This morning, we are looking at another requirement of the overseer as outlined in the book of Titus.
Wine is an interesting dichotomy in the Scriptures. You see, at times, it is used as a symbol of joy. For example, David said that he was glad when...
Psa. 4:7 ...grain and new wine abound.
And both Zechariah the prophet (Zech. 10:7) and the Psalmist wrote that wine...
Psa. 104:15 ...makes man's heart glad...
But on the other hand, it is also a symbol of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:10; 19:15), and of the passion of immorality (Rev. 18:3). The book of Revelation reads that...
Rev. 17:2 ...those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality."
This clear contrast in symbolism shows the schizophrenia - the two faces - of alcohol, and mankind's love/hate relationship with it. And because of the radically different views on this subject, it is important for us to carefully examine the words in front of us.
Certainly, there is a huge divergence of interpretation of these words among churches. There are denominations which strictly forbid alcohol not only for the elders but for all churchgoers as well. On the other hand, there are pastors who come to parishioners' houses and have shots of whiskey with them.
Though there are many denominational interpretations of this verse, there must certainly be only one biblical interpretation. What is it? Well, reading it in English here, it is very easy to read Paul's words to Titus and conclude, "As long as the guy's not an alcoholic, he's fine." But this is not what Paul truly wrote.
To discover what he is really saying, we need to see that there are three different words Paul used in the pastoral epistles regarding alcohol.
1) Regarding deacons, Paul wrote,
1Tim. 3:8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine...
The word used that time is "pros-EKH-o", which means "holding on to." According to Scripture, then, deacons are permitted to partake of alcohol, but not in regularity, frequency, or quantity.
2) Another time Paul addresses alcohol is in chapter two of Titus, saying...
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine...
The word rightly translated "enslaved to" is "doo-LO-o", which means to be a servant of, or be in bondage to. This is what we would call "addicted."
3) So what is the word Paul uses here in Titus 1? The same word he used in 1Timothy 3:3, when he said that the elder is to be...
1Tim. 3:3 not addicted to wine...
The word there is "para" which means "with" or "near to." (Notice that it doesn't say "much.") Paul is not saying "addicted to," otherwise he would have used the word "doo-LO-o." No, he is saying that elders are not to be with or near any wine at all. They are to completely abstain from alcohol.
Many people take exception to this, usually with one of two arguments. First of all, they say that Timothy, a pastor and elder, was instructed to drink wine. They say this proves that elders were not forbidden from wine. But in actuality, this proves that they were.
You see, Timothy suffered from a number of internal physical problems. Paul wrote to him and said,
1Tim. 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Paul had to make an apostolic exception because of Timothy's condition.
Another protest is frequently heard in defense of alcohol, which is, "Well, Jesus drank wine." Yes, He did. He created wine for the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2). He drank wine with sinners and was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). He drank wine with the disciples at the Last Supper. But He told the disciples during the Last Supper,
Matt. 26:29 "...I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
So when people tell me, "Jesus drank wine," I simply respond, "Well, He doesn't anymore."
So why must elders completely abstain from partaking of alcohol? Because of the dangers it presents to the spiritual man.
The Bible frequently shows us how usage of alcohol can turn a godly man into one who loses control, clarity, and even consciousness. For example, Lot's daughters made him drink wine so that they could have incest with him (Gen. 19:30-36), and Noah got drunk and passed out naked in his tent (Gen. 9:20-21).
Using alcohol impairs your ability to think logically, make decisions rightly, and hear from God clearly. These are abilities which church leaders must possess at all times. The Proverb says,
Prov. 31:4-5 ...it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
If a man is in a position of authority and decision-making, it it not for him to drink wine.
People in spiritual authority must also be submitted to God. But the Bible shows that the effects of alcohol make people rebellious (Deut. 21:20; Jer. 35:1-16). The Lord doesn't want rebellion in the hearts of the leaders of the church.
The Bible also says that alcohol tends to make people stupid, often describing it in vivid language:
Is. 19:14 ...a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
Jer. 25:27 ...Drink, be drunk, vomit, fall and rise no more...
Prov. 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.
Prov. 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. "They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink."
The foolishness of such behavior is evident, which is why drunkenness is clearly forbidden in the Scriptures to all believers...
Eph. 5:18 ...do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation...
Rom. 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness...
Not only are we ourselves not to be drunk, but we are not to even associate with drunkards in the church:
1Cor. 5:11 ...I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindlernot even to eat with such a one.
This might mean its decision time for some.
Now some people say, "Well, I'm not getting drunk - I enjoy a cold beer after mowing the lawn. I like a glass of wine with dinner." If you're not in spiritual authority, you certainly have the freedom to do so. But there can be a problem even with this - the possibility of making another Christian stumble.
Rom. 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
I can guarantee you that no one is ever going to stumble if you never drink again. But how many may if you continue to exercise your freedom instead of walking in love?