Not Addicted to Wine
AUTHOR: MacArthur Jr., John
PUBLISHED ON: April 8, 2003
TAGS: drinking

The following is an excerpt from a message that was delivered at Grace
Community Church in Panorama City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.  It was
transcribed from the tape, GC 56-8, titled “The Qualifications for a Pastor”
Part 4, Noble Character Part 2, Titus 1:7-8.  A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or
by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made.  Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions.  This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription,
of the portion of the tape, to strengthen and encourage the true Church of
Jesus Christ.

The message is speaking about the qualifications for leaders in the church
not being addicted to wine.  A key fact to remember while reading this file
is that the Pastor, the Elders, and the Deacons are all given by God as
“examples” to the church on how we are supposed to live.  They are not to be
an elite group of Christians living at a higher level than the rest of the
congregation.  We all must try to live the standard that God is demonstrating
through the leadership.
                                                            Tony Capoccia

                            Not Addicted to Wine
                              John MacArthur

“Not addicted to wine,” which translates (Greek word: paroinos), literally
having the idea, the word “oinos” is a word for wine; “para” to be along
side wine.  This requirement, by the way, is also given in 1 Timothy 3:3,
there it says basically the same thing, “not being along side wine.”  You’ll
notice in chapter 2, of Titus, verse 3, older women are not to be enslaved to
much wine.  Back in 1 Timothy it talks about deacons not being given to much
wine as well. 

So we find that not only those in leadership, but even those in the church as
such, indicated by these “older women” in Titus, chapter 2, are not to be the
kind of people who are associated with wine.

Now, what does he mean by this?  Well it’s important for us to understand it. 
We could broaden our concept a little bit if we remember that in 1 Timothy 3,
we also have another requirement which is the word “temperate” (Greek:
nephalios).  It originally meant that he was to abstain from wine.  A temperate
person was an abstainer from wine.  It came metamorphically to mean
“circumspect, alert, or clear-headed.”  But the idea is the same: anybody in
spiritual leadership is to be clear-headed; so never is he to be given over to
anything that dulls the clarity of his mind.  Pastors, elders are to be in
control of their senses at all times.

Now people always ask, “Does this mean that they never drank any wine at
all?”  The answer to the question is, “No.”  It doesn’t mean that, they did
drink wine in ancient times, wine was the common drink.  To be clear about
it, and I will try to summarize what I have written at great lengths in my
Ephesians Commentary on this issue. 

You couldn’t drink the water without running some kind of risk.  Even today
in Third World countries, the first thing they tell you when you get off the
plane is, “Don’t drink the water!”  Water has the capability to nurture
certain things that can infect your body–bacteria, etc.  So generally
speaking, water needs to be purified and that was true in ancient times as
well.  As a result of that, unless it was a clear running stream somewhere,
any kind of standing water would be potentially a health hazard.  They drank
the juice of various kinds of fruit.  It might be a citrus fruit, it might be
something like a pear or an apple, and very commonly it was grapes.  The
common drink came from these fruits.

Now, to put that into perspective, you need to understand there was no
refrigeration.  So, any kind of juice standing in the heat of the Middle East,
of course, ferment.  Even the new wine “glukus” as the Greek word indicates,
would ferment rather rapidly, though it was sweet at the start it wouldn’t
take long for it to turn.  Because of that, they took a number of precautions. 

The first of which was to mix the wine with water, as much as 8 parts of
water to 1 part of wine.  This of course, acted almost as a disinfectant for
the water, rather than a drinking of wine, because mixed 8 to 1 there wasn’t
much there.  But, the fermented wine with its disinfectant capability would
purify the water, so the water would be then more drinkable and less
potentially harmful.

The second thing that they did was to boil it.  They would take the wine that
had fermented and they went through a boiling process.  This kind of wine
probably comes from the Hebrew word or is associated with the Hebrew word
“yayin,” which basically refers to wine in the Old Testament, but has the
concept in the very word itself of “bubbling up,” it’s not the bubbling of
the bubbly in the wine, it’s the bubbling of the boiling process.  And what
they did was simply boil down the wine which evaporated all of the alcohol
content, and evaporated all the liquid, and they ended up with a paste.  A
thick paste which, by the way, they would even spread on bread to use like a
jam as we do today. 

Now this thick paste could be contained in skins and kept that way, and at
some point in time (it’s a thick syrup) could be squeezed out and remixed in
its concentrated form with water, and at that point would not have the
property to ferment.  So that kind of wine, from paste mixed with water,
would be non-alcoholic, wouldn’t have any alcohol content.  The other kind as
I mentioned would be that which was mixed with water, the alcohol content
being diluted significantly so that you couldn’t get drunk on it because your
stomach couldn’t hold what it would take to get you drunk, because there was
so much water mixed with it.

So they took some serious precautions.  Now wine today is not like that. 
Wine today comes straight out of the fruit, particularly the grapes as most
wine comes from that, and as it comes it is purposely fermented, that’s the
whole point of it, to make it somehow intoxicating to one level or another,
and it is consumed that way.  To mix wine with water would be a cardinal sin
today, anybody who is “into wine” would tell you that, that’s what I have
been told (I certainly don’t know it first hand).  Today you don’t make wine
out of concentrate; you make orange juice and grape juice in your kitchen out
of it because you buy the little concentrated stuff and you mix it, and
that’s what we do today.  But the kind of wine that we call “wine” today,
rather than grape juice or fruit juice, the kind of wine that we have today
is not the same as the kind that would normally be consumed in Biblical

So what then does it mean here when it says, “This person is to be
‘meparoinos’ (Greek) not along side wine.”  It really does mean, I think,
what the NAS has translated, “not addicted to it.”  “Para” (Greek), means “to
be along side,” not someone who is always along side the wine.  Not someone
who hangs around the wine.  The intent of that concept here is a person who
has some kind of an addiction to this or some kind of need to indulge himself
in this to some degree of incapacitation (I’ll put it that way). 

He’s not just drinking the mixed wine for the sake of quenching thirst.  Now
remember that the climate in Israel is very much like Southern California, in
fact they are almost identical parallels.  It is hot and it is very dry
there; it’s a arid or semi-arid area, and there was a great amount of fluid
needed, because the body would lose it’s fluid.  They didn’t have air
conditioning for the homes or any thing like that as you would well know. 
And consequently they put in a lot of fluids to just maintain the fluid level
in their body.  It would be easy if they were drinking actually fermented
wine . . . all of them would be inebriated all the time, particularly in the
Summer.  And so they would normally have this mixture, and they would use it
for the quenching of thirst, or they would use this concentrate which
couldn’t ferment then when mixed with water and they would drink that.

In either case, the idea was to quench thirst and to provide some refreshment
and enjoyment without bringing about some intoxication, quite the contrary to
what people use wine for today, which is somehow, to one degree or another to
make them feel a little abnormal.

Now, he says basically here, that anybody who is a spiritual leader can’t be
involved in any of this kind of behavior, any kind of addiction to wine, any
kind of coming along side wine, and any lingering around wine.  The
implication being, you are hanging around it, you are not just drinking it
for the sake of quenching your thirst or the sake of the refreshment of it. 
You’re hanging around it, you’re along side of it, it’s a major part of life
and it has some impact on your thinking.

The idea could be one who is a drinker; one who goes to the feast and hangs
around the wine; one who goes to the tavern or the inn or the bar, places
associated with drinking, where there’s potential for drunkenness, where there
is potential for indiscretion, where there is a potential for losing control
of yourself to the degree that you say things or do things that are
inappropriate.  Where there is obviously the association with those who are
drunkards, and those who are sinners.  Everybody knows that taverns and inns
and bars, things like that in ancient times, were places of debauchery and

No man who has any of that kind of stuff in his life is fit to be a pastor or
an elder.  When you bring that down into today’s world it’s still true. 
People who frequent bars, who drink as a normal course intoxicating
beverages, who hang around it, the idea would be drink your wine and leave,
don’t hang around and hang around, and keep drinking and keep drinking until
you finally have inebriated yourself.  Anybody who is at all involved in that
kind of thing is unfit for ministry.

But to take it a step further, I think it is safe to say that in the early
church, that the people who knew the Lord, for the most part, would drink the
mixed wine with water and the boiled and syrupy paste kind of reconstituted
with water, and not even deal with “strong drink,” which was a term for that
which was unmixed, at all.  So they did everything they could to stay free of
any intoxicating level of imbibing.

Now when you look at today, we have so many other opportunities that it isn’t
even necessary to get any where near alcoholic beverages.  We have so many
other things.  With refrigeration we can preserve every imaginable kind of
thing and not have to worry about its fermentation, so as elders here at
Grace Church and pastors through all the years that I have been here, we have
all affirmed a total abstinence position, and said, none of us would ever
drink any alcoholic beverage, anytime, under any circumstance–it’s not
necessary.  And because the kinds of alcoholic beverages that we have today
are not reconstituted, non-alcoholic, nor are they mixed with water
sufficiently to dilute their force, we abstain from all of that.  That’s been
our position.  It is not necessary to drink that today so why would we do it? 

Another perspective is simply this, it tends to be potentially damaging to
those who follow us.  Do you understand that?  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8,
Romans 14, “I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause another
believer to stumble.”  And you can believe one thing for sure, that if people
knew John MacArthur drank wine, they would say, “Well, certainly if he does
it then we can do it,” and some of those people who say, “Because he does
it I can do it,” may end up being irresponsible, out of control, and who knows,
may even become alcoholics.

So I don’t ever want to be in a position of setting a standard that is going
to cause another brother to stumble; to fall into iniquity.  And so Paul
says, “If I eat meat and it makes my brother offend, I won’t eat meat.  And
if I drink a certain thing and it offends somebody, I won’t drink.”  And there
are those weaker brothers, also an issue in those same texts who would be
offended by that and so we have taken the position that is something that we
do not do at all.  Now there may be an occasions when you are in a Third World
country somewhere and you are having a communion service, and they serve real
wine, that you make take a bit of it there because that’s the necessary thing
to do in that environment.  That would be the exception, obviously. 

But what Paul is saying is, “No man who is at all irresponsible with regard
to those things which could potentiate drunkenness has any business being in
spiritual leadership.”  Now, let me elevate this thing a little bit more.  In
Leviticus, chapter 10, verse 9, it was instructed that Aaron and all the high
priests stay away from any alcoholic beverages.  In Proverbs, chapter 31,
verses 4 and 5, we are told explicitly that alcoholic beverages were not for
kings and not for princes or rulers.  The point being this: anybody who’s a
priest; anybody who is a king; anybody who is a ruler, is in a position where
they are making very significant decisions that have implications for a wide
range of people and they don’t want to be operating without full comprehension.

I am confident that doesn’t happen in our government, very confident.  One can
only wonder what goes on after they have done things at the end of a long
luncheon in which they have imbibed and come up with some of the things
that they have come up with.  Aaron and the high priests, the kings and the
princes, the rulers, were to abstain from anything that could in anyway dull
their senses.  And then there was that very wonderful and unique vow in the
Old Testament, according to Numbers, chapter 6, verses 2 through 4, called the
Nazarite Vow.  The Nazarite Vow is associated with people like Samson, and
Samuel, and John the Baptist, but there were many, many Jews who took a
Nazarite Vow. 

It was basically a vow of devotion or commitment to God that said, that I
want to live at the highest level of self-denial.  I will be unconcerned
about what I wear; I will be unconcerned about my looks, my hair, and all of
that.  I will touch neither wine nor strong drink.  In other words, I am
cutting myself off from the celebrating kind of life.  I want to live in the
pure and simple and straight forward and disciplined devotion to God.  John
the Baptist was such a one, you can read about him in Luke 15, who totally
abstained from anything that would in any way potentiate alcohol disability,
and he stayed away from wine and strong drink altogether to be sure that he
was living at the highest level.  That Nazarite vow, as I said, was probably
taken by many, many Jews who chose to live at the highest level of dedication.

Then there is the interesting mention of Timothy, in 1 Timothy 5:23, where
Paul says, “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.”  It certainly seems
to me that the fact that Paul had to tell Timothy to do that, meant that it
was against the grain of what Timothy’s normal behavior was like.  He had to
say, “Take a little wine” for medicinal purposes; most likely because Timothy
normally wouldn’t take any.  If the Nazarites lived at that level, then
certainly those who were leaders in the church would live at that level.

So the man who is in spiritual leadership is not a man who is given to wine. 
Not a man given to lingering beside his wine; being addicted to his wine, and
all that goes with that.  As you compare the other scriptures as well the
same statement is made with some differences: the deacons are not to be near
the much wine, and the older women here in Titus.  But I think the spirit of
all of that is the same, whether you are an elder or a deacon, or a person in
the congregation, you avoid that which can intoxicate you.

Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of

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