What About Drinking Alcohol?

As well as being head of the Biology Department of a large comprehensive school in Cardiff, Mr. Brind also acts as Health Education Coordinator for the school.

One of the practical issues which face young people is that of drink. “Should a believer in Britain today drink alcohol?” is a very real question which needs answering. The younger generation are subject to many pressures which encourage them to try it. “All of your friends drink”; “It’s grown up”; “There is nothing wrong with a little drink”, are just a few of the statements that they hear. But can we say that there is “nothing wrong” with a Christian drinking alcohol?

It is true, of course, that wine in itself is not condemned in Scripture. It was used in the drink offering of the Old Testament, and was drunk by Christians in the early Church (including elders). Our Lord Himself turned water into wine at a wedding feast.

On the other hand, Scripture makes it clear that drunkenness is a sin, and a very serious sin at that. “Be not deceived: neither … drunkards … shall inherit the kingdom of God”, 1 Cor. 6. 9. It is not only that drunkenness has been associated with idolatry in the past but also it freqently leads to gross immorality. A mind muddled by drink is hardly in a condition to respond to the will of God. Any action or practice, therefore, which may lead to drunkenness is, wherever possible, to be completely avoided.

In our Lord’s day, generally speaking, the water was not fit to drink. This is no doubt why Timothy was advised by Paul to “stop drinking only water but use a little wine because of … your frequent illnesses”, 1 Tim. 5. 23 lit. Wine was the normal beverage of the day. It accompanied every meal. It was taken on journeys, Luke 10. 34. Now quite obviously the situation in our country today is very different. Wine and other alcoholic drinks are not basic necessities; indeed they represent rather expensive luxuries. On account of the many alternative drinks available, there is no need for any of us to drink alcohol. Does it not make sense, therefore, for us to leave it alone altogether? Such a policy would have saved many a person from drunkenness! Indeed, there are over 200 medical problems associated with the heavy drinking of alcohol, including damage to the heart, brain, stomach and liver.

In Britain, alcoholic drinks are taken in a social context. They form an important part of social events, parties and ‘the evening out’. They are associated in particular with the public house, where the atmosphere and conversation are anything but Godhonouring. Alcohol is regarded as essential for lubricating the spirit of many social events, where it is used deliberately to remove inhibitions and shyness, and where it all too frequently leads to immoral actions. Christians are required to live a life unspoilt by the influences of that kind of “world”.

Alcohol is a depressant. Two glasses of wine make the drinker’s reactions slower. Only four glasses cause severe difficulties in forming accurate judgments. Six glasses are all that are necessary to bring drivers into conflict with the law of the land; thirty per cent of all road deaths occur because of alcohol. Two more glasses will make the nature and quantity of what has been consumed obvious to all! The effects of alcohol caused king Lemuel to warn the leaders of Israel not to crave for strong drink, Prov. 31. 4, and the law of God to prohibit the priests from entering the Lord’s tabernacle with minds affected by wine, Lev. 10. 9. Children are beaten, wives battered and marriages are wrecked all because of drink in the United Kingdom today. Paul pointed out, too, that God’s grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions and to live in a self-controlled manner, Titus 2. 12.

Drinking alcohol can easily become a habit. It may commence with only a little (intended to give just a sense of well-being) but can soon become a firm addiction. Alcoholism has become a major problem in some Western countries, and Britain is one of these! The danger of addiction is just as real for the children of God as for others. How much better it would be for us to form Christlike habits — the habits of prayer, of reading our Bibles, of meeting with other Christians and of doing good to others.

In writing to the Romans about spiritually weak and strong believers, Paul stated, “it is right not to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything else that will cause your brother to stumble”, Rom. 14. 21 lit. I may be confident that I can drink alcohol without this leading to drunkenness, but can I be so sure about the other Christian who sees me drink and is thereby encouraged to do the same? For that matter, I may not be as strong as I think!

What, then, is the sensible course for the young believer living in Britain in 1984? Surely it is to avoid all forms of alcoholic drink and to live in such a way that the Lord can mould and use his or her life to His glory. “Be not drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit”, Eph. 5. 18.

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