First, I want to be clear that this is not a promotion for drinking alcoholic beverages as excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the US. In fact this is not about alcohol at all. It’s about the benefits of fermentation (or lacto-fermentation) and the microorganisms that are produced in the process. Although in the bible times they may not have known about probiotics or the specific types of good bacteria by name, it was well known that fermented foods and drinks had a profound effect that brought balance and health to the gut (intestines).
Concerning our scripture reference above, the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, his son in the ministry. It is very possible that Timothy's stomach problems were caused by contaminated water. So the first part of Paul’s instructions could simply be to stop doing what’s making you sick. Yet, it is the next part of the verse that we will focus on. Paul instructed Timothy, through the Spirit of wisdom, to “use a little wine for thy stomach's sake”. Now some may have problems with these instructions and I have read commentaries and blogs that assertively declare that believers should abstain from all alcoholic beverages. These site various scriptures which, to be fair and balanced, I will list a few here that those who study can reprove for themselves by the Spirit (Leviticus 10:9,10; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:32; Proverbs 31:4-5). Yet, study and discern if these really refer to the “drinking” or the drunkardness.
Also, for those who believe that this wine was un-fermented, we would reference two passages: One, 1 Corinthians 11:20-34, where Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for their behavior in observing the Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion).
For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 1 Corinthians 11:21
Consider this: It would be hard to get drunk if the wine wasn’t even fermented. The second passage is from Jesus own words found in context from Luke 5:33-38 where we find these words:
No man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. (38) But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. Luke 5:37-38
This example brought to their minds that new wine (which is unfermented) had to be put into new wineskins to allow for the expansion within the skin as the result of the fermentation. Using a wineskin that had already been stretched would just burst them, and all the wine would run out. This picture / parable is key in understanding the “new thing” that would be done in Jesus. The spiritual relevance of this is that the Old Testament laws could never stretch enough to accommodate the New Testament truths of mercy and grace (Heb 10:1-10). The finished works of Christ set us free from the judgment of the Old Testament laws and still provided the new wineskin of grace, not to excuse sin, but to empower a holy lifestyle (Titus 2:11-12). Now consider that none of this parable works without a working knowledge of fermentation. Again, I am not writing this to promote drinking and sure, in actuality, maybe it is best to have never had it and then never to be tempted to go into drunkardness, but let’s not attempt to teach the word of life as a word of religious legalism. Again, it was the Spirit of wisdom that moved Paul to recommend “a little wine for thy stomach's sake”.
In closing, it is essential to note that we now can see through various studies that the probiotics formed in the fermentation process are a key part of what could make “a little wine” beneficial for gut health. Yet, the real truth is that wine is not even a major probiotic food or drink. There are many other foods that we have access to now that would be better choices for good gut-health benefits. Also, probiotic supplements can be an excellent addition for gut health.
As a side note of caution for those making their own fermented foods, because of the nature of the lacto-fermentation process, other fermented fruits, much like grapes, may also produce small amounts of alcohol. I pray the peace and health from the Eternal upon you all.
Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers,
Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with probiotics: growing evidence
Toxic Relief, Don Colbert, M.D.
Natural Health Remedies, Janet Maccaro
Fermented Foods and Healthy Digestive Functions, John Libbey & Company Ltd, Collier House