Ephesians 5:18
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
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(18) Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.—From the general idea of reckless levity, St. Paul passes on to the special sin of drunkenness, as not (like gluttony) primarily a gratification of the appetite, but as a reckless pursuit of excitement at all costs—glorified as an excitement of emotion, and even of wit and intellect, in such contemporary writers as Horace, and actually confused, as in the Dionysiac or Bacchanalian frenzy, with a divine inspiration. How necessary the admonition was we see by the directions as to the choice of clergy in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 3:28; Titus 1:7; Titus 2:3); the more necessary, because (as 1Timothy 5:23 shows) the right use of wine was recognised. Hence St. Paul emphatically brands drunkenness as “excess,” a word properly signifying “recklessness”—“incapable of saving,” or denying itself anything, and naturally passing through this want of self-restraint into profligacy—rightly translated “riot” in Titus 1:6, 1Peter 4:4, as the corresponding adverb is rendered “riotous living” in Luke 15:13. For drunkenness is at once the effect and cause of utter recklessness. It is the effect of a self-abandonment, by which the sensual or passionate elements of the nature are stimulated to frenzy, while the self-controlling judgment is drugged to sleep. It is the cause of yet greater recklessness: for as these passions and appetites become jaded, they need stronger and stronger stimulants, till the whole nature, bodily and mental, is lost in delirium or stupor.

But be filled with the Spirit.—The antithesis is startling, but profoundly instructive. To the artificial and degrading excitement of drunkenness St. Paul boldly opposes the divine enthusiasm of the Spirit, one form of which was scoffingly compared to it on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:13). He is not content with warning us of its ruinous excess, or urging the strictness of stern self-restraint. Drunkenness comes from an unnatural craving for excitement, stimulated by unwholesome conditions of life, physical and mental. He would satisfy the craving, so far as it is natural, by a divine enthusiasm, brighter and stronger than even duty to God and man, breaking out in thanksgiving, adoration, and love.

Ephesians 5:18-21. And be not drunk with wine — As the heathen are when they celebrate the feasts of Bacchus, their god of wine; wherein is excess — Which is the source of all manner of extravagance, and leads to debauchery of every kind. The original word ασωτια, here rendered excess, signifies entire dissoluteness of mind and manners, and such a course of life as is void of counsel and prudent intention, like the behaviour of persons who are continually drunk. While the above-mentioned Bacchanalia continued, men and women made it a point of religion to intoxicate themselves, and ran about the streets, fields, and vineyards, singing and shouting in a wild and tumultuous manner; in opposition to which extravagant vociferations, singing praises to God is with great propriety recommended. Plato tells us, that there was hardly a sober person to be found in the whole Attican territories during the continuance of these detestable feasts. But be ye filled with the Spirit — In all his graces, which gives a joy unspeakably more delightful, exhilarating, and permanent, than that which is produced by the fumes of wine. The antithesis is beautiful. The lewd votaries of Bacchus fill themselves with wine; but be ye filled with the Spirit. In which precept there is this remarkable propriety, that our Lord had represented the influences of the Spirit, (which he invited all who thirsted for them, to come to him and receive,) under the emblem of rivers of living water, which he commanded believers to drink plentifully, John 7:37-39. Speaking to yourselves — That is, to one another, by the Spirit, for your mutual edification; in psalms — Of David, and hymns — Of praise; and spiritual songs — On any divine subject; of this latter kind were the songs of Elisabeth, of Mary, and of Zecharias, recorded by Luke 1:42; Luke 1:46; Luke 1:67. By there being no inspired songs, peculiarly adapted to the Christian dispensation, as there were to the Jewish. it is evident that the promise of the Holy Ghost to believers in the last days, was, by his larger effusion, to supply this want. Singing and making melody — Which will be as acceptable and pleasing to God as music is to us; in your heart — As well as your voice, your affections going along with your words, without which no external melody, be it ever so exact and harmonious, can be pleasing to his ear; to the Lord — Jesus, who searcheth the heart; giving thanks always — At all times and places; for all things — Prosperous or adverse, for all things work together for good to them that love God; in the name — Or through the mediation; of our Lord Jesus Christ — By whom we receive all good things. Submitting yourselves Υποτασσομενοι, being subject, one to another — Performing those mutual duties to each other, which belong to you according to your several places and stations. As if he had said, While you are careful, as above directed, in the duties of praise and piety to God, be not negligent in those which you owe to your fellow-creatures, but perform them punctually in all the various relations in which you stand to each other; in the fear of God — Properly influenced thereby, and evidencing to all around you that you truly fear and obey him.

5:15-21 Another remedy against sin, is care, or caution, it being impossible else to maintain purity of heart and life. Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future. Of that time which thousands on a dying bed would gladly redeem at the price of the whole world, how little do men think, and to what trifles they daily sacrifice it! People are very apt to complain of bad times; it were well if that stirred them more to redeem time. Be not unwise. Ignorance of our duty, and neglect of our souls, show the greatest folly. Drunkenness is a sin that never goes alone, but carries men into other evils; it is a sin very provoking to God. The drunkard holds out to his family and to the world the sad spectacle of a sinner hardened beyond what is common, and hastening to perdition. When afflicted or weary, let us not seek to raise our spirits by strong drink, which is hateful and hurtful, and only ends in making sorrows more felt. But by fervent prayer let us seek to be filled with the Spirit, and to avoid whatever may grieve our gracious Comforter. All God's people have reason to sing for joy. Though we are not always singing, we should be always giving thanks; we should never want disposition for this duty, as we never want matter for it, through the whole course of our lives. Always, even in trials and afflictions, and for all things; being satisfied of their loving intent, and good tendency. God keeps believers from sinning against him, and engages them to submit one to another in all he has commanded, to promote his glory, and to fulfil their duties to each other.And be not drunk with wine - A danger to which they were exposed and a vice to which those around them were much addicted. Compare notes on Luke 21:34. It is not improbable that in this verse there is an allusion to the orgies of Bacchus, or to the festivals celebrated in honor of that pagan 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 pagan. Plato says, that while those abominable ceremonies in the worship of Bacchus continued, it was difficult to find in all Attica a single sober man. Rosenmuller, Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. On the subject of wine, and the wines used by the ancients, see the notes on John 2:10-11. We may learn from this verse:

(1) that it was not uncommon in those times to become intoxicated on wine; and,

(2) that it was positively forbidden. All intoxication is prohibited in the Scriptures - no matter by what means it is produced. There is, in fact, but one thing that produces intoxication. It is "alcohol" - the poisonous substance produced by fermentation. This substance is neither created nor changed, increased nor diminished, by distillation. It exists in the cider, the beer, and the wine, after they are fermented, and the whole process of distillation consists in driving it off by heat, and collecting it in a concentrated form, and so that it may be preserved. But distilling does not "make" it, nor change it. Alcohol is precisely the same thing in the wine that it is in the brandy after it is distilled; in the cider or the beer that it is in the whisky or the rum; and why is it right to become intoxicated on it in one form rather than in another? Since therefore there is danger of intoxication in the use of wine, as well as in the use of ardent spirits, why should we not abstain from one as well as the other? How can a man prove that it is right for him to drink alcohol in the form of wine, and that it is wrong for me to drink it in the form of brandy or rum?

Wherein is excess - There has been much difference of opinion about the word rendered here as excess - ἀσωτία asōtia. It occurs only in two other places in the New Testament, where it is rendered "riot;" Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4. The "adjective" occurs once Luke 15:13, where it is rendered riotous. The word (derived, according to Passow, from α a, the alpha privative (not), and σώζω sōzō - to save, deliver) means that which is unsafe, not to be recovered; lost beyond recovery; then that which is abandoned to sensuality and lust; dissoluteness, debauchery, revelry. The meaning here is, that all this follows the use of wine. Is it proper then for Christians to be in the habit of drinking it? "Wine is so frequently the cause of this, by the ungrateful abuse of the bounty of providence in giving it, that the enormity is represented by a very strong and beautiful "figure" as contained in the very liquor." Doddridge.

But be filled with the Spirit - The Holy Spirit. How much more appropriate to Christians than to be filled with the spirit of intoxication and revelry! Let Christians, when about to indulge in a glass of wine, think of this admonition. Let them remember that their bodies should be the temple of the Holy Spirit, rather than a receptacle for intoxicating drinks. Was any man ever made a better Christian by the use of wine? Was any minister ever better suited to counsel an anxious sinner, or to pray, or to preach the gospel, by the use of intoxicating drinks? Let the history of wine-drinking and intemperate clergymen answer.

18. excess—worthless, ruinous, reckless prodigality.

wherein—not in the wine itself when used aright (1Ti 5:23), but in the "excess" as to it.

but be filled with the Spirit—The effect in inspiration was that the person was "filled" with an ecstatic exhilaration, like that caused by wine; hence the two are here connected (compare Ac 2:13-18). Hence arose the abstinence from wine of many of the prophets, for example, John the Baptist, namely, in order to keep distinct before the world the ecstasy caused by the Spirit, from that caused by wine. So also in ordinary Christians the Spirit dwells not in the mind that seeks the disturbing influences of excitement, but in the well-balanced prayerful mind. Such a one expresses his joy, not in drunken or worldly songs, but in Christian hymns of thankfulness.

Wherein, in which drunkenness,

is excess; profuseness, lasciviousness, and all manner of lewdness, as the effects of drunkenness, Proverbs 23:29, &c.

But be filled with the Spirit; the Holy Spirit, often compared to water; or the joy of the Spirit, in opposition to being filled with wine, Acts 2:13, and that carnal mirth which is caused by it: q.d. Be not satisfied with a little of the Spirit, but seek for a greater measure, so as to be filled with the Spirit. See Psalm 36:8 John 3:34 John 4:14.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess,.... The sin of drunkenness here dehorted from, is a custom, or habit, of voluntary excessive drinking of any strong liquor, whereby the mind is disturbed, and deprived of the use of reason: though wine is only here mentioned, that being the usual liquor drank in the eastern countries, yet the same holds good of any other strong liquor, as of that; nor is drinking wine for necessary use prohibited, nor for honest delight and lawful pleasure; but excessive drinking of it, and this voluntary, and with design, and on purpose; otherwise persons may be overtaken and intoxicated, through ignorance of the strength of the liquor, and their own weakness; and it is a custom, or habit of excessive drinking, for not a single act, but a series of actions, a course of living in this sin, denominates a man a drunkard; and generally speaking, excessive drinking deprives persons of the use of reason, though not always; and such are criminal, who are mighty to drink wine, and strong to mingle strong drink; as are also such, who though not guilty of this sin themselves, are the means of it in others: the sin is very sinful; it is one of the works of the flesh; it is an abuse of the creature; it is opposed to walking honestly; for it persons are to be excluded from the communion of the church; and, without the grace of true repentance, shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven: many things might be said to dissuade from it; it hurts the mind, memory, and judgment; deprives of reason, and sets a man below a beast; it brings diseases on the body, and wastes the estate; it unfits for business and duty; it opens a door for every sin, and exposes to shame and danger; and therefore should be carefully avoided, and especially by professors of religion:

but be filled with the Spirit; that is, "with the Holy Spirit", as read the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions; with the gifts and graces of the Spirit: some have been filled with them in an extraordinary way, as the apostles on the day of Pentecost; and others in an ordinary manner, as common believers; and who may be said to be filled with the Spirit, as with wine, or instead of it, or in opposition to it, when the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Spirit, which is compared to wine, for its antiquity, purity, and refreshing nature; and they are filled with it, who have a comfortable sense of it, and a firm persuasion of interest in it, and are delighted with the views of it, and are as it were inebriated with it; and they are filled with the Spirit, in whom his grace is a well of living water, and out of whose belly flow rivers of it; and who have a large measure of spiritual peace and joy, expressed in the following manner.

{5} And be not drunk with wine, wherein is {k} excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

(5) He sets the sober and holy assemblies of the faithful against the immoral banquets of the unfaithful, in which the praises of the only Lord must ring, whether it is it in prosperity or diversity.

(k) Every type of disorder, together with every manner of filthiness and shamefulness.

Ephesians 5:18. Καί] and in particular, to mention a single vice, which would belong to ἀφροσύνη.

μὴ μεθύσκ. οἴνῳ] become not drunken through wine, which stands opposed to the allowable use of wine, without our having on that account to seek here a reference to Montanism (Schwegler). To conclude, however, from Ephesians 5:19 that excess at the Agapae is meant (1 Corinthians 11:21), as Koppe and Holzhausen maintain (comp. also de Wette), is quite arbitrary; inasmuch as neither in the preceding nor following context is there any mention made of the Agapae, and this special abuse, the traces of which in the N.T. are, moreover, only to be found in Corinth, would have called for a special censure.

ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία] deterring remark. ἐν ᾧ does not apply to οἴνῳ alone, as Schoettgen holds (whose Rabbinical passages therefore, as Bammidb. rabba, f. 206, Ephesians 3 : “ubicunque est vinum, ibi est immunditia,” are not to the point here), but to the μεθύσκεσθαι οἴνῳ: wherein is contained debauchery, dissolute behaviour. A vivid description of the grosser and more refined ἀσωτία may be seen in Cicero, de Fin. ii. 8. On the word itself (in its literal sense unsaveableness), see Tittmann, Synon. p. 152; Lobeck, Paralip. I. p. 559. A more precise limitation of the sense (Jerome understands lascivious excess, as also Hammond, who thinks of the Bacchanalia) is without warrant in the text.

ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι] but become full by the Spirit. The imperative passive finds its explanation in the possibility of resistance to the Holy Spirit and of the opposite fleshly endeavour; and ἐν is instrumental, as at Ephesians 1:23; Php 4:19. The contrast lies not in οἶνος and πνεῦμα (Grotius, Harless, Olshausen, and others), because otherwise the text must have run μὴ οἴνῳ μεθύσκ., ἀλλʼ ἐν πνεύματι πληρ., but in the two states—that of intoxication and that of inspiration. This opposition is only in appearance strange (in opposition to de Wette), and has its sufficient ground in the excitement of the person inspired and its utterances (comp. Acts 2:13).

Ephesians 5:18. καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ: and be not made drunk with wine. A particular case of the ἀφροσύνη to be avoided is now mentioned. The καί is used here, as, e.g., also in Mark 1:5, to add a special designation to a general, inclusive statement; Win.-Moult., p. 546. The case is the abuse of wine. But there is nothing to suggest any reference to excess at the Agapae (1 Corinthians 11:21) in especial. ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία: wherein is dissoluteness. Or, with the RV, “wherein is riot”. The AV, Tynd., Cov., Cran., Gen., Bish., all give “excess”; Wicl. has lechery, and the Rhem. riotousness. ἀσωτία (cf. Proverbs 28:7) expresses the idea of an abandoned, debauched life; literally, the condition of one who is past salvation. The ἐν ᾧ refers not to the οἶνος alone (which might infer a Gnostic view of matter or Montanistic, ascetic ideas of life), but to the whole phrase μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ—the becoming drunk with wine.—ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι: but be filled with the Spirit. The verb πληροῦν is construed with the gen. of the thing that fills (e.g., Acts 2:28; Acts 5:28; Acts 13:52, pass., etc.); or with the Hebraistic acc. (Colossians 1:9); or with the dat. (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 7:4, etc.). The construction with ἐν here is exceptional. Hence some prefer to understand πνεύματι of man’s spirit, and render it (as RV margin) “be filled in spirit”. The contrast would then be between being filled in one’s physical or carnal nature and filled in one’s spiritual nature (so Braune, and in effect Abb.). In NT Greek, however, verbs that are followed by the simple dat. sometimes vary it by a prepositional form, e.g., βαπτίζεσθαι ὕδατι (Luke 3:16) and ἐν ὕδατι (Matthew 3:11), παντὶ τρόπῳ (Php 1:18) and ἐνπαντὶ τρόπῳ (2 Thessalonians 2:16), etc.; and the formula πληροῦν or πληροῦσθαι ἐν is not wholly without analogy; cf. τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν πληρουμένου, Ephesians 1:23 above; and Colossians 4:12, πεπληροφορημένοι ἐν παντὶ θελήματι τοῦ Θεοῦ, where indeed the πεπληρωένοι of the TR must give place to another verb, yet one with the same idea, the sense being probably “filled with everything willed by God” (cf. Win.-Moult., p. 272; Blass, Gram. of N. T. Greek, p. 117). The ἐν may be taken, therefore, as the instrum. ἐν, and the sense will be “filled with or by the Spirit”. Some (e.g., Ell., Alf.) would combine the ideas of in and by, supposing the unusual phrase to be chosen with a view to convey the fact that the Holy Spirit is not only the instrument by which the Christian man is filled, but that also in which he is so filled. But this is a needless refinement. The contrast, as most commentators recognise, is not merely between the οἴνῳ and the πνεύματι, but between the μεθύσκεσθε and the πληροῦσθε. Otherwise the order would have been μὴ οἴνῳ μεθύσκεσθε, ἀλλʼ ἐν πνεύματι πληροῦσθε (Mey.). The contrast is not between the instruments but between the states—between two elevated states, one due to the excitement of wine, the other to the inspiration and enlightenment of the Spirit.

18. drunk with wine] Cp. for similar cautions, Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:30-31; Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21; 1 Timothy 3:3. “He fitly follows up a warning against impurity with a warning against drunkenness” (Bengel).

wherein] In “being drunken with wine;” in the act and habit of intemperance.

excess] R.V., riot. The word recurs Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4; and its adverb, Luke 15:13. By derivation it nearly answers the idea of that which is “dissolute,” i.e. unbound, unrestrained. The miserable exaltation of strong drink annuls the holy bonds of conscience with fatal ease and certainty.

but be filled] As if to say, “Avoid such false elevation; yet seek instead not a dead level of feeling, but the sacred heights of spiritual joy and power, in that Divine Love which (Song of Solomon 1:2) ‘is better than wine’.”

filled with the Spirit] Lit., “in spirit,” and so margin R.V. But the text R.V., and the A.V., are assuredly right. The definite article may well be omitted here (see on Ephesians 1:17, and Ephesians 2:22), without obscuring the ref. to the Divine Spirit, if context favours it. And surely the context does so, in the words “in which” just above. The two “in” (in which,” “in Spirit,”) are parallel. And as the first “in” points to an objective cause of “riot,” so surely the second “in” points to the objective cause, not subjective sphere, of joy; to the Spirit, not to our spirit.—On the phrase “in (the) Spirit” cp. Matthew 22:43; Romans 8:9; Colossians 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:10. The phrase “in the Spirit” (def. article expressed) occurs only Luke 2:27. “In (the) Holy Spirit” occurs frequently, and in many places where A.V. has “by &c.”; e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:9. The parallel phrase “in an unclean spirit” occurs Mark 5:2. On the whole, the idea conveyed appears to be that the possessing Power, Divine or evil, which from one point of view inhabits the man, from another surrounds him, as with an atmosphere.—“If the Spirit be in you, you are in It” (Jer. Taylor, Sermon for Whitsunday).

Thus, “be ye filled in (the) Spirit,” may be lawfully paraphrased, “Let in the holy atmosphere to your inmost self, to your whole will and soul. Let the Divine Spirit, in Whom you, believing, are, pervade your being, as water fills the sponge.” And the context gives the special thought that this “filling” will tend to that sacred exhilaration, “the Spirit’s calm excess[39]”, of which wine-drinking could produce only a horrible parody. See next verse.

[39] St Ambrose (“Splendor paternæ gloriæ” tr. by Chandler).

Ephesians 5:18. Μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, be not drunk with wine) So the LXX. plainly, Proverbs 23:31 (30). Appropriately to the exhortation against impurity, he subjoins the exhortation against drunkenness.—ἐν ᾧ) in which, viz. wine, so far as it is drunk without moderation.—ἀσωτία) Ἄσωτος is used for ἀσωστος: hence ἀσωτία denotes every luxury inconsistent with frugality. See its opposite, Ephesians 5:19, concerning the effect of spiritual fulness.—ἀλλὰ) So generally the LXX. in Prov. quoted above: ἀλλὰ ὁμιλεῖτε ἀνθρώποις δικαίοις, but associate with righteous men.

Verse 18. - And be not intoxicated with wine, wherein is dissoluteness. Drunkenness is suggested because it is a work of darkness; it is the foe to vigilance and earnestness, and it leads all who yield to it to act unwisely. It is the social aspect of drunkenness the apostle has in view - the exhilarating influence of wine in company, giving a rush of high spirits. Ασωτία, from α and σωζω, the opposite of savingness, wastefulness, dissoluteness, or the process of being dissolved, involving perdition. Spoken of the prodigal son, "riotous living;" the habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin. But be filled with the Spirit. Instead of resorting to wine to cheer and animate you, throw your hearts open the Holy Spirit, so that he may come and fill them; seek the joy that the Spirit inspires when he makes you to sit with Christ in heavenly places, so that, instead of pouring out your joyous feelings in bacchanalian songs, you may do so in Christian hymns. Ephesians 5:18Be not drunk (μὴ μεθύσκεσθε)

See on John 2:10.


In drunkenness, not in wine.

Excess (ἀσωτία)

Rev., riot. Lit., unsavingness. See on riotous living, Luke 15:13.

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