By Mike Willis
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). He used the words to contrast with the tendency to become exuberant through intoxication. T. Croskery wrote, “There is a real contrast here exhibited between fulness of wine and fulness of the Spirit. There is an intensity of feeling produced in both cases” (The Pulpit Commentary: Ephesians 223).
Drunkenness is to be avoided. It is accompanied by noisy partying with unrestrained merrymaking. Paul said that it was accompanied by asotia: “an abandoned, dissolute, life; profligacy, prodigality” (Thayer 82). Such a one is abandoned to vice, lost to principle, virtue, or decency; shameless in wickedness. This is not the kind of excitement that a Christian should be involved in. Rather, he should find his thrilling exuberance when he is filled with the Spirit. One should find a means of expressing his warm, glowing feelings toward God and his brethren. W.G. Blaikie wrote, “Instead of re-sorting to wine to cheer and animate you, throw your hearts open to the Holy Spirit, so that he may come and fill them; seek the joy that the Spirit inspires when he makes you to sit with Christ in heavenly places, so that, instead of pouring out your joyous feelings in bacchanalian songs, you may do so in Christian hymns” (The Pulpit Commentary: Ephesians 210).
The apostle then cited three different ways that we can manifest that we are full of the Spirit.
Singing Praise To God (5:19)
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
Those who are filled with the Spirit burst out in praise to God in song. There is a social aspect of the worship, in which one joins with others to offer praise to God. He is full, not of the latest country western, rock, pop, or new age hits, but with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. His worship is not that empty ritual in which a person goes through the motions of singing. He is singing and making melody in his heart to the Lord.
Those who are full of the Spirit enjoy praising God in song. We need worship leaders who appreciate what good singing does for an assembly of saints. Such leaders will make preparation for that part of our public worship just as Bible class teachers, preachers, and others prepare for their part. A song leader who runs in at the last minute and hurriedly picks out a few songs that have been sung so many times that the congregation is worn out from singing them interferes with our offering worship. A song leader who leads songs out of pitch and drug to death make it hard to enjoy this part of worship to its fullest.
How encouraging is an assembly in which the saints sing their praises to God with obvious exuberance! Those who are full of the Spirit find that their hearts thrill to offer this worship.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:20).
Another mark of being full of the Spirit is being thankful to the Lord. Thanksgiving is not a day to be observed on the last Thursday in November. It is not an annual spiritual holy day in which a large American bird is sacrificed to our gluttony. Rather, thanksgiving is a way of life.
Old Testament Commentaries
Thanksgiving is an attitude toward God for his abundant provisions for us. If we had nothing to be thankful for except his physical provisions for us, we American people should be a thankful people. However, on top of the abundance of our physical blessings, we have all spiritual blessings in Christ for which to be grateful. No wonder the psalmists exhorted us to praise the Lord in thanksgiving:
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High (Psa. 50:14).
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and bless his name (Psa. 100:4).
Our thanksgiving should not be limited to those times when everything is going just like we want it. Our God superintends our life and sometimes sees the need for fatherly chastening (Heb. 12:6). Solomon wrote long ago, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him” (Eccl. 7:14). Like Paul, we need to accept our afflictions with grace, giving thanks for the God who knows what is best for sending them (2 Cor. 12:90.
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear God (Eph. 5:21). Another mark of being filled with the Spirit is mutual submission to one another. The opposite of this spirit is a perverse egotism, a self-opinionated superiority that causes contention and strife in the local church. To the degree that such contention and strife exist, the church is still carnal (1 Cor. 3:3). Those who are filled with the Spirit will have learned to consider the needs of their brethren. Paul wrote elsewhere, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
We can witness how full of the Spirit a body of people are by their serving one another. When the needs of the sick go unmet, when the poor are left hungry, and when the hurting are ignored, the congregation of people is not full of the Spirit.
Being full of the Spirit does not mean that one jumps up and down while shouting. That more nearly resembles the conduct of those who are drunken than those who are full of the Spirit. Paul defines for us what being filled with the Spirit means. Let’s individually measure ourselves to see if we are empty, half full, or full of the Spirit.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 9 p. 2
April May 1, 1997