Posts Tagged ‘drinking wine’

The wine in the Bible was fermented

“All wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented drink was called wine.” (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 870). “Before hermetic sealing and refrigeration, it was difficult to prevent some fermentation, and impossible to do so over long periods of time.”(Craig Keener, The Gospel of John, p. 500).

New Testament words for wine or alcoholic drinks: 1. Oinos (oy’-nos) – “wine.” “A fermented beverage made from the juice of grapes” -(L&N, p. 77).  “A beverage made from fermented juice of the grape” – (BDAG, 3rd, p. 707). Other phrases that refer to wine: “blood of the grape,” “fruit of the vine,” “the cup.” It also had a medicinal use – Luke 10:34; 1 Timothy 5:23. Also it was used, mixed with myrrh, as a sedative or pain killer – Mark 15:23. Texts: Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23; Luke 1:15; 5:39; 7:33; 10:34; John 2:3; 2:9-10; 4:46; Romans 14:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:8; 5:23; Titus 2:3; Revelation 6:6; 14:8; 14:10; 16:19; 17:2; 18:3; 18:13; 19:15.

2. Oinos neos (oy’-nos neh’-os) – “new wine.” Same word as above, but with the adjective “new.” “. . . newly pressed grape juice, unfermented or in the initial stages of fermentation” – (L&N, p. 77). Texts: Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38.

3. Gleukos (glyoo’–kos) – “sweet/new wine.” “A new, sweet wine in process of fermentation” – (L&N, p. 77). “Sweet, new wine” – (BDAG, 3rd, p. 201). Text: Acts 2:13

4. Oxos (ox’-os) “cheap, sour wine.” “Sour wine,” “wine vinegar.” “It relieved thirst more effectively than water, and being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and those in moderate circumstances.” – (BDAG 3rd, p. 715). Texts: Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29-30.

5. Sikera (sik’–er-ah) – “beer.” “An intoxicating drink made from grain.” Whiskey, gin and vodka were not known in the ancient world. – (L&N, p. 77). “An alcoholic beverage,” “beer,” – not necessarily stronger than wine – (BDAG 3rd, p. 923). Text: Luke 1:15.

There were no distilled (hard) liquors in Bible times.

An important consideration: Wine was always diluted (unless people were just trying to get drunk). It was served mixed with water anywhere from two to four parts water to one part wine.

Drinking wine in moderation was not forbidden

Regarding the use of wine in moderation, it was fine according to the Jewish culture and teaching of that day (as well as the rest of the ancient world).

1. Jesus made wine in John 2. The steward responded, the good wine is usually served first and then the cheap wine (so that the cheap stuff won’t be noticed after having felt the effects of the first, good wine). But Jesus made good wine for the wedding.

2. Jesus drank wine, and attended so many festive occasions that he was accused of being a drunkard (although he was not) – Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:33-34. Although he refused the wine mixed with myrrh – a sedative (Mark 15:23), Jesus drank some sour wine while on the cross to quench his thirst – John 19:28-30.

3. Jesus used a cup of wine to speak of his blood at the Last Supper (“the fruit of the vine” is a Semitic expression that means wine).

4. Given what Paul says in I Corinthians 11:21 about some getting drunk at a Lord’s Supper celebration, wine was still used by the Gentile churches. When he rebukes them for this he does not say, don’t drink wine. He urges moderation (vs. 33-34).

5. Deacons (church leaders) are not to be “addicted to much wine” – 1 Timothy 3:8, that is, they must drink in moderation and not be given to drunkenness. (See also Titus 2:3).

6. Timothy is told to drink “a little wine” for a medical need – 1 Timothy 5:23.

7. Romans 14 assumes drinking wine as normal. It might, however, need to be restricted out of love for another person on other grounds.

Drunkenness is forbidden

Scripture draws a clear line here. We are not to allow alcohol (or any other substance) to impair our ability to control our mental faculties and our behavior. In contrast to drunkenness, the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” – Galatians 5:23.

That drunkenness is forbidden is especially evident in the New Testament. 1 Peter 4:3 says, “The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do . . . drunkenness . . . (and) drinking parties. . ..” Peter is saying, ‘Stop doing these things! You are believers now. You have already wasted enough of your time with this.’ In v. 4 he says, your friends may be shocked that you don’t do this anymore, but, as he says in v. 2, you are to live your life after God’s will from now on.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul says it simply, “do not get drunk.” Galatians 5:19-21 says this in part, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality . . . drunkenness (etc.) . . .. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Here we learn that drunkenness is a work of the flesh, a sin like any other item on this list. Those who persist in this behavior will be judged; they will be rejected by Jesus on the final day.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral . . . nor drunkards . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” Sometimes we want to rationalize the sins we really like. But Paul is saying, “don’t be deceived.” It will exclude you from the eternal kingdom.

Romans 13:13 says, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

In the context of waiting for his return, Jesus says this in Luke 21:34.  “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

Why drunkenness is forbidden

1. Harmful effects on you. When you’re drunk you lose control of your mental faculties and of your behavior in general. This is the definition of drunkenness or intoxication. The result of this is that you end up hurting yourself in various ways.

Proverbs 23:29-35 – “Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, ‘They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?’” (NLT) This speaks to the experience of drunkenness – how it makes a fool of you and also its enslaving power.

Isaiah 28:7 speaks of drunkards, not as those who swallow wine, but as those who are “are swallowed by wine.”

Titus 2:3 says older women are not to be “slaves to much wine.” Notice the language of “enslavement.”

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler and whoever is led astray by is not wise.” This speaks to how we can become arrogant, obnoxious or even violent when drunk.

Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” Debauchery means unrestrained self-indulgent immoral behavior. And that makes sense. Once you’re drunk and lose control, who knows what you will do, or what will be done to you?

Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Be not among one who drinks too much wine or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Alcohol is a sin magnifier. It amplifies whatever sinful desires you have and takes away whatever restraint you might normally have.

2. It will destroy your relationship with others. When you don’t have control of your thinking and your behavior, you cannot love and serve others. You will lack the judgment and clarity of thought needed to do this. Rather than loving your neighbor as yourself, you will more likely be ignoring or harming others.

This is especially a problem for those that you have charge of, because drunkenness will cause you to forsake your responsibilities to them. Proverbs 31:4-5 says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” There is a real theme in both the Old and New Testaments that leaders must not be those who drink too much precisely because they are responsible for many people. (Isaiah 5:22-23; 28:7; Ecclesiastes 10:16-17). Paul tells us that church Elders are not to be “drunkards” (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) and Deacons must not be “indulging in much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8).

This is certainly true for parents with children in the home. Just to give one indicator, alcohol is involved in half of the reported cases of domestic violence (Betty Ford center). But even short of violence, drug and alcohol abuse brings untold pain to families. It is a sad reality when a parent loves alcohol more than their child.

You cannot both love and serve others and have a life given to drug and alcohol abuse.

3. It will destroy your relationship with God. When you don’t have control of your thinking and your behavior, you cannot love and serve God. You have to have clear thinking and self-control to serve God and these are the very things you give up when you are drunk. Who knows what you will do? How can you love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength while drunk?

And then when you’re enslaved, your god actually becomes alcohol. You live a life of idolatry, giving up everything for it and looking to it for peace. Isaiah 5:11-12 says, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! . . . they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands.” In the context here it is a part of why the people went off into the judgment of exile. (See also Hosea 4:10-11)

You cannot both love God and have a life given to alcohol or drug abuse.

 Other considerations

You may well be free to drink, but does it cause others to stumble? That is, to partake when they themselves feel that it is wrong (Romans 14:13-16) or when it is a weakness in their life. Or, does it damage your witness to those who feel that all alcohol consumption is wrong?

Also, if there is a “genetic?” propensity to addiction (as runs in some people’s families) which might make it harder for you to simply drink in moderation, this has to be considered.

Abstinence is called for in the case of someone coming out of a context where they have been enslaved and abused alcohol, and so to drink even in moderation would be a stumbling block to them to fall into drunkenness. As Jesus says, “If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . .” – Mark 9:43. In this case something that is not sinful for others, is sinful for you, because for you it causes you to be unable to live out your Christian commitment. So you cut off all alcohol.

 Acceptable drunkenness

If one is looking for a “high” the answer is to be full of the Holy Spirit, not alcohol spirits. On the day of Pentecost when the crowd thought the disciples were drunk, Peter told them they were in fact filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:15-17. Paul contrasts being full of wine with being full of the Spirit. It is the latter that is acceptable – Ephesians 5:18. When we are full of the Holy Spirit we not only have self-control but also all the other fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness” – Galatians 5:22-23.

William Higgins





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