Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ephesians 5:18a

Through positive and negative commands Paul explains to the believers in Ephesus that there are a number of things that they should be doing and a number of things that they should not. While the Christian life is not exclusively a list of rules, it certainly should be influenced by the will of God and the desires of God as revealed through His lists of rules.

“Be followers of God.” “Walk in love.” “Be not partakers with evildoers.” “Walk as children of light.” “Reprove the works of darkness.” “Walk circumspectly.” “Be not unwise.” “Understand what the will of God is.” 

All of these things in Ephesians 5 were admonitions for believers. This list was not what made these believers Christians. That was only accomplished by God’s grace through their faith in the saving work of Jesus. But, if they were truly Christians, these things would be lifestyle habits. This is why so many of the positive commands use the word “walk.” These were to be things that were everyday tendencies of believers.
Arriving at verse 18, we must understand that it is to the idea of self-control which Paul speaks regarding wine. Paul’s admonition is not “do not drink wine.” Rather, Paul is continuing the thought of “be not unwise” in verse 17. In verses 15 and 16 Paul said, “walk circumspectly, redeeming the time.” In other words, be fully aware of your surroundings, exercise self-control. Instead of being fixated or distracted, pay attention. This will help you in your fight against temptation. This will help you in your pursuit of godliness. This will help you in your endeavors to build the kingdom of God. But if you are not walking circumspectly, and not exercising temperance and self-control, then you will fail at these other things.
Paul’s point then in verse 18 continues the thought with, “so don’t get drunk.” Intoxication and inebriation are the antithesis of self-control. You cannot pursue holiness when you can’t even spell your own name. You cannot fight temptation when you have given yourself double vision. Drunkenness conflicts with holiness. Other portions of Scripture will speak towards the nature of wine and strong drink, this text does not have this as its purpose. Instead, we must understand that anything that draws us away from our pursuit of godliness or makes that pursuit impossible should be removed from our lives. In this text, most plainly that which must be removed is drunkenness. For the Ephesians, clearly drunkenness was a problem, so Paul warned them against drunkenness. We then must see plainly that as a principle, Christians have no business becoming intoxicated and drunk. But then again, the overarching principle must remain from this entire context and that is that although drunkenness is specifically named in verse 18, any lack of self-control is in conflict with holiness. May God help us through His Spirit to war against the laziness and apathy of our own hearts towards our sinfulness.
Reflect: How is drunkenness in conflict with holiness?