Summary: We all agree that at salvation the Holy Spirit indwells us; so why does Paul exhort us to ’be filled with the Spirit’? (#7 in The Christian Victor series)
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”
Paul has been talking about how we should walk in an evil world, so that the way we relate to those of the world would not be in such a way as to participate with them in darkness, but rather to let the Light of Christ manifest itself to them through us and expose their deeds as fruitless and disgraceful. The ultimate purpose, of course, not being to bring condemnation on them, but in hopes that some will repent and believe the good news.
Now, he turns his attention to the church and begins to instruct us as to how we ought to be relating to one another as Christians, and he will tell us what condition must exist in order for us to do that.
After that he’ll narrow his focus and talk about the Christian relationship in marriage, and in chapter 6 he will include the children and discuss the home relationship as a whole. After that he includes slaves, and even though we do not practice or condone slavery, still, Paul has much to say about the Supervisor/subordinate relationship in the work place.
That’s just a look through the binoculars at what’s ahead. For today though we need to talk about these verses, 17-21, and we’ll spend a lot of our time in verse 18.
We have some things to give our attention to from these verses, but I think the primary topic here, by virtue of the fact that if we don’t understand this term we cannot possibly comprehend the gravity of the rest of our text, is being filled with the Spirit.
We must approach this systematically for the sake of clarity.
So I want to begin by getting some possible errors in thought out of the way so we don’t stumble over them as we go.
Looking back first at the Old Testament, we know that the Spirit of God came upon some Old Testament characters for the accomplishment of a purpose. In those cases it was a temporary filling, and it was for the specific task at hand.
One example of this is found in Exodus 31:3, when God tells Moses that He has “…filled [Bezalel] with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship…” for working with gold, silver and bronze in the building of the Tabernacle.
Another example is Sampson, who performed great feats of cunning and strength against the Philistines when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. (No, it wasn’t the hair)
This is not what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5
There are many examples in the Old Testament of the Spirit coming upon men or women in this way; for prophesying, for accomplishing tasks and so forth, but I’m sure you get the idea from these two examples.
So let’s move to the New Testament.
An early example we see there is that of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. When Mary approached her the baby leaped inside her, and it says in Luke that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounced blessing on Mary and the fruit of her womb.
Then, although it doesn’t specifically say so, we may assume that Mary was filled with the Spirit as she burst forth with what we call the ‘Magnificat’, in Luke 1:46-55.
Then a few verses later, Zacharias, who hasn’t been able to speak for about six months but finally does something right and is given his voice back, is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies about the impending birth of the Messiah.
Then Jesus is born, and when the time comes for His and Mary’s ritual cleansing ceremony in the temple, the Spirit comes upon Simeon and leads him to the temple where he too, prophesies over the baby. Then here comes Ana, filled with the Holy Spirit, and she begins proclaiming far and wide that the Messiah has come.
There was a whole lot of filling going on around that time.
But this wasn’t what Paul meant in Ephesians 5
After the day of Pentecost, when the Comforter had come and all believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we see them ministering to people, and there is visible evidence of those people receiving the Holy Spirit.
So we come closer and make a sharper distinction here, by talking about the difference between being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit.