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Summary: 48th in a series from Ephesians. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means giving Him control of my life.

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A henpecked husband was advised by a psychiatrist to assert himself. "You don’t have to let your wife bully you," she said. "Go home and show her you’re the boss."

The husband decided to take the doctor’s advice. He went home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, "From now on you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now, and when you get it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my clothes. Tonight I am going out with the boys. You are going to stay at home where you belong. Another thing, you know who is going to tie my bow tie?"

"I certainly do," said his wife calmly, "the undertaker."

It seems that we all want to be the boss in our lives. But as we continue our journey through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we’re going to find that we had better rethink that attitude.

Let’s take a moment to review the context for today’s passage. Although verse 18 is part of a larger section of material that starts at 5:15 and continues all the way through 6:9, let’s go ahead and place it in its more immediate context:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV)

You’ll remember that last week, we diagramed this passage as follows:

See then that you walk circumspectly

• not as fools but as wise

o redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

• not ... unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is

• not be drunk with wine ... but ... filled with the Spirit

o speaking...

o singing and making melody...,

o giving thanks ...

o submitting to one another...

The overall command here is to walk circumspectly, or as many translations put it, live carefully. We do that by observing each of the three pairs which are introduced by the word “not” and contrasted by the word “but”. We looked at the first two last week:

• not as fools but as wise, which was further explained by the phrase “redeeming the time, because the days are evil”

• not ... unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is

This morning we’ll look at the third contrast

• not be drunk with wine ... but ... filled with the Spirit

Then we’ll look at the four participle phrases which describe the results of heeding that command next week.

Let’s go ahead and read out loud together the passage we’ll be focusing on this morning:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 (NIV)

This third contrast contains two commands that at first glance may appear to be unrelated. But I don’t think there is any doubt that Paul purposely groups these two commands, as we will clearly see in a moment.

Although Paul is giving his readers a command here that is consistent with the teaching in the rest of Scripture, his main focus here is clearly not the issue of the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Remember that Paul is writing here in a section where he has been pointing out to his readers that, as followers of Jesus Christ, they can no longer continue to live their lives in the same way that they had done so prior to their conversion experience. Paul realized that many of these Gentile believers would have been familiar with, and even previously participated in, the cult of Dionysius, the god of wine. A major feature of that worship was the orgies where the participants became highly intoxicated with wine in order to cause Dionysius to fill the worshiper’s body so he or she would comply with the will of their god.

So the main issue here is not so much drunkenness, but rather the concept of leaving behind the life of darkness these Gentile Christians had once been engulfed in. So I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that part of our passage this morning, other than to say that the Bible very clearly teaches that drunkenness is a sin. On the other hand, one cannot legitimately make the case that the Bible totally prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages, either. That is one of those issues where I believe we need to apply the principle of liberty where we allow others to live out their own convictions. However there are a couple of caveats. First, we can never allow our freedom to become a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And secondly, we should not try force our own personal convictions onto others.

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