Ephesians 5:18-21 - 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
I grew up playing in bands, and I remember playing in local clubs as early as age 14. Over the years I’ve observed something: if you’re not a Christian and you’re going to a show, there is a certain ritual associated. It goes something like this: arrive, get some beer, watch a band, get some beer, watch another band, get some beer, watch another band, etc (you get the idea). I have a feeling that back in Paul’s day, things weren’t all that different. What usually goes with drunkenness? Music! What usually goes with music? Drunkenness! Whether in the 1st century or the 21st century a show is basically a pagan worship service, designed to make attendees a living sacrifice to the god of pleasure and sensuality: ultimately, one’s own selfish desires. (*Just to be clear, I think concerts have many redeeming qualities, including human creativity and beauty - we just have to be careful as Christians not to simply participate in the same manner as the world would).
In these verses Paul contrasts a pagan worship gathering with a Christian one. Though many places in the Bible encourage the drinking of wine, we’re commanded to never get drunk. Instead of being drunk with wine, be “drunk” on the Holy Spirit or “new wine” as the New Testament calls it. When we’re filled with the Spirit, we have a different aim and we have different songs. Our aim is to sing to one another and to the Lord from deep in our hearts (v.19), and the types of songs we sing are psalms (perhaps taken from the book of the same name in the Bible), hymns (Christian songs), and spiritual songs (this may be the same as hymns or perhaps more personal expressions of worship that edify the church).
In the end, all of this is put to the heart test of whether or not we are worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ together in a way that considers the needs of the whole church (“one another”) over our own selfish desires (v.21).
• How is your alcohol (or fill in the blank: drugs, food, etc) consumption going? Do you need to repent of sinful self-indulgence?
• When we sing, are you engaging with the Lord and the church or is your attention on yourself? How can you invite the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh as we worship together?
• Action - Spend some time in prayer praising God for filling us with his Spirit and accepting our worshipful songs.