Build a Continual Soberness
Scriptures: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
by Jacob Abshire on February 27, 2023
How should Christians view alcoholic beverages? Can someone become a godly person while enjoying a beer or two? Let’s talk about it. In my series of godly characteristics, we are examining the qualifications of a pastor as fitting for measuring the maturity of a believer. We have carefully looked at our reputation, our passion, our thinking, our appetites, our dignity, our hospitality, and our skill at speaking in a way that glorifies God. Now, let’s turn to our consumption of alcoholic beverages. The Bible says that we should be characterized as “not a drunkard.”
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”1 Timothy 3:1-7
Christians fall on either side of this issue. On one side, the opinion is to be completely abstinent from any intoxicating drink regardless of the situation. The opposite side holds the opinion of freely drinking, living it up, putting it down, and throwing it back. And, then there are some people who land somewhere in the middle. They might argue that drinking is fine, as long as it is done in moderation and wisdom.
What Does “Not a Drunkard” Mean?
Taken at face value, we could take the easy road and say that “not a drunkard” means to not be characterized as a drunkard. This is a clear and safe approach to interpreting this text. But, this is only good for a baseline. The original text, in connection with Paul’s broader teachings on the subject as well as Scripture as a whole, opens this up a bit more.
The phrase itself is made up of two words which mean “alongside wine.” Then, the phrase is negated, making it a prohibition so that it reads “do not be alongside wine.” To be clear, standing next to a bottle of wine is not the issue; frequently drinking what is inside the bottle is. It pictures the one who rarely leaves the wine alone. They are like Batman and Robin, a dynamic duo.
The idea arises from Scripture’s explicit teaching about the sinfulness of excessive drinking. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says that the “unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” and then it lists “drunkards” as one of the unrighteous. Also, Galatians 5:19-21, which tells us that “drunkenness” is one of the many “works of the flesh.”
Scripture also gives us a few reasons why drunkenness is sinful and unwise. It decreases our capacity to think (Prov. 31:4-5) and our ability to restrain ourselves morally (Prov. 20:1). It also increases our chances of enslavement (Prov. 23:34-35) and contributes to economic failures (Prov. 21:17). In other words, drunkenness leads to a faulty image of God in man.
Being Wise with Alcoholic Consumption
In previous characteristics, we learned that we are to be people with pure passions, possessing a sensible mind, a restrained appetite, a respectable attraction, and a useful speech. All of these things fail when you are intoxicated by strong drinks. In other words, drunkenness assaults your ability to develop a godly reputation.
So, we don’t want to be careless about alcoholic consumption. At the same time, we don’t want to be legalistic either. Our goal, if we are to be godly people, is to think carefully and clearly about the things that have influence over us.
Drunkenness is often understood as a generic term that refers to a loss of sobriety and an enslavement to alcohol. And, the Bible teaches us to have a lifestyle of sobriety being unattached to things that enslave us. Romans 13:13, for instance, tells us to “walk properly as in the daytime, not in … drunkenness.” Again, 1 Corinthians 5:11 tells us “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty” of being a “drunkard.” Finally, Ephesians 5:17-20 prohibits foolish thinking when it comes to the will of the Lord and that we should “not get drunk with wine.” So, the Bible is clear about drunkenness.
In fact, the proverbs contain principles for young leaders and those who wish to be successful in life. And, while there are a few positive references to “wine” (Prov. 3:9-10; 9:1-6), wine is generally viewed in a negative light (Prov. 20:21; 21:17; 23:29). But, the bottom line is this: the godly person cannot spend too much time alongside wine because he is to be characterized with sobriety. This is why I’m calling this quality a continual soberness. Godly people build a reputation of being continually sober, not frequently drinking.
Now, here are five steps to build a continual soberness in your life.
Strengthen Your Knowledge
You will not make a godly decision on this matter until you properly understand what God says about it. Scripture builds convictions, so dig deep into God’s Word and find out what God says in order to frame your view and shape your perspective. This will also build conviction.
Examine Yourself Honestly
It’s easy for us to skip an evaluation of ourselves to avoid any decisions we might have to make that we won’t like. So, don’t let your desires usurp your convictions. If you need to change, be honest with yourself, and pursue the changes you need. You are only hurting yourself when you don’t.
Seek Our Accountability
After evaluating yourself, you may need some help to course correct your life. Find a true friend in the Lord and ask them to hold you accountable to the change you need to make. And, don’t pick the guy who is struggling as well, seek out someone who already shows restraint in this area.
Watch Your Dependencies
The issue of drunkenness is a matter of sobriety and enslavement. Think about why you want to drink. Are you psychologically dependent? Do you need to have a drink or you will explode on someone? This will give some indication as to whether you are enslaved or not. In fact, expand your consideration to things outside of drinking. You might be enslaved to something other than wine and that can be equally dangerous.
Turn to God
Godly men are enslaved to Christ. He is our supreme influence. We are to love him most and love others afterward. Submitting to Him in this way requires diligence and prayer. So turn to God, ask Him to bind you to Him. We want to find our supreme satisfaction in Christ, and be known as men who are influenced by the Spirit of God. Ephesians 5:18 tells us, “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit of God.”