by Pastor Douglas B. Wright
I am preaching through I Timothy and have come to a passage often used and abused by proponents on both sides of the alcohol debate. Timothy’s “frequent ailments” elicited practical advice from Paul to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” Timothy concluded that he would drink water “exclusively.” Timothy’s reasons are not explained, but there is little question that he had come to a position of total abstinence.
Timothy came to his position with a full knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. He also came to that position in a society that regularly used wine as a dinner beverage, and he became a teetotaler before enhanced processing raised the alcoholic content to what we know today. Isn’t Timothy’s conclusion hypocritical then? Does the Bible prohibit drinking in moderation? Doesn’t it just prohibit drunkenness? My point is not to argue that issue – I am a firm believer in abstaining from alcohol as a beverage – my point is that a pastor in the Ephesian culture concluded that it was best not to drink alcoholic beverages. I am inclined to believe that he arrived at his position based on the affect alcohol was having on the testimony of believers. Timothy was proactive!
Paul’s admonition to Timothy gives us a brief glimpse into a controversial subject – convictions. I find it interesting to project Timothy’s abstinence position into 2012 and observe the reaction. After observing the affect alcohol was having on the culture and possibly on the believers around him, Timothy came to a practical conclusion: Not drinking alcohol is the safest option. “I don’t need it to survive, and I am much better off without it!” In 2012 an influential pastor promoting a position arrived at as a result of applying biblical principles to his culture is attacked as hypocritical and legalistic. In fact, many in our younger crowd look back to the Christian standards of bygone days and openly ridicule our forefathers. Timothy would be among those ridiculed! “Can you believe it? He actually believed you should not drink alcohol as a beverage! Where does he find that in the Old Testament?”
Timothy’s position makes sense. If I knew which night a thief would break into my house, I would only lock the doors on that night. However, the potential is there every night, so my routine is to check the doors each night before I retire. Everyone understands the value of the precaution. You can apply the same reasoning to dating standards, television, movies, and a whole host of activities. The bottom line is that if you have made an honest attempt to set God-honoring standards, you are in good company!
Doug Wright is pastor of Keystone Baptist Church, Berryville, VA. He also serves on the FBFI Board as Treasurer.