Doesn't Ephesians 5:18 imply that some use of alcohol is permitted?


God wrote in Ephesians 5:18, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." When God tells us not to get speeding tickets, what is He inferring ? Obviously, that driving is not a sin. When God tells us not to get drunk, what is He inferring?

People who try to say that God condems drinking alcohol, when the Holy Spirit could have so easily written, "Do not drink any alcohol" are implying that God didn't know how to get His meaning across. They really ought not do that.


Your objection is handled in the article, New Testament Beverages. I'm repeating the relavant section below:

Another commonly cited verse is Ephesians 5:18. Here the argument is that Paul condemns the misuse of wine, but not the moderate use of alcohol. Markus Barth said, "The condemnation of the misuse of wine does not preclude a proper use of alcoholic beverage." Basically, the claim is that if Paul was condemning all drinking, he would have said, "Do not drink at all."

Two states are being contrasted in Ephesians 5:18, being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. The point of the contrast is that you cannot have both at once -- they are mutually exclusive. You cannot be partially filled with spirits and partially filled with the Spirit. Similar exclusions appear in Luke 1:15 and Acts 2:4, 15. In other words, the indwelling of the Spirit is connected with the abstinence of liquor.

The clause that literally reads "in which is debauchery" refers to wine in Ephesians 5:18. Some translations change it to "that is debauchery" meaning getting drunk is debauchery, but this is not what the original text states. The original text states that there is debauchery in wine, as in Proverbs 23:31. In a letter to Laeta, a lady who wrote asking how to bring up her infant daughter, Jerome advised, "Let her learn even now not to drink wine 'wherein is excess.'" This quote of Ephesians 5:18 shows that Jerome believed the excess referred to the wine and not that drunkenness held excess. Albert Barnes stated, "Let Christians when about to indulge in a glass of wine, think of this admonition [Ephesians 5:18]. Let them remember that their bodies should be the temple of the Holy Ghost rather than a receptacle for intoxicating drinks. Was any man ever made a better Christian by the use of wine? Was any minister ever better fitted to counsel an anxious sinner, or to pray, or to preach the gospel, by the use of intoxicating drinks? Let the history of wine-drinking and intemperate clergymen answer."

There is a reason why Paul did not say "Do not drink any wine." Wine had some proper uses, such as its medicinal properties (I Timothy 5:23). Forbidding all use of wine would eliminate its use in medicine. Since the Greek word oinis includes all grape juice products, a statement saying drink no oinis at all would eliminate grape juice from the Christian's diet, making partaking of the Lord's Supper impossible.