Calvary Road Baptist Church


Ephesians 5.19-21

I make no apology for being intensely critical of that which purports to be of God, but which can be shown to be false, deceitful, and misleading. Having spent a considerable amount of time last week showing you that the modern day Charismatic and Pentecostal communities are completely out of touch with Biblical reality when it comes to the filling of the Holy Spirit, I am now delighted to move on to show you what Spirit-filled behavior really is. However, before we turn to our text for today, let me remind you of something the Lord God said through the prophet Isaiah, some 2,700 years ago. Isaiah 55.8-9 reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

With these two verses in mind, let us be careful to remember that while our way of doing something might seem to us to be very logical, God’s approach to any issue is so superior as to be described as supralogical. This will mean that what God says about the behavior of a Spirit-filled believer is almost certainly different than what a run-of-the-mill Pentecostal or Charismatic person, untutored by God’s Word, ignorant of God’s will, would think to be true.

In Ephesians 5.18, we read the command to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Since the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit of God, is not a liquid or a gas, this command is properly understood to be a description of the Holy Spirit’s control over and influence of a person who consciously and constantly submits to His will. In addition, since the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible, we are sure that there can be no filling of the Holy Spirit without obedience to God’s Word.

In our text for today, Ephesians 5.19-21, before tackling the very specific kinds of predictable spiritual behavior that Paul lists from verse 22 onward, we see the general kinds of behavior that anyone who is truly filled with the Spirit, who is truly submitting to the Holy Spirit’s rule in his life, will exhibit:

19     Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

20     Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

21     Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Let me give you a thirty-second grammar lesson. Take a verb, which describes an action, and add “ing” to the end of it, and you have what is called a participle. This modified verb, now called a participle, can be used to describe a verb. In other words, it can be used just as an adverb is used, to place limits on a verb, to describe the action of a verb.

In these three verses, we have four groupings of verbs that have been modified to become participles.

Group number one consists of a single word, “speaking.”

Group number two consists of three words, “singing”, and “making melody.”

Group number three consists of two words, “giving thanks.”

Finally, group number four consists of two words, “submitting yourselves.”

My friends, these participles modify the expression of a single verb, found back in Ephesians 5.18, “but be filled with the Spirit.” In other words, when Paul issued the command to be filled with the Spirit, he did not leave us to our own devices to try to figure out just how a person submits to the Holy Spirit’s will for his life without so much as a clue. Not at all.

Paul gives us much more than just clues. He comes right out and tells us. Ephesians 5.22-6.9 provides for us very specific and detailed illustration of just how a Spirit-filled person is supposed to behave to show forth his submission to the Holy Spirit. But before he gets to the really specific details of the Spirit-filled life, Paul provides for us four very general categories of behavior that every Spirit-filled believer exhibits, or is willing to exhibit as soon as he knows just what it is the Holy Spirit wants from him.

Are you a new Christian? Have you not been saved for that long a time? Are you concerned about just what it is the Holy Spirit wants from you, in general terms? Well, hang on, because this is exactly what Paul has for us in these three verses.

Four sets of descriptions of how Spirit-filled people act, these four sets of participles I told you about. Let us look at them one at a time.

First, Spirit-filled people are people who speak to each other in songs and hymns and spiritual songs. Three things to be observed about this first activity: First, that word “yourselves” refers, not to singing to yourself in the shower, but to singing to one another. Second, songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, does not refer only to singing the Psalms found in the Old Testament. And third, notice that songs are to be of the spiritual variety. This lets us know that composed music is appropriate to sing to each other, if it is spiritual. The intimation, of course, being that not all so-called Christian music is actually spiritual.

Folks, when it comes time to sing songs to one another . . . do you? If you are Spirit-filled, you do. If you are not Spirit-filled, you do not.

What do we have, so far? This first phrase describing Spirit-filled behavior is obviously corporate. That is, you do not have Spirit-filled behavior performed in isolation, at this point. Oh, you can be Spirit-filled while you are alone in a room, but what Paul is showing us is that at least this kind of Spirit-filled behavior must take place in public, and not only in a church service. So much for isolationist, keep it to yourself, Christianity. Amen?

Next, Spirit-filled people are those who are engaged in singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord. Whereas speaking to yourselves is back and forth with other Christians, singing and making melody takes place in your heart, and is directed to the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Spirit-filled worship that takes place while driving to and from work, while walking down the street, while bent over your desk. But primarily this is worship that starts in your own heart and is sent heavenward to the Savior.

Third, there is giving thanks. When you are thankful and when you give thanks you are filled with the Spirit of God. He is controlling your life. He is directing you. Such thankfulness is supposed to occur at all times, for all things, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (in whom we have our standing before God as believers), and to God. “Thank you, Father, for the distress I am in. I know that because I have trusted Christ and am now your child, these things have come upon me for the advancement of your cause and my own personal good.” Such thanks directed to God can only, really, be prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Participles are also somewhat like verbs, in that they can be active, passive and middle, just like verbs. That is, they can describe the action of a verb that is something you do (active), something you allow to be done (passive), or something you do to or for yourself (middle).

The first participle, “speaking,” is active because it is conduct directed toward other Christians.

The second, “singing and making melody,” is active because singing and making melody is directed toward Jesus.

The third participle, “giving thanks,” is also active because thanksgiving is directed toward God.

But the last participle speaks of something you do to yourself, so it, understandably, is in the middle voice. Verse 21 reads, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” When you submit you are not so much doing something toward some other person as to yourself. In Philippians chapter 2, we become aware of the fact that before the Lord Jesus Christ submitted Himself to the death of the cross He first humbled Himself. Therefore, submission is primarily a thing that is accomplished in your own humbled mind and heart. Would you submit yourselves to one someone else? Then you must be of humble mind and heart. Would you submit yourselves to one another? You must first submit yourselves to the Holy Spirit of God.

However, why would a Christian choose to do that? Because he fears God. Friend, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of knowledge, the motivation to depart from evil, and an integral factor in being willing to submit to other believers.

So we see then, spiritual behavior, Spirit-filled behavior, the way a Christian acts who is consciously and constantly seeking to subordinate his own will to the will of the Holy Spirit of God Who indwells him, will always have four characteristics associated with it:

Toward other Christians, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Participation in singing.

Toward the Savior, heart songs and melodies offered up to Jesus.

Toward God the Father, thanks at all times for all things, in Jesus’ name.

And toward yourself, so submitting to the will of the Holy Spirit that you will submit to others. Why? Because He wants you to, that is why.


Spirit-filled Christians are those who publicly sing to each other and lift each other’s spirits in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, who have a musical love affair with the Savior in their hearts, who are constantly thankful to God for everything they encounter in life, and who actually, motivated by their fear of God, submit to other believers. Other kinds of behavior may pass for Spirit-filled behavior, but Scripture is clear and it has spoken.

Imagine, if you would, some well-educated, sophisticated, logically thinking, materially successful, athletically coordinated, sharply attired, highly skilled, Biblically astute Christian man (we will call him Al), discussing something with another Christian (we will call him Bo), who did not graduate from high school, who is myopic and uncoordinated, who doesn’t know Scripture very well, who is an immature believer, and who is not skilled in articulation or debate. In short, Bo is tongue-tied.

Just suppose I have asked Bo to cook some hamburgers on the grill for a men’s activity. Moments later Al arrives, who is the world’s best hamburger cook. As Al says “Hi” and walks up to the grill the burgers are being grilled on, Bo says, “Would you do me a favor and turn these burgers over for me real quick? I need to go the rest room. It is important to me that you turn them over right now. I want to do a good job for the pastor on these burgers.” Al says “Okay,” and then notices that Bo is not cooking these burgers the best way he could, because he just does not know any better. He is not as good a cook as Al.

What does a Spirit-filled Al do in Bo’s absence? He does just exactly what his less well-informed, less skilled, less sophisticated, and less astute brother in Christ wants him to do. And by doing that, he, as a Spirit-filled Christian, is submitting himself to Bo. Before he came to Christ, or before he was as spiritually mature and committed to obeying the Holy Spirit as he is now, Al would have done one of two things. He either would have engaged Bo in an argument to talk him into doing things his way (in the past things had to always be done Al’s way), or he would have done what he wanted to do when Bo went to the bathroom and let Bo find out about it later.

Why does Al submit to Bo now? Because Al, who is now a Spirit-filled believer, submits to other Christians. Not that Al walks around saying to himself, “I’m Spirit filled, I’m Spirit-filled.” But Al does walk around seeking, either consciously or unconsciously, to do God’s will, to obey Scripture, and to allow the Holy Spirit of God to lead him, to guide him, and to control both his thinking and his personality. In short, Al is seeking to obey, in every area of his life, the command to be filled with the Spirit.

At this point, a question ought to be asked by inquiring minds. “How can such behavior as Al’s be explained? Why would a man want to submit to someone who is not as smart, sophisticated, or seasoned as he is? And why would he think that such submission really is Spirit-filled behavior?”

To answer these questions, let me start from the end and work backwards. Let me take you to Al’s willingness to cook the hamburgers Bo’s way, even though he thought his way was better. There are four events in this spiritual progression, seen opposite the way things unfolded in Al’s life, that will work us back, from where Al presently is, to where he used to be. Along the way, we may just pass by where you are this morning.


What is commitment? Commitment is assuming personal responsibility for the performance of duty. Before Al would ever submit to Bo, which is Spirit-filled behavior, he had first to commit himself to the task of behaving in a way that was pleasing to the Holy Spirit, whose will he was seeking to obey. You see, a Spirit-filled Christian sees the personality of the Holy Spirit, and does not react to Him as though he were following a bunch of rules and regulations. He is committed to yielding to a divine Person who has expressed His will to us.

Think about commitment in this context for a moment. People do not usually think about commitment when they think about being Spirit-filled. When most people think about Spirit-filled, they imagine being overwhelmed, being overcome, being bowled over by the Spirit of God. But that, my friends, is not a description of the filling of the Spirit of God. That is closer to being a description of revival, which is another issue entirely.

Look back at our text for today. Each and every one of the four groups of activities that is demonstrated by each and every believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit of God are things that the Spirit-filled person does, not things that the Spirit-filled person has done to him, and not the way a Spirit-filled person feels.

Consider Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. They had been arrested and severely beaten. Yet Acts chapter 16 tells us that in that dungeon they sang praises to God. Do you honestly think they did that because they felt like singing? Did they do that because they felt buoyant and lighthearted? Do you imagine they felt like Gene Kelly, singing in the chains?

God’s people simply have to rid themselves of this false notion that Spirit-filled servants of God feel wonderful inside all the time. What translates into the kind of behavior that we have read about this morning has nothing to do with feelings. It has everything to do with commitment, with following through on a decision to do what the Holy Spirit wants you to do, no matter how you feel, and no matter who is looking.

Sing the hymns, sing in your heart, thank God for everything, and submit to one another, not because you like it, or because you are good at it, but because, bless God, it is the Holy Spirit’s will for your life. But what brings a person to this point of commitment, where he will assume personal responsibility for doing what the Spirit of God wants him to do, even when it hurts?


If commitment has to do with assuming personal responsibility to submit to the will of God by submitting to others, by worshipping God in your heart, by being thankful, by ministering to others in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, then consecration must be understood to be something quite different. And indeed, it is. Consecration refers to recognizing something as being sacred, set apart, and devoted.[1]

Before you will ever commit yourself to behaving in a manner pleasing to the Spirit of God, you must first recognize what your relationship to Him is. First Corinthians 6.19-20 declares that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, and that you are not your own, because you have been bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Do you realize what that means?

It means that the child of God does not own himself.

It means the child of God, that person who trusts Jesus, has no right to make personal decisions that affect your life . . . because it is not your life anymore. Not if you are truly saved.

Before anyone will ever commit to doing what the Spirit of God wants him to do, or commands him to do, he must first recognize the Holy Spirit’s absolute right to issue those commands. Consecration occurs in a believer’s life when you realize that you are owned, that the Spirit of God possesses you, and that you have no right to make your own decisions, unless they are decisions made with the intention of pleasing the indwelling Spirit of God.

Consecration recognizes the Holy Spirit’s absolute right to command you, and your total obligation to cease and desist this resistance to His will for your life.

Consecration results in your recognition that the Holy Spirit ought to be allowed to dominate and control your life, and that resistance to His will, and the exercise of your will instead of His, is sin.

Of course, consecration will never result in sinlessness. We recognize that. But when there is consecration, seeing the absolute right of the Holy Spirit not just to live inside you, but to lead and guide you, then will come that personal commitment to execute those specific acts of obedience that demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s control of your life.


In Philippians 2.13, Paul tells us “God worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Who is Paul writing to? He is writing to saved people. My friends, only saved people become concerned, truly concerned, about God’s will for their lives.

It is a saved person who truly has God as his heavenly Father. The lost man’s father, on the other hand, is the devil. Therefore, only when a person is saved does he truly begin to concern himself with God’s will for his life in an unselfish way. Here is the sequence of events: The Christian becomes concerned about God’s will for his life. This motivation comes from fear of God and love for God. Desiring God’s will, the believer comes to know that God has commanded him to be filled with the Spirit of God, to submit to the Holy Spirit’s control over his life.

When the believer decides to obey the command to be Spirit-filled, he has, in effect, consecrated himself. He knows that he is intended by God to be of service to God. So he prays and surrenders to the Spirit’s will and control, the Spirit’s filling if you will. But is he Spirit-filled yet? No. It is not until he recognizes his personal responsibility to actually do what the Spirit of God wants, instead of waiting for some super mysterious experience or to be manipulated like a puppet on a string, that he actually does what the Spirit of God commands and is controlled by the Spirit of God, which is commitment.

The believer’s concern makes him want to do God’s will. The believer’s consecration makes him decide to obey the command to be Spirit-filled. And the believer’s commitment actually results in the behavior, which shows him to be Spirit-filled.


There is much confusion in this world about the filling of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned earlier, so many people think that when the Holy Spirit fills a believer the Spirit of God overwhelms him. But does scripture support such a notion? No. The Bible clearly teaches that the responsibility to be filled with the Spirit of God is yours. Therefore, it is not up to the Spirit of God to decide to overwhelm you and sweep aside your will in dramatic fashion. Such a thing as that is closer to being revival than the filling of the Spirit. When the Spirit of God fills you it is because you have chosen to do what the Holy Spirit wants you to do. That is commitment. But commitment follows consecration, knowing that you ought to do what the Spirit commands. But that follows concern for the will of God, which only the converted person truly has.

Know what I think? I think people do not commit to do God’s will, showing they are Spirit-filled, until they are consecrated to God’s service. And they are not consecrated to God’s service until they are concerned about God’s will. Moreover, the reason people are unconcerned about God’s will is that they are not converted.

See how it all ends up right only when it starts out right? First, conversion. Then, concern. Third, consecrated. Then comes the commitment to obey and do His will.

I close with this question: Are you converted? Jesus said, “Except ye be converted ye shall all likewise perish.” Would that not answer a great many questions? Are you really converted? Jesus came from heaven’s glory, the Son of God, to become the sacrifice for sins on Calvary’s cross. On that cross He suffered and bled and died to wash away the sins of those who would trust Him to save them from their sins. After that He was buried, but rose again on the third day, and ascended to heaven, where He now sits at the Father’s right hand. It is from the throne room of heaven that He offers to save you from your sins right now.

Won’t you trust Jesus to save you and be converted? Perhaps you have had many spiritual experiences, but you have never been converted. If you are converted, truly converted, then you will become Biblically concerned about God’s will for your life, consecrated to His service, and committed to obedience. That is what being filled with the Spirit of God is really all about.

[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 388.

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