Does the Bible Forbid Drinking Wine or Alcoholic Beverages?

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Does the Bible forbid drinking wine or alcoholic beverages?

Yours is one of those questions to which a yes or no answer will never do full justice. “Forbid” suggests a command against any amount of wine for any purpose. Such a prohibition is not found in Scripture. However, a simple no to your question does not adequately address the evidence, either.

In the case of wine or strong drink, texts on both sides of the debate are easily listed:

  • Warnings against wine: Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:31; 31:4, 5; Isaiah 5:11; 28:1, 7; 56:12; Hosea 4:11; Habakkuk 2:5; and Ephesians 5:18. Several more forbid drunkenness.
  • Approvals of wine: Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 31:6, 7; Ecclesiastes 2:3; Luke 5:39; John 2:1-11; and 1 Timothy 5:23. It will not work to argue that fresh grape juice is intended in each of these texts.

This textual evidence provides wiggle room for the viewpoints of both the total abstainer from alcohol and the user in moderation. The apostle Paul grasped this ambiguity and teaches us to live with it. In Romans 14, a key chapter on doubtful issues, he mentions wine (v. 21), suggesting that drinking may have been on his, or someone’s, list of disputable matters in the early church.

And what does the Apostle say about such questions? He urges us to make doubtful decisions based on two factors: their impact on others (v. 21) and our own consciences (vv. 22, 23). So ask yourself these questions: Will my drinking wine or strong drink cause anyone to stumble? And will it go against my best teaching and training in the faith? If the answer to either question is yes, the counsel of Paul is “Just say no.”

— Elder Calvin Burrell

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    Calvin Burrell
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    Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.