"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21)Paul is not condemning the drinking of alcohol, but the drinking to excess. Many of our sins today come from pressing the blessings of God to excess. God has created all things good, but when we pursue them apart from moderation, we end up serving the flesh and venture into sin. There is an interesting allegorical prophetic statement in the book of Judges that reads, "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?'" (Judges 9:12-13) Wine is good when it is used for good purposes and can even cheer the heart of man. Even Solomon said, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter." (Proverbs 31:6) However, when taken to excess, like all the good things of God, it causes ruin, hurt, and destruction. This applies not only to wine but to excess in all forms, for example, excess in food, sex, speech, and luxury. In all these things, we are called to moderation.
Paul says that drunkenness leads to dissipation, This is a very interesting Greek word. It is a compound of a negative particle and a derivative of the Greek word "sozo". This word means to be delivered, saved, protected, and made whole. It is often used in speaking of the salvation that God has brought to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) Here the word "saved" is the Greek word "sozo". What Paul is saying is that the kind of dissipation and excess that is produced by drunkenness and all other forms of excess in our lives leads us to the very opposite of what God intends for us. It leads us to anti-salvation, non-protection, and deteriorating wholeness. Being intoxicated with the things of this world leads us away from salvation and destroyed what little good that remains in our life. I once knew a man who was a believer yet started visiting bars with his friends. He began drinking and his drinking became more frequent. In six short months he went from a believer to being arrested for a crime he couldn't remember and being ordered not to see his wife and children. In six months, drink had cost him everything that was dear to him. He experienced the anti-salvation of excess and was a very broken man. Paul would have us to spare ourselves this tragedy by practicing temperance in every area of our lives.
Overcoming excess in our lives is not easy and many fall again and again into the same pattern of sin. The secret to overcoming any negative pattern in our live if to replace it with a better pattern of living. Here, for example, Paul is exhorting us to replace a pattern of drunkenness with a pattern of being filled with the Spirit. So how does one get filled with the Holy Spirit? Jesus told us when He said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) Being filled with the Spirit requires a relationship with God. This is more than mere belief in God but a child like relationship where the child is free to ask of their father for the things they need. Only those in right relationship with the Father have the access and favor of God to ask for the Holy Spirit that they might receive Him and be filled with Him in every way.
Once filled, remaining filled with the Holy Spirit requires us to adopt a new pattern of living. This new pattern of living effects both how we live internally to ourselves and how we live externally towards others. While the NASU translation translates this verse as "speaking to one another," an alternate translations is, "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19 Darby) which makes more since as very few of us go around singing to our neighbor. There is an internal meditation that both welcomes the Holy Spirit and flows from Him and which is both pleasing to God and beneficial to our soul. Music has a powerful influence on the soul and those who learn to use it to feed their soul nourish themselves with true spiritual food. Along with our internal worship of God, our outward gratitude and thanksgiving to God also strengthens us and renews our mind as our mind listens to and participates in our thanksgiving to God.
As we renewing our mind with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and thanksgiving, we are also called to new way of living towards others. When we learn to live in a way that grants deference towards others and considers other's needs before our own, we break the strangle hold that our flesh has on our lives. Our lives no longer become all about us, but we begin to learn what it means to live in community and fellowship with others. David wrote, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing — life forever." (Psalms 133) God promises a blessing for those who have learned to dwell together in peace and unity and that blessing is "life forever." It is one thing to be filled individually with the Holy Spirit, but it is another to be filled together with the Holy Spirit. When we learn to walk in unity we together experience the filling of the Holy Spirit and we are all changed together as we truly become one in Him.