Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 5:18-20

καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾦ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι, λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς ἐν ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, εὐχαριστοῦντες πάντοτε ὑπὲρ πάντων ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί. And do not get drunk with wine, in which is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus God to God and the Father.

Verse 18 picks up with Paul discussion about making the most of the time for wise living. Making the most of the time includes not being foolish, but instead comprehending what the will of the Lord is. But now we see that it also involves not becoming drunk with wine. The present imperative, μεθύσκεσθε, “become drunk,” when negated with μὴ, prohibits continuous action, so that continuous drunkenness is being prohibited. Paul says that in this continuous action is debauchery. This word, ἀσωτία, involves reckless abandon and excessive indulgence. It bears the idea of wasteful living. Continuously becoming drunk does not make the most of the time; it is not wise, but it is wasteful. Instead of getting drunk, Paul commands that his readers and listeners be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit is the instrument that brings about the filling (“be filled by the Spirit”). This filling results in speaking, singing, making music, and giving thanks.

Those who have been filled by the Spirit speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They are to join together in praise. Note that there is a textual variant here. The dative preposition, ἐν, is not included by most manuscripts (א, A, D, F, G, Ψ, and the majority text). However, several manuscripts include the preposition (Papyrus 46, B, P, 33, 1739, and most of the latin tradition). Earliest support includes ἐν, and since the preposition fits the style of this section of Ephesians, despite it being longer, we are concluding that it is probably the original reading. How will Christians speak or sing with each other? They will speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This term, πνευματικαῖς, “spiritual,” has been understood by some to refer to psalms and hymns as well as songs. But the case is feminine, whereas hymns and psalms are masculine. The adjective is in the fourth attributive position, and it seems best to understand it exclusively in relationship to “songs.” But it is possible that an adjective appearing at the end of a series can refer to all nouns in the series while only matching the gender and number of the nearest or last noun.

It might seem odd that Christians would speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but in a communal setting this need not be irregular. The act of singing in community itself speaks to and edifies the congregation. But Paul also says that being filled by the Spirit results in singing and making music from the heart to the Lord. Singing in a unified congregation, though made up of many members, they lift up one voice from one heart to the one Lord. And being filled by the Spirit also results in giving thanks. Paul says that his readers and listeners should give thanks always or at all times, and they should give thanks for all things. To whom are they to give thanks? Thanks is to be given to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The last phrase of v. 20, τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, seems to be awkward. How should we translate it? Should it say, “to God and Father” or “to God the Father”? How is καὶ functioning here? We seem to have an instance that matches the requirements for Granville Sharp’s Rule. We have an article + noun + καὶ + noun construction, in which there are no impersonal, proper, or plural nouns. Therefore, we should translate the phrase in this way, “to God the Father,” where the latter noun is simply adding identity to the former noun.

And do not continuously become drunk with wine, in which is wasteful living, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always and for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

It’s important that Christians understand that this verse is not saying, “Do not ever get drunk.” Technically speaking, it is prohibiting continuously becoming drunk. But this point is not the emphasis of the sentence. Paul is concerned with being filled by the Spirit. To live a wise life that makes the most of the time, not only does one need to comprehend what the will of the Lord is, but one also needs to be filled by the Spirit. As a result of being filled, one will participate in congregational worship, joining in the unified singing and music of the congregation to lift up one voice to the Lord, and to give thanks for everything at all times. Our lives should be marked with praise and thanksgiving. Our lives should not be marked with reckless living. We are to be wise, not foolish. We are to be filled by the Spirit and to allow the Spirit to have his effect upon us. Do your actions demonstrate that you have been filled by the Spirit? Do they demonstrate that you are making the most of the time given to you? We should be using our words for edifying each other, but also for praising and thanking God.

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