Are Christians Allowed to Drink Wine?

I was asked recently what I thought about Christians drinking wine. I think that my friend was surprised by my answer…

There are many Christians who abstain from alcohol. Some say that all Christians should abstain. Some say that a little wine now and then is acceptable, as long as it is in moderation. I have met a few who believe and teach that Jesus and His disciples did not drink wine. They insist that when the New Testament refers to wine, it really means grape juice.

Those who know me know that I believe that the Bible is God’s authoritative word to us.  So I went to the Bible to see what it says about wine.

I ran a search and found that the word ‘wine’ is used 215 times in the Bible (183 in the Old Testament and 32 in the New Testament). The word ‘vineyard is used 57 times, and winepress 17 times.

In the Middle East culture during Biblical times, the vineyard was very important part of life. When speaking of the provision of God, they reference the bounty of the flock, the threshing floor, and the winepress. In Psalm 104, the psalmist gives praise to God for His gifts to man: “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth:  wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”

In Deuteronomy chapter 6, there is a list of people who should be exempt from going to war: a man who is betrothed to a woman, lest he die in battle and someone else marry her; a man who has just built a new house and not yet dedicated it; and one who has planted a vineyard and not yet begun to enjoy the wine.

Several of the parables that Jesus told to teach the people started with “a certain man planted a vineyard.”  When he pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, he told them “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”(Luke 7:33-34) Of course, John the Baptist was not demon possessed, and Jesus was neither a glutton nor a drunkard, it was just an expression of how the Pharisees were attacking the characters of Jesus and John instead of listening to the message. My reason for quoting this verse is only to dispel the myth that the wine that Jesus and His disciples drank was just grape juice.

Wine and vineyards play such a large part in the culture in the Biblical narrative that I can’t imagine that God would forbid His people to drink it. Jesus drank real wine, and he mentioned vineyards as part of many of his teachings. There is the analogy of the vine and the branches – Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. The branches need to stay connected to the vine to stay alive. Then of course there is the sacrament that Jesus established – the bread and the wine to represent His body broken and His blood spilled as a sacrifice for our redemption.

I am not saying that Christians should or should not drink wine. This is a matter which is not expressly forbidden in the Scriptures, so it is up to each Christian to decide. The only Biblical imperative is Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

I have a problem with any question that starts with ‘Are Christians Allowed to…’ Christianity is freedom. It is not a list of do’s and don’ts or an ethical code to follow. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ, and our goal is to learn how to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. If drinking wine impedes your ability to love God (for example, if alcohol controls you) or keeps you from loving someone in your life (perhaps someone close to you is recovering from addiction and your wine drinking could cause that person to stumble), then Paul’s words in Romans 14 should be your guide. The whole chapter is applicable but I will just quote a bit and you can read the rest yourself if you are interested. “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love” (v. 15) and “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (v. 17)

(Scripture references from the New International Version, © 1978 by New York International Bible Society)

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