The calling on the life of the Christian is to form the world positively. We are instructed not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness—what Paul has already called immoral, impure, and covetous. Unfruitfulness is evil. Before we take this too far and become workaholics, we do recognize that rest to the proper degree is fruitful for our bodies, as are many leisure activities. God rested on the seventh day and instructs us to (cf. Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:9-11). That’s not what we are talking about here. Here, we are talking about doing things that are not profitable, do not benefit God or humankind, or are simply done in vain. We don’t participate in such things. In fact, we expose them for what they are.
For instance, homosexuality and transgenderism do not benefit the world. They only satisfy people’s personal lusts and perpetuate very real mental health conditions like gender dysphoria that require real, medical treatment. Abortion does not profit the world but, instead, perpetuates selfishness in sexuality and encourages murder for the purpose of convenience. Welfare programs can probably be conducted in a way that benefits the world but often encourages laziness such that it turns people into leeches and a country suffers as a result. Christians are instructed, here, to pay attention to what is going on in the world, from presidential decisions to economics and immigration policies, and to speak about those things. We are not to speak about them in a way that is hostile or partisan. The Kingdom of God is not a political party bound by an American, or otherwise, system. We are to speak with gentleness and respect and with reason. We are to expose the works of the world that are unfruitful. Why? We want to world to be made new. Such is the promise of Christ. We have a part in that. There are certain things that keep me from running for political office. If I ever did, this would be my platform. There are unfruitful deeds on every side of the political spectrum that need to be loosed if the people of the world are to benefit through the governments that God has provided for such a purpose.
Those deeds of darkness done in secret will be exposed—something I feel is happening in the United States plainly as I write this (c. Nov. 2022). God is waking the world up to its own unfruitfulness. He is doing so through His church. Christ is shining on the world, exposing the lunacy of those who try to live without Him and apart from His moral conviction.
Therefore, we are to be careful how we walk. Paul turns our attention back to our own walks, lest we judge (here to mean evaluate, not condemn) the world and neglect to judge ourselves. We are to walk as wise rather than unwise. We make the most of our time, being fruitful in what we do, because the days are evil—a word referring to an abundance of injustice, affliction, and tribulation. Because there is still injustice and tribulation in the world, we really focus on being fruitful with the time we have been given. That is the path toward realizing peace and justice on the earth in Christ. To walk as wise means evaluating ourselves sincerely and exposing unfruitful deeds respectably. We are to understand what the will of the Lord is. The only way to know the will of the Lord is to read what He has breathed through His chosen authors—the 66 books of the Bible. For, how can we know the will of the Lord if we do not know what He has said?
We live as wise by not getting drunk with wine, for that is dissipation. Admittedly, prohibition has become an idol in the church that eclipses Christ and discourages the enjoyment of the good things God has provided. We are instructed to enjoy wine, beer, and strong drink (cf. Deuteronomy 7:13; 11:14; 14:26; Psalm 104:14-15; Isaiah 25:6-7; 55:1; Joel 3:18; Luke 7:34; John 2:10-11; 1 Timothy 4:3-4). The instruction to enjoy the fruit of the earth, which is good according to God, is also often its own idolatry because people overindulge on God’s good gifts. Look at the instruction we receive here in Ephesians. Do not get drunk with wine. Why? Drunkenness is unfruitful. This is why priests were not permitted to drink while performing their temple duties in the Old Testament (Leviticus 10:8-9). They were to have their wits clearly about them so that they could communicate God’s statutes understandably. This is why Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, advised him that wine and the desire for strong drink is not for kings but for the person whose life does not amount to much (Proverbs 31:4-7). Kings need their wits about them so that they do not pervert justice. But, those who have bitter lives need some reprieve. This is why our pastors and deacons are not to be addicted to much wine (1 Timothy 3:3, 8). We want to live fruitful lives and have fruitful ministries, so we don’t give ourselves to any form of dissipation. So, we enjoy without inebriation and without withholding something God meant as a good gift.
Instead of getting drunk with wine, we are filled with the Spirit. Instead of giving control of our bodies to alcohol, we give that control to the Spirit—which can cause people to think we are drunk (cf. Acts 2:13). When we are full of the Spirit, we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs—an instruction I take to mean we are to sing the psalms, the traditional songs of our faith, and write new songs from the heart. When we are full of the Spirit, we sing and make melody with our hearts to the Lord. The songs go two ways, to one another and to the Lord. Let your glad heart sing! Let the Spirit move you.
When we are full of the Spirit, we always give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ to God the Father. We are also subject to one another in the fear of Christ. So, it can be said that being filled with the Spirit gives us a better warmth and freedom than alcohol. He gives a higher high than any drug. Yet, without removing our wits, reason, or care to be fruitful in sanctification.
Many people reading this know the effects of alcohol. Instead of feeling condemned, because that is not what Paul is doing here, know that the Holy Spirit is better. God has given the effects of alcohol so that we might have an illustration of our life in Christ as we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Such a picture is why communion wine is given by Christ and why we are instructed to drink to our heart’s content once-a-year when we take family vacation—which is itself a spiritual pilgrimage before the Lord (Deuteronomy 14). God is good. He gives good gifts. He is better than the gifts He gives. Do not get drunk, but be filled with the Spirit.