Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
This is the fourth post in a short series responding to the question: How can I be filled with the Spirit? Today, we’ll see that the way I’ve been asking this question is not altogether adequate. Though an individual Christian can surely be filled with the Spirit, the emphasis in our passage is on the corporate dimensions of such filling. This is something we share with fellow members of Christ’s body.
The main imperative in verse 18 is plural: “You [plural] be filled with the Spirit.” This could be addressed to a collection of individuals (you + you + you + you) or to a group of people considered together (all y’all; you guys). What follows after verse 18 shows a strong corporate sense here: “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” In fact, the participle “speaking” is grammatically dependent on the imperative “be filled.” It could be translated as, “filled with the Spirit, by/through speaking to one another.” In other words, Paul assumes that he is speaking to a group of Christians together, to people who would be able to speak to each other as they are filled by the Spirit.
Given all we’ve seen so far in Ephesians, it comes as no surprise that the filling of the Spirit is something we experience along with other believers. This is not to deny an individual experience of God, of course. But it’s easy for us in our day to get so preoccupied by our own private experience of God that we neglect the essential corporate dimension. Ephesians offers an effective remedy to a hyper-individualism that weakens our faith and our community.
So, it might be better to phrase the question, “How can we be filled with the Spirit?” But, if we stick with the original “How can I be filled with the Spirit?” then our answer would be, “By being meaningfully engaged with other Christians,” or “By being an active member of the body of Christ.” As we gather together for corporate worship, as we serve together as co-ministers of Christ, we will be filled together with God’s Spirit.
(Mark D. Roberts)
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you experienced the filling of the Spirit in a context of corporate worship or ministry? Are you regularly engaged with fellow believers in worship and service? Are there other believers in your life with whom you are seeking the fullness of the Spirit?
Gracious God, by your grace, you have gathered us together as your people. We are one body, united by grace, dedicated to you and your purposes. Help us, Lord, to live as your body, to share together in life and ministry. Fill us with your Spirit, so that we might live and serve in unity and power. To you be all the glory. In the name of Yahushua,Amen.