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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Wine and the Early Church > Sanctification


From the command given to believers by the apostle Paul” “Do not be drunk with wine (oinos)” (Eph. 5:18), it is obvious that the wine of the New Testament was fermented and could cause drunkenness; it was not just plain grape juice. Even if the wine was always diluted, as some claim, when a sufficient amount was consumed drunkenness was the result. If not, then why this command? Paul plainly associates drunkenness with oinos.

This is the same Greek word that is used to speak of what Jesus made at the wedding in Cana of Galilee when He turned the water into wine; Jesus made oinos for those at the wedding to drink. And, according to the master of the feast, it was “good wine” (Jo. 2:10). Also oinos is what Paul told Timothy to drink for his stomach, instead of just drinking water (I Tim. 5:23). The fact that oinos can cause drunkenness does not prohibit it from being consumed. Both Jesus and Paul validate its use.

Paul condemns drunkenness (drunkenness is a sin), but he does not teach that wine is evil or that believers should not drink wine. He simply issues a clear warning against excessive drinking. Moderation is implied, not abstinence. He plainly says: “Do not be drunk with wine”; he opposes drunkenness. He could have said: “Do not drink wine,” but he did not so speak. Paul is against the abuse of wine not the proper use of wine.

Paul’s word is not just against simple drunkenness, but it is also against the drunken orgies that characterized the worship of Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine. While under the influence of the wine, the god was said to enter the worshipers who would then prophesy, dance, sing, and perform sexual acts. Not only drunkenness, but also what drunkenness could lead to, is condemned in this verse. Drunkenness leads to “dissipation” (Eph. 5:18; “debauchery” in ESV), and this dissipation involves other sins.

Instead of being under the influence of wine, the believer is to be constantly under the influence of the Holy Spirit, drunk on the Spirit. As excessive drink controls the drunkard so the Spirit is to control the believer; he is to “be filled with the Spirit.”

Wine was given by God,
not that we might be drunken, but that we might be sober.
It is the best medicine when it has the moderation to direct it.
Wine was given to restore the body’s weakness, not to overturn the soul’s strength.
John Chrysostom

Wine does not intoxicate men;
men intoxicate themselves.
Chinese Proverb

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