It’s about control. Paul is warning us not to yield control to anything else.
This whole article explores a long sentence in the Greek, written by Paul (Ephesians 5.18-21). It all actually goes together in the original language. So let’s consider these thoughts the way Paul writes it.
1st: Paul says what being Spirit led is not.
2nd: Paul describes what being Spirit filled is.
3rd: He shares the how’s and why’s of a Spirit directed community
Paul says what being Spirit filled IS NOT
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5.18, ESV)
To understand this passage, we should see the verbs are directly in contrast. They are both imperative commands: “do not get drunk . . . be filled.”
They are also both passive verbs, and that shows the contrast. Passive can mean I am not doing the action; someone or something is. Passive can mean I’m yielding control to someone or something.
The contrast is, What or Who am I yielding control to?
Another point of this passage is that it’s not all about drinking vs. the Holy Spirit. It’s about control. Paul is warning us not to yield control to anything else.
We define the root word for “do not get drunk” as any type of intoxication.
This verse is also about something greater, it’s about lifestyle choices.
The term “debauchery,” is actually a strong word in the Greek. It can mean being a rioter, or even a prodigal. The prodigal takes a path that eventually sets him at odds with his father’s house. If we keep yielding control to some things, it affects our lifestyle.
Paul says what being Spirit filled IS
“but be filled with the Spirit,” (verse 18)
Let’s consider the verb “be filled.” I will make 4 points about the verb.
1st: The verb is an imperative or a command. We’re told to be filled with more of God.
2nd: The verb is passive meaning that we’re yielding control. The Spirit is filling us.
I think we often strive for the next blessing or answer, but this is a passive role. We sit at the feet of Jesus. We’re not seeking an answer or doing something spectacular. We simply posture ourselves to receive, i.e. practices: fasting, solitude, listening, etc.
3rd: The verb denotes an ongoing activity; not a 1 time experience, but continual and repeated.
“‘Be continuously filled [or ‘keep on being filled’] with the Spirit.’ This is the call to a dynamic Christian life in the ongoing filling by God’s Holy Spirit.”
4th: The pronouns are plural. Being filled is for all of the community of faith, a Spirit-filled community.
So being Spirit-filled, in the context, does not only refer to individuals. It’s referring to the corporate worship service, to Christian community. After the worship service, Paul talks about Spirit-led homes (chapters 5-6).
The worship setting, homes, and relationships, are all part of Spirit-filled living.
WHAT is the Spirit’s work among us?
“addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” (Ephesians 5.19)
The term psalms refers to psalms from Hebrew Bible, called tehillim or praises.
The term hymns refers to songs known by all. There is a variety of hymns in the New Testament.
Spiritual songs is an interesting phrase. There are at least 2 interpretations.
1st: It can be spontaneous congregational singing, the Spirit directing from 1 praise to another.
2nd: It can be a flow in the prophetic, in wisdom and understanding. The Spirit also inspires utterances and tongues.
This section gives us an idea of the WHAT; various ways we praise God.
“The exuberant praise of God with all one’s heart flows out of being filled with God’s Spirit.”
The verbs give us an idea of the HOW? HOW do we pursue Him?
“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,” (verses 19-20)
All 4 verbs have at least 2 of the same qualities: “addressing one another . . . singing and making melody . . . giving thanks”.
1st quality: All 4 verbs are active – not passive – very important. At first the verbs are passive, when we yield control to the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Spirit. Now the verbs are active, our pursuit of God. We worship in all these areas of life.
2nd quality: All 4 verbs are ongoing activities (participles), practices we continue to do. Honestly, look at this list! We could be doing these things forever: “addressing one another . . . singing and making melody . . . giving thanks”.
Paul gives us a glimpse of WHAT the Spirit wants to do, and HOW we pursue Him.
Another question we could ask is WHY? WHY would we together pursue the Holy Spirit?
The reason WHY we pursue the Spirit together is . . . because He transforms us.
“submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (verse 21)
This is NOT a command, like the command to be filled with the Spirit. It’s voluntary! It’s a call, or summons, we can choose to accept or reject.
The voice of the Spirit calls us to a new level in our relationships.
If we answer the call, He draws us closer, and gives us to each other.
Isn’t that just like the Spirit to end this beautiful, long sentence with an invitation?
pic credit: Hannah Busing | girl wearing floral dress reading bible alone in grass | 04.13.22 | unsplash
- Stanley M. Horton, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1997), 244.
- J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 202.
- Horton, 244.
- J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: the Church, the Kingdom, and Last Things (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 92-93.
- Horton, 244.
- Williams, Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living, 218.
- Ibid., 226.