Is Alcohol Consumption a Sin?
Q. New Covenant Christians do not drink alcohol. You say that it is all right for other Christians to drink in moderation. How can drinking be a sin for one group of Christians but not for another?
A. We receive numerous drink-related questions each year in this magazine and although we have answered this fully elsewhere it is important to make it clear just what the Gospel teaches.
a. A person who does not know the Gospel and who has not entered into the New Covenant is free to drink alcohol. The Bible does not condemn the drinking of alcohol in moderation. It does, however, incontrovertibly condemn drunkenness.
b. An unbeliever who is living close to his conscience will "know" in his inner being that drinking to excess is a sin and will therefore be living the Law of Christ in his heart.
c. Historically speaking, alcohol was a necessary curative agent at a time when medicinal knowledge was almost nil. The drinking of unboiled water was usually unsafe. We therefore find Paul advising his co-worker and evangelist Timothy to drink a little wine for "his stomach's sake" presumably because of gastro-intestinal problems (1 Tim.5:23).
d. Scientifically everyone knows that alcohol affects the state of a person's mind, altering moods and behaviour. Some people are more sensitive than others. Some seem to be able to take large amounts of alcohol and not change their behaviour too much while others seem to get tipsy after only a few sips.
e. There is no question that alcohol is responsible for a very, very high percentage of crime, wife and child abuse, divorce, etc.. Its social effects are obvious. Even more obvious is the fact that a very large percentage of the population cannot control their alcohol consumption; these people have a negative, often damaging, effect on the other part of the population. Common sense alone ought to tell us that alcohol is bad for society. Some medical statistics published by the Norwegian Ministry of Health reveal that of non-natural deaths 0.2% die of AIDS, 0.5% die of drugs, 0.5% die in fire accidents, 3.7% die in cycling accidents, 7% die from suicide, 16% die from alcohol abuse, and 72% die from smoking (1988).
f. The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us self-limitation for the sake of the weak (Rom.14:1-3). Those who can control their alcohol consumption ought to be able to sacrifice it for the sake of those who can't. As any Christian counsellor who has worked with alcoholics will tell you, even drinking in moderation can send an ex-alcoholic back into his vicious habit. Even if we say that alcohol is permissible, the most loving response a true Christian should give would be to give it up -- not just for a particular individual who is having alcohol-related problems -- but the for sake of society as a whole. He ought to be able to ask himself: "Does society need alcohol? Does it do society any good? Should I, as a Christian, be encouraging it by drinking (in moderation) myself? Would I want my son and daughter to drink? Would drinking (even in moderation) open them up to unnecessary temptations?", etc..
g. In the Old Covenant Yahweh-worshippers were permitted alcohol in moderation. The Priesthood was, however, under an alcohol ban in order to sharpen their spiritual wits and to make them more sensitive and receptive to the Holy Spirit. The Old Covenant forerunner of the New Covenant, John the Baptist, whom Jesus praised as the greatest prophet of all, totally abstained from alcohol as a model Levitical Priest (Lk.7:33).
h. Under the New Covenant all believers are Priests and Priestesses, for all are a part of a royal priesthood (1 Pet.2:9). We in the New Covenant Church of God maintain that since alcohol prohibition is a law for the Old Covenant Priest, and since Jesus taught His disciples to live the law even more strictly than the Pharisees (Mt.5:20), and since all true believers are now priests, then the alcohol ban applies to all true Christians.
These are, essentially, the main points. We hear Christians justifying alcohol consumption in moderation in all sorts of ways. In our experience, though, they are simply offering excuses against the overwhelming bulk of scriptural witness and common sense. If we wish to justify ourselves we always will. I had a friend who justified taking marijuana in small doses because of war injuries which caused him alot of pain. He also claimed to be a Christian. Now marijuana is far more addictive and dangerous than alcohol. You can guess how long he survived as a Christian....
In the New Covenant Church we teach that alcohol, like all drugs, even in moderation, not only alters our behaviour negatively but transfers control of self from the spirit to the flesh. It opens the doors to demon influence and, if taken far enough, demon possession. We come with a prophetic warning -- alcohol, even in small quantities, blurs our spiritual discernment, and numbs our spiritual sensitivity. It certainly "opens people up", "relaxes" them, and all the other things the pro-drinkers say, but it is at a terrible cost. What it "opens up" need not be stated here, and what it "relaxes" is not the spirit, but the flesh, allowing our unredeemed natures to blurt out that it has suppressed and not confessed to God. Doubtless the odd case of the benefits of alcohol will be cited but they are as a grain of sand in comparison to the mountain of sorrow and misery caused negatively. Alcohol is a useful chemical compound in a wide variety of applications but it never was of any use to man's spiritual development. It is rightly called the "demon drink". You only have to look generally at the kind of people who use and justify it to know which side of the spiritual dividing line it belongs to.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved