 2:3.

The excess of wine is wrong: 1 Peter 4:3.

Alcohol abuse creates poverty: Proverbs 21:17; 23:21.

Beware of and avoid alcohol abuse: Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:10; 1 Peter 4:3.

Those practising drunkenness have no part in the Kingdom of God: Galatians 5:21.

People told to abstain from wine

The priests were prohibited from wine when serving in the tabernacle, not because wine was sinful or wrong in any way, but in order to distinguish between that which was sacred to the Lord, and everything else: Leviticus 10:9–11; Ezekiel 44:21.

They also had to abstain from other things which at other times are legitimate; e.g. wearing no clothing other than linen: Ezekiel 44:17; cutting hair:- Ezekiel 44:20. There was no restriction against them drinking wine at other times.

A person taking a Nazirite vow was to abstain from wine. But this cannot be taken to mean that wine is therefore sinful, as he also had to abstain from eating grapes and cutting his hair, neither of which could be called wrong: Numbers 6:3–5. However, at the end of the vow period, they could once again drink wine: Numbers 6:20.

Samson’s mother was to abstain from wine, but that was because Samson was to be a Nazirite from the womb: Judges 13:4–5, 7, 14.

The Rechabites were commended for abstaining from wine, but this was because their father had made a vow that his family should be teetotal. This cannot be used as a reason for us to abstain from alcohol, because if it was so, then to be consistent we would have to abstain from sowing seed and building houses, which was also a part of their vow! It is clear they are mentioned in contrast to disobedient Israel — the Rechabites had obeyed their father, but Israel had not obeyed God:- Jeremiah 35:2–10, 14.

Christians are told to avoid anything that causes a brother to stumble:- Romans 14:21. Therefore, if one is eating with a vegetarian, and meat eating would cause offence or difficulty, then meat must be avoided. Likewise, if drinking with an alcoholic (or recovered alcoholic who is not able to resist excessive drinking), then alcohol must be avoided. This is no more a command to be teetotal, than it is to be vegetarian!

In the light of Daniel 10:3, which makes it clear that Daniel’s normal diet included both meat and wine, it is not possible to use Daniel 1:8 to teach total abstention from alcohol. From the two references, it would appear that in Dan 1:8, as a slave, he had no choice of food and therefore abstained from defiled food and drink. But once he was promoted, living in his own house, he was able to obtain undefiled food and drink, only abstaining from wine during his fast (Dan 10:3).

My Personal conclusion

In view of the mass of scripture, which favours the moderate use of wine, and the fact that I have not found a single scripture that prohibits it, I see no reason not to make use of that which God has provided for our enjoyment. If someone with a weakness in the area of alcohol is present, then it should not be made available to him or her. On the basis of all the above, my conclusion is that while God may speak to an individual and ask them to forgo something as a part of their personal walk with Him (which could be alcohol, meat, newspapers, TV, or anything else — in Isaiah’s case, it was clothes!*) there is no scriptural basis for making total abstinence of alcohol a rule of life for anyone, be they Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, or anyone else in the Church. It seems to me that this is man-made, religious tradition, and would immediately disqualify both Jesus and His disciples, were they alive on earth today!


* Isaiah 20:2–3

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