An important passage for the disciple of Jesus is Eph. 5:18. The verse says, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Why would Paul pick wine as a comparison to describe the appropriate influence to control the disciple? The UBS Handbook states, “It is impossible to determine why this particular warning was necessary; it appears that verses 18–20 have to do with group worship, and so the drunkenness could be of a religious nature, that is, drinking wine in worship to gain communion with God, as was the practice among certain religious groups of that time.”
The Ephesian believers would have been very familiar with the Gentile worship of Artemis because her most famous temple was located in their city. It was so grand that it was considered one of the seven wonders of the world! It is possible that the excessive use of wine was part of the worship of Artemis.
As a result, Paul is saying that instead of having wine influence the whole person in the hope of communing with God, the Sprit has been given to us to control and influence us to be imitators of God (5:1).
It is also helpful to notice the grammar in this passage. The verb “be filled” is a present tense command. It is something that should continually happen in the life of a disciple. This command is also in the “passive voice.” That means it is NOT something we do, but something WE LET God do in us.
So how does this all apply to you and me today? We are to continually allow the Holy Spirit to control us. We do that by yielding to his leadership as it is found in his Word. An alternate translation could be “continually allow yourself to be filled by the Spirit.”
As Hoehner said, “Each Christian has all the Spirit, but the command here is that the Spirit have all of him. The wise walk, then, is one that is characterized by the Holy Spirit’s control.”
Father, I thank you for the very practical instruction of the command. You have given us the Holy Spirit to be our helper and enabler. May you give me the grace and wisdom to live my life under the direction and control of the Holy Spirit so that I can be like you.
Following Jesus with you,