Pastor Cosand: January 2018
BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
meditation on Ephesians 5:18
Ephesians 5:18 is a familiar verse. "Do not get drunk with wine for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." It is interesting to ask why Paul made reference here to being drunk. Why doesn’t he just say that we should be filled with the Spirit? There are probably two reasons. The first is with reference to the drunken, licentious worship that went on in Ephesus. The religious activity that went on in the Temple of Diana, in the name of worship, was detestable. There was drinking, immorality, and gluttony, all under the guise of worship. Paul is saying that for the Christian drunkenness is not acceptable because it is debauchery.
A second reason why Paul refers to drunkenness is to draw a parallel between being under the control of alcohol and being under the control of the Holy Spirit. The first part of verse 18 tells us something about the meaning of being filled with the Spirit. To be filled by the Holy Spirit means to be under His influence, to be controlled by His thoughts and desires. The verses which immediately follow show us what it is like to be filled by the Spirit. ". . . addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all 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" (Eph 5:19-21).
There are four things here that result from the filling of the Holy Spirit … speaking to each other in songs … making melody in your heart to the Lord … giving thanks in all things … submitting to one another. This is what the filling of the Holy Spirit looks like.
The phrase "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" is a reference to corporate worship. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit love to worship with other believers. They come together and they sing. They love the dynamic of a group of believers praising the Lord of Creation together. And it doesn’t matter if you can sing well or not. This is not a statement about proficiency, it is a statement about passion. What is in the heart, in this case the Holy Spirit of the living God, comes out like a fountain.
The second result of the filling of the Spirit is personal joy … "making melody in your heart to the Lord." A mark of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is that there is a song in your heart which sings to the Lord. It may be musical or it may not be musical, but either way it is a song of honor to the Lord. Beloved, to be filled with the Spirit of God means that there is a song in your soul which is a melody of joy and is untouched by any external circumstances. It is a song "to the Lord" and because it has God as its object and because it has the Holy Spirit as its source, then it flows like a fountain, stronger and stronger with each passing year.
The third result of the filling of the Spirit is gratitude. One evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit is thankfulness … a surprising, unbelievable thankfulness. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit find a reason to be thankful when other people would never be thankful. This is a profound thanksgiving to God for who He is … and for calling us to Himself in Jesus … and for the pardon of the penalty for our sins … and for working everything together for good … and for the hope of resurrection after we go through the long process of dying.
The fourth result of the filling of the Spirit is that a person subjects himself to others out of respect for them. He is willing to serve them. This is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, subjecting Himself to them. This is the opposite of the "stand-up-for-your-rights" message that is heralded by our self-seeking culture. This is the opposite of the constant jockeying for position that we see in every corner of our society. This is the opposite of brash pride that will not humble itself before someone else.
But how can we be filled with the Holy Spirit? In Luke 11:13 Jesus has been telling his disciples to ask and seek and knock and their Father will certainly listen to them. He then says, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" This is not a reference to conversion. The people praying here are Christians, coming to God as their Father, and their request is for the Holy Spirit. How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit? We ask for this filling. We ask for more of the Spirit’s power and grace and joy in our souls. We say with dear longing in our voices, "Father, give me a deeper experience of your Spirit." We ask for the Holy Spirit and, according to Luke 11:13, our Father will give us a deeper experience of His Spirit.
A second avenue in the how of being filled with the Spirit is found in Colossians 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." The means of the Holy Spirit filling us is to saturate our minds and hearts with the Bible. A person gets drunk by drinking alcohol … lots of it. And a Christian is filled with the Spirit by drinking the things of the Spirit … lots of it. This means reading the Bible as a regular part of our lives, memorizing verses, meditating on the great truths that are there. It was said of John Bunyan, the Puritan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, that he was so saturated with the Bible that his blood was bibline. Cut him anywhere and he bled Bible verses.
We cannot experience the filling of the Holy Spirit if we are not serious about learning the Bible. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The things of God are known and revealed by the Spirit of God. To be filled with that same Spirit is impossible without drinking in the Bible, lots of the Bible, as a matter of our normal course of living.