Welch’s or Wine?

I did this brief (very brief) word study for a coworker of Carly’s who had some questions about wine in the Bible. This is by no means anywhere close to exhaustive. It is merely an overview, and I’m posting it here to open up conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts, however, with such a touchy topic as alcohol, please be gracious by not forcing your personal liberties or legalisms onto other people.

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Wine: Most popular Greek word in the NT is oinos (pronounced “oy-noss”). This is the word used for the wine that Jesus made during his first miracle at the Cana wedding when he turned water into oinos.

There are at least three reasons to believe that oinos is similar to our alcoholic wine today:

  1. This is the word used in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul says, “Do not be drunk with oinos but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Being “drunk” and being “filled” are contrasted here. Both imply intoxication and being controlled by a substance outside of oneself. On the one hand, one (i.e. drunkenness) is negative and sinful. The other (i.e. filled with the Holy Spirit) is positive and holy. So Paul does not say that oinos is bad, but that being controlled by it is (compare 1 Tim. 4:1-5, especially verses 4-5).
  2. This is the word used in Romans 14:21 when Paul says that wine should not be a stumbling block to a brother. If oinos was merely grape juice or some other processed beverage, why would it be considered a possible stumbling block to a Christian? The short answer is that it wouldn’t. No one gets controlled by grape juice (well, maybe in some very bizarre circumstances!). Because of the temptation to be physically controlled by something other than the Spirit, Paul says it would be best for the mature believer to abstain instead of forcing the weaker brother he is friends with to compromise convictions and practices.
  3. Finally, Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words points out that Matt. 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37 imply that this oinos is fermented. In these passages, Jesus is speaking of putting new wine into old skins–he is giving an analogy of bringing the New Covenant to Jews who are still married to the Old Covenant. New grape juice would not cause old animal skins used for a canteen to burst, but a freshly fermented, alcoholic beverage certainly would.

The other uses of the word oinos in the NT give us no reason to believe that this drink is not a processed, fermented, alcoholic drink. It probably was not be as strong as the wine or other drinks we have today, of course. It even took wedding guests awhile to get drunk during the week-long celebration.  That’s why at weddings (like in Cana, see John 2:1-11) they used the good wine first and were content to dish out the cheap, boxed Franzia wine toward the end of the week. Whatever the alcoholic content of wine in the Bible, however, we do know for certain they weren’t drinking Welch’s.


Everything Comes Down to Worship

The problems we have in our lives have nothing to do with not knowing the right techniques or strategies or skills.  Rarely will they have anything to do with another person or our environment.

Whether it’s problems with marriage, friends, parents, children, school, work, sex, food, alcohol, drugs, laziness, entertainment, overworking, or anything else, it all boils down to worship.  The problem is that we worship the wrong things.  We worship created things, instead of the Creator God.

Our hearts are idol factories.  Every minute of the day, we want to worship something.  And until we worship Jesus, our hearts will continue to churn out idols in mass production.


That Guy Might Be a Father Someday

While walking on the University of Johannesburg campus today, I saw a male student wearing a t-shirt that said:

I’m Sotally Tober.

In case you missed the joke, it’s supposed to be a quote from a drunk guy saying, “I’m totally sober.”

I couldn’t help but say, “That guy is going to be a dad someday.  He might even be one already.   How sad.”  That’s what men in our society — not just American society — are like.  I’m in South Africa.  I’m talking the world’s society.

Most men are simply “males,” not real men.  They are typically good at getting drunk, looking at porn, avoiding hard work, and macking on women.  That’s sad.  And do you know what type of guy a person who wears a shirt like that becomes (unless God’s grace saves him)?

They become the guy at the rugby game I saw last week.  This guy is at the game with his wife and 6- or 7-year old son.  The “Bulls Babes” cheerleading team comes right in front of us (we are in row 7).  This guy stands his kid up on the seat and gives him a camera and tells him to take a picture of the cheerleaders (who weren’t dressed for the weather, if you follow me).

That was bad enough.  But it was magnified even more because his wife — the boy’s mom — was sitting right next to him.  I wanted to go up and grab his collar, get into his face, and say, “Why don’t you just punch your wife in the stomach?  Why don’t you spit in her face?  Why don’t you just mock her and say, ‘You aren’t pretty enough!  Why can’t you be a cheerleader?”

It was abuse in its most subtle form.  It was disgusting and disgraceful

And non-Christians say that men who love Jesus support the oppression of women.  Give me a break.


A Muslim Wants to Come to My Church

Last night I hung out with six southern Africans at an apartment near where I live.  It was a motley crew, the kind Jesus would have shared a meal with.  If Pharisees would have been around, surely they would have said, “Why are you with those sinners?”

Everyone smoked constantly (not us, no emails please), we shared a few beers, one of the guys (MJ) quite inebriated, and for the most part, he talked about getting laid all night long.  Rylan and I were there because, I think, Jesus would have been there too.

So when we arrived and introduced ourselves, naturally there was the “Why are you in South Africa?” question.  They asked if we were studying at the University.  I said no.  So they asked again.  I looked at Rylan and then said, “Well, I’m kind of a campus pastor.  I work for a Christian group here in South Africa.”  Lucas, one of the guys, said, “Whoa.  You are drinking a beer.”

And so it started.

We talked about everything you can fit into a two and a half hour conversation.  We discussed the World Cup, politics, South African beer, sex, and of course, Jesus.  The Jesus conversation was riveting, but the best part of the night came when MJ asked Rylan what our thoughts were on sex before marriage.  In a sheer moment of brilliance, Rylan said, “Well, James, I think you can answer that better than I can.”

After a large gulp, I obviously told MJ that sex before marriage is a big no-no.  I told him about the wounds of sexual addiction before marriage.  I told him about the pain it can cause him and the women he sleeps with.  He told me that he has to sleep around to find the woman who “likes the same stuff I do.”  I told him that when a man and women love Jesus first, then fall in love with each other and capture each other’s heart and mind, then when they are married, they will have the best sex.  I said that married couples have total freedom, with no guilt, to experiment and learn with each other and together they will experience excitement, passion, and complete approval from God.

After I was finished, Nash (pronounced “nosh”), looked at me and said, “That makes so much sense.  That’s the way it should be.  I want to come to your church!”  Now, Nash is Muslim.  She openly admitted to sleeping with her boyfriend (who is Catholic).  She told me earlier that she would never leave the Islamic faith.  She quickly caught herself and said, “Well, obviously I can’t because I won’t stop being Muslim.”

I think that there was a small seed planted in Nash’s heart (as well as everyone else in the room).  I openly talked about Jesus and though Nash is very confused about who he is and what he has done for sinners, she heard a small, yet beautiful, truth.  She heard what kind of a change Jesus can make in a person’s life.

There is a different way to do marriage and sex.   It’s completely and wholly good.  It makes sense, but it only makes sense with Jesus, not Islam.  The cross needs to be made glorious to Nash and MJ and their friends so they can experience change.  Lord willing, as time goes on, Jesus will reveal himself to them and they will experience the change and abundant life that he alone gives.