Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďFILLED BY THE SPIRITĒ

Ephesians 5.18

Last Sunday night I brought what may have been to you a controversial message from Godís Word. There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of evangelical Christians believe that the Holy Spirit of God leads believers by means of supernatural nudges, impressions, feelings, and such as that. However, we saw very clearly that the Bible does not support that view of the leading of the Holy Spirit. This eveningís message will probably seem to be even more controversial from the perspective of evangelical Christianity in the United States of America. However, just as mainstream conservative Christianity is off base concerning the leadership of the Holy Spirit, so do they generally miss the mark concerning the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Though I could spend hours taking you through a very detailed study of Godís Word, what I propose to give to you this evening is what amounts to an introductory lesson about the filling of the Holy Spirit. You are correct if you have already anticipated that the starting point for this eveningís message is the most familiar verse in the Bible concerning the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5.18. Please turn to that verse, and when you find it, stand for the reading of Godís Word. Please read silently while I read aloud: ďAnd be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.Ē It becomes immediately obvious from reading this verse and its context that the Apostle Paul is both contrasting the old unsaved life with the new Christian life, but that he is also comparing the similarities of the influence of the wine that has filled a sinner with the influence of the Spirit that fills the believer.

This eveningís message will be very straightforward, based upon three simple questions related to the filling of the Holy Spirit:

First, WHAT IS FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT?

Recognizing that the Apostle Paul is using figurative language to describe the relationship that he urges upon Christians with respect to the Third Person of the Trinity, we must admit that the Spiritís filling of the Christian is something more profound than a cup being filled with liquid. A child of God is more than a cup and the Holy Spirit of God is more than some type of spiritual fluid. In our text, the Apostle Paul is describing how two persons relate to each other, one of them being a Christian and the other being Divine in every sense of the word. Three observations in connection with the Christian being filled with the Holy Spirit:

First, to be filled with the Spirit is a distinctive of real Christianity. I am sorry, but I will have to take issue with the Scofield Reference Study Bible and the portrayal by C. I. Scofield in his study Bible that most Christians are carnal and only a few Christians are spiritual.[1] That notion was never accepted before the last half of the 19th century, and in my opinion is a view that was adopted to explain the vast numbers of people who responded to invitations given during crusades conducted by Charles G. Finney, Billy Sunday, and other like-minded revivalists, but who were not truly born again, did not ever faithfully attend church, had no private devotional life, yet insisted they were believers. Not to deny that Christians can be out of the will of God, or commit sins grievous to the Holy Spirit, but in the main Christians show themselves to be new creatures in Christ and to be very different from the kind of people they were before their conversion to Jesus Christ. There has been terrible confusion in Christendom over the last century, with many genuine believers thinking people are fellow Christians who are not, and many unbelievers who have been led to believe that they are Christians. The Lord Jesus Christ predicted such would be the case, in Matthew 7.22-23:

22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

How does this type of thing happen? We are told in Christís interpretation of His parable of the sower, in Matthew 13.20-21:

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

 When pastors are not careful in their ministry of the Word, someone can respond to the gospel with great joy and enthusiasm, and yet not be a Christian at all. Sadly, it happens all the time. When so great a percentage of people claiming to be believers are not actually saved at all, it causes even those who really are Christians to think it is normal for believers not to be Spirit filled. This is the state of Christianity in the western and much of the southern hemispheres. A careful consideration of Godís Word shows that taking the Corinthianís brief carnal episode into account, and taking the Galatianís brief doctrinal errors into account, the whole of the New Testament epistles shows genuine Christians to be in the main very spiritual, Spirit-filled, mainly needing instruction on how to deal with those few who are for a time not spiritual, and those few wolves in sheepís clothing who are not real Christians. Believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit of God, and when the Spiritís filling is rightly understood, it is easy to see that real Christians are distinctive in doing what Godís Word directs them to do. That is, Christians are obedient.

Next, a description of the Holy Spiritís influence. I touched on this a bit in my introductory remarks. I will now expand a bit on what I said a few moments ago. When you read our text, keep in mind that the apostle is using figurative language to give greater understanding. However, one must recognize that Paul is using figurative language. Whereas wine is an inanimate substance, the Holy Spirit is a Person. However, He is not only a Person; He is the Third Person of the Godhead, very God Himself. Thus, outside the metaphor Paul uses to illustrate some narrow points, the Holy Spirit is nothing like alcohol, nothing like a fluid, and not like anything that is material and has been created. What Paul seeks to convey is the concept of influence. When a man is filled with wine, he becomes strongly influenced by the effects of the alcohol. When a man is filled with the Spirit, in like manner only in this respect does that man become strongly influenced by the effect upon him of the Holy Spirit of God. When you take a step back from Ephesians 5.18 and consider the context of the passage and what Paul seeks to accomplish in this portion of his letter to the Ephesian church, it becomes clear that he is not contrasting between the carnal Christian, so-called, and the spiritual Christian. Rather, he is contrasting between the lost man and the Christian man. Read the entire fifth and sixth chapter of Ephesians and you will see for yourself that Paul is not writing to urge carnal Christians to become spiritual. Quite the contrary, he is writing to more clearly delineate between those who are lost and those who are saved, those who are carnal and those who are spiritual. In what ways does the Holy Spirit influence the child of God? In his heart, in his mind, producing gratitude, producing submission, in his marriage, with love, with reverence, by honoring, by obeying, with faithfulness, as unto the Lord, anticipating future blessing, and with resolute strength and prayer. In short, the Holy Spiritís filling results in a radical alteration of personality and behavior in the life of the Christian.

Because, thirdly, the filling of the Holy Spirit is a determined submission to the will of the Spirit of God. The word that is translated ďbe filledĒ in Ephesians 5.18 is the Greek word plhrousqe, which is a present passive imperative verb.[2] Imperative means it is a directive, a command. Christians are ordered to do this. Passive means it is done by allowing it to be done, the person doing it is acted upon by someone else, in this case the Holy Spirit. Present calls for an habitual and continuous action. Let us see if we have this right. We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so people are routinely encouraged to pray and ask God to fill them with His Spirit? How does that make sense? To use an irreverent parallel, what do you think of a child who has been told by his mother to empty the trash, who then pleads with his mother to empty the trash? Anyone who teaches you, or who encourages you to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit is showing you that he does not understand the concept at all. In Godís Word, you are commanded by the apostle to do this; therefore, there is nothing at all to pray about. Do it! What, precisely, are you doing when you are obeying the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit? You are engaging in a determined submission to the Holy Spiritís will. Remember that you are not a cup and He is not a fluid. Paul is speaking of influence here, so obedience to this command is seen by the Christianís determination to yield to the Spiritís influence, somewhat like wine influences a lost man.

Next, WHEN IS FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT?

This will be the most controversial portion of the message. I want to deal with the repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit, the initial filling of the Holy Spirit, and then deal once again with the repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit.

First, the repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2.4, 4.8, 4.31, 9.17, 13.9, and 13.52 we are explicitly told of individuals and groups being filled with the Holy Spirit who had previously been filled with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5.18, we are commanded to be constantly and continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, who can deny that the fillings of the Holy Spirit take place repeatedly in the lives of Christians? Such is declared to us and demanded of us.

What we have to deduce, because it is not explicitly declared in scripture, is when each Christianís initial filling of the Holy Spirit takes place. May I state my opinions that I will not take the time at present to prove to you, that the Spirit of God is a gift to every Christian from the savior, that at present the gift of the Spirit is given at the precise moment of a believerís new birth, and that by any definition of influence when the Holy Spirit so influences a sinner as to impart to him eternal life it is appropriate to say that he is filled by that same Spirit? In John 16.7, the Lord Jesus Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit in a dramatic display. Though the Book of Acts is a record of a transitional time in Godís dealings with believers, near the end of the Apostle Paulís life we see that the Holy Spirit was the possession of every believer in Jesus Christ.[3] The new birth takes place when a believer is born of the Spirit, John 3.5. At that moment, my opinion is that the child of God is then filled with the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is a gift given by Jesus Christ to the Christian, and gifts are not earned or subsequent to salvation, but take place at the moment of conversion. Thus, the Christian life is begun by means of faith in Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit also filling the newborn babe in Christ.

Back once more to repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit. When someone becomes a Christian, he does not become sinless. The struggle with sin continues. That means, the Spirit of God will be grieved and quenched by the Christianís sins, necessitating that the believer be filled by the Spirit once more. This process of responding to the command to be repeatedly and continuously filled with the Spirit takes place over the course of the Christianís life here on earth. If that be the case, why is it important when the initial filling of the Holy Spirit takes place? It is important because our intended relationship with the Holy Spirit is one that is established by grace through faith in Christ, but is maintained, nourished, and cultivated by the means of grace and by the disciplines of the Christian life. The Word of God describes the Christian life as life in Christ in the Spirit. If you are in the Spirit you began in the Spirit, you are directed to walk in the Spirit, you live in the Spirit, you pray in the Spirit, you worship God in the Spirit, you love in the Spirit, you are justified in the Spirit, and you live according to God in the Spirit.[4] Therefore, even if you do not accept as true my opinion about the Christianís initial filling of the Spirit, there can be no argument about the importance to the Christian life of subsequent fillings of the Spirit. Such filling by Godís Spirit is not an option.

Finally, HOW IS FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT?

Keeping in mind that the filling of the Holy Spirit is so much more than a fluid filling a cup, but is instead referring to the Spirit of Godís chosen way of influencing a Christianís life, we need to ask at this point how a Christian goes about this business of submitting to the Holy Spirit and consciously obeying Him.

We begin by going back to Ephesians 5.18 and reading through Ephesians 6.9:

18     And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

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.

22     Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

23     For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

24     Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

25     Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26     That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27     That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28     So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29     For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30     For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31     For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32     This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

33     Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

1      Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

2      Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

3      That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

4      And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

5      Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6      Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7      With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8      Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

9      And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

Continue reading in Ephesians and you will see Paul dealing with spiritual armor and urging prayer.

Keep in mind what we have just read while reading Colossians 3.16-4.4:

16     Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

17     And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

18     Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19     Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20     Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21     Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22     Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23     And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24     Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25     But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

1      Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

2      Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

3      Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

4      That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

Perhaps you noticed that, though Colossians is a somewhat more condensed treatment, the conduct that is produced in Christianís lives when they are filled with the Spirit is exactly the same behavior as when they are heeding the command to ďLet the word of Christ dwell in you richly.Ē How is this to be explained? Very simply. You are filled with the Spirit of God when you are consciously and explicitly obeying Him by searching out and obeying His will as it is revealed in the Bible. You did so when you came to Christ and became a Christian in obedience to His will in the Bible, and you do so whenever you obey Him by complying with His wishes subsequent to your conversion.

With respect to the filling of the Holy Spirit, there are two types of mistakes that people make, in my considered opinion: First, they are so fearful of being associated with those whose opinions about the Holy Spirit they disagree with that they stay away from the entire subject of the Spiritís filling. I think that is a mistake. As well, they so depersonalize the Holy Spirit that they really do envision the filling of the Spirit as little more than a cup being filled with fluid, rather than being the personal relationship that it is revealed in the Bible to be.

My friend, the Holy Spirit is a in every way a person, while at the same time being very God of very God. Being a person means that He possesses the properties of personhood, which are intellect, sensibility and will. To be filled with the Spirit is to consciously and conscientiously submit to His will as it is revealed in the Bible. Not the keeping of rules or adhering to regulations and principles, but learning what Someone wants and giving to Him what He wants, doing what He wants with reverence and godly fear.

Thus, when you read the Bible to learn what the Holy Spirit teaches to you and desires from you, and when you exercise your will with the wisdom you have to please Him, to comply with His direction for your life, you are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Keep doing that.



[1] See note on First Corinthians 2.14, where Scofield invents a classification system that he attributes to the Apostle Paul which contradicts the way in which Paul classifies mankind in First Corinthians 10.32, The First Scofield Reference Bible, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1986), page 1319.

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

[3] Romans 8.9; Ephesians 1.13-14

[4] Romans 8.9; Galatians 3.3; 5.16; 5.25; Ephesians 6.18; Philippians 3.3; Colossians 1.8; 1 Timothy 3.16; 1 Peter 4.6



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