Wine and the Bible



Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging…”

Some forty years ago, while ministering in Winnipeg, a pastor from Wisconsin requested that I teach in his church on the subject of wine. In preparation, I did considerable research and discovered some important facts concerning wine, in the Bible, which quite surprised me.

The word “wine” appears more than 200 times in the Old Testament and has been translated from a number of Hebrew words. The word “wine”, as used in the Bible, is a generic word. By this I mean that the word may mean grape juice or the liquid which the fruit of the vine yields, new or old, sweet or sour, fermented or unfermented. The word “wine”, being generic in nature, covers the whole range of liquids which, in origin, comes from the vine.

To illustrate, let us consider the words “groceries” and “hardware”. When we speak of groceries we may be referring to sugar, flour, cereal or bread. Just by using the word “groceries” we cannot know. When we use the word “hardware” are we referring to nails, paint or tools? This is the way “wine” is used in the Bible. To understand the true meaning we must always go to the context and study how it is used.

The second truth I discovered concerning wine is that nowhere in the Bible is the use of intoxicating, or alcoholic, wine condoned or approved. Always the Bible favors the use of sweet, fresh juice of the grape and always condemns the use of grape juice after fermentation. The Bible consistently condemns the use of intoxicating beverages in any amount.

We must always remember that the Bible never contradicts itself. The Bible will not condemn fermented wine then approve of drinking an alcoholic beverage. Some might argue that an exception to this principle can be found in Paul’s advice to Timothy when he said, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (I Timothy 5:23).

In considering this advice to Timothy, there is no way it can be proved that Paul was referring to alcoholic wine or fermented grape juice. Certainly this advice was that the wine was going to be used as a medicine. In no way does it give license for social or occasional drinking. Timothy was a native of Lystra and was in Ephesus when Paul wrote to him. In both places the water was strongly alkali and upsetting to Timothy’s stomach. We must understand that it would be the acid in the grape juice that would neutralize the alkali, not the alcohol.

Jesus stated that men put new wine into new bottles. These new bottles were skin bottles and would contain no yeast or bacteria which would cause fermentation (Luke 5:37-39). Here the grape juice is called “new” wine. Old wine would be fermented and alcoholic. The grape juice was put into new bottles so that it could be preserved and remain sweet as long as possible.

The Bible teaches that in the millennium the mountains shall drop down new wine. Sweet, unfermented fruit of the vine (Joel 3:18). Jesus said that He would drink the fruit of the vine, “new wine”, in His Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29). What kind of beverage will be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb? Certainly not alcoholic wine! Strong drink was forbidden to be used in the tabernacle and the penalty for doing so was death (Leviticus 10:9-10).

In the Scriptures we are exhorted to make a difference between the holy and the unholy, between the clean and the unclean. The Bible clearly states that alcoholic wine is unclean and unholy. It certainly will not be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb and should never, never be used as a “beverage” at any time.

Hallelujah! We shall drink new wine; fresh, sparkling, life-giving fruit of the vine in the Kingdom. By being obedient here, we can rejoice in hope of the joys awaiting us.