I would call your attention this morning to Chapter 5 and verse 18. This is where we left off last time, and we’re going to be looking at the Spirit-filled life. The Spirit-filled life. Obviously, to anyone who has been a Christian for any amount of time, you are well aware that this is a tremendously important text. A very familiar one, an area of study that is to be dealt with, really, by every believer if he or she is to really comprehend what it is that God is asking of us. This is one of those absolutely crucial texts, a locus crucis, if you will. In fact, there is no more important area in all of the worthy walk than this particular reality. The filling of the Spirit is critical for living the Christian life by God’s standards.
Now, you will remember that I have been trying to show you the book of Ephesians as a whole, and a couple of times I’ve mentioned that you can view the book of Ephesians like a high-performance automobile, and in chapters 1, 2, and 3, you have the description of the automobile particularly majoring on its power plant. In other words, God is saying, “As a Christian, this is who you really are.” And He gives this phenomenal description of our position in Christ in the first three chapters. He describes the power plant that we have, the resurrection power that’s available to us, all of the tremendous inheritance that God has given us, and so in chapters 1 through chapter 3 verse 13, we have that great description of the believer as if he were a high-powered, high-performance automobile. Then we noted in chapter 3 verses 14 to 21 that the apostle Paul describes what I like to call the ignition switch. Doesn’t do any good to have a high-powered engine if you don’t turn it on. And so in chapter 3, verses 13 or 14 on, it talks about the ignition switch, how you turn the power on, getting started.
You’ll remember we talked about being strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man and how Christ then settles down and is at home in your heart, and then you begin to understand the love of Christ and you’re filled with all the fullness of God, and then you’re able to do exceeding, abundantly above all you can ask or think. In other words, the power is beginning to roll, the engine is beginning to move, and the key to turning it on is to be empowered there by the Spirit of God, by Christ and by God the Father. And then as you come to chapter 4, now that the vehicle is described and the engine is rolling, chapter 4 tells us the route we’re to drive. We call it the worthy walk, and He tells us that we are to move on a path that is worthy of our calling.
This is a phenomenal vehicle we have and it’s going to be driven in a phenomenal way on a very, very wonderful road, and the road involves uniqueness. We’re different than the world; it’s not the world’s highway. It involves humility, not the pride of the world. It involves unity, not the discord of the world. It involves love, it involves light, it involves wisdom. And you’ll remember that we talked about those things, walking in unity, walking in humility, walking in uniqueness, walking in love, walking in light and walking – last time – in wisdom. So this is the path this car is to go on.
But at the end of the book of Ephesians, he describes some roadblocks. As we drive this high-powered vehicle, energized and driven along by God on the path that God would have us to go, we’re going to find roadblocks, and that’s why in chapter 6 verses 10 and following, he describes the fact that we’re going to run into Satan. We’re going to find ourselves confronting spiritual wickedness in high places, principalities and powers, and the rulers of darkness. And in order to handle this stuff, we’re going to have to have the armor of God and – verse 18 of chapter 6 – we’re going to have to pray always.
So, really, we see the whole flow here of how God has designed the believer as a high-powered, powerful, high-performance vehicle. He is turned on as he is strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, and he begins to move on a path that Paul calls the worthy walk, and he lives in unity, humility, uniqueness, love, light, and wisdom and eventually he’s going to hit some roadblocks living that kind of life and he’s going to have to counter Satan and defend himself and fight against Satan by virtue of the armor of God and the weapon of prayer. You say, “Well, how does this part fit in?” Well, I call this the fuel. You got to put something in the tank. And what do you put in? Verse 18 says it: “Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be” – what? “filled with the Spirit.” This is the believer’s gas. This is the fuel. This is what makes it go, and it wouldn’t do a bit of good to have everything else right if you didn’t put any fuel in.
I remember seeing the picture in a magazine of the Amish farmer who won a car somehow and when he got the car delivered to him he hooked up his horse to the bumper and rode in style. You know, there are a lot of Christians who hook up the horse of the flesh to the vehicle created by God, meant to be empowered by the fuel of the Holy Spirit, and then with the horse of the flesh, they haul the thing around. Listen: God designed you to be operated by being filled with the Spirit, not by being pulled by the horse of the flesh. That’s the message that this verse wants to say.
You’ve got all of this energy and power and resource and the path is laid out, the road is laid out, the walk is laid out, and in order to do it, you ought to be energized by the Spirit of God. And in this section from 5:18 right on to 6:9, he describes how the Spirit of the filling of God affects you. How it affects all of your relationships. How it affects your attitude. He talks about being filled with the Spirit, for example, affecting yourself in verse 19, “You’ll speak in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” In verse 20, “You’ll give thanks.” How it’s going to affect you with other people. You’ll submit – in verse 21 – to others. How it’ll affect you in your home, wives, husbands – chapter 6 – children. How it’ll affect you at the office or where you work. Verse 5 of chapter 6, it says servants and it talks about masters. In other words, the filling of the Spirit will affect every relationship within you, touching everybody else in your home, in your work. This is the fuel that makes you go.
Now, you will remember, also that we were talking last Sunday about the wise walk – verse 15. Let’s go back to that a minute. “See then, that you walk circumspectly.” That means that you walk wisely, that you walk with an analytical, careful, critical, exacting mind as you look where you’re stepping. You walk in wisdom – not as fools, but as wise. And a wisdom walk involves redeeming the time because the days are evil. And he says, “Wherefore, be ye not unwise” or stupid “but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” And then he goes right into verse 18, “Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” Now listen, people: The final element of the wise walk is to walk filled with the Spirit. That’s the final element. You are the biggest fool of all if you hitch up your horse to the car. You are the biggest fool of all if you try to drag around the new creation of God by the horse of the flesh. That’s foolishness. Wisdom says, I have this tremendous resource, I have this great power, I’m going to let it be energized by the Spirit, I’m going to let it be filled with the Spirit.
You know, it’s kind of like owning the highest-powered vehicle in the world, owning Standard Oil, and never bothering to put the fuel in. You are the highest-powered thing in the world. I’ve said this many times: Outside the Trinity, the Christian is the hottest commodity in the universe. There’s nothing that can compete with you. You have been given the resource of God’s resurrection power. You’ve got it all. That’s the first three chapters of Ephesians. Not only that, you possess the greatest source of fuel, you possess the divine Holy Spirit who will energize you. Now, here you are with a high-performance vehicle, owning the divine Standard Oil Company. Doesn’t make much sense if you don’t put the fuel in, does it? That’s the point. To live the Christian life demands that you be filled or literally controlled by the Holy Spirit, and that’s where you have to yield yourself to the Spirit. Now, we’re going to be talking about that in the next few weeks, but before we can get to the phrase that says be filled with the Spirit, we’ve got to get past the one that says don’t be drunk with wine, right? This is part of a contrast that Paul is giving. So we’re going to talk this morning and next week about what it means in the first phrase, “Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Now, Paul presents a contrast, doesn’t he, between drunkenness and being Spirit filled? That’s really a contrast that is very clear, seems very simple on the surface and yet there are some profound truths. Now, as we look at this particular section from verses 18 to 20 or 21, we see three things. The contrast in verse 18, the command at the end of verse 18 – be filled with the Spirit – and the consequences, verses 19, 20, 21. The consequences are singing, saying thanks, and submitting, and we’ll get to those. And the command is “be filled with the Spirit” and we’ll get to that. But for this morning and next time, the contrast is “Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess.”
Now, this whole matter of drunkenness and this whole matter of drinking wine and whatever is a big problem today. It’s a big discussion in the church. Christians talk about it. Some Christians say, “Well, I don’t drink, and you shouldn’t drink, it’s a sin to drink.” Somebody will say, “Well, it’s not a sin to drink, Jesus drank wine and they drank wine in the Bible and they drank wine in the Old Testament, and I’m just being biblical, and I want to be a biblical Christian.” And other people say, “Well, the only time you don’t drink is if it offends a weaker brother, and if you’re that weak, you’ve got no excuse anyway. You ought to be strong by now.” And other people say, “Well, no, we should never drink, we have no part in that. We don’t drink, we don’t smoke, we don’t chew, we don’t go with girls that do,” and all of that, see. “Rooty-toot-toot, we’re the boys from the institute.” You know how it goes.
And so you have all of this kind of divergence from one end to the other about what is acceptable and what is not. And what I want to share with you is to try to give you today and next time – and I’m only going to lay some ground work today. Today is going to be a little bit of an academic foundation and then next time I’m going to get into what I call the Christian’s wine list and that will be for next Sunday. And the composite of both, I hope, will be helpful to you. But let’s begin where we are right here in verse 18 and see where we go.
“And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess.” Now, one very clear way to act as a fool is to be drunk. Now, that is the antithesis of wisdom. Verse 15 says, “Don’t be a fool, be wise.” Verse 17 says, “Don’t be stupid, but do God’s will,” and verse 18 says, “Don’t be drunk, be filled with the Spirit.” They’re really just paralleling the same things. The biggest fool, the most unwise person, is the person who gets drunk. On the other hand, the wisest person who does the will of God is the one filled with the Spirit, you see? Being filled with the Spirit is the will of God and is wise; being drunk is stupid and foolish. So that’s the comparison. Now, Paul knows that the world is a drunken world – and this is true – I mean the world is a drunken world. It always amazes me that whenever alcohol is advertised, you always see the men of distinction. It is associated with being a man of distinction. They never put a slobbering drunk, lying in a gutter, advocating alcohol. Alcoholism is a major problem. And this, I’m sure, is in Paul’s mind.
Let’s just look at it first of all from this angle. Paul is saying, “Don’t be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit,” maybe in a general sense. Like, you know, just don’t be drunk but be filled with the Spirit. In the sense that if you’re looking for joy and you’re looking for escape from your problems, you’re looking for joy and comfort, don’t seek it at the bottom of a bottle, seek it in the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit be your resource. Now, all people seek joy, everybody seeks exhilaration, nobody wants to be miserable all the time. People want to be happy – and by the way, that’s okay. God wants you to be happy. God is not a cosmic killjoy. Doesn’t go around saying, “There’s one having fun – get him,” see? Doesn’t do that. God does not have some great desire to literally inundate you with judgment. God wants you to be happy.
When Jesus introduced His first message in Matthew 5, as we’ve been saying, He began by saying happy or blessed or blissful in the man, happy is the one, happy is the one, happy is the one. Jesus wants us to be happy. Ecclesiastes, the preacher, looks at life and says, “There is a time to laugh.” The Old Testament says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” God wants us to know joy. Jesus said, “My joy I give unto you.” John, 1 John 1:4, “These things write I unto you that your joy might be full.” Paul, “Rejoice always and again I say rejoice.” And Scripture in the Psalms says that the people shouted for joy and that there was fullness of joy. And on the day of the Lord’s birth, there were great – there was good tidings of great Joy, and God wants us to be happy and God wants us to be joyful, but God wants us to find the resource for joy in the right place, not the wrong place, not the artificial way.
And what happens in society is that people want to be happy only their circumstances make them miserable so they get themselves in a stupor where they don’t have to face their circumstances. I remember a kid said to me, who was totally bombed on drugs, I said, “Does this answer your questions?” he says, “No, but at least I don’t have to ask them. I can’t even remember what they were.” And that’s the kind of escape the world calls joy. You see, it’s seeking joy and happiness in an artificial way. People want comfort. They’ve got problems. And they escape that way.
There’s one kind of stuff I’ve seen and it’s a liquor and it’s scotch, I guess, it’s called Southern Comfort. Listen, that is not comfort and that’s going to take you further south then you want to go. But I’m always amazed at how they sell Southern Comfort. Listen, what is Paul saying? Who is the comforter? Who is it? The Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the comforter, and he’s saying if you want comfort, and if you want joy, then find it where it really exists, not in the bottom of a bottle, which is so artificial, and all of a sudden when that is over, all the problems are there again. That’s why the Bible says, “Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”
Intoxication is never the remedy for the cares of life. Intoxication is never the remedy for the worries of life. All that does is add another worry. All that does is add more problems. And by the way, I would add at this point that alcoholism is not a disease, it is a sin. It eventually will become a disease element insofar as it’ll affect the body. But alcoholism and being a drunkard, according to the Bible, is a sin. It is the manifestation of depravity. It is a sin, and it needs to be confessed and dealt with as a sin. If you want joy, unspeakable and full of glory in your life, if you want comfort beyond the comfort the world can ever dream of, then Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Don’t seek your answers in the bottle, they’re not there, they just compound the problem. And whenever you look at the Bible and you talk about drunkenness, it always comes out bad.
Every illustration of drunkenness in the Bible is a disaster. There’s no good thing in it. It’ll never make anything better. It’ll never solve any problem. Noah became drunk, and in his nakedness, he acted shamelessly. Lot became drunk, and his daughters committed incest with him. Nabal became drunk, and at a crucial time, God took his life. Elah became drunk, and he was murdered by Zimri. Ben-Hadad and all of his allied kings became drunk, and they were slaughtered. Only Ben-Hadad was spared and that was a sin to spare him. Belshazzar – in Daniel 5 – met together with a great feast and it says they drank wine and they praised the gods of gold and of silver and of bronze and of iron and of wood and of stone, and in the midst of the drunken brawl, the kingdom was ripped right out from under Belshazzar. The Corinthians were drunk, and in their drunkenness they desecrated the Lord’s Table and God made some of them sick and some of them He executed. You see, drunkenness is always associated, in the Bible, with terrible things, unrestrained living, immorality, dissolute behavior, reckless, wild behavior.
You see it. You see drunkenness associated with sexual behavior today, immorality. You see drunkenness with unrestrained, reckless behavior. I’ve seen a drunk in a situation I was involved in, where a guy was literally tearing a place to shreds, and I was trying to prevent him and he was throwing bottles of Jack Daniels stuff right at me, smashing on the walls. I was unable to do anything. Just out of control. I’ve seen them take drunks and put them in straightjackets. I’ve seen them tie them up and take them to hospitals. It’s associated in the Bible with these kinds of things. Drunkenness is always associated with tragic things. That’s why it tells us so explicitly that if man is to be a leader in the church, he is to be an elder, he must not be one who lingers long beside his wine. He has no place in that kind of living. Drunkenness disqualifies a man from any kind of spiritual service at all – at all. Peter says, “You used to live like that.” 1 Peter 4, “The time past of our life would suffice us to have wrought the will of the pagans when we walked in lasciviousness, lust, excess of wine, wild parties, carousing, abominable idolatries.” You see, that all goes together, that all fits together, all that abominable idolatry, all that excess in sexual activity, all fits together with the drunkenness. And by the way, drunkenness marks a person who is not a character of the kingdom.
First Corinthians chapter 5 tells us: “I have written to you not to company if any man is called a brother be a fornicator, covetous, idolater, railer, or drunkard, extortioner.” If a person who calls himself a Christian is a drunkard, you shouldn’t even associate with him. In verse 10, backing up, if he’s in the world and he’s one of these kinds of people, you need to go to him and take the gospel. But then when salvation comes – chapter 6 verse 9 – “Don’t you know that the unrighteous don’t inherit the kingdom.” He says, “Not thieves, not covetous and not drunkards, and such were some of you.” In other words, the church ought to be filled with ex-drunkards. But if there are drunkards in the church, if there are what we call today alcoholics in the church who are still drinking, who are still doing it, who are still drunkards, then they are not Christians or else they are claiming to be Christians and should be disassociated from us.
Now, only God knows. It’s possible for a person to be a Christian and be drunk, sure. But Paul said drunkards don’t inherit the kingdom. Now, I’m not saying if you get drunk you lose your salvation, I’m just saying that it is generally true of a Christian that he isn’t a drunkard. And if you say, “Well, I became a Christian and it didn’t have an effect on my drinking,” I say, “According to what Paul said, you didn’t. You could be a Christian and maybe slip back into that, but I would think that if you came to Jesus Christ, there would have had to have been a change in your life.” Oh, maybe sometime later on – you know, I’ve known of people who were Christians and some time in their life, they got to drinking, and they just got into the thing a sin later in their life. Tragic thing. I don’t know whether they were ever saved, maybe they were. They fell into the sin and sometimes the Lord would even take them home. Only God knows whether you’re a Christian or not if you’re doing that, but the statement of Scripture says if you are doing this, if you are characterized as a drunkard, you are not in the kingdom. But the next – the very same passage also says that it’s possible for one to claim to be a Christian and do it. Only God knows the difference. You’d better examine yourself.
That’s what we’ve been saying all through our study: You had better examine yourself, if you’ve got a problem in this area, whether you’re really a Christian. And let me add this: If you have a problem in this area, God can deliver you. I believe that. I believe if you’re really filled with the Spirit, you’ll have the joy and the comfort and the solutions that you seek, and you won’t need that stuff. I believe though your sins be as scarlet, they can become as white as snow and though they be red like crimson, they can be as wool, and I believe God can turn you around. I’ve seen too many people that had a problem like that and God can turn them around that fast. If you yield to Him, if your conversion is real.
So Paul is saying to the Ephesians and to us, “Look, you have a higher kind of life. You don’t seek your joy and exhilaration in the bottom of a bottle, you get it from the wonderful Holy Spirit.” But listen, that’s not the main meaning of what he’s saying. That was just a little free part. The main meaning of what he’s saying, I’m going to give it to you right now, and I want you to listen to this. Paul’s main thrust here is religious. It is religious. He is talking about systems of religion.
Now, this may surprise you, so listen. Drunkenness was associated with pagan religion. The pagans believed that to commune with the gods, you had to put yourself in a drunken stupor to come to the highest level of communion with the gods. This was what was called the mystery religion. These are the roots of Greek, Roman, Mythological religious systems. And they believed that you could commune with the gods through ecstasy. That was the frenzies and the ecstasies, the whirling dervishes, the self-hypnosis, the demonic things that went on, they called it ecstasy, “ekstasia” and “enthusiasmos” – enthusiasms. And they would get themselves worked into a literal frenzy and emotional bath. And in addition to that, they would drink and drink and drink until they were drunken, and they thought that lifted them to the level of communion with the gods.
That’s not unlike what we hear today. From Timothy Leary on, people have been saying that if you get high on drugs or on alcohol, you reach a greater level of consciousness, your consciousness is heightened, and you can literally commune in a religious way at a higher level. You hear the mystics talk about this, Eastern Mysticism advocates this, the occult advocates this, all kinds of mystical religions advocate this. There are people involved in this because they believe it raises them to a higher level of religious consciousness. This is nothing new. It’s right out of the history of paganism, it’s exactly the way it used to operate.
Now, let me tell you how it came about in terms of the culture of the Ephesian church and how this relates to them. The great god of the Greek mythology was a god that we know as Zeus, and Zeus was the great mighty god, a god who was great and powerful. And Zeus somehow implanted his productive potential in Semele. Now, they did it without ever meeting because no one could ever look on Zeus because they would be instantly incinerated by his glory. You see, it sounds like a satanic counterfeit of God the Father. And so Zeus and Semele never met but Semele was carrying in her womb this child of Zeus, and Semele decided that she had the right to see the father. So she entered into the presence of Zeus and was instantly incinerated in his presence. And Zeus snatched the body of the baby from the womb, yet unborn, and sewed it into his thigh, see. You understand that. Zeus sewed this into his thigh and carried the baby in his thigh until its full term from which it was born.
Now, you haven’t heard anything yet. The infant god was then born and it was destined by Zeus that this infant god should become the ruler of the world, of the planet earth. This god was going to rule the planet earth. Well, there were some beings, sub-gods, already on the earth, according to Greek mythology, called the Titans and the Titans were the sons of earth. They kind of ran the earth. And when they saw that this son of Zeus was going to come down and take over, they were very upset. So they got a hold of the baby, they tore him limb from limb, and they ate him. But Zeus rescued the heart, swallowed the heart, and gave birth to the baby.
Now, friends, that’s what I call weird kind of stuff, but that is what Greek mythology teaches. I got that out of a direct source. So finally, after Zeus had swallowed the heart, the child was reborn. He named the child Dionysus. Now, that’s important because that name comes up in Greek religion, in the ancient religions of the mystery religions of Babylon, over and over and over again. Dionysus is a very familiar name. You read anything on Greek mythology and you’ll see his name everywhere. He was the number one god of earth. And Dionysus was born. Now, Zeus was mad at the Titans so he blasted all the Titans with lightening. They were reduced to ashes and out of those ashes came the human race. So now you know the whole story.
Now, Dionysus was then in control of the earth, said the Greeks, and as Dionysus was in control of the earth, he began to develop a religion, and the religion that he developed was this religion of ascendancy where the human beings arose out of the ashes of the incinerated Titans. These human beings could rise to a level of divine consciousness. They could rise to commune with the gods and it was a religion of ecstasy and emotions. It was a religion where there was wild music and the ancient writers say, there was “dancing madness where there was sexual perversion and finally it was all induced by drunkenness.” All right? And they would all meet together, they would begin with the music and then the dancing, and the frenzy would continue. Then they would do some human mutilations of genital parts. They worshipped the phallus. They got involved in all that kind of thing, and when they began to dance and drink and become drunken, they came to a high point where they would eat the raw flesh of the mystic bull that was brought in and finally they would, in a great conclave of voices, they would call out to Dionysus with this phrase, “Come thou Savior.”
That was their worship. It was recognized for its music, this worship, for its dancing madness, for its ecstasies, its enthusiasmos, its sex perversions, and all induced by drunkenness. And Dionysus became known as “the god of wine.” The god of wine. So you can see that the core of this whole concept of drunkenness is a vile, pagan, counterfeit of true religion, you see. And when Paul is saying, “Look, don’t be drunk with wine,” he is not simply dealing with a social problem, he’s dealing with a theological one, you see. He is dealing with something way deeper than just a little fun and games. This is Satan’s counterfeit, this is the way Satan captures minds and bodies into his system, you see, through this method of drunkenness.
Dionysus became known as the god of wine. You know what the Roman name for him was? The Greek is Dionysus, the Latin name for him is Bacchus, same one, same god, B-A-C-C-H-U-S. You’ve heard of a Bacchanalian feast, that’s a drunken feast. Bacchus is the god of wine. If you know any Roman history, you know that Bacchus was the jovial, jolly god of wine who had the nymphs, all the little funny women in the funny little flimsy white things and the Satyrs all around playing the flutes, you know, the nymphs and the satyrs and the jolly god of wine, Bacchus, was nothing other than the Roman equivalent of Dionysus. And the worship was the same.
When I had the opportunity a few years ago to go to the holy land, I was able to go to the Arab countries, to Lebanon, to Beirut, to Syria, to Jordan, and so forth, and we went to the easternmost point of the ancient Roman Empire, which was a city called Balbek or Baalbek, named after Baal, and they have built incredible temples, just absolutely astonishing temples, with massive, huge, long, solid-stone pieces of rock sitting on the top of columns. And there are three main temples in Baalbek, right in the middle, and they’re all in the same area. There stands out among those three one that is the best remaining one, and it is the temple to Bacchus, this god, Dionysus, the god of wine. And the people there were telling us that this was where the people met for their religion.
The three different temples signified three different elements of the same expressions of worship but it culminated in the temple of Bacchus. And as you approach it, you see these tremendous columns and parapets and all of these forms of stone and they are carved intricately and you don’t really know what it is until you get very close and then all of a sudden you realize that it’s all vines with leaves and grapes hanging on it. The whole temple is literally just covered with grapes and vines because that’s the whole thrust of their expression of worship. It was drunkenness. They were even telling us that they made the place so that the overflow of wine, the spillage and that which they literally vomited out, would have a way to roll and flow out. And so it was a drunken orgy. They had sexual involvement with it and so forth.
This is the thing that is behind the scenes of what Paul is saying here, you see. It is not just social; it is theological. He is saying to these Ephesians, “Your background was a place where you communed with the gods through drunkenness, but I’m saying to you, if you want to really commune with God, be filled with” – what? “His Spirit.” That’s a great truth, isn’t it? That’s really the heart of what he’s saying. And that’s what he’s saying to us. We don’t need the artificial stuff of the world. If you want to be raised to the highest level of religious consciousness, just enter the presence of God through the filling of the Spirit.
You know, this very corruption stood behind the Corinthian church, too. Look at 1 Corinthians with me for a minute, chapter 10. In effect, the whole problem of the Corinthian church was that they were never able to cut themselves off from the evil system. They never were able to divorce themselves from the world. Whatever corruptions they had known in paganism, they managed somehow to drag into the church. If they were cliquish in their pagan life, they were cliquish in their church. If they were hero worshipers in their pagan life, they we’re hero worshipers in their church. If they were fascinated by certain philosophers in their pagan life, they were in their church life. If they sued each other in their pagan life, they were suing each other in their church life. If they were proud and egotistical and uncaring in their pagan life, that’s how they were in the church. If they didn’t know how to make a marriage work in their pagan life, they didn’t seem to be able to do it when they entered the church, either. If they had trouble with meat offered to idols in their pagan life – same trouble when they became believers. If they didn’t know what to do about the gifts of the Spirit, if they didn’t know the true gifts of the Spirit in the church, it was because they had corroded them all and corrupted them all by the paganism.
And you’ll never understand the meaning of tongues or prophecies or anything in 1 Corinthians 12-14 unless you understand what was going on in the pagan world behind the scenes. That was the whole mishmash. Everything was counterfeited in the Corinthian church. The whole thing was being scrambled because they dragged their paganism right into the church and in dragging their paganism in, they corrupted everything.
Now, in the early church and in the church today, what is the one ordinance, the one beautiful remembrance God has given the church that is the highest act of worship? What is it? It’s Communion, isn’t it? That which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself designed to lift us into His very presence. That which the Lord designed for us to remember Him. That which the Lord designed for us to commune with Him was His table. And the Corinthians, you see, they were used to communing with the gods through drunkenness, so when they came to the Lord’s Table, guess what they brought - drunkenness.
And so Paul is really approaching this subject in chapter 10 verse 16. He says to them, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we are all partakers of that one bread.” In other words what he’s saying is, “Hey, we’re all one. We partake of one bread, one blood, one body.” Now, that’s the basis of his point, this unity. Then he goes on to say – in verse 20 – “the pagans, they sacrifice to demons, to a no god, and I don’t want you to fellowship with demons. You can’t drink the cup of the Lord which is the cup of Communion and the cup of demons which is the cup of drunkenness,” you see. You can’t do those two things. Why? Back to verse 16, because we are communing with Christ in one body. Verse 17, as one bread and one body. You can’t divide it that way. You can’t take Christ and commune with His cup, run over here and drink yourself blind and drunk and worship some demonic idol. You can’t do that. You can’t be – verse 21 says – a partaker of the Lord’s Table and the table of demons. Don’t – you can’t mix those things. You’ll provoke the Lord to jealousy, and you better be stronger than Him if you do that.
You see, that was the whole point. They’d drink the cup of the Lord which was the lovely cup of Communion, remembering Christ; they’d go drink the cup of demons which was drunkenness, thinking they were getting to the highest level of religious consciousness through drunkenness. And our Lord was saying you can reach the highest level of religious, spiritual perception by taking simply the cup of remembrance. What a beautiful contrast.
Well, go over to verse 19 of chapter 11 and this is where it becomes crystal clear that this is what they were doing. He says there must be heresies among you, there must be heresies, and you should manifest, you know, what’s true and what’s not. But look at verse 20: “When you come together into one place, this” – here’s the Greek translation – “this is not the Lord’s Supper which you eat.” When you come together, you might call it the Lord’s Supper and you might say all right, everybody, we’re going to have Communion now. And you might say that it’s that but it is not that for in eating, everyone takes before the other his own supper, that’s gluttony, and leaves people hungry and another is drunk. In other words, what you’re doing is not the Lord’s Table, it is the table of demons. You’re doing it the way you used to do it, the way paganism does it.
You see, that was behind the scenes here, that was the issue here. He is contrasting the Satanic counterfeit with the divine reality of true worship and true Communion. And I want you to see that’s what he’s saying, people. He’s saying don’t worship God the way you used to. Now, that doesn’t hit our culture because we didn’t use to worship God through drunkenness – I hope. Maybe some of you came out of some mysticism where you got high on drugs and thought you were getting to some religious level of super consciousness, I don’t know. But that’s what he was saying here because the Ephesians had this counterfeit religious system and he’s saying come to the pure. Don’t let anything falsify what the Spirit wants to do. Don’t let anything falsify what God can do by filling you with His Spirit. What a tremendous truth this is. Just a fantastic reality. That we don’t need anything in the world. You know, Satan is the ape of God and he’ll always add some artificial thing, phony joy, phony fellowship, phony communion. Now, I think that that’s just precisely what Paul is talking about in Ephesians.
Now you can look back at Ephesians 5. Let me show you something interesting. The reason I think this is a religious issue here is because of the context. Involved in those pagan religions, when they got drunk, they went into their liturgy. When they got drunk, they went into their singing and their dancing and their wild activity, and that’s what’s in Paul’s mind and that is indicated by the fact that he follows verse 18 with the true Christian liturgy in verse 19. The true Christian liturgy is to speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord and then giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and submitting yourselves, one to another, in the fear of God. You see, he’s contrasting the spiritual, real liturgy with the phoniness that Satan had invented. That’s his point. Well, I think you see.
You’re not a man of distinction when you get drunk. You don’t distinguish yourself at all. You get drunk; you’re not distinct from anything. You are just parroting Satan’s age-old lie, and there’s no civilization in the world that hasn’t invented a way to get drunk because Satan is after it all the time. I’ve driven down the roads in the jungles of Ecuador and watched the Indians stagger from side to side with stuff they make out of some kind of stuff they grind with their feet and push with rocks and every culture I’ve ever known. I’ve seen it in the Arab world. I’ve seen it all over the place. Everywhere I’ve ever gone, every city I’ve ever been in. Ancient peoples. I think it’s part of the curse. I think that when God cursed the earth, it became possible for the fruit of the earth to be corrupted to the point where Satan could use it to destroy.
And so Paul says, “Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess.” Could I say a word about the word “excess”? Asōtia . It means uncontrolled dissipation. Uncontrolled dissipation. Don’t be drunk because it leads to uncontrolled dissipation. And another way to translate asōtia is with the word “debauchery.” Debauchery. But be filled with the Spirit. What a beautiful contrast. Oh, what a beautiful and simple contrast.
Look at your life. What is it controlled by? Where do you find your joy? Where do you find your exhilaration? Where do you find your comfort? In a bottle? Ah, that’s so artificial. Now, somebody might say, “Well, it says don’t be drunk but what about if you just drink and don’t get drunk? What about that?” Well, that’s for next time. And next Sunday morning, I’m going to give you seven principles by which you can know what you ought to do in relation to this subject. Let’s pray.
Thank you, Father, for helping us this morning to get some insight into Your Word. Lord, my prayer is that this little verse tucked away almost nondescriptly in the midst of this letter will have an impact on our lives like it’s never had before. What You’re really saying is You have a totally new resource for joy, for comfort, for exhilaration, for fulfillment, for communion with God than the world has never known and it’s the filling of the Holy Spirit. The world wants to fill itself up with so many things. Wine, alcohol, money, pleasure, possessions. And You’ve simply said fill yourself with the Spirit and stay that way, that your response might not be the phoniness and the hangovers that the world has but it might be speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, and giving thanks and submitting one to another and loving your husbands and loving your wives and caring for your children and all of these things that flow out of this text.
Father, help us to know the simplicity of what it is to be controlled by Your Spirit. And help us to know this, that more than anything else, You desire to fill us with Your Spirit and all You ask that we should do is to empty ourselves of ourselves so that the Spirit can rush into the vacuum and fill us. Thus can we commune with You, thus can we reach levels of spiritual consciousness undreamed of, thus can we know what it is to be filled with all the fullness of God, thus can we understand how it is that we can do exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us. And Lord, as we look forward to next time, to talk about this whole issue of should a Christian drink, help us to prepare our hearts for what Your Word says. We thank you for our fellowship this morning. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information