Ephesians 5:18-19 (NIV):

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

Why did Paul choose the experience of being "drunk on wine" to contrast it with the experience of being "filled with the Spirit"? Are there commonalities but also key differences between the two experiences that make the contrast enlightening in a pedagogical sense?

2 Answers 2


Apparently, there were outward similarities between getting drunk on wine and being filled with the Spirit as described in Acts 2.

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ...
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ...
15These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17“ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Also there are key differences between the two experiences as pointed out in Nigel's answer: one is spiritual; the other carnal. One is heavenly from God; the other is earthly from man's flesh. The person who is experiencing it should know the difference.


In exhorting the saints in Corinth to 'flee fornication' Paul writes :

know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? [1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV]

To the churches in Galatia, he urges, rather than 'biting and devouring one another' with strife :

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. [Galatians 5:16 KJV]

And to the saints in Ephesus he advises, rather than utter any 'corrupt communication' by mouth :

grieve not the holy Spirit of God ... Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: [Ephesians 4:30,31 KJV]

In each place, Paul is contrasting fleshly and carnal behaviour with being led, moved and being full of, the Holy Spirit.

One can see, in each place, that which is adverse and undesirable being caused by sin in the flesh affecting the behaviour. Paul's antidote is to be influenced and full of, the Holy Spirit.

By looking at the several places, one can draw conclusions about the contrast of flesh and spirit, carnality and true holiness.

I think to focus on just one of these aspects would lead one to make false conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

It would be unbalanced to expect to understand the contrast between flesh and spirit from just one of these references in scripture.

It would lead to an emphasis which would be inaccurate.

To be over-focused on just a single aspect of a subject leads to imbalance which, inevitably, results in a distorted appreciation of the subject and to partial ignorance of the full range of the subject.

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