College & Career Class Lesson Summary, March 31, 2019
Today we continued on into Ephesians 5, taking careful note of the three things Paul is contrasting: being wise/circumspect and not a fool, understanding the will of the Lord vs being unwise, and being filled with the Spirit vs being drunk with wine.
Ephesians 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
We previous discussed that a wise walk (as a child of light, from verse 8) is a walk that is completely illuminated so that each step you take is in the light of the Father. Rather than being foolish by tearing off into the darkness, Paul would have the believer be wise in their daily lives. The fool is unwise concerning the will of the Lord but he who walks in light, as a child of light, is able to see and comprehend what the will of the Lord is. Being in darkness doesn’t allow one to see, whereas light keeps everything in front of us, as it were, to observe and understand.
We said that there were two aspects to the will of God: a corporate aspect and a personal aspect. The corporate aspect of His will is the grand desire for all believers, regardless of time or space. For example, it is God’s will, as expressed here in Ephesians, that we walk as children of light; that we walk circumspectly; that we understand His will; that we be filled with the Spirit…and so on. This isn’t true for one believer but not for another. However, within the realm of the corporate will of God, we find our individual/personal aspects of His will. When we think about the body of Christ, God has placed each member in the body as it was pleasing to God to do so. Each member (person) has been gifted with abilities to be equipped to function in the body as he/she has been blessed. The individual/personal aspect of His will is that we would fulfill what He has gifted us to be. This will differ from believer to believer because we do not all serve the same function (see 1Corinthians 12). Yet, under the umbrella of the corporate will of God exists the personal will He has for each one of us. And, as we see here in Ephesians 5:18, there is an aspect of His corporate will on display – that we be not drunk with wine, but that we be filled with the Spirit.
We noted that Paul does not say, “Do not drink wine”, but rather “be not drunk with wine.” We noted that there is no verse in the Bible that expressly prohibits the consumption of wine as a universal, black-and-white practice for every believer. We also noted that there were plenty of verses in the Bible that either describe accounts where alcohol is abused or, we find maxims, etc. (ie. in Proverbs) where the abuse of alcohol is mentioned (and derided). This describes a general principle of God – 1Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order. There is a proper use of God’s world and then there is an abuse of God’s world. We need to be careful that we are not creating policies about God based on man’s abuse of His world. Some have taken a full prohibition approach to alcohol (which there is nothing wrong with) and they have done so based on either what they have experienced in their lives or because of good, Godly people in their lives encouraging them not to (which is also fine). Where the wheels come off is drawing a blanket conclusion about God’s view of alcohol based on man’s abuse of it, then force that view on others as if it is the only view that pleases God. Secondly, we should stop and consider that the Bible is the written record of cultures and historical settings that do not exist anymore. One of the downsides of our modern Christian culture is that we rarely stop to consider the actual setting that these folks lived in because of our attempts to find “modern application” in every verse. We should stop doing this. The culture and setting of the day is sufficient to demonstrate the author’s intentions and by recognizing what is going on, at that time, often the grand principle becomes clear (without dropping the scripture into the Dr. Who portal to get it to modern times).
That being said, nothing of what we discussed (as summarized below) was an outright advertisement nor promotion of drinking alcohol–nothing of the sort. However, we cannot honestly take the scriptures’ record and attempt to twist the scriptures so that WE can say something that the SCRIPTURES do not say. There are too many people that want to protect folks from the Bible because the Bible’s culture doesn’t jive with the Christian sub-culture they live in. Let’s just allow the Bible to present itself and the choice you make with the information is on you.
We noted that there are 4 general examples of alcohol references in scripture:
- Proper/Prescribed Alcohol Usage
- Alcohol Negativities (either in practice or in truth)
- Alcohol Abuse
- Alcohol Abstinence
The word alcohol is from an Arabic word that refers to a substance that was created through a distilling process. This word didn’t come about until the 16th or 17th centuries and therefore, you’ll not find it in the Bible. However, during the time of the scriptures, beverages that would be deemed alcoholic (by modern terminology) certainly did exist and these were wine and strong drink. Some have taken wine to simply refer to grape juice. To be sure, wine is certainly grape juice, but it is juice that has undergone a fermentation process, meaning, the sugars of the juice breakdown in alcohols. This drink was absolutely common throughout the Mesopotamian world even in to the Greek and Roman world (and certainly in our modern world as well). However, because of the effects of alcohol on the body, it can be abused, if not used properly.
Below outlines the various aspects of the 4 examples of alcohol references listed above. Some of these could arguably span multiple categories, however, for sake of needing to make a decision, they exist where they exist in my chart. Click the link below to access:
Hopefully you can see that the abuse of God’s world never leads a person to wholesome results. Yet, at the same time, hopefully you can see as the Bible records the culture of the day, that wine was indeed an integral part of the culture and even prescribed by God Himself in the Law.
As alcohol permeated the Ephesian culture (even their pagan practices), Paul wants these Ephesians to not fill themselves with something that leads to debauchery, but rather to allow themselves to be filled with the Spirit of God. Being drunk with wine will certainly fill a person, but it leads to unfruitful works and in the end proves to be nothing more than a waste of time (and usually a reproach and embarrassment brought upon one’s self). Being filled with wine leads to poor decisions, both personally and potentially as would impact those around you. As a child of light, we do not have to fill ourselves with that which is worthless because we aren’t worthless – we were bought with the very blood of Christ. We are of great worth to Him and we have the express opportunity to allow the Spirit to fill us of Himself. The Spirit of God is the presence of God and being filled with His presence leads to good things – like speaking to one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. It also testifies of the unity you have with Him, which is pictured by the marriage union of a husband and wife. All of this will Paul draw on as we finish the chapter.
Our story continues…