Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Wine and the Early Church > Medicinal Guidelines


Timothy was possibly drinking only water, perhaps influenced by false teachers or to avoid their criticism (see: I Tim. 4:1-5). Or, perhaps, Timothy was avoiding wine out of a false sense of piety. For whatever reason, his health was suffering; and he needed what wine could provide. He had medical problems that were not being addressed properly; his abstinence was detrimental to his health. Paul, therefore, instructs Timothy to us “a little wine (oinos)” for his “stomach’s sake” and his “frequent infirmities” or illnesses (I Tim. 5:23).

Here is an admonition and an endorsement of wine in the inspired writings. Paul told Timothy to drink wine. He informed Timothy that total abstinence would not be the best practice; and he tells him to use a little wine for his own good. Obviously, there is a health benefit to be derived from wine that is different from either beer or distilled spirits.

In the Bible wine is used as a stimulant for the dying (II Sam. 16:2), as a sedative for the one who is dying or for one who is emotionally distressed (Prov.31:6), as an antiseptic for one who is wounded (Lu. 10:34), as an aid to deaden pain (Matt. 27:34), and as a tonic for the stomach and illnesses (I Tim. 5:23). The Mishna indicates that wine was used at times to assist in the healing following circumcision. Certainly, wine has some beneficial qualities.

Throughout history wine has been used medicinally by many different cultures. A clay tablet “unearthed from the ruins of Nippur, an ancient Sumerian city,” provides “the oldest physical evidence of wine used as a medicine” (McNutt, In Praise of Wine, 35). Hippocrates prescribed wine for physical ailments. During the Middle Ages it was known as aqua vitae, the “water of life.” And today it is on the menu at numerous hospitals and is the focus of much research.

Many studies support the value of moderate wine drinking. Its benefits are becoming widely documented, especially the benefits of red wine, which has a high concentration of antioxidants known as phenolic compounds; these are derived from extended contact with the skins during fermentation, and assist in neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals.

Wine has numerous benefits. It lowers the risk of heart disease and improves the overall health of the cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure and maintaining open and flexible blood vessels. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, wine assists in reducing the tendency of platelets to clump. Studies have shown that it increases the good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) (Energy Times, 14). Wine has been used to improve diet and to aid the digestive system. It relieves anxiety and helps reduce stress. Since it relaxes, it also assists in combating sleeplessness. In order to realize the maximum medicinal benefits from wine, it should be consumed on a regular basis—a moderate amount daily.

If some wine is good, it does not mean that more is better. All of the health benefits are associated with moderate drinking! The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated that “there is a considerable body of evidence that lower levels of drinking decrease the risk of death from coronary artery disease” (Ultimate Wine Book, 9). Excessive imbibing increases the mortality rate. It should be noted that there are individuals who may have an inability to drink wine because of their health conditions.

The historical use of wine and the modern research that justifies its use are not the main considerations for the believer. For the one who accepts Divine inspiration, the words of Scripture decide this, as well as all other issues. The medicinal benefits of wine are not ultimately defended on the basis of precedent or medical studies, but on the authority of God’s Word. Paul, under the leadership of the Spirit, instructed Timothy to drink wine for his “stomach’ sake” and his “frequent infirmities.”

In both Testaments the fact is recorded that Old Testaments and New Testament believers drank wine without criticism or correction. The Word of God endorses the use of wine. The issue is not what one thinks about wine or has been taught about its use; but, for the believer, the issue is one’s concept of Scripture. Do the Scriptures speak infallibly on this topic as, in fact, they do on all other topics? To defend abstinence is to undermine the authority of God’s Word.

God in His goodness sent the grapes to cheer both great and small.
Little fools will drink too much, and great fools none at all.

There are more old wine drinkers than old doctors.
German Proverb

Drink a glass of wine after your soup,
and you steal a ruble from the doctor.
Russian Proverb

Good wine gladdens the eye,
cleans the teeth,
and heals the stomach.
Spanish Proverb

Wine is the greatest medicine.
Jewish Saying

Return to: Paul, Wine, and the Early Church; Next Article: The Symbolism of Wine 

 For overview of the website, see: Site Map
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.