************ Sermon on Ephesians 5:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 17, 2016
"Be Filled with the Holy Spirit"
I ask my Catechism class Who God the Father is, and they are more than able to say something about creation, the call of Abraham, the Law, and the choosing of a people. I ask them Who God the Son is, and they can talk about His holy conception and virgin birth, His baptism, His crucifixion and resurrection, that He is fully God and fully man. I ask them Who God the Spirit is, and they don't really know what to say other than make a reference to Pentecost; years ago, two of my students argued over whether to refer to the Spirit as a "He" or as an "It."
This reminds me of what is recorded in Acts 19. We read there about Paul's first visit to Ephesus. Paul found some disciples of Jesus and in his discussion with them he discovered something was lacking. So he asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed." They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied (Acts 19:2-3).
Apart from Pentecostals who emphasize the Spirit, it is fair to say that many Christians today appear to be in the same boat. They know about the Father and the Son but can't really say much about the Spirit.
So what do we know about the Spirit? We know He is the third person of the Triune Godhead. We know he lives in every believer. We know He makes all the difference in our lives: being made born again, believing the Bible, accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord, repenting of sin, living the new life, joining the church, growing in the faith, and witnessing. We know all of this, yet more than one pastor and theologian of the Reformed tradition has acknowledged that we don't give enough attention to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Today, I want to tell you what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Once we are saved by grace through faith, our greatest need as Christians is to be filled with the Spirit. I repeat, this is our greatest need once we are Christians.
"Be filled with the Spirit," says our text (Eph 5:18). What is this filling of the Spirit? How does it happen? Does it make any difference in our lives? And, most importantly, are you and I filled with the Spirit?
I The Spirit Instead of Wine
A Our text begins with a contrast: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18). Did you hear the contrast between wine and Spirit? By "wine" Paul means any alcoholic drink: wine, whiskey, vodka, beer, tequila. And, we can expand it today to also include those drugs to which people get addicted: marijuana, meth, pain-killers, heroin.
Out text draws a direct parallel between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit. What is Paul getting at? What point is he trying to make? What is the point of comparison? Paul is talking about the issue of influence or control. A person under the influence of alcohol or drugs experiences altered behavior. He or she may say or do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. Emotions are heightened. Restraints are loosened. A person may become belligerent or angry. Mental processes are affected. Judgment is impaired. Physical reaction is slowed. For instance, the Visalia Times Delta this week contains the story of Cheyenne Ray Wyllie who has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder after driving under the influence and killing two people and seriously injuring two others. The judge refused her request for bail so she was led off, shackled and in a blue prison jumpsuit.
This is not a new problem. Remember Noah? He got drunk and lay naked in his tent, exposing himself to his family (Gen 9:20-27).
The book of Proverbs warns us about the abuse of alcohol (and drugs).
(Prov 21:17) He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.
(Prov 23:21) ... drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
I want to warn you congregation, I need to warn you congregation, about the danger of alcohol and drugs. Being under the influence can wreck the rest of your life. Just ask Cheyenne Ray Wyllie. Ask Noah what he had to do after Ham saw him drunk and naked. Ask the wise man of Proverbs what happens when you come under the influence.
B Now, remember, our text draws a parallel between being under the influence of alcohol (and drugs) and being filled with the Spirit. Just like being under the influence of drugs and alcohol produces a change in behavior, so being filled with the Spirit produces a change in behavior.
Take a look at the disciples. They became bold evangelists for the Lord Jesus Christ after they were filled with the Spirit. But that is not the only change in behavior that takes place when you are filled with the Spirit. The rest of our Scripture reading describes a Spirit-filled life. Filled with the Spirit you imitate Christ -- Who loved us and gave Himself up for us -- and live a life of love (Eph 5:1). Filled with the Spirit, there is not even a hint among you of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, foolish talk, and coarse joking (Eph 5:3-7). Filled with the Spirit your life is marked with thanksgiving (Eph 5:4,20). Filled with the Spirit you live as children of light as you pursue goodness, righteousness, and truth (Eph 5:8-9). Filled with the Spirit you sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (Eph 5:19). Filled with the Spirit you have an attitude of submission rather than control in all your relationships (Eph 5:21).
When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, your life will be changed.
C As God's people we have a choice. We can choose to be controlled by alcohol and drugs. Or, we can choose to be controlled by the Spirit of Jesus Who loved us and gave Himself up for us. The issue is one of control. The issue is one of influence. Who or what controls you: alcohol, drugs, or the Spirit of Jesus? Who or what most influences your decisions, your actions, your words: alcohol, drugs, or the Spirit of Jesus?
The Bible program on my computer automatically compares different translations and paraphrases. This paraphrase caught my eye and my attention this past week: "Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him" (The Message by Eugene Peterson). I love that phrase, "Drink the Spirit of God." What a picture to put in your mind!
II Filled with the Spirit - what it means
A "Be filled with the Spirit." The original Greek expresses continual action. You were filled with the Spirit. You are filled with the Spirit. And you will be filled with the Spirit. To get this idea across we might better translate the sentence as "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." It is something you keep on doing. It is not a one-time event. We need to be filled again and again. It is something that happens all the time and every day. The filling of the Spirit is to be part of our normal, day-to-day life.
B "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." Is this a request? Is this a suggestion? Is this an observation? Is it understood that the Apostle Paul adds a "please" to what he says? None of this. It is a command. It is not a request. It is not a suggestion. It is not an observation. There is no "please." It is a command. It is a demand. Since Paul writes this as God's Spirit-inspired apostle, this command and demand comes from God Himself. It is what God commands and demands. So, this is not optional. This is not something we can take or leave. God does not leave it up to us to decide whether we want this. Meaning what? Think about this: if you aren't filled with the Spirit, you are not obeying the will of God! If you aren't being filled with the Spirit, you are being disobedient.
C "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." In the Greek this is a passive command and not an active command. If I say to the congregation, "Let us stand to confess the Apostles' Creed," that is an active command. If I say to Ruth, "Restart your computer," that is an active command. If I say to Alexander, "Go put on your shoes," that's an active command. If I say to my oak tree, "Grow big and strong," that's a passive command.
God doesn't say, "Fill yourself with the Spirit." Rather, He says, "Be filled, continue to be filled, with the Spirit." It is passive rather than active. We know this as a divine passive. Why do we call it divine? Because it is something God does. Because it is something only God can do. God does not say, "fill yourself." Rather, He says, "Be filled" or "Continue to be filled." You can't fill yourself with the Spirit. It is something God needs to do in you and to you.
"Continue to be filled with the Spirit." The passive command also says something about the Spirit. It says God's Spirit is ready and willing to fill us. This says God's Spirit wants to control us and influence us. This says God's Spirit wants to be in charge of our life.
D "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." Notice that word "filled." A couple of weeks ago John Petter and I attended the meeting of Classis in Oregon. Before returning to the airport we needed to fill our rental car with gas. In California we pump our own gas; in Oregon, an attendant pumps for you. So when he came over I said, "Fill it up." Now, would I have said that if my gas tank was completely full? Of course not! I said that because my gas tank needed to be filled. "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." The Lord does not want us to run on empty. The Lord wants us to be filled, right to the top, right to the brim, with His Spirit. So that He completely controls us and influences us and is in charge of us.
E "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." To whom is this being said? Who is the audience? The command is plural. "Let each and every one of you continue to be filled with the Spirit." The command is meant for every single Christian. God commands all of His children to be filled with the Spirit.
The command is plural. Which also means it applies to the church. The church, not just individual members, is to be filled with the Spirit. The church as a whole, the church as a body, is to be filled with the Spirit. God wants the Spirit to fill all the church so the church as a whole is under the influence and control of the Spirit.
III Filled with the Spirit - how it shows
A "Be filled with the Spirit." "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." How do we know if we are filled? How does it show if we are filled?
Let's go back to the parallel between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit. Drunks/addicts and Spirit-filled people have one thing in common. They are both under the control of something. Drunks and addicts are controlled by alcohol and drugs. Spirit-filled people are controlled by the Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit fills you, He has the controlling interest in your life. When the Holy Spirit fills you, He has the greatest influence on your life. This doesn't mean you have more of the Spirit; rather, it means the Spirit has more of you.
The filling of the Spirit is not an emotional experience. It is not an intellectual experience. It is not reserved for pastors and elders. It is a normal experience for normal Christians in normal day-to-day life. That's why the Greek expresses continual action. We are to be continually controlled by the Spirit.
B What role do you, as a Christian, play in this? When the Holy Spirit controls and influences you, it is control and influence you want. That is, you want to be under His control and influence. You desire to be under His control and influence. You do whatever you can to be under His control and influence.
What do you do, where do you go, if you want to be under the influence and control of alcohol? You go to the bar or the liquor store or the beer and wine section of the grocery store. You go to parties and events where booze flows like water. What do you do, where do you go, if you want to be under the influence and control of the Spirit? You go to church. You go to Bible Study. You go to retreats and camp-outs. You go to Christian college. You send your children to Christian school.
You cooperate with the Spirit. You let the Spirit lead you and guide you. This means you don't keep trying to do things your way. This means you no longer are the one in control. This means you don't fight or resist what the Spirit wants you to do and what the Spirit wants you to become.
Remember the three jars I showed the boys and girls? You cannot fill a jar that is already full. Nor can you fill a jar if the lid is screwed on tight. You can only fill a jar that is empty and open. Now, apply this to the Holy Spirit. If you are full of alcohol and drugs, if you are full of boasting and pride, if you are full of greed and lust, is there room left for the Spirit? If the lid of your heart is closed to the work of the Spirit, can the Spirit fill you? You cannot fill a jar that is already full and you cannot fill a jar that is closed.
C "Continue to be filled with the Spirit." You must recognize your need: "Lord, I'm running on empty and I need to be filled by your Spirit."
"Continue to be filled with the Spirit." You must be willing: "Lord, I am open to Your presence. Fill me with Your Spirit."
"Continue to be filled with the Spirit." This is God's plan for your life. This is God's plan for the life of His church. When this happens, it changes your life. It changes our life. No longer are you under the control of alcohol and drugs, pride, arrogance, greed, lust, immorality, obscenity. Instead, you are under the control of the Spirit. Instead, we are under the control of the Spirit: Being imitators of God in Christ, giving thanks to God, singing to God, submitting to one another, serving one another. So I say to you, "Continue to be filled with the Spirit."
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