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

First of all, this verse lets us know that Timothy, although a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, was a man of continuing ailments along with problems with his stomach…possibly a digestive difficulty.  Paul, as his spiritual father, was naturally concerned about Timothy.  The first expression in this verse should actually read, “Drink no longer water only…”  Paul was not advising Timothy to refrain from drinking water but urging him to not limit his treatments to only drinking water. 

Timothy was a faithful servant, he was quite sickly, and he was a spiritual son of the Apostle Paul.  How do we benefit from this information?  Why do we need to know about this situation and this medical advice?  I believe what is written in this verse was written as much for us as it was written for Timothy for 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that, “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

What do we learn from this verse that can have an impact on our lives?  Of course, the use of wine is taught here, not to be used for fleshly gratification, but for the preservation of our health.  What qualified Paul to offer medical advice?  I would assume that since Luke was a constant companion of Paul, he probably shared medical information with him.  We know that Luke was a doctor for Paul referred to him as “Luke, the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14.  Today, many of our cough medicines contain much more alcohol than wine.  Some contain as much as 40% alcohol.  Scripture does not teach the total refrain of alcohol, but it does specifically forbid the abuse of alcohol.  Ephesians 5:18 says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess…”  So, there is a proper us for alcohol, such as in Timothy’s case, but there is a strict warning about drinking to excess.  Using alcohol to properly treat someone who is ailing is no sin.  However, we do not want to lay aside the powerful tool of prayer.  James 5:14 says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  Along with prayer, treatment may also be necessary. 

Let us also consider the fact that although Paul was at times used mightily to heal the sick, here the situation was different.  We read in Acts 19:11, “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul.”  It was the Lord working through Paul to perform many miracles.  It was not Paul who could heal at will, or who had the power to exhibit power whenever he pleased.  Instead of healing Timothy, we see Paul offering Timothy advice about how to maintain his health.  Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy 4:20, “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.”  Here is another case of a faithful witness of the Lord being sick, and Paul had to leave him behind because of his sickness.  Paul was powerless to heal Trophimus apart from the will of God. 

One more point that is profitable to consider is that Timothy was a sickly man.  Many today teach that sickness is a direct result of sin in a person’s life.  They teach that if one were not sinning, he would not get sick.  This thought is foreign to the scriptures.  We read in John 9:1-3, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  Here was a man who was blind from birth.  This was not a direct result of him sinning, nor of his parents sinning.  Why did the Lord allow this blindness to come upon this baby and afflict him his entire life?  It was “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  The Lord allowed this blindness just so He could heal Him and have His name honored because of His wonderful work.  Verses 6-7 tell us of how the Lord cured this man from his blindness.

I am thankful for this question for from it we learn that there are great practical lessons for us throughout the scriptures.  (455.4)