“Do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:18-21
As Paul brings his warnings and instructions about living in an evil world to a close, he makes mention of a special vice to avoid, namely, drunkenness. “Do not get drunk with wine,” he says, “for that is debauchery” (Ephesians 5:18).
The abuse of alcoholic drinks has been a problem throughout the ages, even from as early as the days of Noah (Genesis 9:21). It was an evil that Titus was to warn older women against in Crete (Titus 2:3), and according to the apostle Peter, was a feature of the Gentile world generally (1 Peter 4:3).
It was not without reason, then, that Paul should warn his readers against allowing themselves to “get drunk with wine.” Many had possibly fallen prey to drunkenness in the past, and they lived in a culture where overindulging was a common temptation. It was not a matter of abstaining totally from “alcoholic drinks” of any kind – wine of varying degrees of fermentation was a staple drink in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Rather, it was a warning against “coming under the influence” of wine, allowing it to control their thoughts and actions.
Instead, Christians were to seek to “be filled with” the Holy Spirit (v. 18). Some draw attention to the particular way this command is stated in Greek, namely, “go on being filled with the Spirit.” There is a passive element to it – being filled with the Holy Spirit is not something we can conjure up, but is something that we must seek and endeavour to preserve. The thought of this being an ongoing state is also in Paul’s mind here. It is not to happen just once or to be a momentary thing, but an ongoing condition.
Such a condition produces a manner of life vastly different from the debauchery associated with drunkenness and the like. It overflows with love and joy expressing itself in such things as speaking to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” in “singing and making melody to the Lord” from the heart,” in “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and in “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (vs. 19-21).
What a vivid contrast this provides with the “darkness” and the “works of darkness” that we have been considering in recent devotionals. Envision the difference between, on the one hand, gatherings dominated by debauchery and deeds too evil to be spoken about, and on the other, groupings where Christians encourage one another, praise and thank God in their songs, and deliberately submit to one another (seek the best interests of one another) out of reverence for Christ.
What a challenge it is to embody such a life in our world today. There is a drastic need for it, and every possibility of doing it. What is so often lacking is simply the will to do it – something only the engulfing presence and influence of the Spirit can produce.
- Is “being filled with the Spirit” something you constantly seek?
- Do you love to encourage other Christians and worship with them through song?
– Andrew Young