Friday, August 29, 2014

BE FILLED (Ephesians Chapter 5)

Ephesians 5:18-21, “And so 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 to Christ.”

How important is being “filled with the Spirit?"  In his book, “How to Be Filled with The Spirit,” A. W. Tozer, addressed the matter, "Satan has opposed the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any other doctrine there is.  He has confused it, opposed it, surrounded it with false notions and fears.  He has blocked every effort of the Church of Christ to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought patrimony.  The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth--that there is now for the child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Ghost."

While every believer in Christ is indwelt by the Spirit (Cf. Romans 8:9), not every believer is “filled with the Spirit” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).  The command to be filled with the Spirit is contrasted with the negative command “Do not get drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18).  In the cultural context the worship of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest (in which the Ephesians had previously been involved), was characterized by drunkenness.  Ecstatic activities—erotic dancing, drunkenness, sexual activities--were all a part of it.  This was all done in order that Dionysus might supposedly fill the worshipper imparting “health and fertility.”

The negative command in Ephesians 5:18 is paired with the positive command, "but be filled with the Spirit," because they both have something in common.  To be drunk with wine is to be under the influence of wine.  To be filled with the Spirit is to be under the influence of the Spirit.  The cult worshippers supposed that in drunkenness they were filled with the spirit of the wine-God.  God's design for the believer is that he be so “under the influence,” in subjection to the Spirit of God, that the Spirit’s life-transforming and empowering presence might pervasively fill him (Cf. John 7:37-39).   

The verb translated “be filled” is in the present tense, passive voice, and imperative mood.  It is an all-the-time command that might better be translated “be being kept filled.”  It is in the passive voice—we don’t fill ourselves, we are filled from an external source.  It is in the imperative mood—since God commands it, it is both possible and expected of us.

W.A. Criswell, “For the Spirit to have us, we must yield ourselves to Him.  We must be emptied of self to be filled with all of His fullness.  Our hands cannot be filled with other things if they are to know the fullness of God.  Our hearts cannot be filled with worldly affection and ambition if we are to possess the Spirit without measure.  Our souls must be emptied of self when we bring them to the fountain of heaven for blessing.  It seems that Paul’s motto was “not I but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).  Oh, that we could surrender ourselves to a like commitment!”  

Ephesians 5:19f describes the result when a person is filled with the Spirit.  A cause and effect relationship in indicated.  The cause?  Being filled with the Spirit.  The effect?  Praise and thanksgiving (acceptable worship) and a right-ordering of a person’s relationship with others.  A comparison of Colossians 3:16f reveals that similar effects are traced back to a different cause.  In Colossians 3:16 the cause is letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within.  This should not surprise us since the Holy Spirit is the author of the Word of God and it His ministry to apply the Word of God to the heart of the believer.  The correlation of these two passages gives insight into what Jesus meant when He spoke of the demand that acceptable worship be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). 

The comparison between Ephesians 5:18f and Colossians 3:16f is also instructive as to how a person is to be filled with the Spirit.  To be filled with the Spirit is practically synonymous with allowing the Word of Christ to richly dwell within.  Colossians 3:16 speaks to more than a knowledge of doctrine and truths related to the Scripture, it speaks to possessing a receptive heart that is richly indwelt by the Word of Christ.  The command here is Ephesians 5:18 is of great importance.  The matter represents a “watershed” truth of preeminent concern to every believer.  A host of spiritual blessings are availed to the believer through the Helper’s Christ-manifesting ministry (Cf. John 16:13-14).  On the other side of the equation, it is impossible to live the Christian life in a God-pleasing fashion apart from Him (Cf. John 6:63; Matthew 26:41).  When a person is filled by the Spirit, acceptable worship is the result (Cf. Philippians 3:3).

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