New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:23 little wine. It is remarkable that so many people who know almost nothing else in the Bible seem quite familiar with this verse, using it as their favorite Biblical justification for drinking intoxicating beverages. There is a legitimate question as to whether this “wine” was fermented wine or unfermented grape juice (the same Greek word was used for both). Assuming it was fermented wine, Paul was simply prescribing a little of it as a medicine for Timothy’s frequent digestive disorders, apparently aggravated by the contaminated water of the region. Alcohol, of course, is a germicide, and there are many medicines used today which contain small amounts of alcohol for that reason. Timothy was normally a total abstainer (and many other Scriptures indicate this practice should be followed by all sincere Christians—see on Ephesians 5:18, for example), and Paul had to urge him to take even “a little wine” for his medicinal needs. At most, therefore, people can only justifiably refer to this verse as authorizing the use of small amounts of bacteria-killing alcohol for medicinal purposes.