Published April 23, 2016

By John Aldworth

John 2: 3, 7, 8: And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And He sayeth unto them, Draw out now and bear unto the governor of the feast and they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine …

Matt. 11:12-14: And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you will receive it this is Elias which was for to come.

Luke 11:16: The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it.

1 Tim. 5:23: Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and tine often infirmities. (Note: the context has to do with choosing and ordaining ministers).

    This is the story of the wedding that ran out of wine. And not only wine, but water also. You see, the waterpots for purification were empty until Jesus ordered them filled. So the bride and groom and their guests were at a point where they had neither water to wash with, nor wine to drink.

    What a picture of Israel at that time! The law which required washing of hands with water for purification had ceased. Thus there was no water in the vessels of purification.  That is why Jesus’ disciples ate without washing their hands, much to the dismay of the Pharisees. The inspiration of the words of the prophets had also ceased because “the law and the prophets were until John …” That is why they ran out of wine, out of inspiration and out of joy. How had the prophets ceased? Well, for one thing nobody but a tiny handful believed that they spoke of Messiah’s coming, still less that now He was here.

    The ending of the dispensation of the law and prophets and the onset of the dispensation of the kingdom personified in person by the Messiah, God’s Son, went largely unrecognised by Israel during Jesus’ time on earth. Just as the ending of the Pentecostal dispensation of Acts and its replacement by the dispensation of grace and the mystery, is ignored by Christendom at large today.

    To emphasise the huge change that had taken place Jesus turned the water of washing of the law into wine – the symbol of joy, inspiration and gladness. Wine maketh glad the heart of man Ps. 104: 15 says but, note, it is the wine the Lord brings forth not that with which man makes himself drunk. As Messiah then, Jesus brought the wine, the “glad tidings” (Luke 1:18 and 8:1) of the kingdom to Israel.

    This wine, these glad tidings, were that now forgiveness, redemption and grace to meet all their needs would be provided through the person of the Messiah and through trust in Him. It would no longer come through the law or the prophets.

    And the main purpose of the kingdom was to bring about a marriage, the marriage of the Lamb. There could be no kingdom of heaven on earth without Messiah being joined in wedlock to his bride, the chosen nation of Israel. In place of the law and the prophets then, in place of Jewish ritual and tradition, there was to be a marriage to inaugurate a kingdom. In Matt. 22:2-9 Jesus explains this clearly:

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain King (the Father) which made a marriage for his Son (Jesus). And sent forth his servants to call all them that were bidden (Israel) to the wedding: and they would not come. Again He sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed and all things are ready, come unto the marriage. But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise. And the remnant took his servants and entreated them spitefully and slew them …

    This is why over and over again speaks of this marriage. In Luke 12:36 after Israel’s rejection of the invitation has become clear, the Lord counsels his disciples to be:

… like unto men unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from wedding, that he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

    In Matt. 25: 1-13 the Lord compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins “which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom”. Evidently, as the end of Jesus’ ministry drew near the marriage was now on hold and only those Israelites who died still waiting faithfully to go the wedding would be resurrected on earth to do so at Messiah’s second coming. But they needed to take oil in their lamps – the promise of his coming – throughout the long night of his absence.

    Thankfully in Rev. 19:7-9 we learn that at long last that “the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife hath made herself ready” in that she has now been “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white”, garments supplied by God Himself.  But why is Israel here called “his wife” and not his bride? Answer: Because she was married to Him as Jehovah in Old Testament times but was divorced by God for her fornication - idolatry with false gods - (Isaiah 50:1). Hence now she is restored as a wife not a bride.

Rev. 19:7 exhorts Israelites to “be glad and rejoice and give honour to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come”. Wine is gladness and joy and rejoicing in scriptural terms. This is one reason why Jesus turned the water into wine at the Cana marriage to foreshadow his later marriage in time to come.

        Another is that it showed how through Jesus’ miracles the kingdom of heaven would “force itself” upon men. The Greek words biazomai  and biastes are used exclusively in Matt. 11:12 and Luke 11:16 to show both the violent impact of the kingdom of heaven upon Israelites and the need for equal force on the part of those who want to enter into it. The kingdom of heaven pressed its attention upon men, and men needed press into it.

      Similarly, today grace forces itself upon the attention of a lost mankind. There is not a land, not a city, where the grace of God is not known, since it is “come unto you as it is in all the world” (Col. 1:6). Similarly also, forceful action is required in our time under the dispensation of the grace of God to “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12), 19) and to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  And that “force” should be powered by our joy and gladness (the wine) at the prospect of our appearing with Christ Jesus in glory (Col. 3:4).

                More than that we should press forward for the “exceeding riches of his grace” (Eph. 2:7) that awaits us in Christ’s heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18) in the full outworking of the dispensation of the fullness of times (Eph. 1:10). For grace just gets better in succeeding dispensations. Let me explain. At his first coming Jesus, as the bridegroom presented to Israel by the “best man” John the Baptist, showed grace despite his being rejected by the chosen nation. Thus the Apostle John says (John1:14, 15, and 16):

…  and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    Notice that Jesus the Messiah’s grace is here described as grace with no superlatives added to describe it. Yet the grace that comes to us in the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2) is greater, which is why we should rejoice even more than Israelites did at the invitation to the marriage feast of the Lamb.

    For while grace in Jesus’ time on earth was conditional upon repentance and good works – “grace for grace” – the grace God is now showing all mankind is so great it forgives all sin without condition save that of faith and gives us all God’s blessings for free. Thus Eph. 2:8-9 states:

For by grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not works, lest any man should boast.

That’s free and fully sufficient grace and in Eph. 1: 7 it is described in terms of our redemption and total forgiveness as “the riches of his grace”. It’s more grace than the Israelites got because it’s unconditional except for faith.

    But it gets better. In Eph.   2:5-7 we are told:

And (God) hath raised us up together and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

    So we’ve got grace, the riches of his grace and exceeding grace. It doesn’t get better than that. Who could want for more, and if that doesn’t cause you rejoice, then I don’t know what will. But some get so bogged down in the detail, in facing up to the “gainsayers” and worrying about whether other so-called believers are saved or chosen or not that far from rejoicing some of us fear and all but despair.

    Timothy was in just such a case. In 1 Tim. 5:23 we find the Apostle Paul counselling Him:

                Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thy often infirmities.

    Why? Because Timothy was perplexed by the infidelity of believers around him. He worried whether they were really saved; he worried about who should be ordained to the ministry. Paul’s advice is stop worrying and trying to “put people right”. Better, he suggests, to “use a little wine”; that is to be glad and rejoice in the Lord and the prospect of exceeding grace and leave the problem of who should minister or not to Him.

    That this is the true figurative and spiritual understanding of the verse should be clear from the context which is about rebuking those that sin (vs. 20, being impartial (vs. 21), being in no rush to lay hands on (ordain) any man (vs. 22) and the need to “keep thyself pure” (vs. 22). 

    Verse 23 then is about keeping pure and overcoming the difficulties of choosing ministers for appointment. Paul’s advice is to use a little wine – that is inspiration and joy – in order that he might have discernment. And that in rejoicing with the wine of joy he might find a better means of purification than water (i.e. baptism).

    It is impossible to interpret the verse literally for to “drink no longer water” would see Timothy dead in a matter of weeks. The human body needs three litres of water a day minimum. Nor should one change the meaning by inserting the word “only” as modern bibles do, thus making it read: “Drink no longer water only”. The spiritual meaning therefore is glad rejoicing God’s wine – his joy.

    May I ask, has the risen glorified Christ turned your water into wine? I hope He has.