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Book 3,, Lesson 10
Wine in Titus, Peter, Revelation

In his letter to Titus, Paul lists the qualifications for bishops or elders. He gives the same three instructions concerning the use of wine in Titus 1:7,8 that he gave in I Timothy 3:2,3. In English they are "not given to wine, sober and  temperate."      
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God, not self
        willed, not soon angry, not given to wine (me paroinon), not
        violent, not given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, a lover of
        good men, sober (sophrona), just, holy, temperate (enkrate).

The elder must be me paroinon, not given to wine. Me is "not," para is "with or near," oinon is "wine." Elders are not to frequent places where alcohol is served or attend drinking parties. He must be sophrona, sober. Sophrona is a sound mind because of physical abstinence. And the elder must be enkrate, temperate. Enkrate means physical abstinence. Enkrateia is a word we have studied before. It is closely related to the word for vigilant or temperate used in I Timothy 3:2, nephalion.


        That the aged men be sober (nephalios), grave, temperate
        (sophron,) sound in faith, in love, in patience…

The words, nephalios and sophron are used in the same order in I Timothy 3:2, the qualifications for elders. They mean physical abstinence and a sound mind because of physical abstinence.


Paul says, "The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as
        becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine (me
        oino pollo
), teachers of good things ."

"The aged women likewise" means the older women should follow the counsel Paul gave to the older men in verse two. They should totally abstain from alcohol. They should also be "not given to much wine." Correctly translated these words are "not given to much grape juice." This is the same command Paul gave to the deacons in I Timothy 3:8 and it was given for the same reason. Many people of that day had the habit of drinking too much grape juice.

Polybius wrote that "Among the Romans, the women were forbidden to drink intoxicating wine. They drink however what is called passum made from raisins, which drink is very much like sweet wine." Wetstein says the Roman ladies were so fond of the sweet wine, that they would first fill their stomachs with it, then throw it off (vomiting) and repeat their drinking.1

Both men and women used emetics, or medicines to cause vomiting. They were devoted to the enjoyment of luxury and pleasure.

Rev. W. H. Rule, a man who was not a friend of total abstinence from alcohol, said that the eastern sot (drunkard) could enjoy himself longer over the cup of unfermented wine because he did not become senseless through intoxication. At least Rev. Rule admitted that the people used unfermented wine and that there were two kinds of wine. He called the drinker of too much grape juice a sot or drunkard, and a fool.


That they may teach the young women to be sober-minded . . .
        Young men, likewise, exhort to be sober-minded . . .

In Crete, the island where Titus was working among the churches, idol worship was common. The worshippers drank both fermented and unfermented wine as they honored their gods and enjoyed the feasts.

Older Christian women, Paul said in Titus 2:4, should teach younger women to be sober (sophronizo). A woman who is sophronizo, sober, has a sound mind and good understanding because she abstains from alcoholic wine. Since Paul had just told the older women about both alcoholic wine and too much grape juice,  the older women, as teachers of good things, would also stress right thinking about the use of grape juice.

From what we have read of customs in Roman times, we see that too much grape juice acts like an addiction. The drinker, man or woman, becomes a glutton, seeking physical pleasure even though his mind tells him it may harm the body. A sound minded person abstains totally from whatever could harm the body or keep him from having his mind set on God. Paul said, "Set your affections on things above." A sound mind knows how to use good things in moderation.

It was important to teach the church how to think seriously according to God's word. Men as much as women had taken part in the evil practices of idol worship. The Christian way of life, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . ." was altogether new.

In Titus 2:6, Paul writes especially about the young men. He urges Titus to exhort them to be sober (sophroneo). They must be sound minded like the women, using their minds to the glory of God.

Men and women in the early church were taught  to abstain totally from fermented wine. They were also taught to avoid the evil of drinking too much unfermented wine.


As we know, the word nepho means to abstain from wine. Peter uses this strong word in his letter to Hebrew Christians three times: I peter 1:13, 4:7 and 5:8. Like Paul in I Thessalonians 5, every time he uses nepho, Peter connects mental watchfulness to physical abstinence.

When Paul used nepho in I Thessalonians 5:6 to 8, he urged the Christians to be abstinent because "the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night." Peter too, in all 3 verses that use nepho, speaks of being sober in the context of Christ's imminent return. I Peter 1:13

In this verse, the warning nepho, to be abstinent, is very strong because in the Greek the word that comes right after it and before the word hope, is teleios, meaning "perfectly" or "completely." Dr. Bacchiocchi gives the correct translation as,      

      "Therefore gird up your minds (mental vigilance), being wholly
        abstinent (nephontes teleois—complete physical abstinence), set
        your hope upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of
        Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:13 sounds different in different Bibles:

        King James Version: Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be
        sober (nephontes), and hope to the end (teleios) for the grace that is
        to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The arrangement of words in I Peter 1:13

The Greek language puts the adverb teleois, meaning perfectly or completely, right after the verb nephontes and before the word "hope" so the order of the words in the verse really is sober (or abstinent)––perfectly––hope.  Most Bible translators, maybe because they are biased against abstinence, choose to link teleois or perfectly with the verb "hope" that comes after it rather than the word "sober" that comes before it. For example, the King James Bible connects teleios to hope and says it means "to the end."

According to Greek grammar, teleios or "perfectly" can be used with the word in front of it, sober (nepho abstinent) or the word after it, "hope". There is no punctuation between the words. Another example of no punctuation in Greek is Jesus' words, "Truly I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise." Most translators put the comma before today, not after it.Why? Because they believe that at the moment of death the soul is still alive though apart from the body. Jesus is saying what will happen right after He dies. In I Peter 1:13 most translators put the comma before teleios so that it goes with hope not abstinent. Why? Because they believe the Bible teaches moderation, not total abstinence. If "perfectly" goes with sober, it means to be completely or perfectly abstinent.2

Why would Peter urge abstinence so strongly? Peter, in his writing, often refers indirectly to the Parable of the Drunken Servant in Luke 12:41 – 46. Christ spoke this parable directly to Peter. The servant is caught drunk and is punished by his returning master. This lesson that Peter heard from the Lord Himself helps us understand why he warns us to "be completely abstinent."3

         I Peter 1:13 reviewed in 22 different Bible versions shows that 20
        Bibles link teleois or perfectly with hope instead of with sober.
        Thirteen of the Bibles use the word "sober" but the rest of them
change sober to a phrase like "keep a clear head, being self
        disciplined, ready for action, keep on the watch, think straight, put
        your mind in gear, or be self controlled."        

        Of the two versions that link teleois with sober, only Jerome in the
        Latin Vulgate accurately translates what Dr. Bacchiocchi believes is
        the intent of Peter. Jerome says teleois or perfectly modifies sober.
        The Latin  "sober perfectly" would in English speech be "perfectly
        sober". The Wycliffe New Testament also lists the words in the right
        order. "For which thing be ye gird the loins of your soul, sober,
        perfect, and hope ye into that grace that is proffered to you by the
        showing of Jesus Christ."


The Old Lifestyle in Verses 3,4        
        For the time past of our life . . . when we walked in lasciviousness 
       (sensuality) lusts, excess of wine (oinophlugia), revelings
       (carousings), and abominable idolatries, in which they think it strange
        that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot (asotia)
        speaking evil of you;

Some Bibles translate "excess of riot" as "profligacy." Profligacy means immorality and shamelessness. In I Peter 4:3,4, Peter reminds the Christians that in the past, before they accepted Christ, they lived a very ungodly life. They were guilty of sexual sins and evil desires. They were getting drunk and having wild and drunken parties. They worshipped idols. Now all this has changed, but, he says, your friends from the past can't figure out why you are not partying with them. And they're saying bad things about you. It is clear that the Christians had dropped their old lifestyle. I Peter 4:6 says they are now able to follow God and live in the spirit.

The word oinophlugia for excess of wine is found only in verse 3. It is a compound of oinos, wine, and phluo, to overflow––to overflow with wine. It is an orgy of wine.

The Greek word asotia was translated "excess" in Ephesians 5:18 where it was connected with wine. It means literally unsavableness, utter depravity and immorality.

In I Peter 4:4 and in Titus 1:6 asotia is translated "riot." In I Peter 4:3,4, Peter connects the overflowing of wine, an orgy of wine (oinophlugia), to the excess of riot (asotia), overflow of immorality and depravity to the point of unsavableness. Excess of wine and excess of riot fit together like cause and effect. One leads to the other.

There is a question we can ask those who argue that Peter only speaks against excess but approves moderate use of alcohol. Do they think Peter also approves of moderate immorality and depravity?  

The New Lifestyle in I Peter 4:7

The Christians Peter was writing to had left behind the old habits of drinking, immorality, carousing and idol worship. Now they expected the return of the Lord and lived their lives in the way that would please Him.  
        But the end of all things is at hand; be ye, therefore sober
        (sophroneo), and watch (nepho) unto prayer.  

The two words, sophron and nepho are used together in I Peter 4:7 just as they were in the qualifications for elders, I Timothy 3:2. Together these words reinforce the meaning of total abstinence from alcohol. Because the Lord is coming soon, Peter says "Have a sound mind and be physically abstinent for prayer."  


        Be sober (nepho), be vigilant, because . . . the devil, like a roaring
        lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.  

In I Peter 5:8, Peter again puts mental watchfulness, vigilance, with physical abstinence because the two depend on each other. Intoxicating drinks make the conscience weak and the mind less able to think. The defenses against evil begin to crumble. The Devil finds it much easier to devour or "drink down" one who disobeys God's warnings against alcohol.4  

The words "to devour" in Greek are "to drink down." Adam Clarke says, "It is not every one that he can swallow down. Those who are sober and vigilant are proof against him; these he may not swallow down . . . .  There is a beauty in this verse . . . between the first and last words . . . .  Be sober ( is) do not swallow down—and (devour is) to drink. If you swallow strong drink, the devil will swallow you down. Hear this, ye drunkards topers, tipplers or by whatsoever name ye are known in society or among your fellow-sinners, strong drink is not only your way to the devil, but the devil's way into you. Ye are such as the devil particularly may swallow down."5  


Add . . . to knowledge temperance (enkrateia); and to temperance
        (enkrateia), patience, godliness . . . .  

In the new King James version and also in several other Bibles, the word temperance is "self control."  

Temperance, II Peter 1:6, is enkrateia in the Greek. We have studied this word before in Acts 24, I Corinthians 9, Galatians 5 and Titus 1. It means abstinence and that is the way Jerome translated it in the Latin Vulgate Bible. Wycliffe said "absteynence."6  

Temperance, total abstinence from alcohol, makes it possible for the Christian to live a godly life in obedience to God. If there is loss of abstinence, there is loss of good judgment. The ability to obey God as He commands becomes impossible. Alcohol has the power to deceive and addict. Those who say so confidently, "A few drinks won't hurt you," are already deceived. Peter, by using the words  sophron, nepho, asotia and enkrateia, has given us God's thinking about alcohol.  


Wine for Comfort or Trade

        " . . . hurt not the oil and oinos," Revelation 6:6. 
        "merchandise . .. wine and oil," Revelation 18:13.  

In Revelation 6:6 and 18:13, wine and oil are used for comfort and trade. Wine and oil are luxury items, not absolutely necessary to stay alive. The context does not tell us if the wine is intoxicating or not. It may be both intoxicating and nonintoxicating. But people are very wicked so the wine probably is intoxicating.  

Oil and wine in Revelation 6:6, says Dr. Bacchiocchi, could refer to solid fruits, the grape and the olive. Greek writers like Anacreon called the juice still in the grape oinos. Olive tree and grape vine roots go deep in the ground. A drought that would destroy grain would not easily hurt them.  

Wine as a Picture of Evil

In Revelation 14:8, 17:2 and 18:3, we read, "Wine of the wrath of her fornication," and "Drunk of the wine of her fornication." These words picture intoxicating wine as evil.  

Wine and the Winepress as Symbols of God's Wrath

        …if any man worship the beast (world ruler in the tribulation) and his
        image and receive his mark . . . the same shall drink of the wine of
        the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture . . . .
        Revelation 14:9,10.  

Dr. Teachout tells us the Greek words really say "wine . . . which has been mixed undiluted." Undiluted wine is mixed with something to make it more deadly. The warning is that "he who worships the beast also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger."  

Revelation 16:19 says, "Cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath." In 14:19,20, we read, "Great winepress of the wrath of God, and the winepress was trodden  . . . and blood came out . . . ." Revelation 19:15 uses the symbol of the winepress again. The Lord treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Like the grapes men tread at harvest time, He will tread down the wicked. God will pour out His fierce anger on those who have willfully rejected Him and the forgiveness for sin He offers to all in Jesus Christ. They have chosen to follow Satan.  

1. Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Oklahoma City, p.121.
2. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1989, p.203.
3. Ibid., p.205. I Peter 4:10 has a similar idea to Luke 12:42; I Peter 4:5 echoes Luke 12:46 and I Peter 5:3 reminds us of Luke 12:45.
4. Ibid., p.204. Two examples in the Old Testament of drunkenness from intoxicating drink (no drink named) with disaster as a result for the drinkers are I Kings 16:8-10 and I Kings 20:12-21. In I Kings 16 the King drank himself drunk and was killed. In I Kings 20, Ben-hadad and 32 kings drank themselves drunk and lost a war. In Ecclesiastes 10:17 the Bible says the land is blessed if leaders eat normally and are not drunken.
5. Ibid., p.205.
6. Ibid., p.213. From Clarke, The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Chri



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