walk in the word
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, esv).
As a pastor and communicator, I’m always thinking of illustrations. But the best word pictures to use in seeking to understand the heart of a biblical text are the ones that God has already put right there in the Bible.
Like getting drunk, for example.“Just as a person can lose control to alcohol and act like a fool, the believer in Christ can give control to the Holy Spirit and experience abundant life.” Click To Tweet
I love knowing that when He was inspiring Luke to record what he’d seen and heard on that first Pentecost after Jesus had ascended to heaven, he recalled people mocking those who’d been infused with the Holy Spirit, saying it looked like they were “filled with new wine” (Acts 4:13). And when Luke transcribed Peter’s response to these events, he made sure to capture the words where he said, no, “These people are not drunk, as you suppose” (verse 15). “Drunk,” yes, only not with liquor.
The reason it must be such an important illustration is because when Paul—who wasn’t even a believer at that time—was later writing his letter to the Ephesians, God gave him the same analogy. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” There’s something specific about drunkenness that apparently best illustrates what being filled with the Spirit is truly like.
Hmm. What could it be?
I believe it involves control. Everyone’s familiar with the fact that a person who is drunk loses control over their tongue, their body, and their thinking. You have no idea what they might say, no idea what they might do, and no idea where their fears and anxieties (or the loss of all fears and other inhibitions) might take them.
Nowhere, of course, does the Bible commend losing control, in the way that being drunk causes someone to lose control. But just as a person can lose control to alcohol and act like a fool, the believer in Christ can give control to the Holy Spirit and experience abundant life. That’s the point. “Do not get drunk with wine,” because that’s obviously ungodly, but do give control of yourself—your tongue, your body, and your mind—into the hands of the Spirit.
Notice the ways the Holy Spirit takes control when He fills us:
And instead of living in debauchery or fruitlessness, you will experience the abundance of overflowing with the Spirit.
Father, I want to be filled with Your Spirit. I can’t do anything worthwhile otherwise. Thank You for not demanding we lose control of ourselves if we want to be in tune with you spiritually. But thank You also for not limiting me to my own ability (my inability) to control myself. My only desire is to be led and directed by your trustworthy Spirit, through the name and power of Jesus, amen.
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