(A short Reflection on Ephesians 5:18)
Recently in our MCs (What others might refer to as small groups, Bible Study groups or cell groups) in our series through the book of Ephesians, we landed in chapter 5:18, where Paul prohibits believers from being drunk with wine and commands them to instead be filled with the Spirit.
…And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
What is being filled with the Spirit?
This command might appear odd to us bearing in mind that when Paul in chapter 1 outlines the spiritual blessings for all those in Christ, in verse 13 to 14 he says “in Him (Christ) when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Italics mine) Clearly then all believers receive the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion. In fact it is right to say that every Christian has the Holy Spirit! Praise the Lord for this gift, the gift of His Holy Spirit to all who believe! Moreover, if according to those two verses, the Spirit is the seal of our salvation, the guarantee of our inheritance, it means then “God grants Him irrevocably to all who believe” to quote the words of the New City Catechism.
If that is the case, why then would Paul command believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, whom they already possess by believing in Christ? Two errors have been prevalent on this issue. One side argues that we have the Holy Spirit whom we receive when we come to Christ – and rightly so and on that basis they deny any subsequent, sensible, dramatic experiences and encounters with the Holy Spirit in the course of Christian life. On the other hand, other believers affirm the reality and importance of post-conversion encounters with the Spirit – and rightly so, but they go wrong when they refer to it as the ‘baptism of the/with the Holy Spirit.’ For the baptism of the Holy Spirit as they call it, is viewed as a one-time event after conversion.
Both of the sides are wrong especially in understanding the command “be filled with the Spirit!” For the command to be filled with the Spirit is not the once and for all reception of the Spirit at conversion, the unrepeatable Christian experience by which we are initiated to Christian life and into the body of Christ (See also in 1st Corinthians 12:13). Neither is it a one-time event to be sought after conversion like the so-called baptism of the Spirit. Actually, Spirit – baptism is a common experience for all Christians! (1st Corinthians 12:3 …For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.) Therefore, it is not a dramatic or decisive experience in the Christian life that settles things for good! ‘Being filled’ with the Spirit is a command to be obeyed daily. It is an experience for daily appropriation throughout the Christian life!
What then is to be filled with the Spirit? Samuel Storms, a theologian and a pastor puts it so clearly and helpfully and I quote “To be filled with the Spirit is to come under progressively more intense and intimate influence of the Spirit.” (italics added)This makes more sense than when we understand the command to be a daily experience. The fullness of the Spirit is intended to be a developing experience. Are you obeying this command? I think one of the ways to experience this is by yielding to the Spirit by studying and obeying what He teaches us in the Scriptures. This, when we do daily, we are coming into a constant and a growing experience and influence of the Holy Spirit. We turn now to the next point.
What is the importance of this command?
The effects that are the importance of being filled with the Spirit are seen right in the passage in the following verses which are;
Overflowing thanksgiving and worship to God (chapter 5:19-21)
One anothering which is through “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” and “submitting to one out of reverence for Christ.” (Chapter 5:19 and 21)
Loving husbands and submissive wives, obedient children and thoughtful and disciple-making parents, and obedient servants and considerate masters. (Chapter 5:22 – 6:8)
All this wonderful and Christ-like way of living is evidently experienced in a way directly proportional to the degree of the Spirit’s fullness. See then the importance of this command that is relevant to us today as it was then and desire and pursue to be filled with the Spirit!