P. S. Wilmot
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Another translation is
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 5:8
Ephesians 5:18 does not condone moderate drinking, the idea here, was a warning against the drunken culture of that day, which is similar to now. The warning is simple, don’t be intoxicated like the drunk.
For Christians who read this as an approval to get intoxicated, it is their attempt to cover the guilt of drunkenness by justifying their drinking habit.
Furthermore, the word “excess” used in the verse is from the Greek word asōtia, which means, riot. Now, with that in mind, this is how it should be read. Be not drunk with wine, IN RIOTS; but be filled with the Spirit.
There are two things happening in the verse:
1 – The diagnosis of the problem
When the soul of mankind is empty, he seeks means to fill it up, by blocking the reality of the discomfort, and alcohol through intoxication is one of the presumptions for a relief.
2 – The cure to the problem is to be filled with the Spirit.
Therein, the believer learns to depend on God, even in discomfort. He or she is not quick to act, but to trust that God can, and will make a way, even if it seems like there is no way.
Concerning this, MacLaren said, to be filled with the Spirit is the way to possess all the highest forms of the good which men are tempted to intoxication to secure, and which in it they find only for a moment, and which is coarse and unreal.
Now, viewing this from today’s terminology, imagine an adult and an adolescent. Let the reader put themselves in the position of the adolescent, or in the position of the adult.
The adult said to the adolescent, do not steal like the criminals who are incarcerated, but follow the right influence.
Is the adult condoning a lesser form of robbery? No, likewise, when the Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians 5:18 by saying; be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, herein, he is not condoning moderate drinking. The focus shouldn’t be how much alcohol not to drink. Rather, how can I live a life wherein, I am not depending on alcohol for a temporal relief, or the longing of pleasure which will lead to a gap in the soul and an emptiness from within.
Notice, the preceding verse before verse 18, expressing its meaning in today's terminology, we are told; be careful how you live. Don't live like ignorant people, but likewise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have because these are evil days. Don't be fools, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.