Calvary Road Baptist Church


Ephesians 5.18

My text for this morning is one of the most misunderstood directives found anywhere in Godís Word. The time for dealing with some of the issues related to it seems to me to be very ripe.

Turn to Ephesians 5.18: ďAnd be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.Ē

There are three concepts that I want you to grasp relative to the filling of the Holy Spirit, before my sermon this morning; there is the contrast which is commanded, the conduct which is exhibited, and the conduct which is compared. All, of course, related to the filling of the Holy Spirit.

First, we look at the contrast which is commanded. You may have noticed that this short verse contains two commands, imperative verbs in the Greek New Testament, providing simple and uncomplicated directions to the child of God. The first command is a prohibition: ďAnd be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.Ē Folks, there is no evidence to suggest that the Ephesians were Christians who got drunk. But they certainly lived in a city that was known far and wide as both a port city and as a center for the worship of the goddess Diana. Their city was given over to drunkenness and riotous living.

Paul is telling his readers what conduct is forbidden to Christians, but he is also apprising them of the consequences of such wicked conduct. ďAnd be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.Ē This word ďexcessĒ is a word used several times in the New Testament, and refers to behavior that leads to destruction, or going down the path of destruction.[1] Remember the parable of the prodigal son, who took his inheritance from his father and left home? Luke 15.13 declares that the boy ďwasted his substance with riotous living.Ē The word ďriotousĒ in that verse is the word ďexcessĒ in Ephesians 5.18. Getting drunk leads to the destruction of your life, and is prohibited behavior.

Contrasted with being under the influence of alcohol is being under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Toward the Holy Spirit, the believer is commanded submission. ďAnd be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.Ē I say submission to the Spirit here because, unlike the first command, to ďbe not drunk with wine,Ē which calls upon the child of God to actively do something (donít get drunk), this second command is in the passive voice, meaning the child of God is called upon to do nothing, but rather to stop resisting the Holy Spiritís ministry of controlling your life. Notice how this is illustrated: Paul likens the believer to a vessel of some kind. The Holy Spirit, just for the purposes of this illustration, is likened to a fluid which fills the vessel.

The command is of the present passive imperative variety. Present means this is an ongoing submission to the Holy Spirit which is commanded. Passive means that the believer does not do anything to bring this about, but rather stops resisting the Holy Spirit. So, this is not something you do, but rather something you allow to be done to you. Imperative means that it is a command, not an option. This whole illustration pictures the believer being commanded to submit to the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit of God, to do so continually, and to do so passively. With these things in mind, why is it so many people are given over to two errors regarding the filling of the Holy Spirit? The first is that once you are filled with the Holy Spirit that is it. You are, from that point onward, filled. The second error is that you need to vigorously pray and plead with God to fill you with His Spirit.

A cursory reading of the book of Acts reveals that the fillings of the Holy Spirit are events that occur repeatedly, meaning once filled not forever filled. As well, our text clearly shows that God has commanded you to obey in something that does not require an answer to prayer to be accomplished. The Holy Spirit is already prepared to fill, dominate, and control your thinking and your life, just as soon as you stop resisting Him.

Second, we look at the conduct which is exhibited. Throughout the 20th century, a controversy raged over the filling of the Holy Spirit, with the dispute being what kind of conduct should be associated with a truly Spirit-filled person. I hope to settle that dispute in your minds once and for all today.

In the early days of Christianity, when the message and the ministry were being validated before the audience of a pagan world, before the setting aside of the nation of Israel, certain actions and certain attitudes are shown in Godís Word to have been closely associated with being Spirit-filled. Of those actions, that which is usually pointed to by the Pentecostal community and the Charismatics is, of course, the gift of tongues. And during the early years of the Christian era, the gift of tongues was spoken by Spirit-filled believers. But those were not their only actions. Those corresponding patterns of behavior, that are listed in Ephesians 5.19 and following, are also characteristically connected to being Spirit-filled, in the Bible, even if they are not so connected in Pentecostal or Charismatic thinking.

Next, there are the attitudes associated with being Spirit-filled. Look through the book of Acts and one thing will jump out at you as you review the lives of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit again and again and again. They were bold. The Spirit-filled person is always a bold person, even if bold people are not always Spirit-filled.

But back to tongues. Since the gift of tongues was a sign gift, given and used only during that time when God dealt with the Jewish people nationally, tongues are no longer given as a gift by the Holy Spirit and, hence, the gift of tongues is no longer a valid indication of someone being Spirit-filled. As a matter of provable Bible fact, order my sermon on the gift of tongues and you will clearly see that someone who supposedly speaks in tongues cannot possibly be filled with the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, and what is passed these days for the gift of tongues is a lie.

So, in this time period in which we presently live a Spirit-filled person can be recognized by both his attitude, which is boldness to do Godís will in the face of opposition, and his actions, found in the verses following Ephesians 5.18, but not including the fake gift of tongues which we find in Charismatic and Pentecostal groups.

One, final, thing before the sermon this morning. We take a look at the conduct compared. Go home and read Ephesians 5.19 to Ephesians 6.9 when you get home. There you will find that a Spirit-filled child of God behaves in a very predictable way in his worship, toward his spouse, toward his parents, toward his children, toward his master, and toward his servants. If you will also read Colossians 3.16-4.1, you will see the same pattern of predictable behavior in worship, toward a spouse, toward parents, toward children, toward a master, and toward servants. However, in Colossians this predictable pattern of behavior is owing to allowing ďthe Word of Christ to dwell in you richly.Ē

Think about this and you will see it clearly for yourself. If being filled with the Spirit of God produces a certain pattern of predictable spiritual behavior, and if letting the Word of God dwell in you richly produces the same pattern of predictable spiritual behavior, it can only be because the primary way in which the Holy Spirit comes to fill and control and influence a believerís life is through the Word of God which He, after all, wrote.

Therefore, Christian, if you want to submit to the Holy Spirit and see Him lead and guide you, do what the Bible says to do. Do you faithfully attend church? Do you faithfully give to the cause of Christ with tithes and offerings? Do you have a consistent prayer life? Do you seek the salvation of the lost by working to bring people to church? Do you love your wife, correctly parent your kids, and give your boss his moneyís worth at work? When you are doing those things as unto the Lord, with a heartís desire to please and serve God, you are that point in time filled with the Spirit of God. And if you are not Spirit-filled, donít plead with God to fill you with His Spirit. Thatís nonsense. Just begin to obey Him, and do what He says to do in His Word, and you will be being filled with the Spirit of God.


There are a great many spirit-filled Christians in this world who are going to Hell.

You heard me right. There are a great many spirit-filled Christians who are going to die and go to Hell. Let me illustrate what I mean with this story of something that I observed shortly after I got saved.

Less than a month after I got saved, all zealous and with no spiritual discernment at all, I invested in an airplane with nine other guys to use to evangelize Baja California. Oh, how excited I was to be part owner of a Stinson 108. But my excitement turned to great disappointment when the first two guys to fly the plane to remote areas south with Bibles and tracts returned with their story of what great things God had done.

It seems they landed near a small remote village where the gospel had never been preached before, where not a single Christian lived, but where the Roman Catholic bishop coincidentally happened to be visiting. According to my partners, no sooner had they landed than the little village children were baptized in the Holy Ghost and began speaking in tongues, and the bishop was baptized in the Holy Ghost and he began speaking in tongues. This where not a soul was saved and where the gospel had never before been preached. Preposterous!

My friends, who were Charismatic and Pentecostal, saw absolutely nothing wrong with the picture they were painting before me. Unsaved people filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The Bible clearly teaches that no one can be filled with the Spirit of God who is not first indwelt by the Spirit of God. And no one can be indwelt by the Spirit of God who is not saved. And no one can be saved until first they have been pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior through the preaching of the gospel. In short, my coworkers did not comprehend that what they described as being true was, in fact, impossible according to Godís Word. And why did they not see what was so clear to me? Because they were, themselves, spirit-filled and on their way to Hell.

Perhaps you are here this morning and you are convinced you are a Christian. Perhaps you fancy yourself to be a spiritual Christian. You may even lay claim to being a Spirit-filled Christian. If I understand the Word of God, you are Spirit-filled only if you exhibit predictable spiritual behavior regarding worship, regarding your spouse, regarding your parents, regarding your child, regarding your boss, and regarding your employees. But if you are like most Christians, you think yourself to be saved, you think yourself to be spiritual, and you might even think yourself to be Spirit-filled, based upon criteria not found in the Bible. This being the case, you have only one problem to deal with in your life; you are, in all likelihood, an unsaved person who is going to Hell when you die.

I get no particular delight in pointing that out, this morning. But being called to faithfully preach the whole counsel of Godís Word, I feel I must speak the truth, particularly if you have a Roman Catholic, a Charismatic, or a Pentecostal background. But even to those of you who consider yourselves spiritual Christians who come from a new evangelical background, there are four considerations I would like to lay before you today:


When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, that person is dominated, controlled, influenced, and directed by the Holy Spirit in a way that is not evident at other times. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit is in control there is a heightened sense of duty, of obligation, of responsibility, and of commitment to observe and to obey the Word of God. Such is not the case with evangelical Christians, or more properly new evangelicals. A new evangelical Christian, by definition, is a Christian who does not intend to observe and to practice those tenets of the Christian faith that have to do with separation from ungodliness, with separation from unbelief, and with aggressive evangelism of the lost. How so? Because this has been the stated new evangelical position on issues such as these since 1947, when new evangelicalism was first described by those who embraced it.

People of the Charismatic or Pentecostal persuasion are committed to an approach to the Christian life which is even more at odds with scripture. You see, Charismatics and Pentecostals base their claim to be Spirit-filled solely on an experience of what they claim is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by so-called speaking in tongues. But it can be rather easily shown in scripture, to anyone with the eyes to see and a mind to understand spiritual realities, that what passes for speaking in tongues these days bears no resemblance to the speaking in tongues found in the Bible. Consider the following:

In scripture, the gift of tongues is a foreign language that could be spoken without being previously learned. But these days what is claimed to be the gift of tongues is not only nowhere close to being a foreign language, but attempts are actually made to teach people this supposedly unlearned ability.

In scripture, tongues was a sign given to Christians to exercise for the purpose of evangelizing unsaved Jews. But these days tongues, so-called, is almost never performed in the presence of unsaved Jews.

In scripture, tongues in church was to be performed only by men, and only in the presence of one with the gift of interpretation. But these days tongues is usually performed in churches by women, and not infrequently without the benefit of a so-called interpreter.

Finally, in scripture, the legitimate gift of tongues was not to be forbidden. But how many Charismatic and Pentecostal ministries these days forbid so-called tongues speaking in their auditoriums during public worship?

For these and other reasons, I say that what passes for speaking in tongues these days, which is used by so many as the primary evidence of being Spirit-filled, is a counterfeit bogus gift.

And how about Roman Catholics who claim to be saved, yet remain in the Roman Catholic Church? Folks, Godís Word commands believers to flee idolatry. Godís Word declares idolatry to be one of the most obvious indications that a person is not saved. How, then, can someone claim to be a Christian who is a practicing Catholic, much less a Spirit-filled Christian? Only by playing fast and loose with the truth of Godís Word.

Are you a Spirit-filled Christian? If you claim to be, I challenge the authenticity of your so-called filling. I challenge it on the basis of the evidence you probably cite to show that you are Spirit-filled. I challenge it on the basis of the lifestyle you live as one who claims to be Spirit-filled. And I challenge it on the basis of your knowledge of Godís will and Godís Word. Since the book of Acts clearly shows that people who are Spirit-filled are bold in dealing with spiritual issues in the face of opposition, you should have no trouble coming to my office after this sermon and dealing with these challenges I have leveled . . . if you really are Spirit-filled. As I contend earnestly for the faith, I urge you to consider the reality of your filling.


Suppose you claim to be filled with the Spirit of God. You insist that you once had the profoundest kind of spiritual experience, and since that experience you simply havenít been the same. And that experience occurred subsequent to you getting saved. My friend, I would then urge upon you two extremely significant passages of scripture to ponder as you consider your so-called relationship with the Holy Spirit of God.

First, there is First John 4.1: ďBeloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.Ē First John 4.1 is a command. Itís a command that you have not, to this date, obeyed. You are prohibited from believing every spirit that would seek to influence you. You are prodded to prove the spirits (notice that thereís more than one out there) to see if they are of God, because there are many false prophets in the world.

Here is where you likely went wrong. You believed the first spirit that came your way, not even considering the consequences of being terribly mistaken about the course you have taken. Next, you did not prove the spirits. Prove them? You didnít even think about the possibility of there being more than one spirit. And even if you did, you havenít the foggiest idea of how to prove a spirit to see whether itís of God or not. And the only people you consider to be false prophets are those who may disagree with the course you have taken.

But suppose you did pay heed to First John 4.1, or tried to. You have strived to be wary of believing every spirit. You have tried to test, or to prove, the spirits to see if they are of God. And you donít trust all those false prophets out there on TV. Though you have taken those steps, youíre still in danger.

Hebrews 5.12-14:

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Youíre not really a student of the Bible, are you? You donít actually know the Bible well at all, except for some few passages, do you? That means two things: First, it means that, at best, you cannot be considered anything but a very immature Christian. If that. And second, it means that you cannot distinguish good and evil. So, you simply do not know Godís Word tell enough to be able to test the spirits to prove whether or not they are of God. Is that not the truth?

Are you Spirit-Filled? You may very well be Spirit-filled. But it may also be true that itís not the Holy Spirit of God who fills you. Since evangelical Christians, so-called, will not separate from such obvious apostasy as Billy Graham and the Roman Catholic Church, how can an evangelical Christian be filled with the Holy Spirit of God? Holiness does not compromise with wickedness and unbelief, much less indulge in it regularly and institutionally, as does the Church of Rome. And with a Charismatic or Pentecostal background, how in the world, with all the false prophecies flying around, with flagrantly unscriptural practices, and with the heinous sins being committed, can anyone deny that Satan and his demons are running amok in there?


For you to be saved, at some point in time in the past you must needs have sat under the preaching of the gospel.[2] By the way, it must be the Bible gospel, not some other gospel.[3] It must feature the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, who came and was crucified, who shed His blood, who was buried and rose again, and who is now sitting at the right hand of the father.

For you to be saved, you must come to a realization of your utter hopelessness as a sinner, of your utter helplessness to save yourself, and your realization that only Jesus can save you. This realization is the result of the Holy Spiritís ministry of conviction. Sometimes conviction occurs very quickly, but usually conviction occurs over some period of time stretching from hours to weeks. Emotion is not always a necessary part of conviction. But being convinced, beyond any shadow of doubt, that you are a sinner in Godís sight and that you deserve Godís wrath, is an unmistakable part of genuine conviction.

For you to be saved you must turn from your sins and trust Jesus to save you. This is called justification by faith in the Bible. It is also called believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not believing in God.

It is not asking Jesus to come into your heart.

It is not believing that Jesus died for you on the cross, though He did die on the cross for you.

And it is not praying the sinnerís prayer, getting baptized, or joining a church.

It is trusting Jesus. And not many people actually trust Jesus unless they are carefully dealt with when they are under conviction.


ďYe must be born again.Ē[4] Jesus issued that command to Nicodemus, the number one Bible teacher in all of Israel. Why did Jesus tell him he needed to be born again? Because, despite all his religion, despite all his good works, despite what a wonderful man he no doubt was, he was not born again.

You see, Nicodemus had depended on some evidences to convince himself that he was right with God; evidences that were not reliable indicators. In the same way, you and Nicodemus are similar.

I challenge you to be like Nicodemus in another way. When confronted with the truth that he was not really born again, he considered things and got saved the Bible way, by trusting Jesus. That is what needs to happen to you.

Donít take Bible truths youíve recently learned and try to reconstruct in your own mind a credible testimony of how you got saved. Did you think you were taking Jesus into your heart? Did you think that praying a prayer saved you? Did you think coming to God by faith saved you? Donít try to reconstruct the past and explain away what obviously was not correct. Nicodemus could have done that in a myriad of ways. That we know he got saved shows that he did not do that.

Most spirit-filled people are going to Hell. I said that earlier, twice. Iíve just said it again. But what I mean is that most people who think they are Spirit-filled are not, in fact, dominated and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, because they are not really saved.

Be different. Become one of those unusual Spirit-filled Christians who goes to heaven when you die, because you really got saved . . . the Bible way. Come and talk to me sometime after one of our services and make sure that you are really saved, and that your conversion experience reflects what the Bible really teaches. My friend, consider, this morning, coming to Jesus by faith, the Bible way, for the saving of your soul and the forgiveness of your sins.

[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 537-538.

[2] Romans 1.16

[3] Galatians 1.8-9

[4] John 3.7

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