One of the qualifications of a deacon, given in I Tim 3:8 is that he must not be “given to much wine.” Earlier, the apostle Paul expresses pointedly, that an elder is not to be “given to wine.” (Tim 3:3)
Incredibly some have surmised from these verses, that a deacon is allowed to imbibe in alcoholic drink, while an elder is to be a teetotaler. If that be the case, then the deacon could not possibly qualify himself to be an elder while living up to the qualifications of a deacon. This understanding of Paul’s statement is not tenable. It was never God’s intention that these verses be applied this way.
Neither does the phrase “not given to much wine” imply that both deacons and elders may imbibe in a little bit of wine. In Ecclesiastes 7:17 we find the admonition, “be not over much wickedness.” Would one say because of this verse it is all right to be over a little bit of wickedness? Would the fact that Peter mentions “excess of riot” imply that a little bit of riot is justified? (I Pet 4:4). . . Absolutely not!!
The admonition given in I Tim 3:8 is a hyperbolic statement. A hyperbole is a tool of speech that emphasizes for accent. (“Mile-high ice cream cones” is a hyperbolic statement). One might say, “don’t be a big sinner,” Yet no one would suggest by that verse, it is all right to be a “little sinner.”
Drunkenness is condemned in the Bible. In Ephesians 5:18, the scripture says “Be not drunk with wine.” The word “drunk” is from the Greek word “methusko” which means to “grow softened”. The process of growing softened begins with the first drink, and it is this very process of growing drunk, which is condemned in the Bible! The Bible does not authorize a little alcohol any more than it authorizes a “little cocaine” use or a “little bit of fornication.”
Some conclude that drinking in moderation is authorized in the Bible, because Jesus made wine. In John, Chapter 2, the word “wine,” is translated from the word “oinos.” The word simply refers to “fruit of the vine.” “Oinos” may be either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic beverage. The context of the passage in which the word is used must be the deciding factor. In Isaiah 65:8, the Bible refers to “wine found in the cluster.” Here, as the grapes hung in a cluster on the vine, the juice is called “wine.”
In Judges 9:13, the parable against Abimelech speaks of the vine attached to the grape as “wine.” (“Should I cease my new wine”). In neither of these instances is there any doubt of the fact that wine is spoken of as the non-fermented juice in the grape while attached to the vine. The wine that was alcoholic was not mentioned; much less suggested that it be imbibed in.
In Prov 23:31, the Bible says, “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly.” (Read also Prov 23:29-35). God forbade even the looking upon intoxicants in the Old Testament and there is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that His attitude has changed toward this dangerous drug.
Jesus could not have possibly made an alcoholic drink, for He made 120-180 gallons of the drink. John 2:6 tells us that there were six water pots of stone containing two or three “firkins” each. Since a “firkin” is about ten gallons, and each container held 20-30 gallons, at least 120 gallons were made. Since those at the feast were already drinking, if Jesus made an alcoholic beverage, He was tempting them to drunkenness!! Yet in Habakkuk 2:15, the law under which Jesus lived said, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk...” Under the law, it was not only wrong to drink, but it was wrong to give it to others! Jesus would have violated this passage if He had made an alcoholic drink. Jesus NEVER violated one word of the law of God!!
Timothy, a young preacher, who was a teetotaler, was urged to take a “little wine” for his stomach’s sake (I Tim 5:23). Alcohol is a powerful drug that God purposed and intended for medical use. Drugs are not to be taken for social purposes, but for medical purposes. If you have guests in your home, would be ok to just pass out some Tylenol to “help your guests relax?” So to, alcohol is a drug that need never be used is a social setting.
There is no Bible authority to imbibe in alcoholic drink. This should settle the question of I Tim 3:8. Those who do imbibe, violate the scripture, and commit sin in doing so. . . Let every Christian put away alcoholic drink, set a good example, and follow Christ and His Will. . .
(Taken from, “Neubauer’s Notes” by Holger Neubauer, Forest Park church of Christ Newsletter April 5, 1994)