"Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (KJV).
Greek (SBLGNT): μηκέτι ὑδροπότει, ἀλλὰ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ διὰ τὸν στόμαχον καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας.
Mounce reasons that Paul's words to Timothy deal with drinking wine for medicinal purposes only--something like an "elixir" (a panacea) that cures colds and about everything else. But do we have reason to believe the use of wine in this verse is that circumscribed?
It has been observed that Paul was probably quoting a notable proverb from antiquity. After all, the ancients seem to have extolled the virtues of wine in moderation: they recognized its healing properties when used moderately. However, is 1 Timothy 5:23 limiting temperate drinking (particularly, the imbibing of wine) to health purposes alone? Here are some thoughts culled from biblegateway although I hope to build on these sources later:
NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: "use a little wine. Most people drank wine with their meals. It was watered down (often about two parts water to one part wine), and not distilled to a higher than natural degree of fermentation. Some have suggested that Timothy was abstaining from wine to avoid the criticism of the false teachers (4:3). your stomach. Wine was often used to settle stomachs and was thought to prevent dysentery; it could be used to disinfect water. Some restorative diets recommended water, others wine; wine was also used in some remedies (i.e., medicinally)."
Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament: Apparently for medicinal purposes, Timothy is told not to restrict himself to drinking water but to "use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." The word for wine is sometimes used in LXX for unfermented grape juice. Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the wine of Jesus' day was usually rather weak and, especially among the Jews, often diluted with water. Moreover, safe drinking water was not always readily available in those eastern countries.
Asbury Bible Commentary: "A little wine indicates moderation and probably is a comment on the local water. Perhaps Timothy may be interpreting purity more physically/ascetically than Paul intended."
Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary:
For the most part in the NT, oinos is used literally, but occasionally it has symbolic meanings. In 1 Tim. 5:23, Paul exhorts Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake, and wine is a means of healing in Lk 10:34. John the Baptist abstains from drinking wine, perhaps following a Nazirite vow (Lk 1:15). However, Jesus, like most people, likely drank wine, as can be seen by the exaggerated accusation that he was a “glutton and a drunkard” (Mt 11:18–19), used by his opponents to mean that he did not fast nor abstain from wine (9:14–17; Mk 2:18–22; Lk 5:33–38). Additionally, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (Jn 2:1–11).
Symbolically, oinos is used negatively in Revelation, referring to the wine and cup of God’s wrath (14:10; 16:19; 19:15) and to the debauched ways of Babylon (14:8). Positively, oinos serves as a token of hope for the coming celebration for all believers at Jesus’ return. A picture of this coming new age is given in the creation of wine at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1–11) and in Jesus’ promise that he will not drink wine again until the great feast when the kingdom of God comes in all its fullness (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25). See NIDNTT-A, 41–42.