I recently heard a preacher talk about compromise. His lesson was a good lesson in principle. The basic thrust was taken from the story of Solomon. Solomon was given a promise that if he followed the Lord as his father David did,  he would not lack a descendant on the throne of Israel. Yet Solomon compromised by disobeying God’s command and took many wives.

The preacher used this story wisely to explain the danger of compromise. Like any preacher, he had examples that would take the eternal principle of compromise and contextualize it for our day so that we might see the immediate danger that we face (since most of us don’t have the temptation to take too many wives!). Yet the examples he gave evidenced the misplaced priorities of many in the church to misdirect the application of the principles to acts that in-and-of-themselves did not represent compromise.

Here is the list of examples of compromise he gave and expounded upon for nearly thirty minutes:

1. Going to the movies with an “R” rating.

2. Listening to a dirty joke at work.

3. Accepting a mixed drink at a party.

This preacher focused on the pressure that often comes to participate in these actions. He said that others will think you are a “goody-two-shoes” if you don’t take part, but if you do, you will have crossed the first line compromise which is the most dangerous line to cross. Following up these examples, he encouraged the listeners with these exhortations:

“We must obey God’s word”

“God’s word is not about not having fun”

“God knows best, and if he says don’t do these things, then we obey without question”

While I agree with what this preacher said about compromise, its danger, and about God knowing best, I felt that the examples he gave were irresponsible, representing a legalistic folk-theology which is more destructive than constructive. Not only this, but as I sat there and listened, I found myself thinking, “This guy has compromised by giving these examples without qualification.”

I want to focus on the example of drinking for just a moment to illustrate what I mean. Let me loosely quote how the illustration was laid out:

If you are at a party and someone tries to give you a mixed drink, what do you do? You say, ‘I am a Christian and I don’t drink.’ But what if the person says come on, just one. You say ‘I really can’t.’ Then the person just tells you to hold the drink and you do. . . This is compromise.”

From the preacher’s point of view, the person crossed a dangerous line of compromise by even holding the drink. Holding the drink will cause you to take a drink and then, as the preacher said, say, “Give me another.”

The assumption behind this illustration is that drinking an alcoholic drink—especially a mixed drink—is the sin that we must avoid at all costs. This is where I think this preacher has compromised himself. He has given in to the temptation of setting up a legalistic standard. He has built a wall of protection around a sinful act and the wall itself has become the object of sin.  Drinking an alcoholic drink—even a mixed drink—is not a sinful act (much less holding a drink compromise).

Instead of listening to this, I would like you all to take a few theology courses:

“Under the Law Again” 101, room 314 – 1pm-1:15

“How to Scare Sin Out of People” 201, room 500 – 3pm-4pm

“How to Return to the Oldness of the Letter” 301, room 225 – 6am-10am (once a week)

“The Pharisees Were Right – How Evangelicals are Antinomianism Historical Revisionists” 1100 (doctrate level), room 220 – 5pm-until you get it!

I sat at a friends house not too long ago and had a glass of Cognac and a cigar (they are supposed to go good together). While I don’t really drink often, I have no problem drinking beer or even mixed drinks. I even had a shot of Tequila not long ago (and that is not even mixed with anything!). This issue is not drinking, but being controlled by alcohol. Even then, the issue is not simply that God does not like an altered state of consciousness that drinking causes, but it is being out of control.

Ephesian 5:18 “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit [which does not].”

Notice, the emphasis is on the “reckless actions,” not simply an altered state of consciousness. The encouragement of Paul is to be “filled with the Spirit.” This does not refer to an esoteric state of mind, but one of perpetual control being given to God, not something else. The Bible speaks much about drunkenness (i.e. being controlled by alcohol as a lifestyle) because it encourages a state of being where your actions are perpetually in your own control so that you might yield that control to God.

We must balance the warning passages in Scripture with those that speak positively about alcohol. Some encourage its celebratory, medicinal, and emotional purposes and effects.

John 2:1-11: Christ turns water into wine (“the best wine”) so that the marriage celebration could continue. If holding a drink is compromise, how much more so was Christ’s actions? Let’s face it—Christ was a bartender here.

Psalm 104:14-15 14: “He [God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth, 15 And wine which makes man’s heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man’s heart” (emphasis mine). Here, “wine which makes man’s heart glad” is spoken of as a gift from God.

Proverbs 31:6-7: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. (emphasis mine). Here, strong drink and wine are encouraged to be given to those who are in pain.

1 Timothy 5:23: “Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” Paul encourages Timothy to drink wine for his ailing stomach.

Deuteronomy 14:26 “Spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” The NET Bible translates “strong drink” as “beer.” The NJB translates it “fermented liquor.”

Even Christ was accused of being a drunkard. Why? Because he drank alcohol!

Matt 11:18-19: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

The sin of being controlled by alcohol is spoken of in the Scriptures as being very serious and many people are effected—even destroyed—by this in our culture. I understand. Alcohol can cause them to be someone who they are not, thereby dishonoring God and His image which they bear. It can lead to destructive behavior. We must do our best to be in control of ourselves if we are to have a consistent witness. But we have to realize that drinking itself is not the sin. And we should not attempt to build walls around it so that it is.

Please know that I understand the dangers of alcohol. Believe me I do. Both sides of my family have members who are totally controlled by alcohol. My sister was controlled by both alcohol and prescription drugs before she took her life. For these and others with this problem, the simple act of holding a drink might be compromised were they attempting to overcome their addiction. However, this compromise would not be unlike the glutton who eyes a chocolate bar, the sex addict who watches a movie with slight sexual provocation, or the person with anger problems owning a gun. If you have a particular bent to certain sins, you must know yourself well enough to act wisely with regards to its provocation. But this does not mean that assumptions must be made about everyone’s ability to handle the same circumstances.

In the end, these things must be dealt with carefully and with much wisdom. We must understand that the possible abuse of something neither makes the abuse necessary or even likely. Most importantly, we must recognize that it is a sinful compromise to deem that which is not sinful sinful, due to misapplied folk theology, no matter how good our intentions are. Drinking alcohol is not sinful. Let us get over this legalistic fascination and represent the principle truly and with perspective.

Some may say that it is irresponsible for me to say such things because of how some will take it. It is true. I know some people will take this the wrong way and see it as a license to sin. But how much more wrong is it for me to build walls around the truth in fear that someone will abuse it? I can’t temper my understanding or teaching upon how it might be mishandled and abused. I will leave room for the Holy Spirit.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    74 replies to "My View About Prohibiting Alcohol"

    • StuartB

      @hmkjr, and I don’t want to appear as just attacking or bashing you…but do you have a reference for that quote? And does the original author have references?

    • StuartB

      @hmkjr, also, don’t ignore that Deut passage, where…it appears…God is literally saying that strong drink is ok with him!

    • StuartB

      @EVERYONE…was that Pharisees just being ridiculous when they called Jesus a drunkard, or was he actually tipsy and legitimately acting like a drunk?

    • StuartB

      @A.M. Mallet, what possible edifying purpose does McDonald’s french fries have?

    • Sheryl Perera

      To Michael and everyone else who agrees with the crap he has written in this so called theological post…

      Your trend is to create God in your own image, giving Him the attributes you would like Him to have instead of the ones His Word describes.

      God’s utter holiness, His transcendent splendor, and His “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) are foreign concepts to Christians like you.

      We are called to walk in the Light and to put away the darkness in our lives so that we may be pleasing in His sight. A holy God cannot tolerate blatant, unashamed sin in His people and His holiness requires Him to punish it. We dare not be flippant in our attitudes toward sin or God’s loathing of it, nor should we make light of it in any way.

    • Gary Simmons

      God had a cup of wine in his hand in the prophetic books. It symbolizes his wrath. It is 10000000000000% alcohol. NOBODY but God can drink it. But when God pours his wrath on the nations, this is put metaphorically as forcing them to drink HIS wine and stagger like drunkards because God can drink them under the table with ease.

      While the Bible does not have a direct reference to God drinking wine, it does show God with a wineglass in hand. So, God is OK holding a glass of wine. I think the preacher in CMP’s post would disapprove of that.

      Cheers, everyone!

    • Michael T.

      “God had a cup of wine in his hand in the prophetic books. It symbolizes his wrath. It is 10000000000000% alcohol. NOBODY but God can drink it.”

      It’s called Everclear and while I’ve never tried third party reports indicate nobody but God can in fact drink it…..

    • hmkjr

      @All – I don’t take any response/question as “bashing” and I trust no one takes my responses that way as well. I have little time to participate in blog discussions, hence responses are brief.

      Stuart,B, please stop comparing Mountain Dew and French Fries to alcohol. Neither hardly has the same affects that the bible warns against when consuming alcohol.

    • rusty leonard

      To Sheryl Perera

      I can only assume this article struck a nerve. I am sorry for that. I agree with Michael and I am not sorry for that. But I am _confused_ by the link from your name to http://www.virtualpreacher.org/ where I was reading an article “Sermon: Why do we abstain from Alcohol? ” which appears to be a piece about the AG and their stand on total abstinence. The confusing part is in that article there is a link under “Recommended Reading” That links back to Parchment and Pen’s How much is too much? – Alcohol and the Christian by Michael Patton….. So it causes me to wonder is just this post you object to? And is it because of scripture or is it due to your life experiences?

    • Jeremy

      Just wondering what the beverage options were in Jesus’ day. I heard or read once that drinks were fermented out of necessity for health reasons. It’s not like you could pop a soda in the fridge or keep around a gallon of milk. I imagine that water wasn’t readily accessible for everyone either. Is there truth to this?

    • Joe

      Well I’ll keep my comments very brief. An interesting post to be sure. The way I look at it:

      1. Many people no longer drink due to health reasons, so hopefully there will be less pressure from the drinkers at the party example.

      2. Question I ask myself as a Christian: Is it beneficial to do this (fill in the blank)? If it’s not beneficial then the next question is:

      3. Will it cause my brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble?

      I think those are reliable questions to use for coming to a God-pleasing decision.

      Yrs in Christ,

    • BJ Baker

      Alcohol in and of itself is not inherently evil. I believe that the issue here is one of idolatry. When we drink to excess, to the point that alcohol guides or controls our actions, we are putting something else in the place that is rightfully God’s. It does not matter what entity we put in that role – alcohol (drunkenness), food (gluttony), sex (fornication), or whatever it may be. When that created object takes the place of the Creator, we are rebelling against God and practicing idolatry.

      That being said, if I am among those who believe it is wrong to consume alcohol under any circumstance and I go ahead and have that drink, drunk or not, I have sinned. Not because alcohol has passed my lips, but because I have chosen to do something I believe is contrary to what God would have me do. I am rebelling against God, have chosen to follow my own rules, and have in fact sinned.

      This is one of those issues where it is easy to cause a brother to stumble, or to stumble ourselves!

    • Rick


      1. Jesus drank, it even seems that he was alright with people having a good time with wine at a wedding.

      2. No where in the Bible does it say “not to drink,” quite the contrary, it seems to support the use of alcohol. Even from an eschatalogical standpoint, it seems that we will be drinking wine in the new creation.

      3. Some of the holiest people I know drink. Some don’t.

      4. Depending on where you are from this isn’t even an issue, almost all Christians in Western Europe drink because it is an essential part of their culture.

      5. Do you really think God cares about people responsibly having a glass of red wine with a good steak, or a beer with a hot dog? Do you think he cares that so many people spill ink and waste time trying to strain the gnat of whether Christians should drink, while right this very minute hundreds of children are dieing from disease, starvation, and exploitation while much of the church…. well, argues about pointless issues?

      I think you can certainly choose not to drink, and I think that is a perfectly reasonable and good thing to do. But, I really fail to see why this is even an issue. The Bible says not to be controlled by alcohol. That’s it.

      Now lets get over these silly issues and get to work reconciling this world to God.

    • Dale

      To Michael and everyone else who agrees with the crap he has written in this so called theological post…

      Your trend is to create God in your own image, giving Him the attributes you would like Him to have instead of the ones His Word describes.

      God’s utter holiness, His transcendent splendor, and His “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) are foreign concepts to Christians like you.

      We are called to walk in the Light and to put away the darkness in our lives so that we may be pleasing in His sight. A holy God cannot tolerate blatant, unashamed sin in His people and His holiness requires Him to punish it. We dare not be flippant in our attitudes toward sin or God’s loathing of it, nor should we make light of it in any way.

      Everyone, and I do mean everyone, trends to creating God in their own image (personally I believe that you are doings so in your pot). You are right in your description of God. Jesus is God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:16). Jesus gave people wine. Jesus drank wine. Wine has alcohol in it. If giving people alcohol is a sin or drinking alcohol is a sin then the image of the invisible God sinned. How anyone does not see the contradiction here is beyond me.

      The image of God from the Bible is not a teetotaler or in any way legalistic. He preached against the legalistic system of the pharisees on the basis that they had added to the law and those new laws became the public basis for ones righteousness. When we interpret the Bible we must be very careful not to add to the prescriptions that God has laid out. Jesus’ stance against legalism along with His use of alcohol completely prohibits me from accepting the statement that one must not drink in order to be sanctified or righteous.

      Legalism is a pox on real Christianity and it needs to be lanced. Michael’s post is excellent for this.

    • Michael T.


      I couldn’t agree with you more. I generally don’t put it as harshly, but the reality is to claim that drinking alcohol is inherently sinful is to blaspheme Jesus Christ since he consumed alcohol. One cannot claim this without claiming that Jesus himself sinned and thereby undermine the entire Christian religion.

      Now don’t get me wrong I fully support the decision of those who choose for personal reasons to abstain from alcohol. I myself consume alcohol only on an exceedingly rare occasion and even then only in small quantities. However, to claim that Christians who choose to drink on a more regular basis (without getting drunk) is blasphemy and legalism of the worst kind.

    • Stanley

      For me, I have found a couple of filters that help me look thru any decision (not just to-drink-or-not-to-drink) to my heart motives:

      (1) 1 Cor 10:23-24…”Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others”

      (2) 1 Peter 2:16…”Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

      (3) Will this decision make me hunger for more of God’s Presence?

      Filter (1) & (2) used to be my primary focus, but as I have come to see that the presence of God is really what life is all about, I see that my desire (planted by Almighty God for sure) is to find my pleasure in Him.

      As a guy who partied hard thru his 20’s until coming to the realization that my life was empty and I needed Christ, I saw the need for total abstinence in my life. At that point I was convinced (I believe thru God’s leading) that I needed to be completely sober.

      Fast forward about 20 years and I find that I can enjoy an occasional beer or glass of wine in a setting that I know that I won’t cause someone to stumble.

      So whether you drink or don’t…..do it all to the Glory of God.

    • Brian

      I heard someone the other night, in a class on the synoptic Gospels, giving an overview of the episode where Jesus healed the man with dropsy on the Sabbath. The speaker started explaining dropsy (now medically called edema), that it was fluid retention that caused swelling. He went one to say that it was possible this man’s dropsy was caused by too much drinking, which had affected his liver and was thus causing him to retain fluid and swell up.

      I googled dropsy, and found it can be the result of kidney or liver failure, causing wastes to not get filtered out of the body and block up the normal flow and elimination of fluids. But it can also be caused by heart failure, systemic lupus (which can cause swelling of the brain), a failure in the left ventricle of the heart (causing pulmonary edema).

      This man has a brother who has battled severe alcohol and drug problems for years. He tends to take any chance he gets to slam alcohol.

      While I personally view total abstinence as the best path in our day and age (particularly because I don’t want someone to see me drink and think it must be OK, then they drink and happen to be one of those people with a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction — I could not handle the idea of being a stumbling block like that), I feel this brother is guilty of eisegesis in this case (and other cases where I’ve heard him teach).

      The question is, do I confront him on it?

    • EricW

      Okay, I’m going to incorporate occasional drinking into my life. God knew what He was doing when He said good things about wine, as well as when He told the Israelites it was okay to have a booze-fest once a year (Deuteronomy 14)


      “But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables – socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on – the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers….That said, the new study provides the strongest evidence yet that moderate drinking is not only fun but good for you. So make mine a double.”

      In fact, that reminds me: While cleaning my study this weekend I discovered an as-yet-unopened quart of beer from my last Mr. Beer brewing. I don’t know how it will taste after a few months of room-temperature aging, but it’s now been in the refrigerator for a couple days…. 🙂

    • Dave Z

      Now, Eric, you know most Europeans would tell you to take it right back out of the fridge and enjoy it warm, the way beer should be enjoyed!

    • EricW

      Dave Z:


      I tried it last night. Delicious!! Actually better-tasting than when I tried the first bottle a few months ago, IMO. I guess the Mr. Beer folks are right when they say that some beer recipes benefit from long aging. This one was made by combining 2 different Hopped Malt Extracts (can’t remember which two, though – maybe the West Coast Pale Ale and High Country Canadian Draft): http://www.mrbeer.com/category-exec/category_id/11

    • Dave Z

      HA! Mr. Beer! Never heard of them but I love it. They need Homer Simpson as a spokesman.

    • Renju Philip

      There are many examples from Bible which we need to consider to evaluate drinking

      Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles; he had called the party to demonstrate his confidence of victory over the besieging forces. Following things happened
      •Belshazzar was drinking wine in their presence.
      •Belshazzar tasted the wine and gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his grandfather, had taken out of the temple of the house of God which was in Jerusalem for their use.
      •Belshazzar & his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them.
      •After drinking, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

      Before going to the details of whether drinking is right or wrong let us see some examples from Bible
      •Daughters of Lot used this as a means to have incest with their father. (Gen 19:32-35)
      •David to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba decided to make Uriah get drunk. (2 Sam 11:13)
      •Noah got himself drunk by wine and exposed himself, resulting in his son getting cursed; the effects of this curse got eliminated only in the 20th century. (Gen 9)
      •Wine makes Ahasuerus first merry, then cruel and stupid in his treatment of his Queen Vashti (Esth 1:10).
      •Wine brought a completely senseless military defeat to Benhadad. (1 Kin 20)

      Let us see some advice from scripture
      •Wine figuratively represents wickedness (Prov 4:17) also Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise (Prov 20:1).
      •People involved in drinking aren’t mindful of God (Is 5:11-12) so they will involve in wickedness (Is 5:22-23)
      •Drinking results in sadness (Is 24:9; Ezek. 23:33) and impaired judgment (Is 19:14; 28:7; 56:12)
      •Scripture repeatedly warns that a drunkard won’t enter the kingdom of God and they are included among other gross sins (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:20-21; Rom 13:13). Eph 5:18 Bible warns not to get drunk with wine , for that is…

    • Renju Philip

      Does scripture advocate wine/alcohol in special occasions as in?
      • Yes Bible advocates wine/alcohol if it is used for medicinal purposes only. In our age also many syrups and the medium in home medicine is alcohol (1 Tim 5:23 (medicine) and John 2:1-11 (purify water)).
      • From the advices and exhortations in scripture, one can very well conclude that we should not drink. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20, 3:16-17).
      • Attending a party, Bible warns to avoid such affairs (1 Pet 4:3). But if you are forced to attend then as a Christian you can witness to others by not drinking and giving explanation as to why you are not drinking.

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