“Therefore do not grow careless, but seek to discern God’s specific will for your life. Do not get drunk on wine for it will lead to ruin, but rather drink deeply of the Holy Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, offering praise and making music in your hearts to the Lord. Perpetually give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit yourselves to each other out of reverence for God.” (Ephesians 5:17-21, paraphrased)
Paul’s “therefore” is a link to his earlier comments regarding the evil surrounding them (5:15-16). Because the dangers are so great, he exhorts the Ephesians to “stop becoming foolish” (me ginesthe aphrones). Aphrones is “senseless; stupid; without reason; acting rashly.”
Rather than act rashly, they are encouraged to wisely and seriously reflect upon God’s individual will for their lives. We cannot follow His directives unless they are made clear to us. This calls for focused meditation and prayer. Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are more apt to discern and obey God’s will, remain open to His suggestions, and obey His directions.
One manifestation of foolishness is drunkenness. The pleasant climate of Asiatic Greece was fertile ground for people of all ethnicities to gather at heathen festivals. Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and history abounds with tales of the drunken orgies associated with his worship. The term “drunkenness” (methuskesthe) pictures one “soaked with wine.” To be drunk in Paul’s era is the same today. Intoxication by any means is consistently presented as foolish in the Old Testament (Pv. 23:20-21 & 29-35) and in the New (Rom. 13:13 & Gal. 5:21). Alcohol is generally available, affordable, and legal in most countries. It is habit forming and causes physical and psychological damage. The strong wine of the first century has evolved into the myriads of other drugs found in our century. No logical argument can be made for the abuse of intoxicants. No one improves their character through self-medication.
Every person eventually “fills himself” with one of two things. If wine represents the pleasures of this world, most people will be attracted to it. Because inebriation always leads to “excess” (asotia) it is the enemy of pure and holy living. The term asotia has no positive characteristics. It bespeaks ruin, self-destruction, recklessness, danger, riotous living, and lack of restraint (Titus 1:7). Pastors, deacons, and all those who serve the Church must be drug free (I Tim. 3:3-8 & Titus 2:3).
It is important to note that the warning against drunkenness is presented in direct contrast to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Paul recommends divine stimulation instead. The Spirit who is pure and holy is compared to addictions that are impure and unholy. The Spirit Himself will affirm the best position is total abstinence from intoxicants. The dynamic and divine alternative to worldly substitutes is to be immersed in God’s Spirit. Our bodies were created to be eternal temples of the Holy Spirit, not receptacles for things that are only temporal. No one filled with the Spirit seeks to be filled with alcohol. Total abstinence is the only safe path.
“Filled” is pleroo, and is used in the present passive imperative, meaning to “keep on being filled abundantly.” Believers can perpetually be filled and refilled. Pleroo is a term used to describe wind expanding the sails to propel a ship. There is no need for artificial stimulation, for the Holy Spirit fills us with joy (Acts 13:52).
While the world sings its drunken ballads, vocal expressions of the blessings of salvation is a privilege reserved for the redeemed. The Israelites sang after their deliverance from the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1). Thousands of musicians ministered in the Temple in Jerusalem (Neh. 12:27-29). Before departing for the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn (Mt. 26:30). Paul and Silas sang in jail and the prison doors opened (Acts 16:25). Singing played a part in the Great Reformation in the 1500’s. Some of the greatest hymns of the Church were written during this era.
A validation one is filled with God’s Spirit is the desire to worship. Paul suggests three ways to do so which are inner-related:
~ Psalms are often set to music.
~ Hymns are songs of praise written to glorify God.
~ Spiritual songs refer to any other type of musical praise, such as choruses or poems. They are called “spiritual songs” for they are the kind the Holy Spirit inspires us to sing. Paul instructs Believers to “sing in the Spirit” (I Cor. 14:15).
Those who are truly Spirit-filled “make melody (psallo) in their hearts.” Psallo is the Greek term from which the English word “psalm” is derived, and means “to play on a stringed instrument.” Christian music is a form of prayer when it truly comes “from the heart.” Singing is an act of worship directed specifically “to the Lord.”
Although we cannot sing to God every minute, we can always be lifting up silent prayers of gratitude. To “give thanks” (eucharistountes) continuously is the expected norm and should pervade our entire life. We praise God for blessings as well as afflictions, knowing that He allows trials to mature us in the faith. Daniel prayed in the palace as well as in the furnace (Dan. 6:10-22). Jesus prayed in private to His Father (Mk. 1:35) and also on the Cross (Lk. 23:46).
We are to pray “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He specifically instructed His disciples to use His name when they prayed (Jn. 16:23). Jesus is the one who gives us access to the Father, for no one comes to the Father except through Him (Jn. 14:6).
To “submit” (hupotassesthe) is a military term which means to “line up or form battle lines.” It is often used regarding the subordination of soldiers to their commanding officer. It is the opposite of self-aggrandizement, egocentricity, and self-assertion. Hupotassesthe speaks of a sweet and reasonable attitude toward others. Paul encourages the Galatians to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13).
Jesus taught that every disciple must be willing to serve Him without notoriety (Mt. 18:1-4). He set the great example of mutual submission by washing His disciples’ feet and asks us to maintain this same attitude (Jn. 13:14).
POINTS TO PONDER
1. What does Isaiah warn concerning alcohol (Isa. 5:11)?
2. What is considered by Solomon to be “deceptive” (Pv. 20:1)?
3. What is frequently associated with drunkenness (Pv. 4:17)?
4. Who is guaranteed to have problems in life (Pv. 23:29-30)?
5. What is recommended in James 5:13?
6. Paraphrase what happened to 120 disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room (Acts 2:4).
7. From II Chronicles 5:12-13, list the instruments used at the dedication of the first Temple.
8. What does Paul tell the Thessalonians is always “the will of God” (I Th. 5:18)?
9. How are we to view fellow Believers (Phil. 2:3)?