What Does the Bible Really Say About Alcohol?


In the Bible “wine” is a generic term and it can denote either fresh juice or a fermented beverage; the context must determine which.

Proverbs 20:1

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:19-21; 30-35

Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Thessalonians 5:22

22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Professor R. Laird Harris:

All the wine [of Bible times] was light wine, i.e., not fortified with extra alcohol. Concentrated alcohol was only known in the Middle Ages when the Arabs invented distillation (“alcohol” is an Arabic word) so what is now called liquor or strong drink (i.e., whiskey, gin, etc.) and the twenty per cent fortified wines were unknown in Bible times. Beer was brewed by various methods, but its alcoholic content was light. The strength of natural wines is limited by two factors. The percentage of alcohol will be half of the percentage of the sugar in the juice. And if the alcoholic content is much above 10 or 11 percent, the yeast cells are killed and fermentation ceases. Probably ancient wines were 7-10 per cent . . . . To avoid the sin of drunkenness, mingling of wine with water was practiced. This dilution was specified by the Rabbis in NT times for the wine customary at Passover (1980, 376).

If both grape juice and wine are available, grape juice, one would think, would be the wiser choice. It would avoid the appearance of evil, perhaps be less offensive (an occasion of stumbling), and not be an avenue to temptation in some (who might have a weakness for strong drink).

It might be mentioned also that in some regions where grape juice is not readily accessible, wine could be used, but boiled first, so as to destroy any alcoholic content.

In the final analysis, this issue is not one that should be pressed as a matter of doctrine and fellowship.

1 Timothy 5:23 Paul instructed Timothy:

23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

  • Timothy had a stomach ache from the water in Asia Minor (it was known to be dangerous to drink the water there in that time).
  • Timothy was reluctant to drink wine with his water? Why would he be reluctant to? It would be a good assumption to assume that He knew it was wrong to drink it, and he was afraid of harming his christian influence if he was seen drinking fermented wine.

Finally, the fact that the ruler of the feast could still distinguish the quality of the latter beverage from the former, suggests that his senses were not dull as a result of previous guzzling! [Note: For further study see “John 2:1ff – The Wine that Jesus Made”.]

Not given to much wine:

1 Timothy 3:8

[ Qualifications for Deacons ] Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

Drug addiction, use drugs but not addicted be acceptable

Romans 14:21

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

Thus “wine,” because it was a common beverage, may be a specific illustration for moderation in general — without any allusion as to whether or not it involved fermentation.

Can’t go to something where drinking will be the primary activity, like a cocktail party: 

1 Peter 4:3

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.

Ephesians 5:18

Isaiah 65:8

Thus says the Lord:

“As the new wine is found in the cluster,

    and they say, ‘Do not destroy it,

    for there is a blessing in it,’

so I will do for my servants’ sake,

    and not destroy them all.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Warnings against excess can’t be used as approval. Not approval for practicing anger before sundown, jaja

1 Peter 4:3-4 (riot in moderation?)

Galatians 5:21

envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.