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"Is there any indication that Jesus drank alcohol? Can Christians drink alcohol?"


When I was young in the Lord, it appeared to me that Christians who chose not to drink alcohol were more spiritually mature (in their words and actions) than Christians who do drink alcohol (even in moderation). Granted this was a generalization which was simply based on my personal observations, and it is not necessarily true for every Christian who chooses to drink or not to drink. However, this observation got me wondering about whether or not it is a sin for Christians to drink alcohol. When I studied what the New Testament says about this, I was surprised to find that Jesus and the apostles may have drunk wine.

However, whether Jesus and the apostles drank alcoholic wine or not, the Bible is very clear that drunkenness is a sin:
"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy." (Romans 13:13)

"But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." (1 Corinthians 5:11)

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

"The acts of the sinful nature 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)

"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

"For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." (1 Peter 4:3-5)
So the question is whether or not it is acceptable for modern Christians to drink alcohol in moderation, as long as we don't get drunk.

Before I became a Christian, I got drunk quite a few times in college. However, after I graduated from college I got saved, and I decided to drink alcohol only in moderation. I had the occasional beer or the occasional glass of wine with dinner. But as I grew in spiritual maturity and learned how to hear God's voice more clearly, it seemed that God was leading me to ask myself why I drank wine or beer at all. What was my motive? You see, whether or not drinking a little wine is a sin, God looks at the motives of our hearts (see 1 Chronicles 28:9, Proverbs 16:2, and 1 Corinthians 4:5, for example). I began to see that my only reason for drinking a little wine or beer was for that "buzz," because it was "relaxing." I didn't get roaring drunk, but I came to realize that when I started feeling that "buzz" from the alcohol then it meant that the alcohol was affecting me and that I was in the early stages of becoming drunk. So my only reason for drinking a little wine or beer was for the purpose of getting that mild "high," or that mild stage of drunkenness. When I realized that my motive for drinking wine or beer did not seem to be pure before the Lord, I made the choice to stop drinking alcohol, and I haven't had any beer or wine or other alcoholic drink for several years now. But don't get me wrong, I don't mind eating something in a restaurant that has a wine sauce, and I don't mind using something like mouthwash that has alcohol in it, and I would drink the cup of wine at communion if that's what my church served. It's my motives that God is looking at, and therefore I no longer drink alcohol for any kind of "feeling" (or for any other reason).

Even though there are some passages which might indicate that Jesus and the apostles possibly drank wine, consider that their motives were probably different than ours (for one thing, they did not have the wide variety of drinks to choose from that we have today). If Jesus and the apostles drank wine, surely they had much purer motives than we have, and surely they didn't drink it in order to get a "buzz" or to get relaxed and happy like we do! They had the true joy of the Holy Spirit, they didn't need the false joy from fermented spirits.

But what about Jesus' first miracle, where He turned water into wine at a wedding? (see John 2:1-11). Again, it's important to consider the motives for this miracle. Was Jesus saying, "Become My disciples, and we'll booze it up every day and party every night"? Was that His motive for turning water into wine? Isn't it more likely that there was some deeper spiritual or theological significance to this miracle? For example, Bible teachers sometimes point out that Moses (Israel's "deliverer") performed the miracle of turning water into blood (Exodus 7:20). Then they point out that Jesus (our Deliverer) performed the miracle of turning water into wine, wine being a symbol of His blood (Matthew 26:27-29). Also, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.278) points out that the water in the six stone jars at that wedding was for the Jewish purification rites, and Jesus' miracle demonstrated a contrast between the old order of the Pharisees and the new way in Christ. The master of the banquet was surprised that the best wine was saved for last, which was unusual at a wedding. As this commentary says, "The significance of this miracle is that Christianity is an advance over Judaism. God has kept the best gift - His Son - until now." (p.278). Furthermore, the NIV Study Bible says that "John always refers to Jesus' miracles as "signs," a word emphasizing the significance of the action rather than the marvel [itself]" (p.2028, emphasis added). So when the apostle John described the miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11), he was emphasizing that this miracle had spiritual significance. As John 2:11 tells us, Jesus did this miraculous sign in order to reveal His glory. So if we want to use Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine as a justification for drinking alcohol then we need to remember that there were deeper spiritual or theological principles which were the motives for this miracle. There were no Christians at this wedding because the Church had not been born yet, and we should be cautious about justifying our Christian behaviors (such as drinking alcohol) based on events which only concerned Jews who were still living under the Law of Moses.

There is a Scriptural principle that we have freedom in Christ, but notice that this does not mean that everything is beneficial for us in our spiritual growth and maturity:
""Everything is permissible for me"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12)

""Everything is permissible"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive." (1 Corinthians 10:23)

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature [the flesh]; rather, serve one another in love." (Galatians 5:13)
Now, consider that there are numerous areas in our lives which God has to deal with us about. We would not be able to handle it if He showed us all of our flaws all at once, so He deals with only one or two issues at a time in our lives. This means that a Christian can probably drink alcohol and still operate in the power of the Holy Spirit while God works on other issues in that Christian's life. I'm not suggesting you do that, I'm just saying that God might deal with you about alcohol after He changes you in other areas first. However, when you start to become "interested" in this issue about whether or not Christians should drink alcohol, then maybe the Lord has started to work with you in this area. If you are a Christian who drinks alcohol, have you been "squirming" while reading this? If you are a Christian who drinks alcohol, has this article offended or upset you? If so, then consider that it might be because your conscience is trying to tell you something. God often speaks to us through our consciences (see my article called How to Hear the Voice of God), so we should obey what our consciences are telling us. Rationalizations such as, "I only drink alcohol because I like the taste," won't fool God if He begins to bother your conscience about drinking (even "moderate" or "social" drinking).


My suggestion would be that if you are a Christian who drinks alcohol, consider examining your motives carefully. Why do you drink? Is it so that you will "fit in" with the worldly people around you? If so, notice God's view of this:
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4)
We should be very careful about trying to "fit in" with the worldly people around us, because the above passage says that if we choose to be friendly with the world's way of doing things then we are putting ourselves in the position of enemies of God!

Do you drink alcohol for the feeling it gives you? If so, that "feeling" means that the alcohol is affecting you, and therefore your body has reached the beginning stages of drunkenness. We have already seen God's view of drunkenness (see the passages above), so why would a Christian want to flirt with something which God condemns so strongly?

If you drink alcohol, I hope you don't think that I am condemning you, because I'm not (we shouldn't be condemning our brothers and sisters in Christ over issues like this - see chapter 14 of Romans, for example). I am not going to be judged by the things that you do, the Lord is only going to judge me based on the things that I do. So whether you choose to drink or not is none of my business. But I do care what happens to my brothers and sisters in the Lord, and I do want to help encourage you to continue growing more and more in spiritual maturity. That's why I want to help you to see that the Lord might begin to trouble your conscience about your drinking, and that the only way to grow in the Lord is to be obedient to Him. Notice how important it is for us to keep a clear conscience before God:
"So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16)

"Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." (Romans 13:5)

"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:4)

"Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." (2 Corinthians 1:12)

"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)

"Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith." (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

"They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience." (1 Timothy 3:9)

"I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." (2 Timothy 1:3)

"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)

"let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)

"Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way." (Hebrews 13:18)

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16)
It is very important that we keep a clear conscience before the Lord because that is one way in which He often guides us. So if you are a Christian who drinks alcohol, and you find that you are beginning to wonder if it's okay for Christians to drink (or if you have been "squirming" or getting upset while reading this), then God is probably dealing with you in your conscience about drinking. Simply obey Him and give it up. You'll be glad you did! Notice that I'm not saying that alcohol is evil or that we shouldn't be drinking, I'm simply saying that we should all be trying to honor God by obeying our consciences. My point is that God has dealt with me in my conscience about moderate drinking, and there are prominent Christians who also say that God has led them not to drink alcohol. Therefore, if you are a Christian who drinks alcohol (even in moderation), it is possible that God will begin to work with you in your conscience at some point about your drinking. If He does, then that's when you should obey Him and give it up.

Update (6/6/2004):
Based on a thorough examination of the Greek texts, the author of Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages Offsite Link provides interesting evidence that Jesus and the apostles never drank alcoholic wine, nor did they ever approve of alcohol in any form. This would mean that Christians have no Scriptural support for drinking any alcoholic drinks, even in moderation.

I hope this has been helpful, and may the Lord abundantly bless you as you study His Word!
  Modification History  

  • 06/06/2004 - Shortened the article a bit, and added a link to an article which explains that Christians have no Scriptural support for drinking any alcoholic drinks, even in moderation.
  • 07/18/2003 - Revised some of the wording and added a link to my article called "How to Hear the Voice of God."
  • 01/04/2003 - Made some minor wording changes.
  • 10/01/2002 - Modified the last paragraph in the Conclusion section.