I had to chuckle today at an ad for a church event I saw called, “Wine & Scripture.” Apparently it’s a wine tasting event in which you explore the wonders of the Holy Spirit. Now even though I don’t drink, I don’t have a problem with the event or the church (they’re great people)—rather, what has me cracking up is the theme verse they chose for the event. The ad says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit -Ephesians 5:18.” That verse falls oddly on anyone who already knows the passage, because it is longer than that simple statement. All of Ephesians 5:18 states,
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…
That being said, I guess I would avoid using a Bible verse that demotes wine to promote wine. This passage is trying to make a comparison and say, “Look, if you’re going to get filled too much with anything, get filled with the Holy Spirit.” Furthermore, the implication seems to be that you shouldn’t just take one drink of the Holy Spirit and call it good, but keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit, because, to quote my favorite college professor, “Apparently, we leak.”
Sure, the early church was fine with the use of alcohol (so long as people weren’t getting drunk), but the comparison Paul is specifically making here is not in wine’s favor and that becomes clear if you just plaster the whole verse on the ad: “Special Wine Tasting & Scripture Event: do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…”
I imagine their use of the verse will become clear in a short message given the day of the event, but for now it confuses me.
I once heard a scholar point out that they thought the worst thing we did to the Bible was put verse numbers in it, because now we don’t read it like a normal book to get the full story being told. It causes us to stop in odd places and to grab one verse and state it in whatever context we want, causing the verse to say something it never meant to say. If our point is destroyed when we use a verse in its entirety, then we’re probably using the verse out of context. And should we really need a verse about drinking to promote our event, there are actually a few others that work better.