NEW WINE FROM HEAVEN
"When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." John 2:9-10 (KJS)
It is an historic fact that the word "wine" was used for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine in Bible times. The non-alcoholic wine (grape juice) was called "must", and it was prized for its sweetness. It was also considered a great art to make the finest must. In reading the story of Christ?s first miracle, it at first appears that He changed the water into alcoholic wine. Some people do not believe that the wine was simply grape juice, mainly because the "ruler of the feast" comments that most people bring out the inferior wine after men have "well drunk." This makes sense ? only if they were already inebriated would they not notice that the quality of the wine had diminished. But it is also for this very reason that it is clear that the wine that Jesus made was not alcoholic.
Logic Proves the Wine Could Not Be Alcoholic
We have here a feast where everyone, as the ruler of the feast stated, had "well drunk". For this reason, it is probable that the wine served up to the point was alcoholic. However, now Jesus makes even more wine, and not just a little, but six water pots of it with 20 to 30 gallons each in them, or a total of at least 120 gallons. Surely this would mean He intended those who had already "well drunk" to drink even more. It would mean He would be the cause of the guests becoming completely drunk! And this scenario is inconsistent with Scripture, and everything else Jesus did.
The Scripture Forbade Him
In Proverbs 23:32 we read that wine, "At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper." In Proverbs 31:4 we read, "?It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink." In Isaiah 5:22 it is written, "Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink." In Habakkuk 2:5, “Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man?" Ezekiel 44:21 says, “No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court." And, in Isaiah 28:7:
"But they also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine, they are out of the way through intoxicating drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment."
God also reveals how wine is used to degrade and take advantage of others in Habakkuk 2:15, where we read, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!" Moreover, from Romans 14:13 we are admonished, "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way."
The Apostle Paul, when talking about eating the meat that may have been sacrificed to idols, said that if it caused his brother to stumble, he would never eat meat again. Common sense tells us that Jesus would not do something that would not only be a bad example, but also a stumbling block to the very people who were serving Him. Would the Living Word violate His own Word? Would He mock the inspired words, "lead us not into temptation"? Certainly not, and so it is clear that although the first wine that was served was probably alcoholic, the wine that Jesus made was not. Moreover, elsewhere in the Word there is more corroboration.
The New Wine ? The Blood of the Covenant
If we understand types in Scripture, we will see another reason why the wine that Jesus transformed could not have been alcoholic. The fact is that Jesus would never allow anything fermented to represent anything about Him. Remember that the bread that represented His pure body was unleavened bread. The leaven stood for fermentation, or rottenness, which is a type or symbol of sin. (The parable in Luke 13:21 at first appears to be an exception, but deeper teachings on it reveal a consistent meaning.) This is why the Passover bread had to be unleavened, or without rottenness, to be consecrated. It is clearly inconsistent for the bread to be without leaven, or fermentation, but for the wine to be fermented. Fermented wine could not be a symbol of His blood, which was sinless.
The purity of Christ?s blood made it the perfect propitiation for our sin; therefore it would never be represented by rotten grapes. The understanding of types in the Bible teaches us this. Jesus consistently taught using physical things to symbolize spiritual truths, and the spiritual counterpart is always similar in basic characteristics to the earthly thing, or it could not be a "type".
The wine that Jesus made in Cana is significantly a sinless "type". It was the joy given by God without the rottenness of the world. The first wine given to wedding participants was most likely alcoholic, and it represents the joy that the world gives, which is based on carnal pleasures and worldly lusts being satisfied. But the wine that Jesus made was pure and without fermentation. No one missed the alcohol that it lacked, because they were tasting something supernaturally derived ? which represented heavenly joy. And that joy is truly the best, for it represents joy through purity rather than through degradation. The joys of Christ make the pleasures of this world seem like swimming in a sewer. The old wine represents the worldly ways in which we live and find enjoyment. The new wine is the spiritual joy that He only gives. And surely God did save the “best for last,” in that we have Jesus and the New Covenant at the end of the course of time, not in the beginning.
Jesus also said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He does not give peace “as the world gives it.” Many find temporary satisfaction in a bottle or a drug or some perversion, but the heavenly peace is not of that derivation ? it comes from a spiritual endowment from Jesus Christ. Nothing can be compared to it, and it is not a peace that obliterates our memories and causes are brains to shut down. As we read in 1Peter 4:3, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in?drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries." Instead, the peace that Jesus gives us is a place of contentment that is other-worldly.
When we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, God draws us to the spiritual pleasures that He has to offer, hoping to take us away from the worldly things which used to give us joy. At the wedding feast, it would only make sense that Jesus would give the people who had already "well drunk" from the polluted cisterns of this world, a pure drink from His supernatural joy. The wine He made would be representative of His own purity ? nothing rotten or sinful would or could be produced by Jesus. No, Jesus made a grape juice that was so pure and delicious that it did not need sin (rottenness) to be enjoyed. It was the essence of joy and the essence of purity, and this is the same "new wine" He imparts to us today.
The Practical Aspects
Another reason why Jesus would not have made alcoholic wine is the fact that wine is classified chemically as a teratogen, which literally means "monster maker", because it causes birth defects. According to Jewish historians, it is likely that the whole village was invited to the wedding feast in Cana. At that time there was no birth control, so it is quite likely that there were pregnant women at the feast. Does not common sense tell us that Jesus would not dispense alcohol that could produce birth defects?
We also know that at least ten percent of those who try alcohol become alcoholics, and many, many more become dependent on it to some extent. Even the so-called moderate drinkers find it hard to quit imbibing once addicted to this "crutch". Does the Lord then want Christians to look to the bottle instead of to Him to give them peace and joy? The answer is obvious.
The Holy Spirit Writes On Our Hearts
God has granted us the free will to choose; therefore Christians can easily find a way to justify many things that are not in God?s perfect will. If a person wants to drink alcohol, then the Scriptures can certainly be interpreted to allow it. However, we know that the Holy Spirit guides us specifically in these matters. Thousands of Christians can testify that after they were saved, the Holy Spirit instructed them to stop drinking alcohol. In fact, in 1919 the 18th amendment to the Constitution was passed, making alcohol illegal in the United States. Also called Prohibition, this amendment was enacted into law mostly due to the efforts of Christians. In 1933 it was repealed after a spate of ungodly politicians were elected.
Bondage to alcohol wreaks destruction on individuals and their families. Perhaps today there is not a single person who does not know of someone who has been destroyed or harmed, either directly or indirectly, by this menace. How many broken homes, ruined marriages, wrecked careers, fatal traffic accidents, and unhappy children can be traced to alcohol consumption? This is why Prohibition was enacted. However, if enough people want something, it generally becomes legal.
Good and Bad Wine
The differentiation between types of wine is also clearly delineated in the Bible. Even as there are different types of men (good and bad) and sacrifices (Abel made a good one, Cain made a bad one) there are different types of wine. Bad wine is always intoxicating and it is attributed to violence (Proverbs 4:17; 23:29-30), self-security and ungodliness (Isaiah 28:7; 56:12; Habakkuk 2:5), and is poisonous and destructive (Proverbs 23:31). It is also significantly emblematic of punishment and eternal ruin. (Revelation 14:10; 16:19, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15, etc.).
Conversely, good wine is to be presented to God at the altar as an offering to Him. (Numbers 18:12; Nehemiah 10:37,39; 13:5, 13). It is also referred to as part of the blessing and basic provisions of life. And of course good wine is emblematic of the blood of the atonement, whereby we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal blessing ? the opposite of the emblem of bad wine. (Matthew 26:26-28; 1Corinthians 10:16).
More specifically, we read of the contrast between the two types of wine regularly in Scripture. In Proverbs 20:1 we are told that "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." Could this then be the same wine that God promises to give to His people if they are obedient, of which we read in the following Scriptures?
"The Lord will answer and say to His people, ?Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them??" Joel 2:19 (NKJV)
"Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine." Proverbs 3:9-10 (NKJV)
Not only is it clear that two types of wine are spoken of here, it is also obvious that God would not give something that "is a mocker" as a blessing to His people. However, if there is any doubt regarding this, it is further confirmed by the fact that different words are used in the original Hebrew concerning wine. Although there are several, two are used predominantly and consistently to distinguish the wine that God gives to man, from the wine that man drinks which is not of God.
Yayin ? Fermented Wine
The word which represents fermented wine is yayin. It literally means "to effervesce", or "winebibber", meaning a person who drinks a lot of wine. It is connected to the Hebrew word caba, which means "drunkard", or to drink heavily. Yayin is sometimes also used for the wine that Man offers to God, representing the "fermentation" or sin that is inherent in whatever we might give to God.
In studying words in the Bible, scholars find that the first mention of a word is generally quite significant, since it sets the tone for how the word is used in future contexts. Yayin is first used in Genesis, to describe the failure of Noah after the voyage in the ark was over and he and his family were again on dry land.
"Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent." Genesis 9:21 (NKJV)
The word is used the next time to describe a disgusting event with Lot and his daughters, in Genesis 19:35, "Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose." Throughout the Scriptures, this word continues to identify fermented wine, and is generally associated with sin and shame.
Tiyrowsh ? The Unfermented Wine of God
Conversely, the word used for wine when it is a blessing from God is tiyrowsh (pronounced tee-roshe`), and it is usually used in conjunction with "new". BDB/Thayers, perhaps the most trustworthy and most widely used Hebrew dictionary for the Bible, defines this wine as "wine, fresh or new wine, must, freshly pressed wine". Smith?s Dictionary of the Bible, page 1189, says: "The wine was sometimes preserved in its unfermented state and drunk as must?very likely the new wine was preserved in the state of must?" The first mention of this word is found in Genesis 27:28, where we read, "Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine." Throughout the rest of the Bible, it is generally called "new wine," as in Hosea 2:8, where we read, "For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil?"
Other Hebrew words used for wine are chamar, cobe, and aciyc. Cobe is a form of caba, and has a similar meaning. Chamar usually is related to human blood, and aciyc describes a sweet wine. However, these words are rarely used in the Word regarding wine ? they represent less than five percent of the times wine is mentioned. Yayin and tiyrowsh, as previously noted, predominate. In the Greek, however, the same word is used for both types of wine.
The Legacy of Our Actions
When Israel had disobeyed God, God found an example of an obedient family to compare them to. The Rechabites had been forbidden to drink wine by their father, but God told Jeremiah to offer them some.
"Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, ?Drink wine.? But they said, ?We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, "You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever."?" Jeremiah 35:5-6 (NKJV)
Jonadab (also spelled Jehonadab) was a man of great moral integrity whom Jehu sought the company of to strengthen his kingship (See 2Kings 10:15). He would have been an ancestor of the tribe mentioned here, and one might wonder if their temperance might have seemed anachronistic. In other words, this group probably seemed legalistic and old-fashioned to most of Israel. But did God feel this way also? Did God say that it was wrong for Jonadab to have commanded his progeny to abstain from drinking, or that it was foolish for his descendants to honor this request of their long deceased relative? Not in the least. Rather, their obedience brought them a blessing.
“The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandment?(19) therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ?Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.’ ” Jeremiah 35:14, 19 (NKJV)
Many years ago a well-known author and Bible teacher appeared on Christian television and talked about drinking. He said in Bible college a friend told him that he had decided to be like John the Baptist and drink nothing alcoholic. This author replied to his friend that he would rather be like Jesus and drink wine. Afterwards, in a "coincidence" only God could arrange, another well-known Christian musician gave his personal testimony and stated how he had been blessed to grow up in a Christian home. However, when he was in college, several Christian friends convinced him that drinking was okay, and so he started with wine. Months later he became a complete alcoholic, drinking a fifth of liquor every day. This went on for over ten years, and led to other sins, until by God?s grace he was eventually delivered.
Whatever one might be convinced of regarding the meaning of the word wine, the fact cannot be escaped that the use of actual wine is a stumbling block to many. If we use it, our children according to the flesh, and our spiritual children and siblings, will be enticed to also try it. If Paul would never eat meat again if it caused his brother to stumble, would God not also prefer us to abstain from imbibing beverages that are proven to be the cause of a plethora of societal problems? Wisdom dictates that the use of alcohol can be a serious blot on the purity of the church, and a personal nightmare to those who rely on it. We are admonished to be wise regarding alcohol, as we read, "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit." Ephesians 5:17-18 (NKJV)