The debate and argument as to whether a believer can drink alcohol or not has been a major concern to many. Some have preached against it, while others don’t see anything wrong in it. Well, whichever stance you have taken prior to this day, I believe the light will come to your heart as you read this.
While growing up as a young Christian, I was exposed to all manner of teachings that for years kept me in fear and bondage in my relationship with God. This issue of Christians drinking alcohol or not is just one of them. As time goes on, I will touch on these issues and I believe you will also be liberated in your heart and mind.
We were told that those who drink alcohol will go to hell. I have seen this statement a lot, they even do a BC’s via WhatsApp and other social media. It’s not just in the drinking but we were also told that if we bought the drink for them, that is, you touched the bottle of an alcoholic drink you will also go to hell! That really got me frightened to my bones. My momma didn’t give birth to no fool, if this is what will take me to hell, then I better flee from it. So, when they send me on errands to get an alcoholic drink, I refused to go. This continued for many years until the light came and I was illuminated by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ which made me loved the Father even more.
There are believers out there living under condemnation because someone caught them in the act of drinking, then they begin to feel unworthy and unholy, and because they are tired of always going to God to pray for forgiveness, they just continue in that lifestyle of perpetual guilt.
Let me say this quickly before we go looking into the Scriptures. DRINKING ALCOHOL DOES NOT TAKE ANYBODY TO HELL! By anybody, I mean both the BELIEVER and UNBELIEVER ALIKE! Jesus spoke of something profound to the earing of the Pharisees and Teachers of the law and the crowd who were with Him. When He was asked why do His disciples break the tradition of the elders by eating with unwashed hands.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’”.
– Matthew 15:10-11 (NIV)
The disciples were listening but it was too difficult for them to understand and Peter asked the Master to explain more.
Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’, but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’.
– Matthew 15:17-20 (NIV)
Jesus repeatedly uses the word heart in this passage. This tells us that His focus is not on the outcome but the spiritual condition of the man. The heart spoken of here is not referring to your physical heart, because your physical heart CANNOT produce evil thoughts, murder and the like. Jesus used heart here to represent the core of a man’s being. The apostle Paul in his prayer to the Church at Thessalonica gave us a hint on this heart.
May God himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:23 (NIV, emphasis added)
The heart spoken of here refers to the spirit and the soul. Don’t forget that these people were not born again, and therefore, they have not the spirit of Christ, so, they were by nature unclean. What makes a man unclean is not by what he does but who he is. There is a lot to draw out from these passages but let’s move on.
Having understood this, under the law, they were commanded to wash their hands before eating (see Exo 30:17 – 20) and not to take a strong drink or wine (see Lev 10:9). Therefore, drinking alcohol can also be placed on the same category as eating with unwashed hands because you take it into your body and pass it out. So, drinking alcohol is not what makes a person unclean. Under the Law, if you eat with unwashed hands and you drink wine or strong drink, you become unclean but under Grace whether you eat with unwashed hands or you drink alcohol, it doesn’t make you unclean and if you decide not to drink alcohol or eat with washed hands, it doesn’t make you more holy. Because you chose not to drink alcohol doesn’t mean that you are more righteous or loved more by God than the believer who does. Jesus is our righteousness and holiness (see 1 Cor 1:30) and it is not as a result of ANYTHING we have done (see Titus 3:4-5).
When you weren’t born again, you had never tasted any alcoholic drink, did that made you righteous or got you born again? Why do you now think that now that you are born again, drinking alcohol will make you unsaved! Nobody goes to hell for drinking alcohol, not even an unbeliever. The ONLY sin that takes people to hell is the sin of rejecting Jesus!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
– John 3:16&18 (NIV, emphasis added)
We see also here;
When he (Holy Spirit) comes, he will expose the guilt of the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement; in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.
– John 16:8&9 (NIV, emphasis added)
Lastly, I will like us to take a quick look at a Scripture which many have read and misinterpreted it to mean something otherwise. I believe as you open your heart to this, the light of the glorious gospel will flood your hearts and minds. We will take our reading from Paul’s letter to the Church in Galatia.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires.
– Galatians 5:19-21&24 (NIV)
Often times people have read this passage to mean that if you are a Christian and you are found in a drunken state or sexual immorality and the like, you will end up in hell. That’s not what these verses are saying. Before I explain further in the area of drunkenness, let me treat briefly the issue about a believer who has a weakness as relating to sexual immorality. Did you know that in the Corinthian Church, there were believers who were caught in this kind of a habit? What was Paul’s response to such?
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife…hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature (that is his body) may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
– 1 Corinthian 5:1&5 (NIV, emphasis added)
I won’t go into many details here but notice something his spirit saved. This tells us that the height of the effect of sin as touching the believer is the death of the body. When you meddle with sin as a believer, you are just playing with your life! All that will happen to you is that you will just allow the devil to cut short your stay here on earth and you won’t get to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life, something to be sorry about. The apostle Paul still wrote about sexual immorality in the next chapter and ended his message with this.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you…Therefore, honour God with your body.
– 1Corinthian 6:19-20 (NIV, emphasis added)
Why did Paul say who is in you and not who was in you? in the midst of them being caught in an act! We see the answer in the words of Jesus himself.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever.
– John 14:5 (NIV, emphasis added)
Then the apostle Paul wrote;
…when you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
– Ephesians 1:13 (NIV, emphasis added)
Back to our text, was the apostle Paul actually referring to believers here when he said that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. There are two things I want to call your attention to here – the acts of the sinful nature and inherit the kingdom of God.
Let’s take the acts of the sinful nature first. When we study from context, the apostle Paul began by saying ‘so I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (Gal 5:16). ‘those who belong, Christ Jesus, have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’ (Gal 5:24). The verse twenty-four tells us of our present reality in Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. The verse sixteen tells us of our walk in the Spirit as a result of being one with Christ. This tells us that verse nineteen is in no way referring to the believer because the believer doesn’t have the sinful nature anymore! Verse nineteen talks about the acts of the sinful nature, which we have been crucified too, we are dead to that nature. It’s not the acts that take people to hell but sinful nature, and that’s why we were crucified to that nature! Therefore, we don’t have that nature anymore.
Let’s look at the second part inherit the kingdom of God. The believer is not one who is hoping to inherit the kingdom neither is he going to inherit it, he is already a member of that Kingdom (see Col 1:13). After the apostle Paul mentioned the acts of the sinful nature, he ended with this those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Inherit is from the Greek word klayronomeho, it means to become a partaker of, to obtain, to be an heir to. We don’t become a partaker of, nor an heir of the Kingdom by our deeds, but by receiving Jesus! Therefore, what would make those who are found living these kinds of life not becoming a partaker of the Kingdom of God, is not because of what they do but because of the sinful nature in them. People don’t go to hell because of drunkenness, sexual immorality, jealousy and the like, people go to hell because they reject Jesus. Therefore, the sinful nature cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
This term also appears in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth;
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
– 1 Corinthian 6:9-11 (NKJV, emphasis added)
What were they washed, sanctified, and justified from? The sinful nature! They were crucified to that nature, freed from its power. They weren’t washed, sanctified and justified from drunkenness and the like but from the power that produces such a lifestyle.
As a believer, finding yourself in a state of drunkenness and the like don’t glorify God and we have been called to glorify Him in our body (see 1Cor 6:20). If it’s a habit or weakness then you have to trust the Holy Spirit to help you deal with it. It may not be drunkenness, it could be something else that you are struggling with, all God wants you to do is to rest assured in the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ.