What does Ephesians 5:18 mean?
ESV - 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
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The city of Ephesus was one of the leading cities of the Roman province of Asia Minor (today modern-day Turkey). One of the most popular gods in that region was Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of the grapevine, of wine, of ecstasy, fertility, and sexuality. The Roman name for Dionysus is Bacchus. The annual Dionysian festival was a wild party. The followers of Dionysus would attempt to become "filled with the spirit of Dionysus" by getting drunk on wine. The idea was that by ingesting wine - you ingested the god and became one with the spirit of Dionysus. The Roman name for this annual festival is Bacchanalia. All of the drunkenness and sexual license at the annual Bacchanalia would obviously lead to things that people would regret the next morning. Mardi-gras is a Bacchanalia. Paul knows that new Christians may still think they are able to participate in these annual Dionysian events. Paul, of course, knows better and wants them to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God - which leads to goodness, dignity, strength, and peace - instead of the spirit of Dionysus. Paul's eyes are wide open. He knows what happens at these festivals. All of Ephesians 5 is encouraging the followers in Ephesus to make sure they are imitating Christ. He knows that their personal witness is what makes following Christ in Ephesus so different from the other gods. It seems to me that this advice still applies today. Many people worship the experience of getting filled with the spirit of the party - Mardi-gras, spring break, Las Vegas, etc. This will not lead to any good but rather, as Paul says, will lead to "reckless indiscretion." God's words to us through Paul still matter today.
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