Wine in Biblical Times and in the church today
Priest were not allowed to drink wine because they had a responsibility to distinguish between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, and they must be able to teach the statutes of the Lord
8And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 9Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: 10And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
Kings weren’t to drink wine because it perverts judgment.
4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Born again believers are kings and priest.
6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 2:9
9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Alcoholic wine was warned against in the Old Testament.
29Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 33Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. 34Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. 35They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
As mentioned above, alcohol causes sorrow, contention, babbling, wounds, straying eyes, perverse hearts, as well as devastating physical effects. Yet, it has so much power that the alcoholic will seek it again. Compare this to the attitude of a Christian.
1 Corinthians 6:12
12All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Solomon, in his wisdom, strongly condemned alcoholic drinks.
1Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
This attitude is carried over into the New Testament. Jesus warned that we should take heed that our hearts weren’t overcharged with cares of life and specifically drunkenness.
34And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Paul told the Romans that it is good not to do anything that might cause a brother to stumble including drinking wine.
21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Our liberty only extends to the point that it causes a brother to stumble. At that point, we have sinned against our brother and Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:9, 12
9But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak… 12But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
A Christian shouldn’t associate with a “believer” that is a drunkard.
1 Corinthians 5:11
11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Being given to wine excluded a man from the position of bishop.
1 Timothy 3:3
3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
More importantly, drunkards won’t inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:10
10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Christians should not be drunk with wine. Instead, they should be filled with the Spirit.
18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Excerpts from The Full Life Study Bible: (My comments in bold.)
The Greek word oinos can refer to two distinctly different types of juice of the grape: (1) unfermented juice, and (2) fermented or intoxicating wine.
In Eph 5:18 the command, “do not get drunk on wine (oinos),’ refers to alcoholic wine. On the other hand, in Rev 19:15 Christ is pictured as treading the winepress. The Greek text reads: “He treads the winepress of the wine (oinos)”; the oinos that comes from the winepress would be grape juice. In Rev 6:6 oinos refers to grapes on the vine as a crop not to be destroyed. Thus, for believers in NT times, “wine” (oinos) was a general word that could be used for two distinctly different grape beverages – fermented and unfermented wine.
A method to keep grapes from fermenting was to boil them into a syrup. Ancient historians actually referred to this product as wine (oinos). Smith’s Bible Dictionary, (p 747) states that “the wines of antiquity were more like syrups; many of them were not intoxicant.” Also, The New Bible Dictionary (p. 1332) notes that “there were means of keeping wine sweet all year round.”
Another method to keep grapes from fermenting, involved placing new wine in new wine skins. The ancient Roman writer, Columella, knowing that grape juice would not ferment if kept cool (under 50 degrees) and oxygen free, writes as follows: “That your grape juice may be always as sweet as when it is new, thus proceed. After you apply the press to the grapes, take the newest must (i.e. fresh juice), put it in a new container, bung it up, and cover it up very carefully with pitch lest any water should enter; then sink it in a cistern or pond of cold water and allow no part of the amphora to remain above the surface. After forty days, take it out. It will remain sweet for a year. “
1. Christ’s parable concerning wineskins.
17Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
New wineskins were required because they would be free from all residual fermenting matter such as mature yeast cells. If placed in old wineskins, new wine would more easily begin to ferment because of the yeast cells that remained in the old wineskins. The subsequent fermentation would then cause the loss of both the new wine and the wineskins (which would burst from pressure).
2. Christ turned water into wine.
The normal uses of wine by the Jews in Biblical days differed from today’s uses. The wine of old was (a) freshly squeezed grape juice, (b) preserved grape juice, (c) juice from dried grapes, (d) grape wine made from grape syrup and water, and (e) unfermented or fermented stored wine diluted with water at a ratio as high as 20 to 1. If the wine was fermented and served unmixed, it was considered barbaric, defiling and incapable of being blessed by the rabbis.
John 2:11 states that the miracle of turning water into wine revealed Christ glory. With the historical context, the religious Jews disdain for intoxicating beverages, Christ supplying the booze for a drunken party would hardly accomplish this purpose.
If this thesis (that the wine was alcoholic) is accepted, then the following implications must be acknowledged and reckoned with: (1) The guest at the wedding would likely be drunk. (2) Mary, the mother of Jesus, would be regretting that the intoxicating drink had run out and would be asking Jesus to furnish the already drunken festivity with more fermented wine. (3) In order to oblige his mother’s wishes, Jesus would be making 120-180 gallons of intoxicating wine (John 2:6-9), more than enough to keep the guests totally drunk. (4) Jesus would be making this intoxicating wine as his very first “miraculous sign” in order to “reveal his glory (v. 11) and to persuade people to believe in him as the holy and righteous Son of God.
This would contradict the warnings of the Old Testament and the restrictions of the New Testament regarding drunkenness.
No account of the last supper uses the word “wine.” The bible does mention "the fruit of the vine."
4. Paul’s admonition to Timothy to drink wine for his belly’s sake.
1 Timothy 5:23
23Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.
If this was fermented wine, it is important to note that Timothy didn’t usually drink it. Also the wine was used for medicinal purposes and Timothy was instructed to take only a little wine. This would be similar to medicines today. Most agree that it is wrong to take prescription pain pills for leisure but not in the case of a medical emergency. Finally, medicinal wines weren’t necessarily fermented.
Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine was often unintoxicating. Athenaeus states, “Let him take sweet wine, either mixed with water or warmed, especially that kind called proropos (juice coming from the grapes before they are pressed), as being good for the stomach, for sweet wine (oinos) does not make the head heavy.” (Athenaeus, Banquet)
In conclusion, when considering the term wine in the New Testament, it is important to remember that it can refer to alcoholic or nonalcoholic juice. Since the scripture specifically prohibits drunkenness and warns against even looking in the glass of fermented juice, it is highly unlikely that Jesus, our King and High Priest, provided gallons of alcohol to a drunken party. The scriptural admonition to avoid the appearance of evil is still true today. Even if alcohol is lawful, is it expedient? Can you know that you won't cause your weak brother to stumble? Can you be sure that it won't lead to drunkenness?