This is Side 2: see Side 1 here!
It is interesting to me that the majority of things we (as Christians) argue vehemently over are personal preferences. Many Christians spend their lives arguing for things not in scripture while denying things that are in scripture. I think one of the biggest things argued for/against may be alcohol. Did Jesus drink wine? Should I drink alcohol? Don’t I have personal freedoms in Christ?
I would have to say the scripture is clear that drunkenness is indeed a sin and a “big” one at that. Just take a look at the list of things Paul gives to those in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. He then concludes “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Three big words in Christianity all in one verse: regeneration, sanctification, and justification but we will get into those perhaps in a different post. So obviously drunkenness is a sin but little is said about alcohol or moderation drinking in general. So instead of pulling out verses and attempting to explain something that may or may not be there lets go to some principles of the scripture.
1: Stumbling Another Believer (1 Corinthians 8)
Tim pointed out in his post that his friends check with him to make sure it is ok before drinking in front of him and that is great. However, I have been out with friends (some mutual friends of Tim and I but some of my personal friends) that have not given me the same luxury. Now, I am not one to judge them on their decisions about what to drink but because of the reasons I will list in this post, I attempt to avoid alcohol altogether. Now, with respect to stumbling another believer there are of course lines. If I didn’t like orange shirts and asked every member of my church to please throw out their orange shirts that would be a bit of an issue on my end. But when a younger believer has knowledge that the leaders in his local body or the “older crowd” is ok with drinking then he goes out and drinks and fuels the addictive tendency and now has an issue with alcoholism that is closer to the meaning of causing another believer to stumble. It is obviously still the choice of each individual but when that believer looks up and sees that behavior what inhibition would exist to push him/her in the right direction?
Several years ago there was a study conducted on alcohol usage in teenagers compared to the alcohol usage of parents. In homes where parents were total abstainers from alcohol 16% of the teenagers tried alcohol before adulthood. However, in homes where the parents were social drinkers, 66% of the children experimented with alcohol before adulthood.
There are numerous other examples that could be brought to light but the principle is the same: why rejoice in something that could cause another believer (or your own child) to stumble and stumble big.
2: Better to Be Separate then Compromising (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
I mentioned in the intro that in 1 Corinthians 6 we have a list of things that the believers in Corinth used to be, and among that list was drunkard. Of course a drunkard and a social drinker are not the same thing but I don’t think it is too many steps down the staircase of alcohol between the two. I have seen many friends that started at social and have stepped down to borderline drunkard. Do you know what the number one reason people drink alcohol is? Socialization. That is interesting to me and very telling. People drink to fit in. I wonder how this translates to Christians who chose to drink. People are drinking to fit in with people who drink. Paul says that some of the believers in Corinth were drunkards but have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. So being a drunkard is a lifestyle that is associated, not with Christ, but with the world. So in 2 Corinthians 6 we have Paul’s entreaty (using the words of God from the OT) that they should “come out from among them and be separate.” I don’t think it is illogical or a stretch to say that a drunkard is not a drunkard without alcohol. Social drinking is not social drinking without alcohol. Paul associates the whole business with the world and urges the believers in Corinth to come out from among them and be separate. As Christians we tend to pride ourselves with our distance from the world. What we fail to realize is that keeping a steady distance from the world is actually pulling us further from Christ because this world isn’t growing steadily closer to God. It appears to be the exact opposite and if our focus is on keeping a particular distance from the world then it is on the wrong thing. We should have the attitude of distance to Christ. We have been bought with a price and compromising in little things seems like a big price to pay at the judgment seat of Christ.
3: Christian Testimony (1 Peter 4:3-4; Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
I think this slides right in line with #2. Part of being separate is your Christian testimony. This, to me, is one of the strongest reasons to not partake in any drinks. It actually is a fantastic opportunity to speak a few words in the gospel every time I am asked the question from a co-worker “you don’t drink?” I have the opportunity to say that Christ saved me from my sins and I can’t see any way it is rewarding to Him for me to drink. Sure, it comes with criticism sometimes; just look at the believers to whom Peter was writing in 1 Peter 4:3-4. “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” This negative treatment of those who seek to uphold a Christian testimony and be separate hasn’t changed. However, there are many who look to such an example and see a difference and inquire. They are impressed with someone who can stand against the flood of normalcy in our society and have convictions. Now, the difficulty comes with consistency. Christian testimony goes far beyond alcohol and drinking and into every sphere of our lives. When I have talked to others about this issue they come back with a retort of “well if that is the case then we shouldn’t go watch some movies or look at TV shows or listen to some music” and that always surprises me. When did the grid of Philippians 3 become out of date and unnecessary? When did looking at our actions and activities to see if there is any honor for Christ in them become something of the past? EVERY THING should be compared to Christ and to see if it is bringing Him honor. If it doesn’t, then like Paul reminds those in Corinth “if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15). A Christian will have to face a judgment as well. Not the Great White Throne judgment that judges sins (Revelation 20) but the Judgment Seat of Christ which judges works (2 Corinthians 5:10). Everything that didn’t bring Christ glory and honor will be burned up and a reward will be lost. Reward that will ultimately be placed at the feet of Christ.
But I referenced Romans 12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22. In Romans 12 I had in mind the appeal “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (v 2) and “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (v 17). The principle is what we have already been looking at. Be separate. But what about “Do what is right in the sight of everyone, “as Paul says in verse 17? It ties into what a surface reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “avoid the appearance of evil.” Some would take this to mean that we should not only avoid evil but avoid anything that looks evil. Although this may be a good Biblical principle that is not in the context here. We are to avoid every form of evil, whether it be doctrinal teaching, glaring heresy, or lifestyle choices. We should avoid everything that may produce anything in us (albeit beliefs or lifestyle) that is contrary to the whole of scripture. Does drinking make anyone a better person? Do the ramifications of alcohol help anyone?
Perhaps my convictions are so strong because as a young person I had a former drug addict/distributor (the largest in PEI, Canada) look me in the eye and tell me “Rob, if you learn anything from me just stay away from alcohol all together. It will do nothing for your testimony and is only playing with fire. Don’t take the risk of getting burned.” Regardless of my conviction, the Bible is only crystal clear on drunkenness. I just wanted to give the Biblical principles for the other side of the argument from Tim’s post. I am only a sinner saved by grace so to condescend on anyone else would be wrong but hopefully this at least brings a balance to the alcohol issue. Regardless of your stance our prayer/desire is that all things are done to the glory and honor of our Savior.