Ephesians 5:18 – Filled with the Spirit
Compared to the Corinthian church, the Ephesian church had little problems for the apostle Paul. Yet he said to them “do not be drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). Obviously there was the danger that some of the Ephesian Christians would fall into the sin of drunkenness by being filled with wine. Hence the warning to be filled with the Spirit.
What is it to be filled with the Spirit? To be filled with something is to be controlled by that thing. When we say someone was filled with wine, we mean he was controlled by wine. When we say someone was filled with rage, we mean he was controlled by rage. So, in the same way to be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by God’s Holy Spirit.
The tense of this Greek verb means to be constantly filled with the Spirit. It is not a ‘one-off’ experience but a continual ongoing daily experience. Each day we are to be guided and led and controlled by God’s Holy Spirit.
There is a choice for the Christian. Having received the gift of faith, we must, says Peter, add to it all the various disciplines of holy living, love, self-control, kindness, etc (2 Pet 1:5cf). We must deliberately and consciously choose to be either filled with wine or some other stimulant and its vices, or be filled with God’s Spirit and the accompanying virtues of godliness.
What are the evidences of being filled with the Spirit? What are the evidences that we are controlled by God’s Holy Spirit? Paul often uses the evidences manifested in our human relationships. A man may be thoroughly correct in his doctrine but not be filled with the Spirit.
A man who is filled with God’s Spirit is careful of his attitude towards people as well as his attitude towards God. Jesus said that the two greatest commands were love towards God and love towards our neighbour. Jesus was not asked for the two greatest commands, but for the greatest. He added the second because it was very important and was closely related to the first command.
The whole subject of good human relationships comes up again and again in Scripture as the evidence describing those who have tasted the love of Christ. The apostle John asks about the man who withholds kindness “How does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
James makes it perfectly clear that a bad spirit towards people, ie, envy, bitterness or self-seeking comes from a devilish spirit and not from godly humility.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. James 3:13 cf
The first evidence Paul gave of the fruit of this Spirit is “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” in distinction from speaking lies. Many people think this passage is a reference to what we should be singing in church but the context precludes this idea. The word is ‘laleo’ meaning talking. We need to talk honestly to each other about spiritual things. In other words we will be speaking God’s Word to each other.
Paul further tells the Ephesians that they ought to rejoice in the Lord and sing His praises. We ought to sing God’s praises all day long for we are enjoying God’s goodness all day long. We have to make music in our hearts to the Lord. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, there is reason for us to praise the Lord.
A thankful heart is also high on Paul’s mind as evidence of being filled with the Spirit. If we are not aware of God’s mercy to us, if we are not constantly aware of His protecting love towards us, we are lacking in spiritual discernment. We have to give thanks to God for “all things” not just some things. The Spirit-filled man can see God’s goodness in all of life and his lips are constantly filled with praise.
The Psalmist in Psalm 107 was thankful. He starts the Psalm by stating his conviction that the mercy of the Lord endures forever. He goes on to tell of those who sat in darkness, and those who travelled the seas, how they saw the works of the Lord and then praised Him for His goodness and wonderful works. He finishes by saying it is the wise who observe these things and understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.
Paul also mentions that being filled with the Spirit means having a submissive spirit. He goes on to detail the specifics of the relationships between husband and wife, parents and child, and employer and employee. One famous preacher has said that the best masters are those who have served. Those who have been under authority make the best masters of others. They understand and remember what it is like to serve.
Our relationships with our marriage partners and family and neighbours are an index of our relationship with God. Being filled with the Spirit means we have the mind and attitude of Christ towards all things and all people. When we cannot agree with people, we must not treat them as undesirables but seek to be at peace with them and treat them as we ourselves need to be treated – as fallen creatures dependent on the mercy and love of God. May we all be filled with God’s Spirit.