“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23).
I wish I had $1 for every time I’d heard or read this verse used in defense of social drinking. I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have more cool stuff!
Social drinking has become increasingly problematic for the Lord’s church and evangelicals in general. To be honest, most in the religious world have capitulated to the whims of their constituencies by simply ignoring the matter altogether.
Some of our people have taken more public stances in favor of the practice by either making public statements to their memberships that such is no longer considered taboo by the eldership, while others actually endorse social drinking.
Even a casual look at the text in question reveals that Paul in no way intends to endorse social drinking, neither does he remotely imply it.
- First, the text concerns the problem of Timothy’s health.
- Second, there is the practice of Timothy to only drink water.
- Third, there is a prescription by Paul to use wine as a remedy for Timothy’s health issues.
A little closer look at the text is also revealing and unfavorable to the social drinking advocates. While the English “drink” appears in the text in regard to water, the word “use” is employed in contrast regarding wine. It means “to furnish what is needed,” “touch lightly,” or “employ.” It is never used in the New Testament with respect to normal consumption or indulgence.
Some may respond, “Only drunkenness is condemned, not social drinking.” But Peter also provides an interesting contrast in 1 Peter 4:3, wherein he makes a distinction between “drunkenness, revelries, and drinking parties.”
The Bible has no good thing to say about the casual or social use of alcohol. Given the immeasurable misery caused by alcohol, it is unthinkable to believe Paul would ever endorse its casual use. “Wine is a mocker; strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov 20:1).