Bacchus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy. He was one of the primary gods worshipped in Ephesus in Roman times. The infamous celebrations of Bacchus, notorious for their sexual and criminal character, got so out of hand that they were forbidden by the Roman Senate.
The followers of Bacchus had a strong theology: The more wine they drank, the more Bacchus filled them and controlled them. They became like him. Therefore drunkenness was to be highly celebrated as a spiritual experience.
So it is no surprise that the Apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, draws a powerful comparison for the believers in that great city:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery (dissipation, drunkenness, lasciviousness). Instead, be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18).
Why would Paul use such a crude analogy when calling us to such a holy response? Because it portrays an amazing parallel.
Just as worshipping Bacchus involved detrimental behavior change and negative character transformation when filled with this unholy spirit, so to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit produces positive behavior change and beneficial character transformation.
To be filled with Bacchus required continuing imbibing. To be filled with the Holy Spirit requires ongoing, repeated filling, to repent and confess and then appropriate the fullness of God on a moment-by-moment basis.
Paul knew his audience and knew what would communicate this essential truth of following Christ. And it is just as true for us.
Jesus sent His Spirit to live in us, to be with us, to give wisdom, to guide, to teach, to comfort, to encourage, to pray for us, to empower us to carry out His mission on earth. How do we experience all these benefits? We walk surrendered to, filled with, controlled by the powerful, loving Holy Spirit of Christ Himself.
What has been helpful to you to stay filled with the Holy Spirit?