Monday, January 21, 2013

Be Filled with the Spirit

Part 28 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:15-21).


Christian Living 

Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk” (v. 15a). “Walk” is a key word in Ephesians (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The NIV says, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” As Christians, we should desire to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (4:1).

God didn’t save you so that you could waste your life. 

How we are to live is explained by three “not…but” statements: (1) “ [walk] not as unwise but as wise” (v. 15b); (2) “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (v. 17); (3) “do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18).

As we live each day, we should be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (v. 16; cf. Dan. 2:8). The KJV says, “Redeeming the time.” “A good translation would be, ‘Buy up every opportunity’” (Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 288).


Spirit Filling 

Paul contrasts being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit: “And do not get drunk on wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). The “Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Trinity. (Paul has already written that Christians have been told that they have been “sealed” by the Holy Spirit, and that they must not “grieve” him, 1:13; 4:30.)

The filling of the Spirit is mentioned many times in the New Testament, especially in Luke’s writings (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 10, 52).

To be “drunk with wine” is to be under the influence of alcohol. The result is “debauchery.” To be “filled with the Spirit” is to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Being “filled with the Spirit” means that “the Holy Spirit is the controlling influence motivating and directing the lives of believers” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 290). (A very different “filling” is seen in Acts 5:3, where Peter said to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.”)

The Spirit can be seen as both the instrument (filled by the Spirit) and the content of the filling (filled with the Spirit). The purpose of the Spirit’s filling is Christlikeness (cf. 4:13).

“It must be noted that the present imperative passive verb, “be filled,” probably indicates an iterative force, a repeated action of filling by the Spirit. The imperative mood places the responsibility on the believers. The passive voice suggests that believers cannot fill themselves. Rather, believers are to be filled by the Spirit. Thus, believers are exhorted to be filled repeatedly by the Holy Spirit no matter where they are or what they are doing” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 704). The Spirit always lives within believers (1 Cor. 6:19), but believers are not always filled by the Spirit (i.e., they don’t always surrender control of their lives to the Spirit).

How does being filled with the Spirit affect a Christian’s life? In verses 19-21, we find three results of being Spirit-filled (cf. Col. 3:16).

1. A Spirit-filled Christian sings. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (v. 19). “The purpose of singing is both praise to God and instruction of believers” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 291).

2. A Spirit-filled Christian gives thanks. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20). “Always” probably means “regularly.” Giving thanks for “everything” doesn’t mean we should be thankful for every single thing (e.g, sin). Perhaps “everything” refers to all of our blessings (keeping in mind that even adversity can benefit us).

3. A Spirit-filled Christian submits. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). The Greek word translated “submitting” (hypotasso) literally means to “arrange under.” (As a child, Jesus was “submissive” to Joseph and Mary, Luke 2:51.)

The motivation for submission is “reverence for Christ.” “It is likely that ‘submitting to one another’ means ‘submitting to others according to the authority and order established by God,’ as reflected in the examples that Paul gives in the following verses” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2271). It is true, however, that all Christians are to love and serve one another.