Summary: 1) The Prohibition (Ephesians 5:18a), 2) The Product (Ephesians 5:18b), 3) The Principle (Ephesians 5:18c)
A common summer event is the music festival. Located on large public venue's, they are a mixture of music, food and crowds. Naturally festivals differ one from another, but some of the more extreme bear little difference from ancient pagan rites. Drugs, psychedelic lighting, ear–pounding music, and suggestive lyrics and antics all combine to produce near–hysteria in many of the performers and spectators. It is significant that much of this subculture is directly involved in one or more of the Eastern, mystical religions that teach greater spiritual awareness through escape into supposed higher levels of consciousness induced by drugs, repetition of prescribed names or words, and other such superstitious and demonic means.
Ephesus was a center for the cult of Dionysus (Greek, “Bacchus”), the god of wine. Celebrations in honor of Dionysus emphasized fertility, sex, and intoxication. Intoxication, (the cult members believed) would allow Dionysus to control the body of the worshiper. Thus the worshiper would do the will of the deity. Paul was saying in 5:18, “Don’t be filled with the spirit of Dionysus through wine (Hughes, R. B., & Laney, J. C. (2001). Tyndale concise Bible commentary (p. 595). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)
Before Paul commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” and gave the characteristics of the Spirit–filled life (vv. 18b–21), he first gave a contrasting and negative command, And do not get drunk with wine. This is a PRESENT PASSIVE IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which usually means to stop an act in process (Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 128). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.)
In light of the apostle’s preceding contrasts between light and darkness (vv. 8–14) and between wisdom and foolishness (vv. 15–17), his point here is that getting drunk is a mark of darkness and foolishness and that being filled with the Spirit is the source of a believer’s being able to walk in light and wisdom.
The problem with drinking in order to be happy is not the motive but the means. It brings only artificial happiness at best and is counterproductive to spiritual sensitivity. It is a temporary escape that often leads to even worse problems than the ones that prompted the drinking in the first place. Intoxication is never a healthy remedy for the cares of life, but it has few equals in its ability to multiply them. Intoxication is not the effective remedy for the cares and worries of this life. The so-called “uplift” it provides is not real. It is the devil’s poor substitute for the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” which God provides. Satan is ever substituting the bad for the good (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 239). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).