Should We Drink
Wine Instead of Water?
NCW 17, March 1995
Q. 1 Timothy 5:23 says that Christians shouldn't drink just water but wine also, because that's healthier. So why do New Covenant Christians do the opposite?
Paul says: "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (NASV). This is not an instruction on dietary habits but on health. Timothy, like all evangelists, abstained from alcohol (see NCCW, Dec.1994, 14:35-37) as a drink for pleasure. He was, as we can see, accustomed to frequent gastric illnesses which in those days were common because water was unsafe to drink. Paul urged the evangelist to straighten his priorities out -- his health and mission were more important than a legalistic alcohol ban for the Priesthood. He was true to his covenants but was not old and mature enough to understand that the alcohol ban was for man's benefit, not the other way round. Wine was a readily available medicinal tonic for stomach problems and Paul urged him to use alcohol for the purpose God created it, namely health.
There is an important point to be learned here. God's Laws are given to us to benefit us, not condemn us. Alcohol for pleasure is forbidden because it is is injurous to the health and well-being of others when drunk in excess and harmful to the exercise of the spiritual life because it blurs the mind and releases negative inhibitions. But as a medicine there is nothing wrong with it at all.
The same may be said for the tobacco leaf. Used on wounds and infections it has positive benefits but burned and inhaled it causes cancer and other illnesses to oneself and to others.
Paul is therefore telling Timothy to use alcohol in the correct way. If a ban on alcohol were not normal in the Christian Church, why would Timothy abstain from it? Drinking wine was normal in every culture, just as drinking tap water is today. Today drinking water in many countries is now safe and there are many safe, bottled beverages.
It is a serious matter to misquote scripture out of the general context of a subject. The Bible teaching on wine consumption is clear throughout. In our experience those who quote 1 Timothy 5:23 to justify alcohol consumption are doing so simply to justify themselves in breaking a commandment and are willing to deliberately ignore the context of the passage, which is medicinal, and only medicinal. The only justification for drinking wine today, therefore, would be in a situation where a person found himself with stomach complaints and no other possible medical help.
This page was created on 1 May 1998
Last updated on 1 May 1998
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