5:18 drunk with wine. This is more than a prohibition of simple drunkenness. Paul probably refers to an orgiastic form of worship such as was practiced by the cult of Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine. Worship of Dionysus involved drunken states in which the god was thought to enter the bodies of worshipers, inspiring prophecy and frenzied dancing and music. Such worship is “debauchery.”
be filled with the Spirit. While the sealing of the Spirit (1:13, 14; 4:30) is a once-for-all initiation into the Christian life, the filling of the Spirit applies to all the Christian life. This filling is not only repeatable, but is to be sought again and again. In the parallel passage in Colossians, Paul tells Christians to let the “peace of Christ” govern their hearts and to allow the “word of Christ” to dwell in them richly (Col. 3:15, 16). The one who is filled with the Spirit is filled with Christ and His word (John 14:16, 26; 16:12–15; 17:17).
5:19 one another … to the Lord. Worship is offered to God alone. At the same time, in corporate worship there is a human audience as well since people worship together and address each other for their mutual benefit (1 Cor. 14; Heb. 10:24).
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. See “Music in the Church” at Col. 3:16.
5:18 be filled by the Spirit In the Greek text of Ephesians, this command provides the basis for Paul’s statements in vv. 19–21, all of which describe the outworking of being filled with the Spirit.
5:19 psalms and hymns and spiritual songs Refers to a variety of songs used in Christian worship, probably including the ot psalms (compare Col 3:16).
5:18 Wine was the staple drink of the ancient Mediterranean world and was fermented in order to preserve it from turning into vinegar. be filled with the Spirit. As earlier (see note on 4:28), Paul expresses a negative exhortation (what the saints are to stop doing) along with a positive command (what the saints are to start doing). Whereas wine can control the mind and ruin one’s judgment and sense of propriety, leading to debauchery, in contrast with this, being “filled with the Spirit” leads to self-control along with the other fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [and] gentleness” (Gal. 5:22–23). The command in Greek (plērousthe) is a present imperative and does not describe a onetime “filling” but a regular pattern of life.
5:19 Being filled with the Spirit results in joyful praise through singing and making melody. This may refer to different kinds of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs found in the OT Psalter. It seems more likely, however, that Paul is referring both to the canonical psalms and to contemporary compositions of praise (see also Col. 3:16). “Spiritual” communicates the influence of the Holy Spirit’s filling (Eph. 5:18) in the believer’s acts of praise.
5:18 And do not get drunk with wine. Although Scripture consistently condemns all drunkenness (see notes on Pr 23:29–35; 31:4, 5; Is 5:11, 12; 28:7, 8; cf. 1Co 5:11; 1Pe 4:3), the context suggests that Paul is here speaking especially about the drunken orgies commonly associated with many pagan worship ceremonies of that day. They were supposed to induce some ecstatic communion with the deities. Paul refers to such as the “cup of demons” (see note on 1Co 10:19, 20). but be filled with the Spirit. See notes on Ac 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3. True communion with God is not induced by drunkenness, but by the Holy Spirit. Paul is not speaking of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Ro 8:9) or the baptism by Christ with the Holy Spirit (1Co 12:13), because every Christian is indwelt and baptized by the Spirit at the time of salvation. He is rather giving a command for believers to live continually under the influence of the Spirit by letting the Word control them (see note on Col 3:16), pursuing pure lives, confessing all known sin, dying to self, surrendering to God’s will, and depending on His power in all things. Being filled with the Spirit is living in the conscious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, letting His mind, through the Word, dominate everything that is thought and done. Being filled with the Spirit is the same as walking in the Spirit (see notes on Gal 5:16–23). Christ exemplified this way of life (Lk 4:1).
5:19–21 These verses summarize the immediate personal consequences of obeying the command to be filled with the Spirit, namely singing, giving thanks, and humbly submitting to others. The rest of the epistle features instruction based on obedience to this command
5:19 speaking to one another. This is to be public (Heb 2:12). Cf. Pss 33:1; 40:3; 96:1, 2; 149:1; Ac 16:25; Rev 14:3. psalms. Old Testament psalms put to music, primarily, but the term was used also of vocal music in general. The early church sang the Psalms. hymns. Perhaps songs of praise distinguished from the Psalms which exalted God, in that they focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. spiritual songs. Probably songs of personal testimony expressing truths of the grace of salvation in Christ. making melody. Lit. means to pluck a stringed instrument, so it could refer primarily to instrumental music, while including vocal also. with your heart to the Lord. Not just public, but private. The Lord Himself is both the source and the object of the believer’s song-filled heart. That such music pleases God can be seen in the account of the temple dedication, when the singing so honored the Lord that His glory came down (2Ch 5:12, 14).
5:18 Just as a person who is drunk with wine is under the control of alcohol, so a Spirit-filled believer is controlled by the Spirit. filled: Filling is a step beyond the sealing of the Holy Spirit (1:13). Sealing is an action God took at the point of our new birth. The tense of the Greek word translated filled indicates that filling is a moment-by-moment, repeatable action. It is something Paul commands the believers at Ephesus to do. In other words, not all Christians are Spirit-filled, but all have been sealed (4:30).
5:19 One of the natural outcomes of being filled with the Spirit is singing and making melody to God. Some take the three types of music that Paul mentions in this verse to refer to different parts of the Book of Psalms. Most believe that these words refer to three larger categories: (1) the 150 psalms in the Psalter, plus other psalmlike poems throughout the Scripture; (2) hymns, compositions addressed directly to God, like the modern song “How Great Thou Art”; (3) spiritual songs, hymns about the Christian experience, like “Amazing Grace.”
5:18. Paul continues to show what wise living looks like. It is not being drunk with wine, in which is dissipation. But it is being filled with the Spirit, in which are many blessings (vv 19–21).
There are two major opinions on what Paul means by the filling of the Spirit here, both of which are found in Acts. One meaning is special enablement for special tasks (cf. Acts 4:31). The other is being spiritual, that is, spiritually mature. When the believers chose the first deacons, the apostles said to pick men “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (6:3). To be full of wisdom means to be wise, and so to be full of the Holy Spirit means to be spiritual.
Paul might be saying that believers should allow themselves to be controlled by the Spirit by yielding to the influence of the Word of God on their minds. As wine influences the mind, so too does God’s Spirit when one is abiding in Christ (John 15:1–5). If this is what Paul means, he is calling believers actively to seek to be under the Holy Spirit’s influence via the Word (cf. Col 3:16, which parallels Eph 5:19–20). Or he might simply be calling them to be spiritual, again by allowing God’s Word to have its influence (cf. 1 Cor 2:14–16).
5:19. The result of being filled with the Spirit, unlike drunkenness, is positive things. These positives are corporate and occur in local church meetings. These include speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. As believers worship God together, they sing to God with each other. Music sung to the Lord must be biblically accurate and must be given with a heart of gratitude (Col 3:16).
5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation. In our North American culture, such a command seems almost shocking and unnecessary, since total abstinence is the rule among so many Christians. But we must remember that the Bible was written for believers in all cultures, and in many countries wine is still a fairly common beverage on the table. The Scriptures do not condemn the use of wine, but they do condemn its abuse. The use of wine as a medicine is recommended (Prov. 31:6; 1 Tim. 5:23). The Lord Jesus made wine for use as a beverage at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1–11).
But the use of wine becomes abuse under the following circumstances and is then forbidden:
- When it leads to excess (Prov. 23:29–35).
- When it becomes habit-forming (1 Cor. 6:12b).
- When it offends the weak conscience of another believer (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9).
- When it hurts a Christian’s testimony in the community and is therefore not to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
- When there is any doubt in the Christian’s mind about it (Rom. 14:23).
Paul’s recommended alternative to being drunk with wine is being filled with the Spirit. This connection too may startle us at first, but when we compare and contrast the two states, we see why the apostle links them in this way.
First, there are certain similarities:
- In both conditions, the person is under a power outside himself. In one case it is the power of intoxicating liquor (sometimes called “spirits”); in the other case it is the power of the Spirit.
- In both conditions, the person is fervent. On the Day of Pentecost, the fervency produced by the Spirit was mistaken for that produced by new wine (Acts 2:13).
- In both conditions, the person’s walk is affected—his physical walk in the case of drunkenness and his moral behavior in the other instance.
But there are two ways in which the two conditions present sharp contrasts:
- In the case of drunkenness, there is dissipation and debauchery. The Spirit’s filling never produces these.
- In the case of drunkenness, there is loss of self-control. But the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal. 5:23). A believer who is filled with the Spirit is never transported outside himself where he can no longer control his actions; the spirit of a prophet is always subject to the prophet (1 Cor. 14:32).
Sometimes in the Bible, the filling with the Spirit seems to be presented as a sovereign gift of God. For instance, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). In such a case, the person receives it without any prior conditions to be met. It is not something for which he works or prays; the Lord gives it as He pleases. Here in Ephesians 5:18 the believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It involves action on his part. He must meet certain conditions. It is not automatic but the result of obedience.
For this reason the Spirit’s filling should be distinguished from certain other of His ministries. It is not the same as any of the following functions:
- The baptism by the Holy Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit which incorporates the believer in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
- The indwelling. By this ministry the Comforter takes up His residence in the body of the Christian and empowers him for holiness, worship, and service (John 14:16).
- The anointing. The Spirit Himself is the anointing who teaches the child of God the things of the Lord (1 John 2:27).
- The earnest and the seal. We have already seen that the Holy Spirit as the earnest guarantees the inheritance for the saint, and as the seal He guarantees the saint for the inheritance (Eph. 1:13, 14).
These are some of the ministries of the Spirit which are realized in a person the moment he is saved. Everyone who is in Christ automatically has the baptism, the indwelling, the anointing, the earnest, and the seal.
But the filling is different. It is not a once-for-all crisis experience in the life of a disciple; rather it is a continuous process. The literal translation of the command is “Be being filled with the Spirit.” It may begin as a crisis experience, but it must continue thereafter as a moment-by-moment process. Today’s filling will not do for tomorrow. And certainly it is a state greatly to be desired. In fact, it is the ideal condition of the believer on earth. It means that the Holy Spirit is having His way relatively ungrieved in the life of the Christian, and that the believer is therefore fulfilling his role in the plan of God for that time.
How then can a believer be filled with the Spirit? The Apostle Paul does not tell us here in Ephesians; he merely commands us to be filled. But from other parts of the word, we know that in order to be filled with the Spirit we must:
- Confess and put away all known sin in our lives (1 John 1:5–9). It is obvious that such a holy Person cannot work freely in a life where sin is condoned.
- Yield ourselves completely to His control (Rom. 12:1, 2). This involves the surrender of our will, our intellect, our body, our time, our talents, and our treasures. Every area of life must be thrown open to His dominion.
- Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). This involves reading the word, studying it, and obeying it. When the word of Christ dwells in us richly, the same results follow (Col. 3:16) as follow the filling of the Spirit (Eph. 5:19).
- Finally, we must be emptied of self (Gal. 2:20). To be filled with a new ingredient a cup must first be emptied of the old. To be filled with Him, we must first be emptied of us.
An unknown author writes:
Just as you have left the whole burden of your sin, and have rested on the finished work of Christ, so leave the whole burden of your life and service, and rest upon the present inworking of the Holy Spirit. Give yourself up, morning by morning, to be led by the Holy Spirit and go forth praising and at rest, leaving Him to manage you and your day. Cultivate the habit all through the day, of joyfully depending upon and obeying Him, expecting Him to guide, to enlighten, to reprove, to teach, to use, and to do in and with you what He wills. Count upon His working as a fact, altogether apart from sight or feeling. Only let us believe in and obey the Holy Spirit as the Ruler of our lives, and cease from the burden of trying to manage ourselves; then shall the fruit of the Spirit appear in us as He wills to the glory of God.
Does a person know it when he is filled with the Spirit? Actually, the closer we are to the Lord, the more we are conscious of our own complete unworthiness and sinfulness (Isa. 6:1–5). In His presence, we find nothing in ourselves to be proud of (Luke 5:8). We are not aware of any spiritual superiority over others, any sense of “having arrived.” The believer who is filled with the Spirit is occupied with Christ and not with self.
At the same time, he may have a realization that God is working in and through his life. He sees things happen in a supernatural way. Circumstances click miraculously. Lives are touched for God. Events move according to a divine timetable. Even forces of nature are on his side; they seem chained to the chariot wheels of the Lord. He sees all this; he realizes that God is working for and through him; and yet he feels strangely detached from it all as far as taking any credit is concerned. In his inmost being, he realizes it is all of the Lord.
5:19 Now the apostle gives four results of being filled with the Spirit. First, Spirit-filled Christians speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The divine infilling opens the mouth to talk about the things of the Lord, and enlarges the heart to share these things with others. While some see all three categories as parts of the Book of Psalms, we understand only psalms to mean the inspired writings of David, Asaph, and others. Hymns are noninspired songs which ascribe worship and praise directly to God. Spiritual songs are any other lyrical compositions dealing with spiritual themes, even though not addressed directly to God.
A second evidence of the filling is inward joy and praise to God: singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The Spirit-filled life is a fountain, bubbling over with joy (Acts 13:52). Zacharias is an illustration: when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he sang with all his heart to the Lord (Luke 1:67–79).
18. And do not get drunk on wine, which is associated with unrestrained living, but be filled with the Spirit. There are times when exhilaration of heart and mind is entirely proper. Scripture makes mention of shouting for joy (Ps. 5:11; 32:11; 35:27; etc.), fulness of joy (Ps. 16:11), good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10), joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Exhilaration is wrong, however, when the method of inducing it is wrong. Thus it is improper to seek excitement from the excessive use of wine. It is the abuse of wine that is forbidden, not the use (1 Tim. 5:23). That such abuse was a real danger in the early church, as it certainly is also today, appears from such restrictions as the following: “The overseer therefore must be above reproach … not (one who lingers) beside (his) wine” (1 Tim. 3:3; cf. Titus 1:7); “Deacons similarly (must be) dignified, not … addicted to much wine” (1 Tim. 3:8); and “Urge aged women similarly (to be) reverent in demeanor … not enslaved to much wine” (Titus 2:3).
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. Has he not been called “the ape of God”? Getting drunk on wine is “associated with unrestrained living” or “dissolute behavior,” “recklessness” (Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4). It marks the person who, if he so continues, cannot be saved. But he need not so continue. The prodigal son of the unforgettable parable lived recklessly (an adverb cognate with the noun recklessness or unrestrained living occurring here in Eph. 5:18). Extravagance and lack of self-control were combined in his behavior, just as in all likelihood they are combined in the meaning of the word “unrestrained living” used in this passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Nevertheless, there was salvation for him when he repented. Let anyone who may read this take courage (Isa. 1:18; Ezek. 33:11; 1 John 1:9).
The real remedy for sinful inebriation is pointed out by Paul. The Ephesians are urged to seek a higher, far better, source of exhilaration. Instead of getting drunk let them be filled. Instead of getting drunk on wine let them be filled with the Spirit. Note the double contrast. Although it is true that the apostle makes use of a word, namely, pneúma, which in the translation should at times be spelled with, at other times without, a capital letter (hence “Spirit” or “spirit”), it should be capitalized in this instance, as is often the case. Paul was undoubtedly thinking of the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Evidence in support of this view: a. the expression “filled with” or “full of” the pneúma, when the reference is to the Holy Spirit, is very common in Scripture (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55; 9:17; 13:9); and b. the very contrast here in 5:18 between getting drunk on wine and being filled with the pneúma occurs also, though in a slightly different form, in Acts 2:4, 13, where the reference can only be to the Holy Spirit.
By the ancients, moreover, an overdose of wine was often used not only to rid oneself of care and to gain a sense of mirth but also to induce communion with the gods and, by means of this communion, to receive ecstatic knowledge, not otherwise obtainable. Such foolishness, often associated with Dionysiac orgies, is by the apostle contrasted with the serene ecstasy and sweet fellowship with Christ which he himself was experiencing in the Spirit when he wrote this letter to the Ephesians (see on 1:3; 3:20). What he is saying therefore is this: getting drunk on wine leads to nothing better than debauchery, will not place you in possession of worthwhile pleasure, usable knowledge, and perfect contentment. It will not help you but hurt you. It leaves a bad taste and produces no end of woe (cf. Prov. 23:29–32). On the other hand, being filled with the Spirit will enrich you with the precious treasures of lasting joy, deep insight, and inner satisfaction. It will sharpen your faculties for the perception of the divine will. Note the immediate context, verse 17. So, “do not get drunk on wine, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Being thus filled with the Spirit believers will not only be enlightened and joyful but will also give jubilant expression to their refreshing knowledge of the will of God. They will reveal their discoveries and their feelings of gratitude. Hence Paul continues: 19. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The term psalms in all probability has reference, at least mainly, to the Old Testament Psalter; hymns, mainly to New Testament songs of praise to God and to Christ (verse 14 above, in which Christ is praised as the Source of light, containing perhaps lines from one of these hymns); and finally, spiritual songs, mainly to sacred lyrics dwelling on themes other than direct praise to God or to Christ. There may, however, be some overlapping in the meaning of these three terms as used here by Paul.
The point to note is that by means of these psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, Spirit-filled believers must speak to each other. They are not merely reciting what they have committed to memory. “Daughter, do you know that your Redeemer lives?” said the director to the soloist. After an affirmative answer he continued, “Then sing it again, and this time tell us about it.” She did, and there were tears of joy and thanksgiving in every eye. Continued: singing and making melody from your heart to the Lord. The idea of some that in the two parts of this one verse the apostle has reference to two kinds of singing: a. audible (“speaking”) and b. inaudible (“in the stillness of the heart”), must be dismissed. If that had been his intention, he would have inserted the conjunction and or and also between the two parts. The two are clearly parallel. The second explains and completes the first: when believers get together they should not be having wild parties but should edify each other, speaking to one another in Christian song, and doing so from the heart, to the praise and honor of their blessed Lord. They should make music with the voice (“singing”) or in any proper way whatever, whether with voice or instrument (“making melody”). Cf. Rom. 15:9); 1 Cor. 14:15; James 5:13. For further details of interpretation see N.T.C. on Colossians and Philemon, pp. 160–163 where a closely similar passage (Col. 3:16) is discussed more at length.
Ver. 18.—And be not intoxicated with wine, wherein is dissoluteness. Drunkenness is suggested because it is a work of darkness; it is the foe to vigilance and earnestness, and it leads all who yield to it to act unwisely. It is the social aspect of drunkenness the apostle has in view—the exhilarating influence of wine in company, giving a rush of high spirits. Ἀσωτία, from α and σωζω, the opposite of savingness, wastefulness, dissoluteness, or the process of being dissolved, involving perdition. Spoken of the prodigal son, “riotous living;” the habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin. But be filled with the Spirit. Instead of resorting to wine to cheer and animate you, throw your hearts open to the Holy Spirit, so that he may come and fill them; seek the joy that the Spirit inspires when he makes you to sit with Christ in heavenly places, so that, instead of pouring out your joyous feelings in bacchanalian songs, you may do so in Christian hymns.
Ver. 19.—Speaking to one another. Literally, this would denote antiphonal singing, but this is rather an artificial idea for so simple times. It seems here to denote one person singing one hymn, then another another, and so on; and the meetings would seem to have been for social Christian enjoyment rather than for the public worship of God. In the Epistle to the Colossians it is, “Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms,” and this has more of the idea of public worship; and if it be proper to express joyful feelings in the comparatively private social gatherings of Christians, it is proper to do the same in united public worship. In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The precise meaning of these terms is not easily seen; “psalms” we should naturally apply to the Old Testament psalms, but the want of the article makes the meaning more general, equivalent to “songs with the character of the psalms;” “hymns,” songs celebrating the praises of the Divine Being, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; “spiritual songs” or odes of a more general cast, meditative, historical, hortatory, or didactic. But these must be “spiritual,” such as the Holy Spirit would lead us to use and would use with us for our good. The two clauses correspond: “be filled with the Spirit;” “speaking in spiritual songs.” Receive the Spirit—pour out the Spirit; let your songs be effusions sent forth from your hearts with the aroma of the Holy Spirit. Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; i.e. to the Lord Jesus. Some have argued that while ᾄδοντες denotes singing, ψάλλοντες means striking the musical instrument. But ψάλλω is so frequently used in a more general sense, that it can hardly be restricted to this meaning here. The great thought is that this musical service must not be musical only, but a service of the heart, in rendering which the heart must be in a state of worship.
18. excess—worthless, ruinous, reckless prodigality.
wherein—not in the wine itself when used aright (1 Ti 5:23), but in the “excess” as to it.
but be filled with the Spirit—The effect in inspiration was that the person was “filled” with an ecstatic exhilaration, like that caused by wine; hence the two are here connected (compare Ac 2:13–18). Hence arose the abstinence from wine of many of the prophets, for example, John the Baptist, namely, in order to keep distinct before the world the ecstasy caused by the Spirit, from that caused by wine. So also in ordinary Christians the Spirit dwells not in the mind that seeks the disturbing influences of excitement, but in the well-balanced prayerful mind. Such a one expresses his joy, not in drunken or worldly songs, but in Christian hymns of thankfulness.
- (Col 3:16).
to yourselves—“to one another.” Hence soon arose the antiphonal or responsive chanting of which Pliny writes to Trajan: “They are wont on a fixed day to meet before daylight [to avoid persecution] and to recite a hymn among themselves by turns, to Christ, as if being God.” The Spirit gives true eloquence; wine, a spurious eloquence.
psalms—generally accompanied by an instrument.
hymns—in direct praise to God (compare Ac 16:25; 1 Co 14:26; Jam 5:13).
songs—the general term for lyric pieces; “spiritual” is added to mark their being here restricted to sacred subjects, though not merely to direct praises of God, but also containing exhortations, prophecies, &c. Contrast the drunken “songs,” Am 8:10.
making melody—Greek, “playing and singing with an instrument.”
in your heart—not merely with the tongue; but the serious feeling of the heart accompanying the singing of the lips (compare 1 Co 14:15; Ps 47:7). The contrast is between the heathen and the Christian practice, “Let your songs be not the drinking songs of heathen feasts, but psalms and hymns; and their accompaniment, not the music of the lyre, but the melody of the heart” [Conybeare and Howson].
to the Lord—See Pliny’s letter quoted above: “To Christ as God.”
5:18 / Ephesians 5:18–21 is an exhortation directed toward the worshiping community and stands in sharp contrast to the attitudes and actions of those who live in darkness (5:8–12). Instead of prohibiting certain conduct and conversation, the believers are encouraged to express their spiritual joy with song and thanksgiving. In 5:15–17, they are reminded to be wise and learn God’s will; in 5:18–21 they are shown how that is accomplished.
These verses are adapted from Colossians 3:16, but here the main emphasis is upon the Spirit rather than on Christ’s message (the word of Christ). The admonition—do not get drunk on wine—leads one to suspect that the author was thinking about religious cults, such as the worship of Dionysus, in which intoxication manifested itself in wild frenzies and ecstatic behavior that were interpreted in religious terms. Christians have a better way of experiencing spiritual elation—it is by being filled with the Spirit.
It should be noted that this is not a prohibition against the use of wine but against the excessive use of any alcoholic beverage leading to drunkenness (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 2:3; asōtia, “debauchery,” “profligacy,” “waste”). The contrast is not between wine and the Spirit but between the two states that they produce: Intoxication with wine has a degrading effect; intoxication with the Spirit (cf. Acts 2:13) can have an uplifting effect upon the Christian community.
5:19 / This uplifting effect manifests itself in several ways. One is in worship: This verse suggests that early Christian worship had a spontaneity about it and had not become fixed by liturgical order. Psalms (psalmos), hymns (hymnos) and spiritual songs (ōdais pneumatikais) are listed as ways believers can praise the Lord. Though it is impossible to make any real distinctions between these categories (cf. disc. on Col. 3:16), some authors think that psalms are ot musical pieces accompanied by the plucking of strings, as on a harp; hymns are songs of praise to God; and spiritual songs are more spontaneous pieces of inspired music or words of exhortation. The important thing is that such worship is a corporate, not an individual, experience. Believers are to speak to one another as they praise the Lord.
18 “Do not be intoxicated with wine” is yet another OT quotation—from Prov. 23:31 (LXX).55 It is introduced here not so much for its own sake (although such a warning is never untimely) as for the sake of its antithesis: “be filled with the Spirit.” Overindulgence in wine leads to dissipation, which is good neither for the winebibber nor for others; the fullness of the Spirit is helpful both for those who are filled with him and for those with whom they associate. The noun rendered “dissipation” appears also in Tit. 1:6 (where the children of church elders must not be chargeable with dissipation) and 1 Pet. 4:4 (in reference to the profligacy which marked the former lives of people recently converted from paganism to Christianity); the corresponding adverb is used of the “riotous living” in which the prodigal son wasted his substance (Luke 15:13).
“Be filled with the Spirit” is literally “Be filled in spirit”; this has given rise to the question whether the human spirit of the believer or the Spirit of God is meant. The same phrase, “in spirit,” occurs in three other places in this letter—in Eph. 2:22, with regard to the new community of believers as the dwelling-place of God; in 3:5, with regard to the revelation of the “mystery” of the new community to God’s “holy apostles and prophets”; and in 6:18, with regard to the prayer life of Christians. In those three places the Holy Spirit is certainly intended, and equally certainly it is he that is intended here. The Holy Spirit is given to believers to fill them with his presence and power. The choice of drunkenness as an antithesis to the fullness of the Spirit is not unparalleled: when the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost the resultant phenomena moved some of the spectators to say in derision that they were “filled with new wine” (Acts 2:13), and Paul had to warn the Corinthians that a stranger, coming into their company when they were all exercising the spiritual gift of tongues, would conclude that they were mad (1 Cor. 14:23). But the Spirit given by God to his children is the Spirit “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7); the normal exercise of intelligence is not eclipsed but enhanced when he is in control.
The antithesis between wine and the Spirit does not suggest that the Spirit is a sort of fluid with which one may be filled, any more than the collocation of baptism in water with baptism in the Spirit suggests that the Spirit is a sort of fluid in which one may be dipped. Whatever grammatical constructions are used, the Spirit operates as a personal subject—“the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
19 If the Spirit is the source of their fullness, then, instead of songs which celebrate the joys of Bacchus, their mouths will be filled with words which build up the lives of others and bring glory to the living and true God. The reference to “psalms, hymns, and Spirit-inspired songs” is reproduced from Col. 3:16. The construction of the clauses is rather different, but the general tenor is the same. The meetings of those early Christians must have been musical occasions, as they not only sang and made melody to the Lord, in their hearts as well as with their tongues, but addressed one another for mutual help and blessing in compositions already known to the community or in songs improvised under immediate inspiration. Testimonies to the prevalence of music in their fellowship and worship have been cited in the exposition and notes on Col. 3:16. One of these testimonies—Pliny’s report of antiphonal singing “to Christ as God”—has a bearing on both clauses in this verse, where the singing is antiphonal (“addressing one another”) and is offered “to the Lord.” The hymn quoted in v. 14 could serve as one example of their “addressing one another.” If “singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” in the present context has as its parallel in Col. 3:16 “singing with thanksgiving in your hearts to God,” it reminds us that in the church, from the earliest days, praise has been offered alike to God and to Christ. Thus in the Apocalypse, where the worship presented by the holy ones before the heavenly throne is echoed by the church on earth, “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, … for thou didst create all things” (Rev. 4:11) has as its counterpart the “new song”: “Worthy art thou, … for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst accomplish redemption” (Rev. 5:9), while both God and Christ are conjoined in the doxology: “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).
18. And be not drunk with wine. When he enjoins them not to be drunk, he forbids excessive and immoderate drinking of every description. “Be not intemperate in drinking.”
In which is lasciviousness. The Greek word ἀσωτία, which is translated “lasciviousness,” points out the evils which arise from drunkenness. I understand by it all that is implied in a wanton and dissolute life; for to translate it luxury, would quite enfeeble the sense. The meaning therefore is, that drunkards throw off quickly every restraint of modesty or shame; that where wine reigns, profligacy naturally follows; and consequently, that all who have any regard to moderation or decency ought to avoid and abhor drunkenness.
The children of this world are accustomed to indulge in deep drinking as an excitement to mirth. Such carnal excitement is contrasted with that holy joy of which the Spirit of God is the Author, and which produces entirely opposite effects. To what does drunkenness lead? To unbounded licentiousness,—to unbridled, indecent merriment. And to what does spiritual joy lead, when it is most strongly excited?
19. To psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. These are truly pleasant and delightful fruits. The Spirit means “joy in the Holy Ghost,” (Rom. 14:17;) and the exhortation, be ye filled, (ver. 18,) alludes to deep drinking, with which it is indirectly contrasted. Speaking to themselves, is speaking among themselves. Nor does he enjoin them to sing inwardly or alone; for he immediately adds, singing in your hearts; as if he had said, “Let your praises be not merely on the tongue, as hypocrites do, but from the heart.” What may be the exact difference between psalms and hymns, or between hymns and songs, it is not easy to determine, though a few remarks on this subject shall be offered on a future occasion. The appellation spiritual, given to these songs, is strikingly appropriate; for the songs most frequently used are almost always on trifling subjects, and very far from being chaste.
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