Bible Question:

Is it wrong for a Christian to smoke? If so, what about those who drink coffee?

Bible Answer:

Smoking is not directly condemned in the Bible and neither is the drinking of coffee or alcoholic beverages. A recent question and answer has discussed the question of smoking. Since the drinking of coffee or tea is not discussed in the Bible, you may want to look at the principles that are given in the question and answer about smoking. When we come to the drinking of alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer and alcohol, the Bible has some interesting things to say.

Alcohol In The Bible

The Bible only condemns drunkenness – not the drinking of alcohol. Drinking was part of everyday life. It occurred in the Old Testament (Genesis 9:21) as well as the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11:21). These two examples are about people who were drunk. The verses were selected to show that they drank real wine – alcohol.

Drinking Alcohol Is Not Wrong

It is not wrong to drink wine. This is implied by the miracle that Jesus performed at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). At this wedding, Jesus made new wine from ordinary water for the guests because they had run out of water. If it is wrong to drink wine, why did Jesus make wine? Then in 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul the apostle tells Timothy to, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Again, if drinking wine is a sin, why would an apostle direct some one to drink wine?

Historical research has revealed that the wine the Bible speaks of, was usually mixed with water. They mixed 2 to 10 parts of water with one part of wine. But they considered wine at full strength to be “strong drink” and a disgrace. Robert H Stein states,

It is evident that wine was seen in ancient times as a medicine (and as a solvent for medicines) and of course as a beverage. Yet as a beverage it was always thought of as a mixed drink. Plutarch (Symposiacs III, ix), for instance, states. “We call a mixture ‘wine,’ although the larger of the component part is water.” The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank it unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equal parts was seen as “strong drink” and frowned was upon.  The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water. Usually a writer referred to the mixture of water and wine as “wine.” To indicate that the beverage not a mixture of water and wine he would say “unmixed (akratesteron) wine.”

. . .

In the Talmud, which contains the oral traditions from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 200, there are several tractates in which the mixture of water and wine is discussed. One tractate (Sabbath 77a) states that wine does not carry three parts of water well is not wine. The normal mixture said to consistent of two parts of water to one part wine. In a most important reference (Pesahim 108b) it is stated that the four cups every Jew was to drink during the Passover ritual were to be mixed in a ratio of three parts water to one part wine. From this we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that the fruit of the vine used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper was a mixture of three parts of water to one part wine. In another Jewish reference from around 60 BC. we read, “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment (II Maccabees 15:39). [1]

“Strong drink” is a term that we find throughout scripture.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1 (NASB)

Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Proverbs 31:6 (NASB)

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink. Isaiah 5:22 (NASB)

Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time – for strength, and not for drunkenness. Ecc. 10:17 (NASB)

Do Not Get Drunk

The Bible does not approve of all drinking. Perhaps the strongest statements about drunkenness are the next two passages:

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB)

. . . nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:10 (NASB)

Drunkenness is a sin! The principles discussed in the question and answer on smoking will apply to anyone who fears being controlled by alcohol. Personally, I avoid drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking so that primarily 1) I do not offend my weaker brother and 2) since I am allergic to grapes and smoke fumes. God also warns us to avoid people who are constantly getting drunk. Why? The Holy Spirit gives us these two reasons,

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler, not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB)


God does not tell us that we cannot smoke cigarettes or drink wine, beer, alcohol, coffee or tea. The Holy Spirit calls us to not be controlled by anything other than Himself. He wants to control us – to fill us. The Lord Jesus wants us to yield ourselves to Him and let His Spirit take over our lives. If that means giving up these things, we must yield.


1. Stein, Robert. Wine Drinking in New Testament Times. Christianity Today. XIX, Number 19. 1975. Robert Stein was associate professor of New Testament at Bethel College.

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