The Book of Ephesians ~ Chapter 5:18 ~ Do Not Get Drunk with Wine! The Negative Effects of Alcohol Abuse  

Vol. 16 No 14 – April 2, 2017

eph 5 vs 17 and 18 for Word 04 02 17

This week we begin a new section in the book of Ephesians; God’s design for relationships.

The Believer’s Walk in the World; God’s Standards for Authority and Submission in the Church, Eph 5:18-6:9.

  • As to One’s Self and the Church, Be Filled with God’s Spirit, Eph 5:18-21.
  • As to One’s Home, Eph 5:22-6:4.  a) Husbands and Wives, Eph 5:22-33. b) Parents and Children, Eph 6:1-4.
  • As to One’s Profession, Employers, and Employees, Eph 6:5-9.

Vs. 18

As we noted above, believers are commanded to live wisely, and wise living is described in three ways in these verses:

  1. It makes good use of time in an evil age that is passing away, vs. 16; cf. 1 Cor 7:31; Gal 1:4.
  2. It seeks to learn God’s will, vs. 17; cf. vs. 10.
  3. It is the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, vs. 18.

Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

This verse is the great hinge of this chapter and for that matter our spiritual lives. It first concludes the discussion from vs. 2-17, as the operational power to be able to walk in the love, light, and wisdom of God, and then it is the great operational power for living harmoniously with our earthly family and our work (business) family. It is the great operational power that we must yield to in order to be imitators of God in our spiritual lives, our family lives, and our business lives.

As we will see, this verse is rich in analogy and correlation to what we have previously noted in Chapter 5 and Chapters 1-4, as well as, to the overall spiritual life of the new man in Christ Jesus explained throughout the NT. This is a “hinge” verse in many ways.

This verse includes a negative command and a positive one. The negative is to abstain from getting drunk on wine with which there is a wasted life. The word ASOTIA, which we will note in detail below is translated “debauchery,” (NIV, RSV); “excess,” (KJV); “riot,” (ASV); and “dissipation,” (NASB). All these give the idea of squanderous or licentious living that is wasteful. In this verse, the literal sense seems best, for a drunken man acts abnormally; rather than controlling himself, the wine controls him.

This is the final Imperative command in the series we have seen in this chapter with its μὴ … ἀλλά contrast and leads into a chain of Participles which are all subordinate in the second half of this chapter.

The contrast we will note is not between the wine and the Spirit, but between the two resulting behaviors. This is expressed by the two verbs: being drunk with wine, which leads to dissipation, and being filled by the Spirit, which leads to joy in fellowship and obedience to the commands of the Lord, vs. 19-21. Nevertheless, the contrast is between yielding to sin, (analogized by “drunk with wine”), and yielding to the leading ministry of the Holy Spirit, (analogized by “filled with the Spirit”).

This verse begins with the coordinating Conjunction KAI for “and,” to tie in the previous discussion in Chapter 5 regrading “becoming imitators of God,” with the power and means by which this is accomplished. Having noted that we are to walk in love, light, and wisdom, and know the will of God that is pleasing to Him, we now see the means by which this is accomplished. But before we answer that question, we are first given a command of negation, a prohibition of contrast, utilizing the Negative Participle ME for “do not.”

The prohibition is to not “get drunk,” METHUSKOMAI, μεθύσκομαι that means, “to become drunk or intoxicated.” It comes from the root word METHUO that means, “be drunk or to drink to intoxication.” Figuratively, these words have the sense of to be drunk which is to be so full of something as to lose focus and rationality. It signals the excess of something and its debilitating effect. METHUSKOMAI is used here and in Luke 12:45; 1 Thes 5:7.

1 Thes 5:7, “For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.”

In our passage, it is in the Present, Passive, Imperative that continues the numerous mandates we have seen throughout this chapter. Here it is a mandate of prohibition; what not to do.

This command is linked to what Paul stated in vs. 3-8a, as one of the false gods worshipped at that time went by the name of Dionysus and later Bacchus, who was the god of wine, where drunkenness and sexual immorality where part of the worship ceremonies. Possibly, some of the Gentile Christians continued to follow their former practice, even though to them Dionysus was no longer a “god.”

In fact, many people in the ancient world believed that drunkenness could produce a sort of inspiration or possession by Dionysus. Dionysus’s most active worshipers yielded control of themselves to him and performed sexual acts or acts full of sexual symbolism. In our verse, Paul may be contrasting this behavior with true inspiration by God’s Spirit. People did not think of Dionysus every time someone became drunk; however, drunkenness was commonly associated simply with loss of self-control. It was standard practice in both the late-night banquets of the rich and the taverns of the poor.

“Among all the Greek deities none appealed more vividly to the imagination than Dionysus. Greek tragedy, being a form of worship, saw the ritual cult of the god of wine as one who makes the initiates wise and the ungodly mad. Dionysus was thought to speak most strongly to the sense and to the spirit at the same time. He is always represented as being more nearly akin to man than the great august deities of Olympus. He was thought to be a man-god, or god-man. At their vintage feasts, last year’s cask of wine was opened; and when the new year brought life again to the vines, the bountiful god was greeted with songs of joyful praise. The burial of the wine in the dark tomb of the jars through the winter, and the opening of these jars at the spring festival symbolized the great awakening of man himself, the resurrection of the god’s worshippers to a fuller and more joyous life. The vine was not the only manifestation of the god. Oil and wheat were also his; he was the god of ecstasy, the giver of physical joy and excitement, the god of life, the god of certain laws of Nature, germination and extinction, the external coming into being and the dying away of all things that are, fructification in its widest aspect whether in the bursting of the seed-grain that lies in-treasured in the earth, or in the generation of living creatures. Hence, the prominence given to the phallus in the solemn processions in honor of the god.” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.)

“It is not improbable that in this verse there is an allusion to the orgies of Dionysus/Bacchus, or to the festivals celebrated in honor of that heathen god. He was “the god of wine,” and, during those festivals, men and women regarded it as an acceptable act of worship to become intoxicated, and with wild songs and cries to run through streets, and fields, and vineyards. To these things the apostle opposes psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, as much more appropriate modes of devotion, and would have the Christian worship stand out in strong contrast with the wild and dissolute habits of the heathen. Plato says, that while those abominable ceremonies in the worship of Dionysus/Bacchus continued, it was difficult to find in all Attica a single sober man.”
(Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament.)

It is probable that μεθυω, “to get drunk,” is derived from μετα, “after”, and θυω, “to sacrifice;” for, having completed their sacrifices, they over indulged themselves in wine and all kinds of immorality.

So, we see in the “drunk with wine” prohibition that it was more than just drunkenness that is in view. It encompasses sexual immorality, false worship, false and counterfeit doctrines related to both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, as well as, being a total waste of time, energy, and life, because it was related to false or man made up gods and worship: Satan’s counterfeit to the truth of God and His Word.

Therefore, Paul exhorts the early church believers not to resemble these, but, instead of being filled with wine, to be filled with the Spirit of God. That is, instead of those discoveries of the divine will to which in the drunken priests of Dionysus would articulate, they should be wise indeed, and should understand what the will of the Lord is.

The drink mentioned here to not get drunk with, is “wine” OINOS, οἶνος that means, “wine, fermented grape juice, or fermented juice of other kinds.” Ancient strong drinks were produced from various fruits and honey, and grains were used for beverages. In ancient Greek, it was spelled with a letter that became obsolete by NT times, “w,” and was spelled WOINOS. Here, we see the genesis of our English word.

In the NT, this word speaks of:

  • Part of the liquid the Roman soldiers offered Jesus while upon the cross which He rejected, Mat 27:34; Mark 15:23.

Mat 27:34, “They gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.” Cf. Mark 15:23.

  • It is used for the analogy of the New Man that should not go back to the old ways of doing things, in the analogy of the “new wine and old wineskins,” Mat 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38.
  • It is used for our Lord’s first miracle at the wedding at Cana, John 2:23-10; 4:46, when He changed water into wine, which inaugurated and symbolized His ministry.
  • In Rom 14:21 we are to abstain from drinking wine in the presence of someone who may have a drinking problem, so as to not cause a brother to stumble.

Rom 14:21, “It is good not to eat meat, (sacrificed to idols), or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” After noting the worship ceremonies of the false pagan god Dionysus / Bacchus, wine here should have more meaning to you.

  • Deacons and older women are to not be enslaved to drinking wine, 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 2:3.
  • In Revelation, wine is used as an analogy to the sin and evils of this world, Rev 6:6; 14:8; 17:2; 18:3, 13, and God’s judgment, “wrath,” upon the world during the Tribulation, Rev 14:10; 16:19; 19:15.
  • Finally, in 1 Tim 5:23, wine was recommended for medicinal purposes to Timothy by Paul.

The Scriptures are abundantly clear in firmly warning against the intoxicating power of alcoholic beverages, even though the world at that time was dealing with drinks of 4 to 12 percent alcoholic content, compare to modern chemistry that commonly produces beverages of 40 to 50 percent alcohol. As Paul warns us to not get drunk with wine, the “wine” refers to all fermented drinks. It does not justify becoming inebriated with beer or distilled liquor, and in fact is analogous to all sinful actions; mental, verbal, and overt. See the warning about getting drunk with wine in Prov 23:20-21, 29-35.

The reason given in this passage for the prohibition is that drunkenness is “dissipation,” the Greek Noun ASOTIA that means, “waste-fulness, excess, or dissipation.” Some think that it is from the root of SOZO, “save” and the negative prefix “A,” that can mean being “unsaved.” It is used in Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4, and as an adverb in Luke 15:13 for the “riotous living” of the prodigal son. It carries with it the connotation of rebellion and the unsaved life. So, it can mean, “having no hope of safety, extravagant squandering, dissolute-ness, prodigality, a wild and disorderly lifestyle, and excessive drinking as a lifestyle.”

Originally ASOTIA described something as “incurable” or “hopelessly sick. From that it denoted one who destroys himself by dissipation, (i.e., wastes his life). It hints at willful and deliberate excess, whether in eating, drinking, making money, or other actions, which are all a waste of life, especially in comparison to the yielded life of the believer.

An ASOTOS is a prodigal, one who spends too much, who slides easily under the fatal influence of flatterers and the temptations with which he has surrounded himself, and one who spends freely on his own lusts and appetites. Therefore, an ASOTIA is a dissolute, debauched, wasteful manner of living, and is associated with being foolish or a fool in contrast to the man of love, light, and wisdom, who lives the yielded life inside the will of God.

Luke 21:34, “Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap.”

So, Paul warns against the folly of overindulgence in strong drink, as drunkenness was all too common in the pagan world, and cautions in the NT show that it presented a serious temptation to Christians, even today. The danger of drunkenness lies not only in itself, but in what it may induce.

Gal 5:19-21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

People today feel a need for something, which I think explains the cocktail hour and the bar room. They turn to wine and other hard liquors to fill that need. If they are not children of God, they have no other resource or recourse. However, the child of God is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is to be the experience of the believer. Wine stimulates temporarily: it will energize the flesh, but then it will let you down and lead you in the direction of wastefulness and over indulgence and will finally eventuate in desperation and despair and delirium tremens, (agitation, tremors, and hallucinations caused by alcohol dependence and withdrawal). That is not what you need. If you are wise, you will avoid all such excess.

God is trying to convey that the Spirit gives true expression; the wine, unreliable exhilaration. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, not a receptacle for intoxicating drinks and all that drunkenness leads to.

Eph 5:18 (NLT), “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Eph 5:18 (MSG), “Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.”

Eph 5:18 (TLB), “Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him.”

Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

Prov 4:17-18, “For they (the wicked) eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. 18But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

Prov 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”

The Hebrew word for “wine” is the noun YAYIN, ‏יַיִן‎ that means, “wine or even drunkenness.” “Strong drink,” is the Noun SHEKAR, ‏שֵׁכָר that means, “strong drink or an intoxicating drink, usually understood as some kind of beer.” SHEKAR refers to any fermented beverage produced by grain, fruit, or honey. It is derived from the verb SHAKAR that means, “to be drunk.” “Mocker” is LETS, ‏לֵץ‎, which speaks to the controlling nature that drunkenness has over the soul. “brawler,” is the verb HAMAH, ‏הָמָה‎ that means, “to roar or make an uproar.” It is not necessarily someone who gets into a physical fight or wrestling match with another, although that is included too, but it is also someone who gets angry and starts to scream and shout, and / or argue loudly. These are the intoxicating effects of being drunk, high, stoned, or wasted. Combined it indicates an addiction, or at least the mental incapacitation which accompanies heavy drinking.

Then when it says, “and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise,” utilizes the KOL, כֹּל, “all”, SHAGAH, שָׁגָה, “intoxicated” that literally means, “to stray or be in err.” It is an idiom for intoxication or being drunk, where the root meaning tells us that being drunken means we are straying away from our fellowship with God, which means we are sinning and in error of our Christian walk, just as the Greek word for “sin,” HAMARTIA, literally means, “to err or miss the mark.”

Then we have the warning that tells us the person who gets drunk “is not wise,” LO CHAKAM, which goes with the warning we have in Eph 5:15, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” Therefore, when we are drunk, we are not cycling Bible doctrine through our souls in a right way, we are out of fellowship with God, and we are not filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, there is no way we can obtain or apply the wisdom of God when we are intoxicated, drunk, high, etc.

Many think they can get drunk or get high on drugs and still cycle doctrine. They are wrong. You may be able to speak about God and doctrine, but you are absolutely out of fellowship at that time and are performing at best human good, which has no intrinsic value. And because you are under the total control of your sin nature, error and deception will inevitably creep into your discussions about God and the Bible while drunk or high.

Waltke notes, “The drunkard lacks consciousness and self-control, and in dissolute madness breaks the bounds of sanctity, morality, and propriety.” (New International Commentary)

The wise person tries to anticipate the consequences of their actions and avoids over-indulgence, recognizing that trouble usually accompanies drunkenness as we have noted in Prov 23:20f.

Drinking alcohol is not forbidden in Scripture, 1 Tim 5:23, as wine and other alcoholic beverages are often linked with pleasure or prosperity in the OT, Psa 104:15; Prov 3:10; Ecc 10:19, and was a normal part of feasts, as well as being used as a drink offering when worshipping the Lord, Ex 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5, 7, 10; 28:14. Yet, the Bible says that drunkards will not enter the kingdom of God, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:21, which is speaking about traits of the unbeliever, because we know that the believer, regardless of his sins, cannot lose his salvation, John 10:28-29; Eph 2:8-9. Therefore, by “drinking,” you are not going to lose your salvation, it will not put you in hell, it is not sinful, and it is good under certain circumstances. But for those who had or have personal problems with drinking, it will cause you many difficulties.

As Paul stated in:

1 Cor 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

1 Cor 10:23, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

Therefore, drunkenness is forbidden and condemned in Scripture, and is described as a sin. For the believer, it indicates immoral degeneracy under the category of chemical sinning. Our passage emphatically prohibits drunkenness and the lifestyle of the drunk, as well as drug addiction.

Drunkenness is listed as one of the works of the flesh in Gal 5:21. That means it is the result of the undisciplined, indiscriminate use of alcohol. Jesus warned his followers not to be drunk in Luke 21:34.

Paul told the Corinthian church in 1 Cor 5:11, to “not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but cannot control his or her drinking.” This refers to people who will not face up to or will not even try to overcome drinking problems, not people who are working on and overcoming their problems. In a similar fashion, no one who abuses alcohol should be ordained in the ministry of Jesus Christ, 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7. If a minister drinks, it should be in moderation.

God criticizes those who are “heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,” Isa 5:11, 22, (as we may call them Chug-a-lugers, or Beercules), as excessive drinkers are committing evil, Prov 23:20-21, Isa 28:1-8, and those who “linger over wine” and spend a great deal of time in drinking, will find all kinds of woe, sorrow, and trouble, Prov 23:29-35.

Isa 5:11, “Woe to those who rise up early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, and who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them.”                                               

Isa 5:22, “Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and champions of mixed drinks.”

Excessive habitual use of alcohol by the believer is detrimental to your body, soul, and your spiritual life:

  • The presence of large amounts of alcohol in the body changes the character and the personality of the drinker. One of the most serious problems of being a drunk is irreversible mental deterioration.
  • It destroys your spiritual life, your relationship with other people, your physical health, and many other things.
  • Being drunk, you cannot execute God’s plan for your life, making you a loser believer.
  • You become involved in immoral degeneracy and cannot be distinguished from an unbeliever.

Even though people use alcohol to get a high, it is actually a depressant and is chemically related to the ether used to put people to sleep. It dulls one’s reactions and even one’s conscience. As a depressant, alcohol cooperates with the various characteristics of the sin nature to lower standards of resistance in all categories of sin. When you are drunk, your integrity, judgment, and honor are gone.

God uses several Bible characters to condemn drunkenness and show some of the problems it can create:

  • Noah, Gen 9:20-23; Lot, Gen 19:32-36;
  • The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Lev 10:1-11;
  • Nabal, 1 Sam 25:36-39;
  • David getting Uriah drunk, 2 Sam 11:13;
  • Absalom waiting for Amnon to get drunk to kill him, 2 Sam 13:28;
  • Belshazzar receiving the writing on the wall after getting drunk, Dan 5:2;
  • Leaders are warned not to get drunk, Prov 31:3-4; and
  • The entire Northern Kingdom headed by Ephraim being drunkards received God’s discipline, Isa 28:1.

Excessive use of alcohol is detrimental to body, to soul, and to the spiritual life of the believer. The reason is that the presence of large amounts of alcohol in the body changes the character and the personality of the drinker. Excessive use of alcohol leads to crime, suicide, divorce, traffic accidents, economic and industrial losses, loss of health, poverty, national disaster, and for the believer it destroys your spiritual life.

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 If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#’s 17-034 – 17-035 – 17-036

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If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you.  He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross.

At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins.  He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.

So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:

“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”

If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!

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