Wednesday, 19 October 2016
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18
This verse, unfortunately, has been taken to amazingly absurd extremes by some. From one poor handling of the issue of drinking to another, the doctrine of total abstinence from alcohol arises. Neither this verse, nor any verse in Scripture, can be used to justify this stand.
The words begin with, “And do not be drunk with wine.” Being drunk is something which has happened since the earliest times of man on earth. The Bible is full of stories of people drinking to excess. What was probably most on Paul’s mind was the custom at that time of the orgies held to Bacchus, the “god of wine.” In festivals such as this one, and others as well, one thing led to another and it is noted that people would go from heavy drinking to running wildly in the streets and committing all kinds of sexual sins. This is why he writes, “in which is dissipation.”
The words refer to “be drunk,” not “with wine.” It is evident that wine itself does not necessarily lead to dissipation. The Lord’s first miracle was to make wine, and yes, it certainly had alcohol content. The consumption of alcohol is condoned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:22, and Timothy is instructed to drink wine as a type of stomach medicine in 1 Timothy 5:23. These, and countless other examples, show that the drinking of alcohol is not forbidden in Scripture.
Throughout the Bible, there is acceptable drinking, and there is unacceptable drinking. The same is true with acceptable eating, and unacceptable eating. People can have money, but they are not to be greedy with money. People are not to engage in illicit sex, but not all sex is illicit. Reason and a proper use of Scripture clearly shows that drinking is not forbidden in the Bible, but dissipation which results from drinking is.
One is not to drink to the point of excess. Instead, they are to “be filled with the Spirit.” As has been seen elsewhere, the term “be filled” is passive in the Greek, just as “be drunk” is in the first clause. A person drinks wine, and the wine makes them drunk. A person likewise needs to do something in order to be filled with the Spirit, they need to yield themselves.
The believer has all of the Spirit he will ever receive the moment he calls on Christ, but the Spirit can get more of the person. On the day of a person’s marriage, they are now married and will never get more married, but the spouse can get more of the other spouse as yielding takes place.
The same is true with the Spirit. In order to be so filled, the Christian is to sing praises, pray, worship, fellowship, read the Bible, talk on the things of the Lord, etc. In doing these things, they are “filled with the Spirit.” Paul’s heart is that believers would so yield themselves to the Spirit that they would become revelers in God’s goodness at all times, not revelers in dissipation, even for a moment.
Life application: The Bible needs to be handled carefully and without regard to presuppositions or biases. We are not to insert our desires, pet peeves, or insecurities into our interpretation of Scripture. Instead, we are to accept that there are things we may or may not indulge in which are permitted by the Bible. If we do not participate in them, whether drinking of alcohol, eating of certain foods, or whatever else, we are not to impose our weakness in that area on others.
Lord God, Your word provides far more freedom than the world gives it credit for. Too many speak of it as a book of rules and “don’ts,” but it is far more a book of freedom and “do’s.” The don’ts are those things which are harmful to us and to a right relationship with You. The do’s are those things which lead to satisfied, productive lives and a right relationship with You. Help us to be content with what we are permitted to do, and to abstain from all things we are to stay away from. Thank You for this word which gives life and freedom to our souls. Amen.