************ Sermon on Ephesians 5:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 31, 2009
"Be Filled With the Spirit"
Pentecost Sunday 2009
Let me ask you about your spiritual life: is it going upward or is it sliding backwards? Are you as excited and enthusiastic about the faith as you were when you first professed Jesus? Is your faith growing or is at standstill and going flat? Regardless of your answer, you need to hear what Scripture says this morning about being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now, let me remind you that when we talk of the Holy Spirit, we are talking of a person. He is not a liquid poured out into the empty vessel of your soul. He is not a force or power, like electricity, which you plug into. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead. So, we are being told to be filled with a person beyond our control and manipulation.
I Be Filled With the Spirit
A Our text begins rather strangely: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery" (Eph 5:18). What possible connection does this have with the filling of the Spirit? To see the connection, I need to remind you of what happened on Pentecost Sunday. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Some in the crowd that came together made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine" (Acts 2:13). This tells us that from a strictly external point-of-view there is little difference in appearance between being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. In others words, those filled with the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday displayed vivid emotions and lots of enthusiasm, just like a loud and boisterous drunk. I hope there are times when we, too, are emotional and enthusiastic about our faith!
We also need to keep in mind the religious practices of the pagan worshipers in Ephesus. Much of their worship involved excess alcohol to the point where people lost control and indulged in all sorts of debauchery. So what Paul is saying is that the Ephesian Christians are not to be like the pagans – they are to be filled with the Spirit rather than with wine and their worship is to be different than the worship of the heathens.
B In our text, Paul presents a deliberate contrast, a contrast that we see throughout Ephesians:
(Eph 5:18) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.Either you are filled with and under the influence of the Spirit or you are filled with and under the influence of wine (which, remember, represents pagan worship and practices). Either you have put on the new self or you still wear the old self (Eph 4:22-24). Either you are alive with Christ or dead in sin (Eph 2:1-10). Either you live as a Christian or as a Gentile (Eph 4:17-19). Either you are a child of light or you are a child of darkness (Eph 5:1-14). Either you struggle against the devil or against Christ (Eph 6:10ff).
Being filled with the Spirit, then, has to do with repentance and conversion. It has to do with the control of the Spirit. What controls your life: is it the things of this world or is it the Spirit? Is it alcohol or is it the Spirit? Is it drugs or is it the Spirit? Is it greed, anger, lust, hatred or is it the Spirit?
C "Be filled with the Spirit." Notice, this is an imperative. Meaning what? Meaning it is not a suggestion. It is not a wish or a prayer or a hope. It is not a casual statement. It is a command.
"Be filled with the Spirit." This is in the passive voice. Meaning what? Meaning this is not something man does; rather, it is something done by God. God, in the Holy Spirit, is the primary actor. God, in the Holy Spirit, takes the initiative and comes upon believers and fills them. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead. So, we cannot control Him or manipulate Him. So, it is the Spirit Himself Who takes the first step. In fact, without the Spirit we can do nothing; without the Spirit we cannot even take baby steps in walking the converted life.
However, as Paul tells us elsewhere, we can grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), and we can resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51), and we can put out the Spirit's fire (1 Thess 5:19). How? Sin. So, we need to yield control to the Spirit instead of to sin.
"Be filled with the Spirit." This is in the present tense. Meaning what? Meaning this expresses continuous action. All our life, the Spirit wants to be at work in us, filling us, controlling us, directing us. This is not a one-time act. This is not a temporary thing. The Spirit wants to make a permanent home in our hearts. All our life we need to cooperate with the Spirit; all our life, we are to avoid grieving the Spirit and resisting the Spirit and putting out the Spirit's fire. All our life we need to yield control to the Spirit.
"Be filled with the Spirit." This is also communal. For, who is the subject? Who is told to be filled with the Spirit? Don't forget how the letter starts out:
(Eph 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:Meaning what? Meaning the saints are to be filled with the Spirit. The saints. That is, the church. Not just pastors. Not just elders. Not just deacons. Not just Sunday School teachers. But all the people of God are to be filled with the Spirit. Graciela. Jeff. Jamie. Stephani. Waylon. Brady. In short, everyone who believes in Jesus is to be yielding control to the Spirit every single day.
D In a Scripture that is inspired by God, it is no accident that Ephesians 5:18-20 is very similar to Colossians 3:16-17. In Ephesians 5, Paul says, "be filled with the Spirit." In Colossians 3, Paul says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Listen to these verses:
(Eph 5:18-20) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (19) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (20) always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Do you hear the similarities? Both talk about a filling or a dwelling. Both talk of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Both mention giving thanks to God.
(Col 3:16-17) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (17) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So what? Here is the point: the Spirit never ever works apart from the Word. Unless the Word of God dwells within us richly, we cannot be filled with the Spirit. Unless we hear the Word and study the Word and meditate on the Word and love the Word, the Spirit cannot fill us, control us, or direct us. Apart from the Word, we can only grieve the Spirit, and resist the Spirit, and put out the Spirit's fire. So, we need to spend time with the Word in order to be filled with the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit. And, of course, the main place we hear the Word is in church. And, I don't need to remind you we have church twice each Sunday. In fact, I have noticed that some people who used to come twice only come once now.
Remember what I asked at the start of this sermon? I asked if your spiritual life is going upward or sliding backwards. Your spiritual life is going upward only if you are filled with the Spirit. And, you are filled with the Spirit only if the word of Christ dwells in you richly. It is as simple as that.
II The Result of Being Spirit Filled
A How do I know I am Spirit filled? How do you know you are Spirit filled? How does Graciela know if she is Spirit filled?
Some Christians and churches say it is easy to know if you are filled with the Spirit – all you have to do is speak in tongues. Or, have other spectacular gifts like the power to heal or to prophesy. But I want you to notice what Paul says right after he commands us to "be filled with the Spirit." Paul says:
(Eph 5:19-21) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (20) always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (21) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
You might wonder what this has to do with being filled with the Spirit? Allow me to give you a brief lesson on the Greek of our Bible reading. In the Greek, we have four participles in verses 19-21: speak, sing, giving thanks, submit. Now, participles never stand by themselves; they are always attached to a verb. The verb they are attached to is "be filled."
So, how do I know if I am filled with the Spirit? How do you know? How does Graciela know? How will Waylon and Brady know? The answer is found in the four participles. I show I am filled with the Spirit if I speak, sing, give thanks, and submit.
I want to observe with you that the evidence of being controlled by the Spirit does not lie in a slaying by the Spirit or what is called the "baptism of the Spirit," it does not lie in extreme emotionalism, it does not lie in exciting gifts or works, it does not lie in dancing or uplifted hands or uncontrolled exuberance. Rather, the four participles show us that the evidence of being controlled by the Spirit lies in relationships.
B The first relationship I want to talk about is with God. The participles that go with this relationship are "sing" and "giving thanks." If you are Spirit filled, you "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:20).
Are you thankful or are you a grouchy complainer and whiner? In these hard and bad economic times, is your cup half full or is it half empty? Are you positive or are you negative? Do you count your blessings or do you count your crosses?
Spirit filled people are thankful people. They are people who are always thankful. Regardless of the problems and trials they are facing, they are thankful – not for the problems themselves, of course – they are thankful in or during all problems and trials. No matter how trying the circumstances, they can always find something for which to give thanks.
Spirit filled people don't thank some nameless deity or entity – they are people who are thankful to God. And, they are thankful to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Because they recognize that all the blessings of God flow to us through Jesus.
Notice how we give thanks: through music and song. That doesn't necessarily mean all of us can carry a tune; for some of us, all that we can make is a joyful noise. But we sing and make music because that is one of the main ways in which we can thank the Lord. That is why music is so important in worship. By our music (or joyful noise) God is praised and glorified.
C The second relationship I want to talk about is with our fellow believers. The participle that goes with this relationship is "speak." If you are Spirit filled, you "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph 5:19).
I want you to notice how we don't speak to one another if we are Spirit filled: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, curse, swear, lie, gossip, deceit. People who are Spirit filled are careful in what they say. They keep their speech under control as a sign that they are under the Spirit's control.
"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." What exactly does this mean? Let me quote, again, what Paul wrote to the Colossians:
(Col 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Did you catch that? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are used for teaching and admonishing. You need to recognize that in the Ancient World, songs and poems were used to pass on the stories of a tribe. Songs and poems expressed and taught what was important to an individual or a group. That is true even today. That is why we only sing songs that honor God and agree with our theology. And, the church has recognized for a long time that one of the quickest ways to spread heresy is through song. "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." In other words, teach and admonish one another. But do so in a positive and loving way.
D The third relationship I want to talk about is with those in the home. The participle that goes with this relationship is "submit." If you are Spirit filled, you "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:20). This is immediately followed by a section on husbands and wives, children, and slaves. In fact, it introduces the section on husbands and wives. "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" is preceded by "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." And, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church" is preceded by "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." It is obvious, isn't it?! Spirit filled husbands and wives submit to one another.
Meaning what? Spirit filled husbands and wives do not insist on their own way. Husbands and wives who are controlling, possessive, and jealous show they are not Spirit filled. Those who throw a fit or become angry when their wishes are not followed show they are not Spirit filled.
Spirit filled husbands and wives submit to one another. They seek the good of the other person. They put the desires of the other person before their own. They are so busy submitting to one another that they have no time to be selfish or self-centered. The issue of control and power and who has the last word does not even have to come up in such a relationship.
E The New Testament indicates there are also other signs of being Spirit filled. In Acts 2, the apostles were Spirit filled and they began to speak in other tongues or languages (Acts 2:4).
Remember what we are told about the early believers towards the end of Acts 2?
(Acts 2:42) They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.These, too, are signs of being Spirit filled.
Or, consider what we are told in Acts 4 about the early Christians:
(Acts 4:31-32) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (32) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.Prayer, speaking the word of God boldly, one in heart and mind, sharing with the needy are all signs of being Spirit filled.
Finally, let me remind you of the first major ministry problem faced by the early church – the daily distribution of food to widows. Notice the qualifications needed to oversee this early soup kitchen:
(Acts 6:3) Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them ...To be a deacon, you need to be Spirit filled.
"Be filled with the Spirit." Be under the control of the Spirit rather than under the control of the world. Live according to God's way rather than man's way. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly.
What happens then? You will regain the excitement and enthusiasm you first had when you confessed faith in Christ. You will find yourself growing and maturing in the faith.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday I say to Graciela, Jeff, Jamie, Stephani, Waylon, Brady, "Be filled with the Spirit." I say this to all of you, "Be filled with the Spirit."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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