The Christian and beverage alcohol
By Robert C. Veil, Jr. — We begin the new year with an examination of a subject which is unpopular with some members of the church. It is unpopular because they resist what the Bible says about it. Still, it is a matter of great interest to many, there have been a number of requests for sermons on this topic, and it is absolutely essential that we discern God’s will on this subject. It’s also an appropriate time to look at it because holiday and New Year’s parties often tempt the Christian to compromise what God’s word clearly teaches on this subject.
In this morning’s sermon, I will be sharing, among other things, some insights I have learned in prosecuting alcohol and other drug-related cases. I have seen what alcohol can do to a person’s life. I have read hundreds of police reports in DUI, and other alcohol cases. I have seen Solomon’s statement illustrated time and time again: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whosoever erreth thereby is not wise,” (Prov. 20:1). It has certainly made a mockery out of the lives of many defendants who have come into court to face the realities of what they have done.
I heard once that 80% of all criminal cases involve alcohol or other drugs, directly or indirectly. I do not doubt this is true. In addition to drunk-driving cases, there are countless cases of assault, child abuse, sexual abuse, theft, minor in possession, and multiple drug violations on every criminal docket, which trace their origins to alcohol. I used to review my District Court docket list before going to court, which usually consisted of 30 cases for the morning and another 30 in the afternoon, and add up the number involving alcohol. Eighty percent was not far off.
I know that every member of this congregation will not agree with the sermon this morning, but I am going to be asking each of us to take a hard line on this matter. I will share a number of reasons for that request, but it boils down to the fact that that’s the way God approaches this. We will be showing that clearly from His word.
If you have ever been the victim of alcohol, or you have a family member or close friend who has been, you will not need much convincing. If you have seen the broken hearts and broken lives left along alcohol’s trail, I won’t need to work very hard to persuade you to totally abstain from beverage alcohol. But I’m going to be focusing mainly on our members who have been toying with social drinking, thinking it’s okay for them to drink “a little.” This is often referred to as drinking “responsibly” or drinking “in moderation.” As we will see, those phrases are dangerously misleading—and unscriptural.
The truth of the matter is that the Bible condemns drunkenness in any degree, a little or a lot. Consider this passage: “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Paul is here contrasting the state of being controlled by alcohol with the state of being controlled by the Spirit. If it is okay to be “a little bit” drunken with wine, or buzzed with alcohol, then it is also all right to be a little uncontrolled by the Spirit. Paul is saying absolutely no to the one but absolutely yes to the other. He is not saying it’s okay to have a little of each. It’s a question of who or what is controlling us. Are we being controlled by the Spirit of God through His word? Or are we allowing alcohol and other drugs to control our lives? The Christian is to allow God’s Spirit to control his life completely, totally, and without compromise.
There is no room for some other controller, or substance which interferes with the Spirit’s control of our lives. Think of your body as a temple or instrument of God, to be devoted wholly and exclusively to him (1 Cor. 6:19). Paul is in effect saying, “Fill up your mind and soul with the Spirit of God, and leave no room for other spirits.” The play on words in the original text comes through in the English translation.
Other passages which list “drunkenness” among the sins of the world include Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:10; 1 Cor. 5:11; and Rom. 13:13. Any one of these would be sufficient to show God’s view of using alcohol as a beverage. It is unwise and dangerous to presume that we can flirt with this sin. It is presumptuous in the extreme to enter into drunkenness, even a little, with the notion that I will “know when to stop.” God has set beverage alcohol beyond the limits of what a person can partake of, and still be faithful and pleasing to Him.
SOURCE: Central Church of Christ Bulletin, Martinsburg, WV, 1/1/2017, via the Wadsworth, OH, congregation’s bulletin.