The Ephesian believers are a new creation; they were created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before prepared that we might walk in them, (Eph. 2:10). That they were to walk in good works they did not understand as they should have; neither did they understand that they were elected by God in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame in God’s sight (Eph. 1:4). There was sad evidence of many sinful relationships and conditions in this church in Asia Minor; there was lack of love, of upholding each other in love; there was a definite need of warning these Christians that they must maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, (Eph. 4:1-3); also there was a lack of speaking the truth in love, and of the putting off of the lie due to a deep consciousness of being one another’s members, (Eph. 4:25); moreover, there was need of positive walking in love toward one another in forgiving each other for Christ’s sake.
Yes, they were new creatures in Christ!
However, they were far from having perfected sanctification in the fear of God. The “more and more hate sin and cleave to God” is in desperate need of being preached. There was need of Christian admonition. Gospel exhortations were the call of the hour, lest God be tempted in the church and Paul would not be free from the blood of these saints, Was not this Ephesian church the people who are said by Christ to have “lost their first love”? (Rev. 2:4)
Yes, there was a certain light-hearted flirting with sin; there was worldlimindedness in this church. They did not strive to live antithetically in the world, to be in the world yet not of the world. They should have been deeply conscious that they once were darkness, but now are light in the Lord, (Eph. 5:8). Oh, they should truly have walked as children of light, Their association with the world was so easy; they were friends of the world often—a world which says in her heart that there is no God—to the point that they did not rebuke the world for their life of sin and darkness. No, their speech was not seasoned with salt to give grace to those who heard them; they did not rebuke them. Now they must be roused from their spiritual stupor of sin; they must rise from the dead, and Christ shall give them light. Such is their only hope and their solemn calling in Christ.
It is a question of how they have learned Christ, to put off the old man and to put on the new man, which is renewed in them by God’s sovereign grace and power. The matter is one of true conversion, continued sanctification, an unabated battle against the satanic hosts of hell as these energize and inspire natural and unregenerated men.
The Proper Spiritual Narrow-Mindedness, Ephesians 5:18
When I was a young man, I did not have enough money to buy a dish of ice cream. Hence, I was not tempted to buy the wines and hard liquors in the stores. Fact is, that the little grocery store where I went to buy the groceries did not stock these commodities. There was no demand for them; and where no demand is, the business man soon no longer stocks an item. However, we now live in an affluent society; we have all that it takes to live it up a bit and, in the realm of the sociable, to ape the world, pattern our life after the world! We are told not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we may approve what is the good, the perfect, and acceptable will of God, (Rom. 12:1-3).
Worldlimindedness was the sin of the Ephesians!
And Worldlimindedness leads to world-conformity!
Writes Paul here in Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunken with wine wherein is excess.” Paul takes the bull by the horns; he meets the sin head-on by not mincing any words. This becoming drunken with wine must come to a complete halt; it must be utterly banished from their lives by the crucifixion of the flesh, the mortifying of their members upon earth, knowing that our life is hid with Christ in God. This exalted knowledge alone can pluck our feet out of the devil’s clutches. It is clear from the Greek that Paul does not merely warn against possible drunkenness in the church; he is warning them against actual drunkenness with wine. It was an actual sin in which these Ephesians were walking. They were not walking in the good works which God had prepared for them. They lived by the Spirit, but did not walk in the straight and narrow course of God’s precepts. They were turning to the broad way which leadeth to destruction. Now Paul says: stop becoming drunken with wine, wherein is excess.
Here is holy narrow-mindedness!
The evil of wine and becoming drunk with it is exposed. Yes, wine has a good usage. It is a good gift of God. Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when it is received with thanksgiving. But the Ephesians could not give thanks at the end of an evening of excessive living, due to drinking too much wine. God was not in their thoughts in their excesses. They are more like the prodigal who consumed his substance with riotous living. He came to the end of the road of such living. Jesus made wine at the feast of Cana. The Psalmist sings the praises of God’s works and includes wine which makes glad the heart of man. Wine is also used at the table of the Lord. Nevertheless, it is also stated that wine is a mocker, and strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Wine is ever associated, in the worldly use, with excessive living. For excessive living is a life of debauchery, extreme indulgence in sensuality, a profligate behavior which is unbecoming to those who were elected to be holy and without blame before God. In a word, it is a trifling with the grace of election.
Psychologically there is a strong resemblance between being drunk and satiated with wine, and the singing which is the effect of the Spirit. In both cases men are carried away by other powers. In the one case, a man possesses his soul in patience; and in the other, he is a victim of sin, stimulating the fleshly lusts. But both have a song—the drunkard and the man who is Spirit-filled. Both are in an exalted and stimulated state of mind. The one is on the door-step of hell when he has his delusions of seeing serpents; and the other sings on the door-step of heaven, within the portals of the eternal city in hope. Psychologically these two states of mind may have some resemblance; however, spiritually they are as distant from each other as the poles.
The term which Paul uses for “excess” in the KJV is “asootia.” Such an one cannot be saved; there is not hope for him even in the Greek-Roman humanistic ethics. He cannot ever fit in constructively in society; he is a “losel,” a “hopelost,” worthless person. He cannot spare, cannot save, he is a prodigus, a scatterling. His life is one grandiose squandering of means. (Trench,Synonyms) And, we may continue to quote Trench; “such a one spending on his own lusts and appetites—laying it out for the gratification of his own sensual desires, a dissolute, debauched, profligate manner of living: liederlich.” And the learned Trench continues, “A waster of his goods will be very often a waster of everything, besides; will lay waste himself, his time, his faculties, his powers—will be himself laid waste; he at once loses himself and is lost.”
Now Paul knows that the Ephesians are fully aware of the implications of the term which we have in. our Bible translated “excess.” Such excess cannot be a Christian life; it is not the part of those who are wise, buy out the time; it is the part of those who walk the broad way which leads to destruction. And many there by who go in thereat!
All such flirting with the world, with sin, and with the powers of hell must stop!
This is healthy narrow-mindedness which may well be cultivated in our day; parents, teachers, and ministers are to be good examples to the flock, and, particularly, to the young people in the church. Be not deceived by flattering speech which deceives. No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Today men would rather speak of an “alcoholic” than of a drunkard. It is constantly repeated from radios, the world over, that alcoholism is not sin but sickness. The Holy Ghost chose not to use this term. He speaks of men “becoming drunken with wine, wherein is excess.” The Christian who is guilty of this sin needs not merely some medical attention and some psychiatric lies concerning the “sickness” of an alcoholic; what he needs is to be placed under the exhortation of the Gospel. He must confess his sin, repent, be converted and be healed in his conscience from the guilt of this sin, of his worldlimindedness and world-conformity! He must return like the prodigal in the Scriptures and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee!”
In so doing he will flee all sin; he will be putting off the old man, crucifying the flesh. And, if he is sorry for this one sin, he will see that it was not just a bad deed, but that he was in a bad way. No doubt there is a great need for us in our day to warn our children, our young people, by word and example. Such is our reasonable service; it is the most logical thing under the sun. It is the logic of the Spirit of God in Christ. It is not hard to understand; it does not need to be told often to the wise and the simple. But they who flirt with sin and trifle with the grace of election come to ruin.
Perhaps the apostle is suggesting here that this is a constant battle which never ends. The price of spiritual liberty is eternal vigilance. He uses the present tense: keep on stopping becoming drunk with wine. This requires much spiritual sobriety. The days are evil also today. Let us then become wise, sober, knowing our times. We must believe that these sins of the world are such that the wrath of God cometh upon them; it is the wrath of God which manifests itself in this excessive living: riotous living, drunkenness, debauchery. Sin bears sin! It eats like a cancer, invading all of life.
Flee this worldlimindedness; abhor this world-conformity!
Stop becoming drunk with wine!