Not Given To Much Wine

by Tom Wacaster

One of the qualifications of the deacon is that he not be "given to much wine" (1 Tim):8).  Because of the wording of the text in the American Standard Version and the King James Version, it is often argued that elders are not to have ANY wine and that deacons are not to have MUCH wine. Is such a distinction the design of God?  Is that what the Holy Spirit wished to convey?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Consider carefully the following. 

First, to argue that the deacon can partake of strong drink (in moderation) is to argue that one can partake in that which the Bible condemns.  Logically presented you would have: The scriptures do not sanction that which they teach is evil; but the scriptures teach that strong drink (used for the purpose of intoxication) is evil (Prov. 20:1, 21:17, 23:29); therefore, the scriptures do not sanction the use of strong drink (for the purpose of intoxication). I cannot imagine a strong, mature Christian denying the reasoning thus set forth. To try is to fail.

Second, the idea in the passage is one of "addiction" to strong drink. Roy Deaver has noted, "With regard to this particular qualification (as given in 1 Timothy 3:8) both the Weymouth translation and the Berkley Version have' ... not addicted to much wine.'  Thayer shows that addiction is the meaning here.  May I suggest that the word 'much' is used because the idea of addiction is under consideration, and which idea demanded the word 'much'" (Biblical Notes, May, 1985, page 9).  One simply cannot argue that because Paul was stressing a qualification of "non-addiction" that therefore the deacon can drink moderately.

Third, it is unreasonable to assume that a deacon can participate in something in which his wife or any other Christian cannot participate. The wife of a deacon must be "sober" (v. 11). The word used there is defined by W.E. Vine: "(nepho) signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants; in the New Testament, metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it, 1 Thessalonians 5:6,8." My Analytical Lexicon gives this definition: "Sober, temperate, abstinent in respect to wine, etc." The Christian (every Christian) is to "gird up the loins of your mind, be SOBER (emphasis mine, TW) and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). The word for "sober" in this passage is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3:11, meaning "abstinent in respect to wine." Again, "Be thou SOBER (emphasis mine, TW) in all things ..." (2 Tim. 4:5). Again, the word is 'nepho' meaning "abstinent in respect to wine."  Do those who argue in favor of moderation really believe that a deacon can use a "little" wine, but his wife must abstain completely?  Since a Christian is to be "sober" and a deacon can partake of a "little wine" (according to the reasoning of some), am I to assume that deacons are the ONLY ONES IN THE BODY OF CHRIST WHO CAN DRINK A LITTLE WINE? Again, I cannot imagine a strong, mature Christian who would reason along these lines. 

Fourth, the Christian is to "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Consider this: All things which war against the soul are things from which the Christian is commanded to abstain (1 Peter 2:11); the drinking of intoxicants is a thing which wars against the soul (would any dare deny that?); therefore, the drinking of intoxicants is a thing from which the Christian is commanded to abstain. Brethren, it is time we quit arguing in favor of "moderate drinking " It is time we recognized what 1 Timothy 3:8 teaches in regard to the qualification of deacons-absolute abstinence! How can these things be successfully denied? It is time preachers got into the book and taught what God's word has to say regarding  these things instead of cowling under the sophisticated arguments given by some who want to satisfy the lusts of the flesh and participate in social drinking. Elders, deacons, and every single member of the body of Christ must NOT BE GIVEN TO MUCH WINE!