By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
May 26, 2023
Is it wise for a Christian to drink alcohol?
In a nation where nearly two-thirds of people are drinkers and excessive alcohol use is the third leading preventable cause of death, the question is one that should be dealt with but is often side-stepped from the pulpit.
Not so at Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, where senior pastor Robby Gallaty recently preached a 46-minute sermon in which he used stats, expert analysis and Scripture to warn churchgoers that “You can’t be full of the Spirit and buzzed at the same time.”
“Gallaty hit the nail on the head,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The truth about alcohol doesn’t change, but it’s refreshing to hear it preached boldly and without apology.”
Gallaty, who started drinking at age 16 and is celebrating two decades of sobriety, made it clear that in and of itself, consuming alcohol is not a sin, but he urged Christians to follow Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-18, where the apostle tells the church at Ephesus to “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit” (CSB).
In answer to those who point to Jesus’ first recorded miracle — turning water into wine at a wedding — as evidence of His endorsement of drinking, Gallaty leaned on the work of research professor Charles Quarles, who has studied the composition of alcohol in the first century.
Read Dr. Mark Creech’s article, Drinking, Jesus Turning Water to Wine
“A careful study of the Mishnah and Talmuds [Jewish texts] shows that the normal dilution rate among the Jews was three parts water to one part wine,” Quarles has contended. “This was very likely the commonly accepted dilution rate among Jews of the [New Testament] era as well. This dilution rate reduces the alcohol content of New Testament wine to 2.75 to 3.0 percent.”
Gallaty showed his congregation a chart showing that today’s spirits range from 40 percent more potent than New Testament wine (light beers) to more than 13 times more potent (whiskey). He said it was safer during Jesus’ time on earth to drink wine instead of water, because water often included bacteria.
As opposed to drinking wine-laced water to keep from getting sick, Gallaty said many people today drink with the express purpose of getting “buzzed” or drunk, often to “drown” their problems.
“For some of you, drinking has become a coping mechanism in your life to forget your problems momentarily, sadly, only to wake up later to find out they’re still there,” he said. “It’s easier to dull the pain in the present with alcohol because it seems simpler. But the problem is they will arise later in life.”
Gallaty said drinking alcohol can lead to reckless living and can cause others to stumble. He warned parents that teen-age drinking most often starts in the home.
“A child who drinks as a teen-ager is eight times more likely to do drugs later,” he said.
“There’s only one thing that can control you at one time,” Gallaty concluded. “You are either going to be full of the spirit or you are going to be consumed with spirits.”
He said drinking alcohol often masks a deeper problem.
“Maybe the reason you haven’t experienced freedom in your life … the reason you’ve been consumed by [sin or addiction] is maybe because you haven’t fully asked Jesus into your life and surrendered your life to Him to set you free once for all from something you’re trying to do in your own strength,” he said, making it clear that sobriety is not salvation.
“I tell people sobriety without Jesus is always a dead-end street,” Gallaty said. Watch his full sermon here.