And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)
The Bible nowhere prohibits absolute abstinence from alcohol. Indeed, Solomon seems to encourage one to “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). The psalmist says that God has given us all good things, “And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).
So, the Bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol, however, it does discourage its abuse. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1) “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17). Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Proverbs 23:29-32). “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5).
However, there are practical reasons to abstain. First of all, I do not know of anyone who can honestly say they can “control” their consumption of alcohol, especially in a “social” setting. By the time they get “a buzz,” they are already too incapacitated to operate a motor vehicle. At that point, they have already lost some of their self-control. Furthermore, no one knows how alcohol will affect one, or if one has a propensity for alcoholism. Therefore, as a practical matter, it is better to abstain altogether. After all, there is no proven health benefit from drinking alcohol. On the contrary, prolonged alcohol use is deleterious to one’s health – cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, hypertension, et al.
For Christians, the primary reason for abstinence is the Christian testimony we give to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to the non-believing world around us. The Apostle Paul gives practical reasons for abstinence in Romans 14. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:21). Notice that he does not say, “don’t do it,” but rather that is better not to. To the Corinthians he writes, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.… Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:23, 32-33). In a nutshell, he says that our Christian testimony supersedes our personal interest. Furthermore, God calls us to holiness, i.e. to be set apart from the world around us. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This requires a serious lifestyle adjustment. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Notice that “holiness” makes the “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.
In summary, there is no absolute prohibition against alcohol consumption in the Bible; however, for the Christian, it is a matter of one’s testimony and a matter of holiness. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).