Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV).
Paul now moves from advice on dealing with elders to a bit of homeopathic medical advice. It should be noted that the Bible doesn’t condemn drinking alcohol; Verse 23 gives support to that. What the Bible does condemn is overuse and drunkenness, and it should. Nothing good comes out of being drunk. Yes, I’ve done it many times, and I agree with that statement. Scripture repeatedly condemns drunkenness; it gives examples of bad things that result from drunkenness. Think Noah and his sons, Lot’s daughters, and repeated exhortations throughout both Testaments as to the negative effects of drinking too much.
Here endeth the ‘preachiness’ of the sermon. I’d rather focus on the positive aspect of this verse because, once again, it talks about personal responsibility. It’s as if Paul is saying “you’re a grown man. Be responsible about this.”
In most parts of the world in the first century, good sanitation didn’t exist. As long as a well wasn’t tainted, it was generally safe to use, and people knew how to boil water, even how to filter it to make it clean. Yet modern water filtration didn’t exist for another two thousand years. You could get sick and die from bad water; you still can. Alcohol was safer. It’s simply history, not advocacy.
Mind you, if someone prefers to avoid alcohol because of the negative connotations associated with it, they’re doing a Godly thing. If churches prefer grape juice to alcohol for Holy Communion, they’re doing a Godly thing. They’re removing an obstacle to the Lord’s Supper for people who can’t or won’t drink wine. And if someone insists that they simply don’t like wine, well, there’s nothing wrong with that.
About communion: it’s significant that Jesus used wine at the first Lord’s Supper. There’s good debate about whether that was true wine or simply strong grape juice. Yet most versions of the Bible say “wine” so I take it that it was wine He used to give His blood to us. It matters that the Son of God used wine constructively. So should we.
Finally, wine can have good effects on the body. A small amount of alcohol does calm nerves, settle a stomach, and builds immunity against the common cold. Periodic small drinks of alcohol can lower one’s risk for both diabetes and heart disease. But to be honest, so do many other things that don’t involve booze.
Whatever your position, live it out responsibly and to the glory of God.
For further reading: Genesis 9:18-29, Genesis 19:31-32, Proverbs 20:1, Isaiah 28:7, Romans 13:13, Mark 14:23, Proverbs 31:7, 1 Timothy 5:24.
Lord, praise to You for wine and Spirits. Forgive our misuse of them, thank You for giving them, and help us to always use them to Your benefit.