In Ephesians 5:18, Paul contrasts being filled with the Holy Spirit by the control that is experienced by those who are under the drunken influence of alcohol. While the main focus of the analogy is on being filled by the Spirit — Paul is using drunkenness as an illustration only, not as a major theological statement against alcohol or drunkenness.
Yet there are implications in this passage, and in the rest of Scripture. John MacArthur has an excellent chapter in his commentary on Ephesians on the topic of drunkenness, including a section on the Scriptural perspective of the use of alcohol and a series of guidelines for its use. He offers eight questions to evoke a biblical response to the use of alcohol:
- Is today’s wine the same as that in Bible times? (No)
- Is it necessary (for health or other reasons)? (Rarely)
- Is it the best choice?
- Is it habit forming? (Often)
- Is it potentially destructive? (Yes)
- Will it offend other Christians (by leading a weaker brother to sin)? (Potentially)
- Will it harm my Christian testimony? (Potentially)
- Is it right? Can I do it before others and before God in total faith and confidence that it is right?
This does not mean that the use of alcohol will always be wrong. But it is also likely that believers have too often made assumptions about its use that would violate some of these guidelines.
While this topic is often spoken of in harsh or dismissive terms and with far too much rhetoric. The kind of discussion offered by MacArthur is particularly helpful because it addresses the topic within a biblical framework.