Alcohol, drugs and smoking Refs
 So-called “substance abuse” is a serious problem in today’s society. Where does the disciple of Christ stand in relation to drug abuse, alcohol consumption and smoking? In this chapter we explore what the believer’s attitude should be to these things.

Ephesians 5:15–21

Paul is giving the believers in Ephesus some good general advice about the direction their lives should take. His clear instruction is not to be drunk with wine. This is part of walking wisely and not as a fool (v15). Rather than being filled with alcohol so that it controls our thinking, we should be “filled with the Spirit” of God. In other words, godly thoughts and activities should be occupying our minds and directing our lives.

We should be under the positive, constructive influence of God’s Spirit through his word, not drifting aimlessly under the influence of alcohol and other chemicals.

1. Does Paul say we should never drink alcohol?
2. Why does Paul say we should not get drunk?
3. In what other ways would drunkenness compromise a person’s life in Christ?
4. How do we become “filled with the Spirit”?

Is it wrong to drink alcohol?
Some people claim that drinking any alcohol is sinful. This is not Bible teaching. A distinction must be made between drinking alcohol in moderation in an appropriate context and the abuse of alcohol (in other words, getting drunk).
Consider the following:

1. Wine, like other food and drink, is a gift from God which we can enjoy.
Will there be wine in the Kingdom?
Joel 3:18
Did God speak of wine as a blessing?
Deuteronomy 7:13

2. Wine has a place in celebrations and special occasions.
Did Jesus approve of wine being drunk at the wedding?
John 2:1–11

3. Jesus used wine to represent his blood at the last supper.
Would Jesus have used a substance that was evil or forbidden to commemorate his sacrifice?
Luke 22:17–20

Nevertheless, apart from taking bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are not commanded to drink alcohol. We are expected to exercise discretion, as there could be occasions when it is not appropriate to drink alcohol. Can you think of some situations today where it would not be “walking wisely” to drink alcohol? e.g. Daniel 1:8; Jeremiah 35:5–8.

Drinking wine or other alcohol to excess is condemned strongly in the Bible. It is foolish, it is likely to lead you to further sin, and it is a loss of self-control that is forbidden for a believer.
Proverbs 20:1; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9–10.

Excessive alcohol consumption is damaging to your health. It is a factor in coronary artery disease and chronic liver disease,
among other problems. Our bodies are to be regarded as holy and not to be abused.

We are commanded by God to obey the laws of the land. Titus 3:1 Therefore drunk and disorderly behaviour, under-age drinking, driving while under the influence of alchohol, and other illegal activities, have no place in the believer’s life.

What would you do?

Consider the following scenarios and comment on what you think would be the right thing to do.

1. You are invited to a wedding of a friend where you know there will be alcohol served, and you suspect some people will drink to excess. Do you accept the invitation? Does Jesus provide an example in John 2:1–11?

2. You are having dinner with a person who has had to overcome problems with alcohol abuse in the past. Should you offer him a glass of wine? Should you have a glass of wine yourself? Is 1 Corinthians 8:13 relevant?

3. You begin a new job and your new colleagues tell you they all go to a local bar every Friday afternoon after work for a few drinks. Should you join them? Are the following verses relevant? Luke 5:29; 7:34.

What about smoking and other drugs?
Smoking and other drugs are not specifically mentioned in the Bible.
By “drugs” we mean mind-altering substances taken for “recreational” use or some form of dependency (other than under medical direction). However there are four very important principles which apply. The principles are:

1. Rather than depending on drugs to control our temperament or direct our lives, we should be governed by the Spirit of God through his word. Ephesians 5:15–21
This principle applies equally to abuse of drugs as it does to abuse of alcohol. Unlike alcohol, for which a case can be made that some intake is acceptable, there are no benefits associated with heroin, cannabis, amphetamine or cocaine abuse. Whether a person is addicted to such drugs or merely uses them for occasional “trips”, they constitute a denial of the power of God in one’s life and a loss of self-control. The evils that result from drug abuse (crime, broken families, destitution) are all too evident in our society.

2. The body of a believer is described as a temple of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19–20
It follows that such a temple should not be neglected or vandalised. To do so would be an insult to God who made us.
A body which is riddled with disease as a result of excessive alcohol intake, smoking or drug abuse is not an appropriate dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us that we have been bought with a price (the death of Jesus) and that we are not free to destroy our bodies or corrupt our minds.

3. As believers in Christ and worshippers of God we are called to be holy.
Under God’s Law in the Old Testament, external cleanliness and freedom from disease was very important as a representation of purity before God. Jesus in the New Testament shows that defilement comes from within a person, from evil thoughts and unholy attitudes. It is hard to imagine how deliberately polluting one’s body is contributing to the holiness God requires. Smoking and drug-taking are behaviours that belong to sinful lifestyles, not holy lifestyles.

4. It is never too late to change.
If you have sinned in this way, you will need to repent and seek forgiveness. Repentance can be even more difficult than usual if you have an addiction to overcome, but God can help here too.

[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

1. In moderation and in an appropriate context, a believer may drink alcohol. However, drunkenness is a sin. If a believer cannot control their alcohol intake to avoid sinning, it is best to avoid alcohol altogether.
2. Rather than depending on substances such as drugs, smoking and alcohol for thrills or to prop us up in the face of adversity or depression, the believer should be filled with spiritual guidance from the Bible and communion with God in prayer.
3. We are not free to abuse our bodies with harmful substances.

1. One of the problems with alcohol is that it relaxes our inhibitions. In other words, we let our guard down and can say and do sinful things when under its influence. What are some scriptural examples of sin resulting from drunkenness?
2. Read 2 Corinthians 6:17–18. To what extent is the issue of drugs, alcohol and smoking an issue of holiness—that is, separation from “unclean” things? Can a person live a holy life “on the inside” while going along with such pursuits?
Is it simply a matter of keeping up appearances?
3. 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 tells us we must not defile our bodies, which are temples of God. Smoking is one obvious way we can harm our bodies. What are some other, perhaps less obvious ways, we could harm ourselves? Are these things in themselves sinful?

Do you have a problem with smoking, alcohol or drugs?
Take your problem to God and tell him how you feel. Confess that it is a sin and ask him to help you. Seek medical attention, preferably from a doctor or counsellor who is a Bible believer.

1. Read 1 Corinthians 8. A major issue in Corinth at the time of the apostle Paul was eating meat at a public place, when that meat had been ritually offered to false gods. Some believers didn’t have a problem with this as they knew that idols were meaningless and so was the worship connected with them. Others felt this practice was wrong and steered away from such food. What is the real issue with which Paul is concerned and does this have a bearing on our attitude to a believer’s consumption of alcohol?
2. Giving up smoking or excessive drinking is a very real problem for some people. Addiction to drugs such as heroin is certainly no easy thing to overcome. Obviously, it is best never to become involved in the first place. List some examples from the Bible of ways in which people countered strong temptation to sin.
(Here are some examples to start with: Genesis 39:7–12, Matthew 4:3–4, Matthew 26:41.)

• Taking control: a guide for youth, edited by Rob J Hyndman (published by the Melbourne Christadelphian Sunday Schools, 1997). 35 pages. This short book covers many youth issues, including sections on Drinking, Smoking and Drugs.
• Freedom in Christ by H.A. Twelves (published by the Christadelphian, 1968). Chapter 10: Smoking. 6 pages.

14. Holiness and obedience
16. Temptation
17. Sin
28. Repentance
63. Friends
64. Leisure time