Verse of the Day – Ephesians 5:18
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
As we continue to work through Ephesians 5:15-21 we will be looking at verses 18 through 21 next. Here we see two more things to add to our list of things that are the will of God. We have seen that there are several verses where we are told “this is the will of God” and each of these verses gives us information about what God wants us to do and how He wants us to live. We also understand that to do God’s will is synonymous with being obedient to His Word. If God says not to do something then it is His will that we not do it. On the other hand, if He gives us a positive command, we can be sure that the things He tells us to do are also His will for us. Today in verse 18 we start by realizing that there are in this verse both a negative and a positive command regarding His will for us.
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”.
The negative command is that we are not to be drunk with wine. The positive, which we will look at in more detail later is that we are to be filled with the Spirit. But he starts with this negative – do not be drunk with wine.
Some read this and other Scriptures and they immediately declare that the Bible teaches that it is sinful for Christians to drink wine. Others declare that we have been given freedom in Christ to enjoy the good things of this earth and so we are duty bound to honor and glorify God by drinking wine. So which is it? Neither!
This verse specifically forbids being drunk, but it does not tell us that we cannot drink wine. Other verses shed light on what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to this controversial topic. I would say that it should not be controversial because the Bible is so very plain in what it does allow and forbid that I fear it is merely the traditions of men that are being enforced as if they were the Word of God often when this topic is discussed. We must be careful that our position reflects what God’s Word actually says.
So what does the Bible tell us about wine?
Wine is a Gift from God – Psalm 104:14-15; Prov 3:9-10
Wine was given to us by God. It is indeed a gift from Him and it has been given to make us glad! Read it for yourself:
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.
Further, we see that wine is given as a good gift from God as a specific blessing for our obedience when it comes to giving our offerings to God willingly and cheerfully.
Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.
So we see that the Bible does at times speak in positive terms about wine. It is given by God. And let us not forget, every gift that God gives is Good! (James 1:17).
Wine can be used for Good – 1 Tim 5:23
Wine is good and can be used for good. One specific illustration is found in Paul’s admonition to Timothy to drink wine for his stomach’s sake.
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Some have said then that drinking wine is okay if we use it as medicine. This misses the point. Paul and those living in his day knew the benefits of drinking wine, especially when it came to treating stomach ailments, and so Timothy is not being told to use wine as a medicine. He is being told to drink it for the benefits it will give him. This is not a doctor’s prescription; it is a mentor’s advice for healthy living.
We must face the facts – for all that is bad that can be accomplished by sinners with wine, we must not think that the wine is to blame. Banishing all wine through a prohibition does not solve the heart issues behind drunkenness. It only drives the drunkard to find new methods for getting what he wants – namely, drunk!
This gives us an opportunity to also counter the arguments that since people drink and drive and kill and maim people and since the alcohol industry makes so much money off of people’s addictions then we should completely abstain from all alcohol. But let us think about that for a moment. Should we shun every gift that God gives us that can be or has been abused by sinners? Really? Think carefully here.
There are industries that make lots of money selling all sorts of things that people abuse and hurt themselves and others with. Does that mean those things should be banned as well? You know, things that God has given that are good and helpful and healthy when used as God intended but that hurt when abused. Things like food? Things like sex?
WHAT? Yes, it’s true. God has given us food and sex, both for pleasure and to promote life. There are industries built up around making money as people abuse both. And misusing either can lead to harm and even death. Should we demand then that pastors and teachers and denominational leaders should not eat food ever again and certainly should not enjoy the marriage bed? Should we use the same logic as some have used for wine and forbid every gift that God gives that men might abuse? Of course not. The logic is faulty.
Consider then this next point:
Jesus Turned Water into Wine for Celebration – John 2:1-10
Jesus, in His first miracle, turned water into wine. That should be enough but there are those who are so convinced that wine in and of itself is evil that they declare that Jesus turned the water into grape juice, or even a non-alcoholic form of watered down wine. But the Bible tells us that those who drank this wine declared that it was “good” wine. The facts are that Jesus turned water into real wine, good wine, so that people could celebrate and be glad.
Jesus Drank Wine – Luke 7:33-34; Mark 14:25; John 19:29-30
To top it all off, before we look at other relevant passages, we must admit that Jesus drank wine. Yes there was alcohol in the wine. That is what wine is – fermented juice from the grape. Yeast turns sugar to alcohol in the fermentation process. And if too much is consumed drunkenness will result.
We know that Jesus was never drunk for Jesus never sinned, and this verse while not condemning drinking wine, does indeed tell us that drunkenness is sin. But, you ask, how do we know Jesus drank wine? Listen to the Word:
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
John the Baptist, as a Nazarite having taken a vow, was forbidden to drink wine. So he did not drink wine. And the religious leaders of the day thought he was demon possessed. Jesus on the other hand had taken no such vow and He drank wine. The religious leaders said then that He was a drunkard.
Some argue though that the text is not clear. Maybe Jesus was only sitting with those who drank wine but He Himself did not drink it. Ah, but then we read:
Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
In instituting the Lord’s Supper during the observance of the Passover meal (which included having wine to drink) Jesus told the disciples that He would no longer drink wine until He would drink it in the Kingdom. So He had drank wine before, but now no longer would for a time, but then would again when His kingdom had come.
Interestingly as a last abuse on the cross while He was dying He was offered sour wine to drink, and after He tasted it He died. So the last thing Jesus drank before dying was a sip of sour wine – no refreshment for His parched tongue as He bore the wrath of God for our sin.
Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
So while we see that the Bible teaches us that wine is a gift from God that can be used for good and was even enjoyed by Jesus while He was on the earth – and will be enjoyed by Him later in the kingdom – we also see that the Bible gives us warnings about abusing wine. The Scriptures give us warnings about the abuse of food, sex, and other good gifts God gives us. Sadly the truth is that fallen men can take God’s good gifts and corrupt and misuse them. The Bible condemns drunkenness with stern warnings that are given about the potential abuses of wine.
Wine is Deceptive – Prov 20:1; 23:21, 29-33
Wine can be abused. It can intoxicate. The wine used by the church at Corinth was real wine – not grape juice. We know this because Paul had to admonish them for being drunk at the Lord’s table! (1 Cor 11:21). Over and over we are warned in the Scriptures about the consequences of abusing wine. It can lead us astray. Deceive us. Cause us to harm ourselves and others. It brings woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, and wounds.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.
Understand, these are the consequences of the misuse of wine. This does not mean we cannot use it, but it means we must be careful if we do.
Another point to consider – it is quite alright to never drink wine. Nowhere are we commanded to drink wine as a requirement in obedience to God. But neither is the drinking of wine in moderation forbidden. We must also remember that the Spirit bears through us the fruit of self-control. As with everything God gives us we must be wise. Whether we eat or drink we must do all to the glory of God.
Finally, we see that drunkenness is never acceptable.
Drunkenness is Always Condemned – Eph 5:18; Prov 21:17; 1 Tim 3:2-3
Those who would serve as elders and deacons specifically must not be addicted to wine. Those who lead us and set an example for us are not to be craving wine or controlled by wine.
He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
To sum up the discussion we see that Paul is teaching us that living the Christian life and understanding the will of God is a matter of control. Who or what is in control? Are we controlled by our lust? By wine? By other people? Or by the Holy Spirit? We learn that either the Spirit is in control, or sin is in control. One truth we must understand is that we are never in control. Self is never in charge, for we are both living and walking as a slave of unrighteousness and sin, or we are living and walking as a slave of righteousness and a slave of Christ, bought with His blood.
Who is in control? It is either sin or the Spirit. And the way we use or abuse the gifts God has given us will demonstrate for all to see whether the Spirit is in control or whether we are slaves of sin.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. – Rom 6:12-13
Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)