1 Timothy 5:23
“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
Explanation and Commentary of 1 Timothy 5:23
In the first century, without modern refrigeration, it is likely that fermented drinks were some of the safest. If Timothy was abstaining from alcohol and drinking only water, then it is possible this could have been causing a problem with his digestion. There are several interesting inferences that can be made from this statement, which seems an aside from Paul to his friend and protégés within the letter.
First, the Bible does not command abstinence from alcohol. Jesus drank wine, even turning water into wine (Jn 2), but the Bible is crystal clear that drunkenness is sin (Eph 5:18). Paul affirms both of these facts by telling Timothy to drink “a little” wine.
Second, Paul was known to have the gift of healing and had proven so on various occasions. But Jesus taught us that we can only do what we see the Father doing (Jn 5:19), and it seems that Paul was not led by God to pray for miraculous healing for Timothy, or if we had been, he had tried and failed. Today, as then, we believe that because the kingdom of God has come already, sometimes God heals people in miraculous ways, and because the kingdom of God is not fully arrived (Lk 17:20), sometimes he heals in natural ways, or not at all, death being a tragic part of the fallen world (Gen 2:17). For whatever reason, God chose to glorify himself through Timothy’s ailment, rather than healing him right away.
Third, just because we believe in the sovereignty of God, does not mean that we are not to seek some natural means, like doctors or medicine, when we are experiencing the discomfort of sickness.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 Timothy 5:23
#1 “No longer drink only water,”
Most translations rightly put this quote in parentheses because it is an aside from Paul in the midst of the letter. Timothy has communicated to Paul that he, for some reason, has chosen to abstain completely from all fluids other than water. The water may have been causing him the trouble.
#2 “but use a little wine…”
The wording here is instructive. “Use” wine, rather than allowing wine to use you. Paul says somewhere else that he won’t be “mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12).
#3 “…for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
Even God’s faithful servants aren’t guaranteed health, wealth, and prosperity. We are not promised a trouble-free life, but we are called to walk faithfully in whatever trouble we face for the glory and purposes of God. If we do, we will be rewarded in the next life, if not also in this one.
Bible Study on 1 Timothy 5:23
Expert Overview of 1 Timothy
Biblical Translations of 1 Timothy 5:23
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.