Ephesians 5:17-18 - Be Filled with the Spirit and Not with Spirits!
...Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.Ephesians 5:17-18
Is there anything wrong with a drink now and then? Despite what some Christians believe, it isn’t wrong for us to have an occasional beer, a glass of wine, or another drink that contains alcohol. As long as we enjoy these things in moderation and as long as we always maintain control over ourselves and over the alcohol that we consume, also this can be seen as one of God’s gifts to us.
The problem that Paul is addressing in Ephesians 5:17-18 isn’t the use of alcohol as such but rather the foolishness of abusing of it and being enslaved by it. The world in which we live is full of this kind of misuse of God’s good gift and we as the Lord’s people are taught here to be different.
All around us alcohol and drugs are used as a way of escaping a life that sometimes seems miserable and without hope. However, we who have experienced God’s grace and love know that there is no real and lasting way out of misery and hopelessness except through faith in our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
Having set us free from the control of sin and Satan, the Lord also freed us from the empty and meaningless life that is lived by so many other people in our world. As his Spirit lives in us and causes us to grow in fellowship with Him, we are increasingly lifted out of despair and hopelessness. We are changed so that a new joy begins to characterize our lives even when we still go through great struggles and difficulties. Those who experience this true and meaningful joy will then no longer need to look for artificial and superficial sources of happiness.
Those who fill themselves with alcoholic spirits or with other mind-altering substances are foolish because they continue to live in the darkness of sin. They refuse to come into the light of God’s grace and to live in unity with Him and according to his will. True wisdom is to be filled with the Spirit of God so that our sinful nature no longer controls our lives and so we learn to submit to Christ as our only Lord and master.
If we allow ourselves to get drunk on alcohol or high on drugs we put ourselves back into the slavery that Christ has freed us from. As we fill ourselves with these things we lose control and we leave the door open for sin and for Satan to come in and to determine our behaviour. Paul warns that this leads to debauchery or to further ungodliness. We lose a sense of caring about what we do or about the consequences of our behaviour. By giving up our self-control it becomes impossible for us to withstand temptation and to choose wisely.
Putting oneself under slavery to sin instead of to Christ only grows with the misuse of these spirits.
Those who continue to fill themselves in this way will become dependant on them and then the spirits that they consume will begin to control them.
Belonging to Christ and serving Him as our Lord demands our total loyalty and commitment. As He Himself said, we cannot serve two masters. In this case we either serve Him or we serve the substances that we are addicted to. Paul also makes it clear we can’t have it both ways; we can’t be filled with both alcoholic spirits and the Holy Spirit.
When we as God’s people struggle against addictions or the temptation to seek comfort in alcohol or drugs, we are strengthened by focusing on Christ as the only real comfort. As we turn away from the foolishness of worldly thinking and no longer oppose the work of the Holy Spirit by filling ourselves with other things, He will fill us more and more. Then by his power we will grow in true wisdom as He teaches us about God’s will for our lives and as He guides us in applying this by living according to God’s will.
The Holy Spirit makes us new and different than other people in the world around us. He builds our self-control so that we can use the good things that God has given us in ways that show our thankfulness for his continued blessings. Alcoholic spirits and drugs that help us are God’s gifts and through faith we learn not to abuse these things by using them as a substitute for our real and lasting comfort.