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Christian Liberty and Drinking Alcohol

by randy on March 14th, 2010

Can the Christian drink? The scriptures answer with an astounding “NO” if the intent is drunkenness or communion in the world’s drinking parties (1 Peter 4:2-4).  In fact I would submit that there are many so called Christians in danger of not inheriting the Kingdom of God because of a failure to distinguish so called Christian liberty from an excuse for sin (Gal 5:19-21).  Do not mistake me for saying that fermented drink, made by God, is wrong or sinful. Quite the contrary, it is made by God to be enjoyed.

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” they say from their pulpits across the nation. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom and false humility, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.  They are after-all based on human commands and teachings (Col 2:20-23).  This all to often characterizes the fundamentalist preaching that adds to the conscience- man made laws and commands absent from scripture.

Some have argued that the American culture of drinking has rendered alcohol sinful. But drunkenness, drinking parties and consciences who are stumbled over wine are not foreign to the culture set in scriptures.  Paul even tells us that if wine makes a brother stumble it should be avoided (Rom 14:21). This did not stop our savior from making wine (John 2:1-11) or commanding its use in his feast (1 Cor 11:25-26).  In fact the scriptures are full of commands and celebrations that make use of wine and strong drink even in worship. Take for example Deut 14:26, “and spend the money for whatever you desire-oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

Some have attempted to argue that the wine in those days was actually grape juice or some watered down equivalent.  This is a gross historic fallacy that can be refuted even in light of scripture.  Lets not forget the rebuke to those at the Church in Corinth for getting drunk off of the communion wine (1 Cor 11:21-22).  It is the aged fermented wine (Luke 5:39) also described in vivid detail concerning the Kingdom blessings (Is 25:6) that men are rightfully to enjoy.

There is no universal command to avoid wine or strong drink.  In fact, select groups that did abstain were worthy of mention as acting differently than the accepted biblical practice. For example those under the nazarite vow (Numbers 6:2-6) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).  Interestingly, in contrast to John the Baptist Jesus did come eating and drinking and his doing so resulted in many falsely calling him a winebibber and glutton (Luke 7:33-35).

In the final analysis we must be able to distinguish between the use and abuse of fermented drink. While scriptures contain strong warnings concerning the abuse of wine (Prov 23:21, 30; Deut 21:20; Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 2:3) they also contain strong warning concerning sexual perversion.  We do not however condemn all sexual activity, only its abuse.  While any of God’s gifts can be abused, we must avoid the ascetic temptation to deem them as evil.

I will conclude with an excerpt from G.I Williamson’s “The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes” (pg 195) who concludes:

  1. that God alone has legitimate authority over the conscience,
  2. that his Word alone is the rule thereof,
  3. that the doctrines and commandments of men which are either contrary to or additional to God’s Word in respect to worship have no authority to bind the conscience,
  4. that to permit the conscience to be bound by such is sin, betrayal of true liberty of conscience, and a denial that God alone is one’s Lord, and
  5. that Christian liberty must be distinguished from antinomianism (which means “freedom to sin”).

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  1. point #4 at the end of this post is pretty intense, but one we would do well to dwell on.

    Great article… I personally do not drink for a number of reasons, but none of those reasons have to do with the Law, or my conscience, nor would I dare forbid drink to those who would seek to enjoy it rightly.

  2. Very good article. The five points in conclusion regarding Christian liberty are very helpful and obviously apply to much more than alcohol use. I’ve enjoyed browsing through your other posts as well and have added you to my reader. Blessings.

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