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Summary: Be filled with the Spirit and submit to each other

Ephesians 5:17-33

September 26, 2012

Chapter five summarizes all the great truths we’ve already seen regarding our relationship to God and each other. We’re described all throughout as being the children of God—of the same family and having the same Father. Or, if you prefer, we’re described as being one body with each part contributing to the whole. The main idea is that there’s a real and inseparable unity not only between one believer and another but between God and all believers.

This is the whole reason for good works—we’re named after Him; we are His body. It’s not our bodies which control our heads, but the other way around. If He is love and light and righteousness then His body (being controlled by Him) will show His characteristics. The principle laid down to the Pharisees: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” applies to us in regard to God!


15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

There are so many heresies and so many vain-minded men in our days; we’ve got to make wise use of our time—paying attention to the will and instruction of the Lord. We’ve got to be wise!

18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

This word for “excess” is ἀσωτία (asotia). It’s related to the word for “save” and so it could literally mean “not safe.” Its actual definition speaks of “an abandoned life.” You can see how this is an immediate contradiction to the command in verses 15-17. “Walk circumspectly” and not in drunkenness which leads to abandonment of wisdom.

Rather we’re to be filled with the Spirit. Now, being filled doesn’t mean speaking in tongues or being slain or rolling around the floor. First of all, the verb tense of the Greek word is called Present Imperative which means this is a command which we’re to habitually and continually obey. If being filled means speaking in tongues, then the command here would never let us stop speaking that way. If it means to roll around on the floor, then we’d never be able to get up. But that’s not what it means—it’s a present tense command.

The definition of the word is to make something full; when Mary opened the spikenard the room filled with its scent. It means to bring something to completion; the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’s clothing “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” It means to complete something; “Jesus ended all His sayings.”

Liddell and Scott also include the meaning of manning a ship. I get the idea of a full crew carrying out their responsibilities to navigate.

I think, based on the context of chapter 5, that we can say “be filled” means to always be so influenced and controlled by the Spirit that we yield ourselves to Him. The Gentiles submit to the power of alcohol, but we submit to the power of the Spirit.

19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Compare this to Colossians 3:16-17—“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

Ephesians tells us to be filled with the Spirit, and Colossians tells us to be filled with the word of Christ.

Ephesians tells us to speak to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and Colossians tells us to teach each other with them.

Keep the context in mind: the Gentiles get drunk and abandon wisdom, but we’re under the influence of the Spirit—filled with the word of Christ—and in that we build each other up in wisdom and we praise God in everything. We’re not at all like the covetous, filthy, and foolish.

21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Now, this might seem like a change in thought, but it’s building on the unity described all through the book. We are one body, and submission is a huge part of the gospel. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and then said that He was setting an example for us to follow (Jn. 13:15). The issue isn’t just about humility; it’s about something far greater: He loved His disciples, and so He met their needs.

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