Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
In yesterday’s post, I began to consider the exhortation in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit in this verse is the Spirit of God, the one who fills us with God’s own presence and power.
Yet, if the Spirit is the one who fills us, how can we respond to the imperative, “Be filled with the Spirit.” You may have noticed that this is a passive imperative. The Greek does not mean, “Fill yourself with the Spirit,” as if this is something you or I can do by your own power. No, the implication of the passive is that God is the active agent who fills us with his Spirit, perhaps through the agency of the Spirit or of Christ, “who fills everything in every way” (1:23).
But, if God fills us, then how can we do what verse 18 expects? How can we “be filled” with the Spirit of God?
There is no magic formula to be discovered here, no secret words or actions to make God fill us with his Spirit. The context of Ephesians 5 associates the fullness of the Spirit with ministry to others and worship to God. We will see this more clearly in future posting on 5:19-21.
Something similar appears in Acts of the Apostles. When the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, those who received the Spirit offered praise to God in various languages, but their worship was a result of their being filled, not the cause of their filling (see Acts 2:1-12). God filled the followers of his son Yahushua with his Spirit on the basis of his sovereign will, in fulfillment of prophecy he uttered centuries earlier. Elsewhere in Acts, the filling of the Spirit empowers people for ministry, especially the ministry of boldly proclaiming the good news of God. In Acts 4, the filling of the Spirit follows a time of corporate praise and prayer (see Acts 4:31). But, it would be a mistake to conclude that every time we open our mouths to worship, to share God’s word, or to pray, God is obligated to fill us with his Spirit. The Spirit is present and active in our speaking, to be sure. But the filling of the Spirit seems to imply something more, something that God does according to his timing and purposes.
Since we cannot fill ourselves with the Spirit, and since we cannot force God to fill us, then our response to the imperative “Be filled with the Spirit” isn’t so much doing something definitive as it is making ourselves available. We can offer ourselves to God as vessels ready to be filled. We can ask God to fill us. We can worship him with openness to the Spirit. We can step out to minister in his name. The more we make ourselves available to God wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, the more we will be ready to be filled with his Spirit. This filling, though a blessing to us, is not primarily for us. Rather, we are filled with the Spirit in order to serve the Lord and to serve others in his name.
(Mark D. Roberts)
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you available to be filled with the Spirit of God? Do you ask God to fill you? Do you step out to minister in God’s name, relying on the power of his Spirit? Do you enter into worship wholeheartedly, expecting to encounter the living God as you offer your praise and yourself to him?
Gracious God, you are indeed the one who fills us with your Spirit. We cannot make this happen. It occurs by your choice and for your purposes. Yet, we can offer ourselves more fully to you. We can open our hearts to be filled by you. We can step out in ministry to others, relying on your power. We can seek to worship you with heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can devote ourselves to prayer, so that our hearts and minds are more fully yours.
Still, you are sovereign, Lord, in all things. So we bless you for your wisdom, even as we pray that you might fill us with your Spirit so that we might serve you more fully in every part of life. In the mighty name of Yahushua i ask, Amen.