Symbols of the Holy Spirit 7: Wine

Symbols of the Holy Spirit 7:


Red wine being poured into a glass.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:18–19

And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:6-8, 13

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins. Mark 2:22

The Holy Spirit makes us Joyful

Wine gets a bit of a mixed review in the Bible. On the one hand, the intoxicating effects are frowned on, but on the other wine gladdens the heart and Paul recommends that Timothy takes some wine for his stomach. Wine is neither good nor bad, it is bad in excess but also has positive uses.

Wine symbolises the Holy Spirit because being full of the Holy Spirit is being full of joy. The Disciples were full of the Spirit when the Spirit fell in them at Pentecost and were so full of joy, so exuberant, that they were accused of being drunk. The signs of being drunk are similar, being drunk and being filled with the Holy Spirit, without the excessive indulgence that too much alcohol can lead to.

New wine makes old wineskins burst

To make wine you crush grapes, releasing the juice, and then that juice is fermented, during fermentation, gasses are released. In Jesus’ day, the wine was fermented in leather skins, new skins could expand and take the pressure, old wineskins were brittle and would split. No one would put new wine into old wineskins.

That is what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, it is like new wine. It will not fit into the old structure of rigid obedience to God’s laws and sacrifices. God’s law is good because God is good and it is his law, but the Spirit goes beyond this, the Spirit needs more space. Hosea, in the Old Testament, knew this. God said this through Hosea to the people of Judah: ‘I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.’

God loves us and wants our love, God knows us and wants us to know him. Loving and knowing God goes beyond the sacrificial law. The Holy Spirit breaks through that which is in us that would be strict and legalistic, enabling us to know and love God and to go out into the world in love.

Are you going to allow the Holy Spirit to help you to love God fully? Ask her to fill you today. Warning, you may be so joyful that you appear drunk.


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