by Mike Ratliff
22 χεῖρας ταχέως μηδενὶ ἐπιτίθει μηδὲ κοινώνει ἁμαρτίαις ἀλλοτρίαις· σεαυτὸν ἁγνὸν τήρει.
23 Μηκέτι ὑδροπότει, ἀλλʼ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ διὰ τὸν στόμαχον καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας. 24 Τινῶν ἀνθρώπων αἱ ἁμαρτίαι πρόδηλοί εἰσιν προάγουσαι εἰς κρίσιν, τισὶν δὲ καὶ ἐπακολουθοῦσιν· 25 ὡσαύτως καὶ τὰ ἔργα τὰ καλὰ πρόδηλα, καὶ τὰ ἄλλως ἔχοντα κρυβῆναι οὐ δύνανται. 1 Timothy 5:22-25 (NA28)
22 Do not lay hands on too quickly and thereby be partner in sins of others; keep yourself pure.
23 No longer drink water alone, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent weaknesses. 24 The sins of some men are clear before them, leading them to judgment; for others, their sins follow on; 25 likewise also the works that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be hidden. 1 Timothy 5:22-25 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
If you get a group of Baptists together then hit certain passages of scripture that contain references to wine, it doesn’t take long for the discussion to get hasty, defensive, polemic, and somewhat confused. When positions are taken that are based on what some preacher from my parents’ generation said instead of what the Word of God says then we should exercise discernment right there and insist on solid exegesis of scripture instead of emotional, cultural and denominational positions.
In the passage I placed at the top of this post the word “wine” in v23 translates the Greek noun οἴνῳ (oinō) in the Dative, Singular, Masculine case of οἶνος (oinos) – wine derived from grapes, the fruit of the vine, a regular and important part of culture and symbolizes fertility and well-being. Its misuse is also a potential source of numerous evils (Proverbs 20:1; 23:31-35). In the New Testament, the vine and vineyards appear frequently in Jesus’ parables (Matthew 20:1-16; John 15:1-11), however, drunkenness is forbidden (Ephesians 5:18), and addiction to wine is unacceptable in an elder or deacon (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 2:3). For the most part in the New Testament, οἶνος is used literally, but occasionally it has symbolic meanings. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul exhorts Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake, and wine is means of healing in Luke 10:34. John the Baptist abstains from drinking wine, perhaps following a Nazirite vow (Luke 1:15). However, Jesus, like most people, likely drank wine, as can be seen by the exaggerated accusation that he was a “glutton and a drunkard” (Matthew 11:18-19), used by his opponents to mean that he did not fast nor abstain from wine (9:14-17); Mark 2:18-22’ Luke 5:33-38). Also, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (John 2:1-22).
There is another word translated “wine” in the New Testament that we will look at next. It is found in Acts 2.
12 ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηπόρουν, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες· τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι; 13 ἕτεροι δὲ διαχλευάζοντες ἔλεγον ὅτι γλεύκους μεμεστωμένοι εἰσίν. Acts 2:12-13 (NA28)
12 But all were amazed and thoroughly perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others, were mocking and jeering saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In v13 the words “sweet wine” translates the Greek noun γλεύκους (gleukous) the Genitive, Singular, Neuter case of γλεῦκος (gleukos) – Some believe that is what distills of its own accord in the grapes before processing. In the passage above we learn that the ancients probably had a method of preserving the sweetness, and by consequence the strongly inebriating quality of the γλεῦκος for a long time.
In instituting the Lord’s Supper, the Lord speaks of the contents of the cup as neither wine, οἶνος, nor γλεῦκος, but as the “Fruit of the vine.”
29 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ πίω ἀπʼ ἄρτι ἐκ τούτου τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ὅταν αὐτὸ πίνω μεθʼ ὑμῶν καινὸν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου. Matthew 26:29 (NA28)
29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of my Father. Matthew 26:29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The phrase, “fruit of the vine” translates the Greek words γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου. The noun γενήματος (genēmatos) is the Genitive, Singular, Neuter case of γένημα (genēma) – what is born or produced, offspring, progeny, brood, fruit, produce. The noun ἀμπέλου (ampelou) the Genitive, Singular, Feminine case of ἄμπελος (ampelos) – means “vine.”
As we see above our Lord referred to the contents of the cup at the Lord’s Supper as the fruit of the vine, not as “sweet wine” or simply “wine.” No, he referred to it as the fruit of the vine. In that analogy he was drawing attention to the heavenly banquet that all God’s people can look forward to. In John 15:1, 4-5, our Lord refers to Himself as the “vine” and His followers as the branches. In order to retain true life and especially to bear fruit, we must remain attached to this vine. That is, we draw our true, spiritual nourishment only from the Lord.
We are admonished in Sacred Scripture to not become addicted to wine or strong drink. That is never portrayed in a positive light in Scripture. In our culture, there are many professing Christians who say there is nothing wrong with binging in beer or wine. I find that troubling and see nothing but flesh driven self-focus there. On the other hand, if you can drink alcohol, I can’t because of a medical condition, then a glass of wine with a meal is not a problem at all.
The Christian life of one of moderation. We are to live lives of self-denial for the glory of God. I believe this is a matter of conscience, but if the consumption of alcohol in any way gets in the way of your serving the Lord then you should deny yourself and get lined up with His will.
Soli Deo Glora!