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You are here: Home > Bible Commentary > 1 Timothy > Chapter 5 > Verse 23

1 Timothy 5

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1 Timothy 5:23
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1 Timothy 5:23
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Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

Note 15 at 1Ti 5:23: Paul's instructions to Timothy reveal that prior to that time, Timothy had not been drinking wine but only water. It's unusual that Timothy wasn't drinking the wine, which was the custom of their day and culture. Paul told him to stop drinking the water and drink wine instead, because it would help his stomach and his frequent infirmities.

Apparently, Timothy's stomach problems were caused by polluted water, and Paul simply told him to stop doing what was causing the problem. This seemed painfully obvious. It seems strange that Paul would need to instruct Timothy about this simple issue.

It is possible that Timothy knew what the problem was but was standing on the Lord's promise that he could drink any deadly thing and it would not hurt him (Mr 16:18). Although that is true, we shouldn't tempt the Lord in that area. This is not a scripture that allows us to go and drink poison to test the Lord. It applies to situations where drinking poison is unavoidable.

The experience and wisdom of the elder Paul showed the youthful Timothy that the sickness he was fighting was avoidable--don't be stupid; quit drinking the water. Anyone who travels to places where the drinking water is contaminated would do well to heed the same instruction.

Note 16 at 1Ti 5:23: Paul's instruction to Timothy to drink wine is problematic for some people because they believe Christians should totally abstain from all alcoholic beverages. They go to great lengths to explain that this was unfermented grape juice or--at worst--weak, diluted wine. But that is not the case.

The wine that was used in the New Testament by our Lord and the early disciples was alcoholic or else the saints couldn't have gotten drunk on it during communion (1Co 11:21). The Scriptures don't forbid drinking alcoholic beverages; they forbid drunkenness. It is possible to drink in moderation and never violate the teachings of Scripture.

That being said, the Scriptures give stern warnings against the evils of too much drink (Pr 23:29-35). Much can be said for total abstinence from intoxicating drinks. There is certainly nothing wrong with never taking a drink of anything that could lead to drunkenness, as long as it doesn't become a law that is preached as being necessary to please the Lord--that is legalism. There is a difference between discipline and legalism.

Notice that Paul told Timothy to use a "little" wine, not a lot. The Bible preaches moderation in all things but especially in strong drink. This is not an open door for people to drink to drunkenness or to where their judgment is impaired.

Note 17 at 1Ti 5:23: There have actually been attempts to use this scripture to herald the medicinal qualities of wine. That is a complete misuse of this scripture. Whatever the virtues of a little wine may be, this verse is simply saying that Timothy's sickness was because of polluted water and if he would substitute wine for water, he would get well.

Note 18 at 1Ti 5:23: Some have tried to use this statement about Timothy's "often infirmities" as evidence that it is not the Lord's will to heal everyone every time. The reasoning is that Timothy was a godly man who pastored possibly 100,000 people and was the protege of the Apostle Paul. Certainly, if it was God's will to heal everyone, Timothy would not have been sick.

First of all, just because we as godly people experience less than God's best, that is not proof that God is the author of those situations. Any of us can miss it in any area if we walk out of faith. It's like flying in an airplane. It is the plane that allows us to fly, not our goodness or virtue. If we step out of the plane, we immediately start to fall. Likewise, none of us become immune to sickness because of our own virtue; it is a faith thing. When we are in faith, we can walk in healing. When we are out of faith, we are susceptible just like anyone else.

However, with Timothy, Paul made it clear that his stomach problems were the direct result of the water he was drinking. Probably, as was and still is common in many of those countries, the water was polluted and drinking it caused stomach and intestinal problems. Paul told him to drink wine instead of water and his problems would be over.

This was not a long-term illness imposed on Timothy by God to humble him or accomplish some godly purpose. It was a case of bad water making him sick, and it was over in a short time.

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