Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Does contrasting drunkenness and being filled with the Spirit seem odd to anyone besides me? On the surface, this seems to be a strange pairing of items. Maybe it would have make more sense to contrast living by the sinful nature to being filled with the Spirit. Or maybe contrasting murder with a life of love. But drunkenness versus the Holy Spirit? What’s that all about? When I feel like picking up a Corona, I’m supposed to speak in tongues instead? There’s got to be more to this statement. And there is.
Around the time that the book of Ephesians was written (around AD 60), there was a strong movement of false religion. One in particular, was called the Cult of Dionysus. This false god Dionysus, was said to be the god of wine. Somehow this cult made its way from Asia to Greece. Oh boy, it was a crazy religion. When they gathered together, they got completely drunk and wild behavior followed. It was completely unrestrained. They would dance, play music, and do lots of other stuff I won’t mention here. Nonetheless it was popular. In fact, powerful Greeks often forced their Jewish slaves to participate in Dionysus worship.
Now we know that the Jewish people didn’t agree with such things. But to the outsider, it may have looked like some of these Jewish people were participating in this kind of stuff voluntarily. So it became all the more important to have a clear separation from this false god. This separation was needed for more than health or moral reasons. This whole cult was about more than just getting drunk. It was a counterfeit spirituality. These people would get drunk and say their intoxication was actually a filling of the spirit of this false god.
Paul being the good apostle that he was, didn’t want the church getting all mixed up in this mess. There needed to be some pretty clear distinction between the two. This is important for us to understand. Paul’s statement about getting drunk on wine went way past the bottle. It went to the counterfeit spirituality that the bottle represented in that culture. More accurately stated, Paul’s heart was: don’t mess around with this false spirit, be filled with the real Spirit of God. Stay away from the stuff that rips God off. And remain in Him; remain filled with the Holy Spirit. Sure, some people might think you are drunk like they did in Acts chapter 2. But soon they will find out that there is a real power flowing out of your life. They will see that it isn’t fake. They will discover that when you wake up in the morning, you aren’t hungover. You are just filled.