Becoming drunk by alcohol is clearly prohibited in the Bible (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20; 29–32; Isaiah 5:22; Ephesians 5:18). There are many commands in Scripture about behaviors to avoid, such as drunkenness, sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and lying (Proverbs 6:16–17). But the Bible is far more than a definitive list of “sins.” When we approach it as such, we are missing the point. God does not want us to check off a list and consider everything else acceptable. The Pharisees did that, and Jesus was not pleased with them (Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:23). God desires obedience that arises from a loving heart that wants to be like Him (1 Peter 1:15).
Getting drunk is a sin, but what about drinking in moderation? Drinking alcohol has been the subject of debate within the church for centuries. Years ago the majority of Christians considered drinking alcohol in any amount to be sinful. Today there is a much greater acceptance for moderate consumption of alcohol among Christians. In Bible times, anyone set apart for God was to totally abstain from any fruit of the vine during the time of his consecration (Judges 13:4; Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Luke 1:15). Wine was sometimes symbolic of worldly contamination (Revelation 18:3), and those called into priestly service were to abstain from it when ministering in the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9). Such warnings have led many followers of Christ to forgo alcohol altogether, deeming any use of it unwise. Although drinking in moderation is not condemned in Scripture, losing self-control is, and there are many warnings about alcohol’s destructive nature (Proverbs 20:1; 31:4).
Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Two elements are being compared: alcohol and the Holy Spirit. Each has the power to take control of a person’s mind and behavior—with vastly different results. Getting drunk leads to a loss of self-control; being filled with the Spirit leads to more self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). We cannot be controlled by both alcoholic spirits and the Holy Spirit at the same time. When we choose to ingest mind-altering substances, we are effectively choosing to give ourselves over to the control of something other than the Holy Spirit. Anything that takes control of our mind, will, and emotions is a false god. Any master we obey other than the Lord is an idol, and idolatry is sin (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Getting drunk is a sin. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, or some other addictive behavior, Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). When we get drunk with alcohol or high on drugs, we are serving a master other than the Lord. Choosing to follow Jesus means choosing against our old sinful patterns and lifestyle. We cannot follow Jesus and also follow drunkenness, immorality, or worldly thinking (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:1–6). They are going in opposite directions. First Corinthians 6:10 lists drunkards among those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” When we choose to be defined by our sin, we cannot also be a Christ-follower (Galatians 5:19–21). When we choose drunkenness in spite of God’s command against it, we are choosing disobedience and cannot, in that state, be in fellowship with a holy God who condemns it (Luke 14:26–27; Matthew 10:37–38).