In June lawmakers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, approved six bills designed to curtail drunken driving. The problem of public intoxication is a national epidemic. Over one million people are arrested yearly for driving under the influence.
The abuse of alcohol can also be a problem for the church. As Paul concludes his series of directives on what our new life in Christ should look like, he addresses the problem of drunkenness. Instead of telling his readers to “just say no,” the Apostle offers an alternative. Believers should not get drunk on wine, but are to “be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). This command not only prohibits drunkenness, it sheds light on the way the Holy Spirit operates in the life of the believer.
Both wine and the Holy Spirit have the capacity to influence our behavior. Yet these two influences result in opposite effects. Drunkenness leads to dissolution. The Greek word that is translated “debauchery” in verse 18 is one that speaks of wild or unrestrained behavior. In other words, the influence of alcohol can lead to a loss of control. The influence of the Holy Spirit means being “controlled” by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9).
Singing could come to the Apostle’s mind because of the contrast between those who are drunk and those who are filled with the Spirit. Instead of drunken songs, the influence of the Spirit results in praise and worship. Those who are under the influence of the Spirit are infused with a spirit of thanksgiving. They express their gratitude to God and encourage one another to do the same. Whether we proclaim our joy through psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, it is clear that the influence of the Holy Spirit produces worship.