Find below Lesson 4 of Biblical Evangelism – Evangelizing Your Children.
God’s work in the life of a believer is an internal work. It begins in the heart of man and results first in internal, and secondly in external changes. The good works produced by His Spirit are not required for salvation but are evidence that salvation has already occurred on the inside. This sets Christianity apart from all other religions of this world.
The religions of this world offer salvation based upon the external performance or good works of it’s adherents. The Christian does not inherit Heaven based upon his good works (Titus 3:5, Eph 2:8-9). On the contrary, he obtains salvation by declaring his utter inability to earn salvation by his own merits and by expressing faith in Jesus Christ and His righteousness as the only basis on which to enter Heaven (Matt 18:4, Rom 4:4-5, 2 Cor 5:21). Christianity is unique in that it’s veracity is entirely dependent upon the supernatural, transforming work which God does in the heart of it’s followers (1 John 2:5, 1 John 3:14).
Because salvation by grace alone excludes the works of men and exposes man as sinfully unable to save himself, it has always been met with opposition in this world. Man is self-righteous. He is content to invent his own religion which smiles upon his efforts to earn salvation. This is true today, just like it was true in Jesus’ day.
Matt 23:23-28. Q. v23. How did Jesus describe the scribes and Pharisees?
Q. What were the “weightier matters of the law”?
Q. What do you think Jesus meant when he said “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”?
The Jews in Christ’s day were very concerned with the outward ceremony of the law. They paid close attention to every detail of every rule concocted by their religious class. They would go through the pains of giving precisely ten percent of even their smallest spices, but neglected the matters of the heart, like faith and mercy.
Q. In your own words, what do verses 25 and 27 mean?
Q. v26. What did Jesus tell the Jews they should have done?
Q. v28. What was the difference between how the Jews appeared externally and how they appeared internally?
During Jesus’ earthly ministry he continually rebuked the Jews for their religious hypocrisy. He reserved his harshest words for the religious crowd who celebrated external legalism in place of heart-felt devotion to God (Matt 23:13-33).
Matt 15:7-9. Q. How did the Jews honour God?
Q. What was far from God? _______________________________________.
Q. How did God describe their worship? _____________________________.
Q. What were they teaching as doctrine? _____________________________.
The Jews had allowed their religion to become so corrupt that they had begun to value and teach their tradition above God`s explicitly revealed word. They became so enamored with rules and commandments that they replaced faith with works and lost the heartfelt motivation that was intended to drive their obedience. Jesus repeatedly confronted this gross corruption of Judaism and as a result incurred the wrath of the self-righteous Jews (Matt 15:12).
Always a Matter of the Heart
Jesus was not really teaching anything new. His message was entirely consistent with God`s revelation in the Old Testament – a relationship with Him begins in the heart!
In Deuteronomy 6 we find what is commonly called the Shema. This portion of scripture is the centerpiece of Jewish morning and evening prayer services. The Shema is often spoken as a Jew`s last words and is diligently taught to Jewish children.
Deut 6:4-6. Q. According to the Shema, how were the Jews to love God?
Joshua 22:5. Q. In this chapter Joshua is dismissing the eastern tribes to their homeland after assisting in battle. Joshua gives them a charge before they leave. In it he quotes Deuteronomy 13. He told them to __________________ the Lord their God. How did he encourage them to serve God?
God has always sought men and women who would worship Him in love, with their whole hearts. This is a consistent theme throughout all of scripture.
New Heart Needed
There is a problem however with the command to love God with all of our heart, soul and might. What does ? Jeremiah 17:9 say about the heart of man?
Matt 15:18-20. Q. According to Jesus, what comes from the heart?
The fact is, man cannot truly and fully worship God in the sincerity of his heart while his heart is in bondage to sin (Rom 8:7-8). Man’s mind, emotions and will have all been tainted by sin (Rom 8:20-23). As a result, his sinful heart naturally tends toward self-righteousness and legalism. What is needed to bring men into fellowship with a holy God is not more commandments or stricter rules, it is a renewed heart.
This is the main truth that the schoolmaster of the law was meant to teach us, specifically, that man cannot please God in and of himself (Rom 8:8). He must be given a new heart (John 3:3). Man’s need for a renewed heart is the driving force behind God’s redemptive plan. Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again all so that man can be made new, from the inside out.
Ezekiel 11:19. Q. Here Ezekiel speaks of the new covenant which God would one day make with His people. What did God say He would take from them? What would he replace it with?
Jer 24:7. Q. What would God give Israel? How would they return to Him?
Jer 31:31. Q. What did God say he would make with Israel?
Q. What would this covenant not be like?
Q. What would God do with His law?
God promised that he would make a covenant with his people unlike the covenant which he made with the patriarchs. This new covenant would involve not just the giving of the law, but the writing of the law on the heart of man. He would take out the stony heart and give him a renewed heart. All of this was accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Heb 9:15, Heb 12:24. Q. What is Christ the mediator of?
God’s new covenant was not simply that he would be a God to his people, but that he would give his people a new heart that they would have the desire and ability to worship him in the Spirit. When we speak of the heart we are really talking about the inward characteristics of man, his mind, his will and his emotions. All of these must be salvaged from the curse of sin and be spiritually renewed.
Salvation – The Renewing of the Heart
John 3:3,5. Q. What must a man be, in order to see the kingdom of God?
2 Cor 5:17. Q. If a man is in Chirst, what is he? What have all things become?
When a man receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord, the Bible teaches that he is made spiritually alive (Eph 2:1,5). He is literally renewed on the inside (Titus 3:5, Col 3:9,10). This is a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy regarding the new covenant.
Titus 3:5. Q. What is it that renews us at salvation?
The fulfillment of God’s new covenant was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Christ rose from the dead, having defeated death, sin and Satan, he sent the Holy Spirit of God to dwell inside of God’s people (John 14:17, John 16:7, 1 Cor 3:16). It is by the Holy Spirit of God that he took away our heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, that He wrote his law on our hearts.
When a man is saved, there is a real change which happens on the inside. God literally makes a spiritual transformation inside of him. Now, having been made spiritually new, man has the ability to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to please God by obedience.
Eph 2:8-10. Q. v10. Who’s workmanship are we? __________________.
Q. v10. What has he created us for? ________________________________.
Q. v8,9. What part did we play in this transformation? __________________.
God is very clear. Salvation is the result of his divine action on the inside of man. He makes us spiritually new and enables us to exercise good works. Our ability to please Him comes only after salvation and is the result of his work in our hearts. This is profoundly different from those religions which teach we must, by our own ability, earn favour with God.
Attitudes of the Heart – The Spirit’s Fruit
Upon salvation, man is made spiritually new. He has been given a new heart, yet he remains in a sinful body in a sinful world (Rom 7:24, John 17:15). The Spirit’s work does not stop at salvation but continues until the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).
Gal 3:3. Q. What did Paul tell the Galatians was a foolish thing to do?
The Spirit’s continued work remains in the realm of the heart. He continually seeks to bring man’s thoughts, emotions and will under his control. The same Spirit that made us spiritually new in an instant at salvation, continues His work of making us more and more like Jesus Christ on a daily basis (Rom 8:29).
Gal 4:19. Q. What was Paul laboring to see done in the lives of the Galatians?
This is, in a nutshell, the work of the ministry. All the spiritual gifts given to the church are for the purpose of bringing men and women into spiritual maturity, that is, Christ-likeness (Eph 4:11-16). And this work happens in the heart.
The focus of the Church’s work then, is not the outside of man, but the inside.
Eph 3:14-21. In this passage we find Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church. This offers valuable insight into Paul’s approach to ministry. Answer the questions below to see what Paul’s ephasis and concern was.
Q. v16. Paul wanted the Ephesians to be strengthened by what? Where?
Q. v17. What would the result of this spiritual strength be?
The word “dwell” here means to “settle down”. To be strengthened by the Spirit means to have Christ settled in our hearts. That is, he is comfortable, and at home. This happens as our lives line up with his will by obedience to his commands (John 15:7, John 14:21).
Q. v18-19. What else results from being strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man?
Q. v20. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to what?
Paul desired that the Ephesians be strengthened on the inside by the Spirit. This was the focus on his ministry. We should also seek to promote the work of the Spirit inwardly. How then should our church go about this? Do we use guilt, gimmicks, programs or pressure to help develop the heart attitudes of faith, hope, and love? Do we devise rules to help people live disciplined lives of unity, humilty, joy, and thankfulness? Do we offer incentives and rewards if people exhibit compassion, contentment and self-discipline? Or is there a better way? What is the Biblical way?
Spiritual Fruit, by Spiritual Means
John 6:63. Q. What are Christ’s words? ___________________________.
Hebrews 4:12. Q. What is God’s word a discerner of?
1 Thess 2:13. Q. What is at work in believers? ______________________.
Since man’s sanctification or increasing Christ-likeness is an internal work produced by the Spirit of God, it only makes sense to use God’s means to encourage that growth. His main method of promoting spiritual growth is the ministry of the word. This is why it is absolutely essential that the Christian avail himself to the word of God (Luke 4:4). This also gives the church a mandate to focus on strong, accurate Biblical teaching and preaching. If God’s chief work is internal, by the Spirit, through the word of God, than it makes no sense to deemphasize Biblical teaching or to seek new means or methods to produce growth (1 Thess 5:20)!
Secondly, God does his internal work through the ministry of spiritual gifts. God has given every believer a spiritual gift (Eph 4:11, Rom 12:5-8) for the purpose of edifying or building up the church (1 Cor 12:7). These gifts produce spiritual maturity (Eph 4:13), doctrinal stability (Eph 4:14) and, loving unity (Eph 4:15-16). Each of these occur on the inside of man.
God desires men and women to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Man’s sinful heart has prohibited him from worshipping God in this way. He continually falls back into sin, self-righteousness, and legalism. But, from the beginning of time, God planned on remedying man’s sin problem by providing him a new heart. This is what he called the new covenant. He accomplished the new covenant through the death, burial and resurreciton of Jesus Christ. Upon Christ’s ascension to Heaven he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers. It is through the Spirit that God renews the hearts of men and women, reconciling them to God and enabling them to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
God’s work is an inside job! As a church we must seek to encourage and promote this inner work by using God’s means and methods. Emphasizing outward conformity to rules is not God’s way. He has not told us to manipulate, threaten or guilt people into obedience, but to preach, teach and practice His word in the power of His Holy Spirit.
The faithful teaching of God’s word and the production of spiritual heart attitudes is a long process. Paul compared it to labouring in birth! But it is God’s way and we dare not deviate from it. As a church that means we will continue to make the teaching and preaching of God’s word the centerpiece of our ministry. We will seek to promote inward transformation to Christ-likeness and not outward conformity to rules, preferences or the standards of men.
The life of a growing Christian will be predominantly characterized by spiritual heart attitudes. Outward changes will occur in every believer’s life, but this is the evidence of an interal work and not a replacement for it.
1. Why do you think man tends to create religions which rely on good works?
2. What type of ungodly attitudes do you think a works-based religion might lead to?
3. What type of worship has God always desired?
4. Why can’t man worship God in a way that pleases Him?
5. How did God solve that problem?
6. What work is God continually doing in the life of a Christian? Where does He do it?
7. How might we help or hinder the work that God is doing in us?
8. If we lost sight of the fact that God’s work happens in the heart of man by his Holy Spirit, how might our church become imbalanced?
This study marks the beginning of a new series of Bible studies dealing with Attitudes of the Heart. We will be studying an essential Christian attitude every week for the next fifteen weeks. What do we mean by an “Attitudes of the Heart”? These are the inward attitudes of the heart which are fundamental to Christian character. Christianity is chiefly an inward work of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. God is not concerned with men conforming outwardly to some religious system but rather that they be conformed inwardly to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29).
This conforming process takes place as we learn more about God the Father and submit ourselves to Him. So although the Holy Spirit is responsible for producing these attitudes, we are also responsible for obediently submitting to the Spirit’s work within us (Eph 4:30-32; 1 Thes 5:19).
This week we will be dealing with a foundational attitude to all others and that is Faith.
• Heb 6:1. Q. According to this verse, what two things are foundational to Christianity?
• Romans 5:1. Q. How are we justified? ________________________.
Faith is the door which all men and women must pass through when entering the Kingdom of God (Gal 3:22; John 3:15). It is trust in God.
• Hebrews 11:6. Q. What must we have to please God? ______________.
Q. According to that verse, what two things does faith encompass?
Faith in God is believing that He exists, and that He is who He has revealed Himself to be. It is then trusting Him based upon that revelation. A Christian has, by definition, exercised faith in God when he trusted Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord (Gal 3:26). He believed that God existed, he believed the testimony God gave of His Son and trusted that God would save him as He promised (1 John 5:10-13).
Not only does a man become a Christian through an initial exercise of faith (Eph 2:8-9), but he continually grows in his faith as he matures spiritually (2 Thess 1:3).
• Gal 3:11. Q. How should the just live? _________________________.
We have already seen that faith is believing that God exists, that He is who He has revealed Himself to be and trusting Him based upon that revelation. At salvation, we trust God to fulfill the initial promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. Following salvation, the Christian life consists of learning more and more about God and developing an ever increasing trust based upon our growing knowledge of who He is and what He has promised.
In 2 Timothy Paul is writing to Timothy from prison. He has experienced much affliction for the gospel’s sake and is aware that his death is imminent. It is under these circumstances that he wrote 2 Timothy 1:12:
• 2 Timothy 1:12. Q. For what two reasons was Paul not ashamed?
Paul’s unashamed faith was firmly founded upon the fact that he knew God and based upon this elder saints deep knowledge of God he was persuaded that God would preserve him at the time of judgment. Deep faith comes from deep knowledge of who God is.
Many Christians find it difficult to trust God because they have a shallow understanding of who He is. It is hard to trust someone that you do not know! As we read and obey the Bible, experience answers to prayer and trust God through our trials we learn more and more about Him. The more we learn about him the easier it becomes to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the easier it is to exercise faith.
Paul had experienced both triumphs and trials in his Christian life and through it all He learned to trust God by faith. In Philippians 4:12 Paul said “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
• Philippians 4:13. Q. What belief sustained Paul through his times of abundance and abasement?
The Christian life is a life of faith. Q. Gal 2:20. How did Paul say that he now lives?
For the Christian, all of God’s promises are culminated in the person of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says For all the promises of God in him [Jesus]are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. If we ever doubt God’s loving care for us, or his ability to help us, we need not look any further than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God proved His loving character by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. He proved His endless ability by raising Him from the dead (Eph 1:19-20).
Hebrews chapter 11 is commonly referred to as God’s Hall of Faith. In it, we find a list of some of the great men and women of faith found throughout the Old Testament.
• Heb 11:8-10. Q. How did Abraham respond to God’s call?
Q. Did Abraham know where he was going? ______________.
Q. v9. If Abraham did not know where he was going and had no rightful claim or ability to take the land he was in, on what basis was he dwelling there?
Abraham did not know where he was going, yet he obeyed. He uprooted his family and travelled to a strange land all based upon his trust in God. He believed that God would fulfill the promise that He had made even though the circumstances around him did not reflect it.
• Romans 4:16-24. Q. v17. What two things about God did Abraham base his faith on?
v18. Q. Abraham believed even against hope. On what basis?
v19. Q. What did Abraham not consider?
v20. Q. Abraham was ___________________ in faith.
v21. Q. What was Abraham persuaded about God?
• Heb 11:17-19. Q. What did Abraham do by faith?
Q. What had Abraham received from God? ________________________.
Q. What did Abraham take in to account when he offered Isaac?
Abraham was willing to disregard his difficult circumstances and the apparent impossibility of his situation all based upon God’s promise. He was able to trust and to remain strong in faith because he knew God. He knew God enough to be persuaded that He would keep the promise that He had made. He offered Isaac knowing not only that God had promised him a seed, but that God was also able to raise him from the dead.
Faith involves standing on God’s promises and believing He is able to fulfill them.
• Heb 11:11. Q. What did Sarah do by faith?
Q. How did Sarah judge God? __________________________.
Q. Because Sarah judged God as faithful, what did she believe God would do?
Sarah did not have the strength or ability to conceive. The reality of her situation was bleak. There was no logical reason to believe that she would have a child naturally but she did have a child and through that child a multitude of descendants arose (v12). Sarah did not only believe in God, but she believed God. She knew God was faithful and unchanging and based upon her knowledge of who God was, she trusted Him.
• Heb 11:22. Q. What did Joseph do by faith?
There were no circumstances occurring in Egypt at the time of Joseph’s claim that would have lead him to believe that the children of Israel would depart. He based his claim entirely upon faith in the promise of God. He so trusted in God’s promise that he gave the children of Israel instruction as to how to deal with his bones when they finally escaped Egyptian bondage (Ex 13:19).
Looking at the above examples we could say that Faith is resting in God’s promises based upon our trust in His character and ability. Like Abraham, Sarah and Joseph we should not allow circumstances to affect our faith. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can still understand our God. In order for us to truly exercise faith then, we should seek to learn more about God and more about what he has promised!
List the promises found in the following passages.
• Rom 10:9-10 _________________________________________
• John 10:27-28 _________________________________________
• Heb 13:5 _____________________________________________
• Php 4:19 _____________________________________________
• 1 Cor 10:13 ___________________________________________
• 1 John 1:9 ____________________________________________
• James 1:5 ____________________________________________
• Rom 8:28 ____________________________________________
This is only a small sampling of the multitude of promises God has given to His people throughout scripture. Do you believe them? Even God’s most difficult promises become easy to believe when we learn to trust Him. Getting to know our eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, sovereign, righteous, promise-keeping God, leads us to real faith. No matter how unbelievable God’s promises might seem at first glance, they all become believable as we grow in our knowledge of who God is and what He is able to do.
Do you sometimes find it hard to trust God? Even the Apostles had to ask Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Take what faith you have now and ask God to give you more, than trust that He will (Mark 9:24).
An essential inward attitude in the Christian life is faith. What can we do this week to help deepen our faith?
1. Christianity is not a matter of conforming to outward religious standards. What is it a matter of?
2. How does becoming like Jesus happen?
3. In your own words, what is faith in God?
4. Faith involves more than belief, what should our faith lead us to do?
5. If we want to deepen our faith, what should we learn more about?
6. How should the fact that God sent Jesus Christ to die for us increase our faith?
7. Why can we still have faith when our circumstances don’t make sense?
I had a difficult time finding this article while I was studying. I have posted it here to be a help to others who may also be searching. The following article is from Christianity Today, Volume XIX, Number 19.
ROBERT H. STEIN
As evangelicals we maintain that the Bible is for us the only infallible rule of faith and practice. It is our final authority in all matters of doctrine (faith) and ethics (practice). Yet the Bible was not written to evangelicals living in the twentieth century. The science—or better, the art—of interpreting the biblical text so that the revelation of God written centuries ago is meaningful and correctly understood today is called “hermeneutics.” The basic principle of hermeneutics, to be somewhat simplistic, is that the question “What does it mean for us today?” must be preceded by the question “What did it mean for them yesterday?” If we do not seek first to understand what the text meant when it was written, it will be very difficult to interpret intelligently what it means and demands of us today.
My subject here is the use of the term “wine” in the New Testament. Some readers may already be thinking, “Is he going to try to tell us that wine in the Bible means grape juice? Is he going to try to say that the wine mentioned in the New Testament is any different from the wine bottled today by Christian Brothers or Château Lafite-Rothschild or Mogen David?” Well, my answers are no and yes. No, the wine of the Bible was not unfermented grape juice. Yes, it was different from the wine of today.
In ancient times wine was usually stored in large pointed jugs called amphorae. When wine was to be used it was poured from the amphorae into large bowls called kraters, where it was mixed with water. Last year 1 had the privilege of visiting the great archaeological museum in Athens, Greece, where I saw dozens of these large kraters. At the time it did not dawn on me what their use signified about the drinking of wine in biblical times. From these kraters, cups or kylix were then filled. What is important for us to note is that before wine was drunk it was mixed with water. The kylix were filled not from the amphorae but from the kraters.
The ratio of water to wine varied. Homer (Odyssey IX, 208f.) mentions a ratio of 20 to 1, twenty parts water to one part wine. Pliny (Natural History XIV, vi, 54) mentions a ratio of eight parts water to one part wine. In one ancient work, Athenaeus’s The Learned Banquet, written around A.D. 200, we find in Book Ten a collection of statements from earlier writers about drinking practices. A quotation from a play by Aristophanes reads: “‘Here, drink this also, mingled three and two.’ Demus. ‘Zeus! But it’s sweet and bears the three parts well!’” The poet Euenos, who lived in the fifth century B.C., is also quoted:
The best measure of wine is neither much nor very little;
For ‘tis the cause of either grief or madness.
It pleases the wine to be the fourth, mixed with three nymphs.
Here the ratio of water to wine is 3 to 1. Others mentioned are:
3 to 1—Hesiod
4 to 1—Alexis
2 to 1—Diodes
3 to 1—Ion
5 to 2—Nichochares
2 to 1—Anacreon
Sometimes the ratio goes down to 1 to 1 (and even lower), but it should be noted that such a mixture is referred to as “strong wine.” Drinking wine unmixed, on the other hand, was looked upon as a “Scythian” or barbarian custom. Athenaeus in this work quotes Mnesitheus of Athens:
The gods has revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it and strength in mind and body. In medicine it is most beneficial; it can be mixed with liquid and drugs and it brings aid to the wounded. In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse.
It is evident that wine was seen in ancient times as a medicine (and as a solvent for medicines) and of course as a beverage. Yet as a beverage it was always thought of as a mixed drink. Plutarch (Symposiacs III, ix), for instance, states. “We call a mixture ‘wine,’ although the larger of the component parts is water.” The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank it unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equal parts was seen as “strong drink” and frowned upon. The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water. Usually a writer simply referred to the mixture of water and wine as “wine.” To indicate that the beverage was not a mixture of water and wine he would say “unmixed (akratesteron) wine.”
One might wonder whether the custom of mixing wine with water was limited to the ancient Greeks. The burden of proof would be upon anyone who argued that the pattern of drinking wine in Jewish society was substantially different from that of the examples already ‘given. And we do have examples in both Jewish and Christian literature and perhaps in the Bible that wine was likewise understood as being a mixture of wine and water. In several instances in the Old Testament a distinction is made between “wine” and “strong drink.” In Leviticus 10:8, 9, we read, “And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting. . . .‘“ Concerning the Nazarite vow Numbers 6:3 states that the Nazarite “shall separate himself from wine and strong drink.” This distinction is found also in Deuteronomy 14:26; 29:6; Judges 13:4, 7, 14; First Samuel 1:15: Proverbs 20:1; 31:4,6: Isaiah 5:11, 22; 28:7; 29:9; 56:12; and Micah 2:11.
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia (Vol. 12, p. 533) states that in the rabbinic period at least “‘yayin’ [or wine] ‘is to be distinguished from ‘shekar’ [or strong drink]: the former is diluted with water (mazug’); the latter is undiluted (‘yayin hal’).” ln the Talmud, which contains the oral traditions of Judaism from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 200, there are several tractates in which the mixture of water and wine is discussed. One tractate (Shabbath 77a) states that wine that does not carry three parts of water well is not wine. The normal mixture is said to consist of two parts water to one part wine. In a most important reference (Pesahim 108b) it is stated that the four cups every Jew was to drink during the Passover ritual were to be mixed in a ratio of three parts water to one part wine. From this we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that the fruit of the vine used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper was a mixture of three parts water to one part wine. In another Jewish reference from around 60 B.C. we read, “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment” (II Maccabees 15:39).
In ancient times there were not many beverages that were safe to drink. The danger of drinking water alone raises another point. There were several ways in which the ancients could make water safe to drink. One method was boiling, but this was tedious and costly. Different methods of filtration were tried. The safest and easiest method of making the water safe to drink, however, was to mix it with wine. The drinking of wine (i.e., a mixture of water and wine) served therefore as a safety measure, since often the water available was not safe. (I remember drinking some water in Salonica, Greece, that would have been much better for me had it been mixed with wine or some other purifying agent.)
When we come to the New Testament the content of the wine is never discussed. The burden of proof, however, is surely upon anyone who would say that the “wine” of the New Testament is substantially different from the wine mentioned by the Greeks, the Jews during the intertestamental period, and the early church fathers. In the writings of the early church fathers it is clear that “wine” means wine mixed with water. Justin Martyr around A.D. 150 described the Lord’s Supper in this way: “Bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president sends up prayers and thanksgiving” (Apology 1, 67, 5). Some sixty-five years later Hippolytus instructed the bishops that they shall “eucharistize [bless] first the bread into the representation of the Flesh of Christ; and the cup mixed with wine for the antitype of the Blood which was shed for all who have believed in Him” (Apostolic Tradition XXIII, 1). Cyprian around A.D. 250 stated in his refutation of certain heretical practices:
Nothing must be done by us but what the Lord first did on our behalf, as that the cup which is offered in remembrance of Him should be offered mingled with wine. . . .
Thus, therefore, in considering the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot be offered. For if anyone offer wine only, the blood of Christ is dissociated from us: but if the water be alone, the people are dissociated from Christ. . . . Thus the cup of the Lord is not indeed water alone, nor wine alone, unless each be mingled with the other [Epistle LXII, 2, 11 and 13].
Unmixed wine and plain water at the Lord’s Supper were both found unacceptable. A mixture of wine and water was the norm. Earlier in the latter part of the second century Clement of Alexandria stated:
It is best for the wine to be mixed with as much water as possible. . . . For both are works of God, and the mixing of the two, both of water and wine produces health, because life is composed of a necessary element and a useful element. To the necessary element, the water, which is in the greatest quantity, there is to be mixed in some of the useful element [Instructor II, ii, 23.3—24.1].
To consume the amount of alcohol that is in two martinis by drinking wine containing three parts water to one part wine, one would have to drink over twenty-two glasses. In other words, it is possible to become intoxicated from wine mixed with three parts of water, but one’s drinking would probably affect the bladder long before it affected the mind.
In concluding this brief article I would like to emphasize two points. First, it is important to try to understand the biblical text in the context in which it was written. Before we ask “What does the biblical text mean for us today?” we must ask “What did it mean to them originally?” Second, there is a striking difference between the drinking of alcoholic beverages today and the drinking of wine in New Testament times. If the drinking of unmixed wine or even wine mixed in a ratio of one to one with water was frowned upon in ancient times, certainly the drinking of distilled spirits in which the alcoholic content is frequently three to ten times greater would be frowned upon a great deal more.
Robert H. Stein is associate professor of New Testament at Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota. He has the B.D. from Fuller Seminary, S.T.M. from Andover Newton Theological School, and Ph.D. from Princeton Seminary.
Here is the handout for our third lesson on Biblical Evangelism (Wed. nights)