Pentecostal & Charismatic churches from Bethel Church in Redding, California to Heartland Assembly of God in Ankeny, Iowa have invented a new way of “worshipping” God or experiencing the Spirit. Simply put, they now promote drunkenness or an intoxication of the “Spirit”. This should not be mistaken for the lingo used by many converts in the Jesus People revival who were saved out of the 1960s hippie movement and would use the term “High on Jesus”. Those folks meant the joy of the Holy Ghost was better than anything this world had to offer, not the kind of drunkenness offered at these churches.
Not only are all kinds of drunkenness forbidden, as I show below, but there is a spirit of drunkenness that God’s sends in judgment to some who profess his name:
Isaiah 29:9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
When God poured out his Spirit upon the first Christians, outsiders who looked on the sight thought those who were speaking in tongues were drunk. But Peter answered and said unto them,
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…” (Acts 2:16, 17).
For the moment, I would focus upon the plain declarative statement that the Christians were not drunken. The onlookers were simply mistaken.
Another important passage on the relation between the Holy Spirit and drunkenness is Ephesians 5:18: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Note that it does not say don’t be drunk with wine, but rather be drunk with the Spirit. How do people behave who are filled with Spirit? Like drunkards? Hardly. They become singers of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There is no mention here of being intoxicated on some experience with God or His Spirit. What is being contrasted is drunkenness and being filled. If they were being compared, it would imply that drunkenness is fine, it is the wine that is evil.
Deliberate or careless drunkenness is the sin, not the means used to become drunk. Becoming drunk on peanut butter would be a sin. This is the reason drug abuse is a bigger problem than drugs (or pharmaceuticals) themselves. I have been prone to and known to get overly silly when I am very tired. I should not become carelessly drunk on tiredness.
Early examples in Scripture of drunkenness were from the lives of Noah (after the flood, Genesis 9:20-27) and when Lot’s daughters deliberately got him drunk, and then committed incest with him (Genesis 19:31-38). Noah’s sin led to his nakedness being exposed to his son, probably through carelessness. Of Lot, the Scriptures say “he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.” By describing this in the past tense, perhaps the point is that Lot could not remember what he did. So drunkenness leads to such foolish and regretful behavior that you cannot even remember it!
Scriptural examples of the results of drunkenness abound. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire, probably because they were drunk and so God killed them (Leviticus 9:32-10:20, see especially 10:9). Worship cannot be offered the way God commands when you are drunk or high.
Drunkards stagger (Job 12:25, Psalm 107:27), are given to vomiting (Jeremiah 48:26) and too much sleep (Jeremiah 51:57), become prone to other sins (Romans 13:13)
It is especially important that a minister of the gospel not be drunk but sober (I Tim 3:2). Sobriety is commended, drunkenness is condemned (I Thessalonians 5:8). Titus 2:11 and 12 teaches us,” the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…
There is one Scripture that seems to indicate God can send something that looks like drunkenness to his saints, but I am afraid it is no comfort to those who seek to be intoxicated in the Spirit, for it mostly condemns false prophets, those that claimed to have visions and dreams from God, and those who kept claiming to hear a word from the Lord. Jeremiah shook in his bones like a drunk for the judgment he saw coming:
Jeremiah 23:9-40. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, [and] not out of the mouth of the LORD.
They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? Thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will evenforsake you, saith the LORD. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.
Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken? And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken? But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD; Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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