Megachurch Pastor's Bold Message on Alcohol: 'You Can't Be Full of the Spirit and Buzzed'
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Alcohol use has become so commonplace in society, it’s often the person abstaining rather than the one overindulging who gets sideways glances and faces questions from perplexed peers. There’s no doubt alcoholism has become an epidemic, with new data revealing alcohol-induced liver disease soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So how should Christians engage with alcohol?
Robby Gallaty, an author and senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, recently addressed from the pulpit whether it’s wise for believers to consume alcohol.
An alcoholic himself celebrating 20 years of sobriety, Gallaty employed statistics, expert analysis, and Scripture to make his case, putting to rest the suggestion there is any difference between being drunk and “buzzed.”
“You can’t be full of the Spirit and buzzed at the same time,” the pastor declared, later pointing to two police officers in the congregation whom he said would vouch for his assertion there is no real distinction between a person who is drunk and one who’s “buzzed,” because neither person is sober.
Of course, there are those who will make the obvious point: Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, as it’s written in John 2:1-11. Gallaty, however, offered some context.
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In addition to explaining it was safer in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry to drink wine rather than water, because the latter was often contaminated with bacteria, the Tennessee pastor pointed out a stunning reality: the alcohol consumed today is drastically more potent than the wine of biblical times.
To make his point, Gallaty referenced the work of Charles Quarles, a research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who has studied the makeup of alcohol in the first century.
“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 wrote. “[T]his 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 used those numbers to compare the wine of Jesus’ day to the alcohol consumed in 2023:
The pastor was careful to note consuming alcohol is, in and of itself, not a sin and cautioned churchgoers to follow their own convictions. But he warned the line between what is wise and unwise, when it comes to drinking, is particularly blurry.
Gallaty turned to the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-18, where he wrote: “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 essence,” the preacher said, “here’s what he’s saying: Be careful how you live. Pay very close attention to things in your life that could cause you to go astray. Let me ask you a question: How many people in here have a big dog or a medium-size dog in a small backyard? Anybody have two dogs in a small backyard? Anybody bold enough or crazy enough — like us at one time — to have three dogs in a backyard?”
He continued, “Do you ever walk at night, in the dark, barefoot? Never! Why? Because you may step on something you will regret. So if you won’t walk in the dark in the backyard in a grassy area because of dogs, then what he’s saying is don’t you dare walk in this world as unwise people, not taking account of how you’re living.”
“What he’s saying is watch how you’re living to make sure you don’t stumble into something that’s going to cause harm,” Gallaty added.
He went on to explain there are, in his view, very few circumstances in which someone drinks without the express purpose of getting drunk or “buzzed,” which, as he soon argued, are both sinful.
To make his point, Gallaty jokingly — albeit poignantly — quoted heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who once said, “People don’t drink because they enjoy to drink; they drink to change. Most drink to get buzzed.”
Although sobriety is certainly a worthwhile goal, the pastor ultimately declared it is wholly insufficient without Jesus. Using his own life story, Gallaty said he used alcohol to “drown” his own problems only to find them staring back at him when he came out of his stupor.
“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.”
Ultimately, Gallaty explained he had to go through rehabilitation twice because he tried at first to find sobriety and wholeness “without Christ, which is why I tell people sobriety without Jesus is always a dead-end street.”
“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.
The question at the start of Gallaty’s sermon was: “Is it wise for a Christian to drink?”
“The answer is, according to Paul, in many situations and circumstances at different stages of life, it’s not,” the pastor said.
You can watch his full sermon in the video above.
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