Filled With the Spirit
(Ephesians 5:18) And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; In a previous meditation we considered what it means to be led of the Spirit: it is to be led by the Scripture which is given by the Spirit. A similar line of reasoning applies to today's text which speaks of being filled with the Spirit. This being filled with the Spirit is not referring to the time when the institution of the New Testament church was filled with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (ACT 2:1-4). Nor does it refer to the corresponding event at the conversion and baptism of the first uncircumcised Gentiles at Cornelius' house (ACT 10:44-48). The Pentecost event served to convince unbelieving Jews that God was with the Jewish Christians. The latter event served to convince Jewish Christians that God was also with believing Gentiles, “...Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (ACT 11:17-18), “...And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (ACT 15:7-9). The instruction in today's text is obviously not a matter of God repeating that visible filling with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost for the sake of the church of Ephesus. The Ephesian church had already long been established as a church to which Paul had sent Timothy as a presiding minister (1TI 1:3) and Paul by the Spirit had just told them that they were “...builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (EPH 2:18-22). Today's text was written to the Ephesian saints exhorting them as individuals to live as true spiritual believers by being filled with the Spirit. When the church at Pentecost was filled with the Holy Ghost, the spiritual gift of tongues (a miraculous power to speak a language one had not learned) was manifested (ACT 2:4-6). The same miracle happened at Cornelius' house (ACT 10:45-46). Because of this association, many today assume that miracles prove that a church is truly spiritual and therefore miracles (real or not) are encouraged. But the fact is that a church could be filled with spiritual gifts like the miracle of tongues and NOT be a spiritual church. For example, the church at Corinth was filled with the gifts of the Spirit: “...ye come behind in no gift...” (1CO 1:7), yet Paul had to reprove them, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1CO 3:1). An honest reading of Paul's letters to Corinth shows that they were quite carnal, self-promoting and self-centered, utterly contrary to the greatest spiritual gift of charity (1CO 13:13). Charity “...vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up...seeketh not her own...” (1CO 13:4-5). As to how a Christian should be filled with the Spirit, our text actually gives an important clue. Being filled with the spirit is juxtaposed with being drunk with excess wine. Excess wine breaks down rational self-restraint: Proverbs 23:29-35 (29) Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? (30) They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. (31) Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. (32) At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. (33) Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. (34) Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. (35) They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again. Suffice it to say that the threatenings and promises of Scripture (which save us from defiling sins, PSA 119:11) have little impression on the man who is this inebriated. In such a state, the spirit of liquor virtually always wins over the spirit of the Lord. One is not exactly in a position to fight spiritual temptation when heavily under the influence of alcohol and he is certainly not a spiritual Christian when he is an incoherent, foul-mouthed, adulterous drunk. Excess wine also impairs memory, and therefore King Solomon also wrote: (PRO 31:4) It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: (PRO 31:5) Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. The gospel saves us if we keep it in memory (1CO 15:1-2), but this is thwarted by drowning it with alcohol. Successful Christian warfare against the wiles of the devil demands that we keep our bodily appetites under control (1CO 9:27) and our minds sharp to have good judgment. Peter said: (1PE 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1PE 5:9) Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. Soberness, vigilance, faith. Since “...faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (ROM 10:17), we have a hope of victory through filling a sober mind with the words of the spirit recorded in Scripture. By these, we can be “...filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (COL 1:9), having our “...senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (HEB 5:14). Our minds will be conformed to spiritual truth which convicts, guides, warns, relieves and makes us free: (JOH 8:31) Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (JOH 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. The truth will free us from Satan's deceptions and guide our hearts (PRO 23:19) lest our hearts guide us by the power of emotions, an influence which often masquerades as the power of the Spirit of God.