Sunday, July 30, 2023

Alcohol: What Does the Bible Really Say (Part 3)

By Clifton Angel
    “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Will you note with me a few things concerning this verse?
    First, this was a direct instruction to Timothy; not to Titus, Barnabas, Peter, or Mary. Paul was addressing a specific situation concerning Timothy. To take this as direct instruction for us today would be an improper reading of the text, and with such logic, one may be led to build an ark from the direct instruction in Genesis 6:14, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood.”
    Second, we do not know what characteristics this “wine” contained. What was its alcoholic content? Did it have any at all? It has been said that our weaker alcoholic beverages today contain greater alcohol content than the “strong drinks” of the first century. I’ve also recently learned there was such a thing as non-alcoholic fermented wine, which we might call vinegar, today. Fermentation could provide beneficial probiotic effects for the stomach. However, we cannot prove the alcoholic content of Paul’s prescription.
    Third, the specific purpose Paul gave to Timothy for the use of this “wine” was for his “stomach’s sake” and his “often infirmities.” It was a necessity for his immediate health. It is interesting, that many will bring up medicinal use of alcohol when trying to justify something far different: freedom to drink, as long as not getting drunk. Such is very different than using medicine which has alcoholic content. We now have ready access to many medicines that do not require alcohol. Red grape juice will do the same for your heart as red wine (which many doctors prescribe), without the alcohol. Drinking plenty of water will aid in cleansing the kidneys, instead of resorting to beer. Do we really need alcohol for medicine today? And if we do, Paul’s principle is “little.” It is not something we do for recreation.
    Fourth, if this is instruction for us to partake of alcoholic beverages, it is also instruction for us to “drink no longer water.” Should we heed Paul’s imperative prohibition of water?
    Finally, keeping things in context, we find in the previous verse that Paul says “neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). Would such an admonition include drinking with others, or like others? May we all seek to read the Bible correctly and draw the conclusions God would have us to draw.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

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