As believers we are to be under the influence, not of alcohol, but of the Spirit. We are looking at the wise walk in Ephesians 5:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, Ephesians 5:15 NASB
This is Paul's final use of the word "walk" in Ephesians. This command to walk as those who are wise is the longest of Paul's instructions for walking. It begins at verse 15 of chapter 5 and ends with verse 9 in chapter 6. The overriding command of this section is recorded in verse 15. Here believers are called to walk in wisdom.
This first exhortation, "be careful how you walk," stands like a heading and is explained by three antitheses, "not...but," in the following clauses: not as unwise, but as wise; not foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; not drunk, but filled with the Spirit. If we are going to walk carefully, we must walk in wisdom.
In our last study we looked at the first half of the third antithesis:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB
Contrary to what some Christians believe and teach, the Bible does not forbid all use of alcoholic beverages. The use of alcohol in moderation is not condemned or forbidden. We saw in our last study that Yeshua both made and drank wine. We see the idea in Scripture that the purpose of alcohol is to cheer the heart. What this verse and the whole of Scripture clearly condemns is drunkenness; it is foolish and destructive. Paul calls it "dissipation," which is from the Greek asotia. It points to the wastefulness and destruction of property, relationships, and life that often go along with drunkenness. The adverb is used in Luke 15:13 of way that the prodigal son wastefully spent his inheritance on loose living. It means to be out of control, because alcohol now controls the person.
So Paul is saying that rather than be filled with wine, so as to be under its influence, Christians should be filled with the Holy Spirit, so as to be under His influence. The emphasis of this verse falls heavily on the latter part of the verse, "but be filled with the Spirit."
We see this contrast of being under the influence of alcohol or the Spirit in several places in Scripture. Speaking of John the baptizer, the angel says:
"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. Luke 1:15 NASB
So John is to be under the influence of the Spirit and not of alcohol. We also see this contrast on the day of Pentecost:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:4 NASB
So the apostles are under the influence of the Spirit, but the crowd thinks they are drunk:
But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine." Acts 2:13 NASB
Then Peter stands up and says:
"For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND... Acts 2:15-17 NASB
The people said these people are full of new wine, and Peters says, "No, these are full of the Holy Spirit." So we see this contrast of not being under the influence of alcohol, but to be under the influence of the Spirit several times in Scripture.
"But be filled with the Spirit" — this is a command, it's in the imperative mood. Christians in Asia Minor were commanded to be filled with the Spirit, which tells me this: Not all Christians are filled with the Spirit, but it's not an option. It's a verb that's in the present tense, and so it literally means: "keep on being filled." This isn't a once-for-all experience. The verb is in the passive, which means that you don't fill yourself, it is something that is done to you. You can put yourself in the position to be filled, but it must be the sovereign Lord, the Spirit, that does the filling.
The word "filled" is the Greek word pleroo, which is used of something which is filled with content, for example: "to fill" containers or; in the passive: "the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment" (John 12:3). Metaphorically, in the passive it can mean "to be filled with unrighteousness" (Romans 1:29). To "be filled" can connote the idea "that a man is completely controlled by the powers which fill him." We see this idea of "control" in such passages as:
"But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. John 16:6 NASB
The word "filled" here is pleroo. They were filled with sorrow to the point that it dominated and controlled them. What comes to your mind when you hear the statement, "He was filled with fear"? Don't you envision a man so controlled and motivated by fear that his every move and action is the product of that fear? Likewise, the Spirit of God is to so pervade all our being that He controls: all our thoughts, affections, purposes, and plans. Notice the great contrast between Stephen and the Sanhedrin:
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God; Acts 7:54-55 NASB
The Sanhedrin were completely controlled by anger, and Stephen was controlled by the Holy Spirit. He was full of the Holy Spirit in chapter 6, when he was chosen, and he's still full of the Holy Spirit in chapter 7. This continual filling was the point Paul was making in Ephesians 5:18, when he gave the command to "Be being kept filled with the Spirit." We are to be continually being controlled by the Spirit, and that was precisely what characterized Stephen — he was full of the Spirit all the time. It wasn't some sudden shot; it was a continual state for him.
So we see the similarity of "getting drunk" with "being filled." Both terms imply a control over an individual by an outside force, which alters one's thinking and conduct.
Let's get technical here for a minute. According to Wallace's Greek Grammar, 374-75, nowhere in the New Testament does pleroo followed by the "in" plus the dative indicate content. So it seems best to translate "in pleroo" with an instrumental sense, "by the Spirit" or "by means of the Spirit."
O'Brien similarly argues that the Holy Spirit is not the content of the filling, but the instrument of the filling. So the verse does not say, "Be filled with the Spirit," but "Be filled by the Spirit," O'Brien goes on to say, "the content with which believers have been (or are being) filled is the fullness of (the triune) God or of Christ. No other text in Ephesians (or elsewhere in Paul) focuses specifically on the Holy Spirit as the content of this fullness. It is better, then, to understand 5:18 in terms of the Spirit's mediating the fullness of the triune God or of Christ to believers." This is what Paul says in:
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NASB
"Filled" here is also pleroo. This is a Trinitarian work. The Spirit is the agent of filling, filling us with Christ, that we may experience the fullness of God. So Paul is commanding believers to be filled by the Spirit with the fullness of Yahweh.
Let's see if we can come to a working understanding of just exactly what it means to be filled by the Spirit. To start, let's make sure we understand the distinction between the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the work of Yeshua in putting us into the Church, the Body of Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. A believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit at the moment of his conversion. It is not a second experience, it is not subsequent to salvation. The moment we are saved, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit; we don't do anything to receive it except believe the Gospel.
Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 12, verse 12 Paul begins to deal with the concept of the Church being the body of Christ:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NASB
We are the body of Christ, and within that body there is unity and great diversity:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB
Here Paul answers the question, "How did we get into that body?" We were not born into it as infants; the Body of Christ does not consist of everybody in the world; only certain individuals are in it. So how do we get into the Body of Christ? His answer is clear, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." That is the "baptism with the Holy Spirit."
"We were all baptized" — is past tense. It happened at salvation. That is why there is no command in Scripture to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. There is no exhortation to receive the Holy Spirit; you already have Him.
All Christians have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, but not all Christians are filled with the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit places us into the body of Christ; it is a positional act of Yahweh. The filling of the Spirit gives us power day to day to live the Christian life.
Believers who have the Spirit are commanded to be controlled by Him. So, the question is: How are we filled or controlled by Spirit? The Spirit's control is not an automatic, mechanical control. The Spirit's control is brought about by means. What are the means? I want you to see something about this text that is very important. Look with me at:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB
Paul tells the Ephesians to "be filled with the Spirit," then he says:speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Yeshua the Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19-22 NASB
Now notice what Paul tells the Colossians:Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:16-18 NASB
It is clear that these two concepts, "letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you," and "being filled with the Spirit" are identical, because the passages that follow each are so similar. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same as the result of letting the Word richly dwell in one's life. Therefore, the two are the same spiritual reality viewed from two sides.
In Euclid's Elements, a scientific work written in the 3rd century B.C. containing the foundations of ancient mathematics, Euclid presents the axiom: "Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another."
If "letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you," is equal in result to "being filled by the Spirit," then to have the Word dwelling richly is to be controlled by His Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the author and the power of the Word, the expressions are interchangeable. In other words, the WORD-FILLED CHRISTIAN is a SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN.
Let's look at the Colossian text and see what it tells us about the Ephesian text:Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NASB
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you" — the word of Christ, Christou, can be either the subjective genitive (the word delivered by Christ) or the objective genitive (the word about Christ). I think we can take it both ways — we should let the word delivered by Christ and the word about Christ richly dwell in us.
The word "dwell" is from the present active imperative of enoikeo, and means: "to live in," or "to be at home." Paul calls upon believers to let the Word take up residence and be at home in their lives. The word "dwell" literally means: "to keep house." We should live in the Word of God like we live in our homes. We are familiar with our home where all the closets are, where we have items stored. We must thoroughly acquaint ourselves with the Word. The Word should become so familiar to us that we know it like we know our homes. The idea is to let the Word of God dwell inside and live at home in our lives. The Word of God needs to inhabit us. This is more than just reading the Bible, it is meditating, memorizing, studying.
Paul adds that the word is to "richly" dwell in us. The word "richly" is from and old adverb plousios, which has the twofold meaning of quantity and degree; it means: "abundantly applying it and using it in all its teaching, but also using it constantly, at all times and in all circumstances." The truths of Scripture should permeate every aspect of the believer's life and govern every thought, word, and deed.
The Word of Christ is to abundantly dwell in us, because it is the only source of truth we have about Yahweh:All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from Yahweh. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it the mind of Yahweh is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who Yahweh is and what He values. In the Bible, Yahweh reveals Himself:For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 NASB
We love Yahweh by living in obedience to Him. How can we possibly do this if we don't spend time in the Bible to know what obedience is?
He is our Creator and Redeemer. If we are going to live a life of purpose, we must know who He is and what He expects from us. The only place that we can get that information is from the Word of God.
We must take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Christ. We appropriate the controlling grace of the Spirit through the means of letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us.
Believers, we need more than a casual acquaintance with the Bible. God's Word is to dwell in us abundantly — it is to saturate us. It must become part of our very being, transforming the way we think and act. To use an illustration from the area of computer technology, it must be the program always running that controls everything else. Everything depends on it.
Does it make sense to you that the Creator would know how to keep the creation working properly? If it makes sense to us, then why do we try to live our lives without a thorough understanding of God's owner's manual for life?:"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua 1:8 NASB
Joshua doesn't say, "Have a devotion once in a while"; he says, "Meditate on the Word day and night." That is letting the Word abundantly dwell with you. Now, who doesn't want their way to prosper and have good success? I think that the primary reference here is to our spiritual lives, but if we are prospering and having success in our spiritual lives, that will spill over in every area. Notice that it is not just learning, but it says, "....you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it... " That, folks, is why we want the Word to abundantly dwell within us — that we may live it out!
The Christian community is a starving, illiterate people. Believers are living lives of frustration and discontentment. The only cure is for God's people to let the Word of Christ abundantly dwell within them, to be filled with the Spirit.
How much time do you spend getting to know the God who you claim to love? If you want to live a productive vibrant Christian life, if you want to be controlled by the Spirit, if you want the Word of Christ to abundantly dwell within you, you need to discipline yourself to spending time in God's Word. If you neglect to spend time in God's Word, you do it to your own peril.
Paul goes on to give us several results of being filled with the Spirit. So if you want to know if the "word of Christ is richly dwelling in you" or if you are "filled with the Spirit" check and see if these results are present in your life.
Let me just say here that the filling by the spirit is not an irrational, emotional experience. Some of the claims to revival include accounts of people barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, or lying in a catatonic state for hours or days. Or, sometimes it is said that if you have not spoken in tongues or been slain in the Spirit, where you pass out and fall over backwards, you have not been filled with the Spirit. As we look at the results of the filling by the Spirit you will see none of this emotional nonsense:speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; Ephesians 5:19 NASB
Ephesians 5:18-21 is one long sentence in the Greek with five participles modifying the imperative "be filled by the Spirit": "speaking (to one another)," "singing," "making melody," "giving thanks," and "submitting." So the first result listed is, "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Most commentators say this is about singing, I don't think so. Look at what the Colossian text says:Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NASB
The results that Paul mentions here are, "teaching and admonishing one another." Teaching is the impartation of truth. Admonishing is the negative side of teaching. It means: "to warn people of the consequences of their behavior." Both are the result of a life overflowing with the Word of Christ.
So "speaking to one another" in Ephesians and "teaching and admonishing one another" in Colossians are the same thing. What is interesting here is how this teaching and admonishing or speaking are to be done, both texts say, "with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."
Psalms were taken from the Psalter of the Tanakh, the book of Psalms. So the Spirit controlled believers were to "speak to one another"/"teaching and admonishing one another" with the Psalms. Hymns were expressions of praise to Yahweh. It is thought that some portions of the New Testament (such as Col. 1:15-20 and Phil. 2:6-11) were originally hymns sung in the early church. So the Spirit filled believers were to "speak to one another"/"teaching and admonishing one another" with the psalms and with hymns. Spiritual songs — the Greek word that was translated "songs" here is "ode." This Greek word has been transliterated into the English language, and "ode" is still used to denote "a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style."
So the Spirit filled believer, the one that the Word of Christ is richly dwelling in, will be "speaking to one another"/"teaching and admonishing one another" with the psalms and with hymns and spiritual songs. Paul is saying that the first result of the Spirit filled life is that we will be teaching one another, we will be sharing the Word of God with each other. The Word that is richly dwelling within us will be spilling out.
We see in the Scripture that when believers were filled with the Spirit they taught others the Word. In Acts 2:4, we read that all that were gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost were filled with the Spirit. And immediately Peter went on to preach to the crowd, resulting in over 3,000 conversions. Then in Acts 4:8, without any indication that Peter has lost his previous filling with the Spirit, we read that he was filled again just before he spoke to another crowd. Later, when Peter and John gathered with the church to report about their arrest they prayed:And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 NASB
They were filled with the Spirit, and they spoke the Word. Paul was filled with the Spirit just after his conversion when Ananias spoke with him (Acts 9:17). And in verse 20 we read:and immediately he began to proclaim Yeshua in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." Acts 9:20 NASB
So the filling of the Spirit results in the proclamation of the Word.
Why does he say that this teaching is with, "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?" How do we, 21st century believers, teach one another? If a visitor comes to Berean Bible Church and is curious about Preterism, what do we do? We give them Glenn Hill's book, Christianity's Great Dilemma. Or we point people to a web site or a YouTube video. Or if we are really spiritual, we'll open our Bibles and share with them what the Scriptures say. Listen! These first century saints could do none of these things. I know that you understand that they didn't have Glenn's book or web sites or YouTube, but you may not realize that they didn't have Bibles either. They had the Word of God, but they didn't have Bibles.
What we need to understand is that in the culture of the Bible, before there were books and handwritten copies, there were only oral texts. Oral dominance continued through the Greco-Roman period and to a large part up until the invention of the moveable-type printing press. Yeshua's "Sermon on the Mount" was an oral text. There was nobody there writing down what Yeshua said, they memorized it and passed it on orally. What Yeshua said was not written down until at least 20 years later. How did they remember what Yeshua said if they didn't write it down? Have you ever heard a song that you haven't heard for twenty years and sing right along with every word? How can you do that? When words are put in poem or song form they are much easier to remember, thus psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The ancient world of Yeshua was hearing dominant rather than text dominant like our culture. Traditions were passed on by word of mouth generation to generation.
We can take a book and go off and read all by ourselves but hearing is a corporate exercise often done in the community. They would gather to hear someone speak the Word.
The rabbis of first-century Palestine apparently wrote nothing. It wasn't until two hundred years after the time of Yeshua that the rabbis began to put their wisdom in written form. Shmuel Safrai in The Literature of the Sages writes, "Rabbinic literature records prohibitions against writing: teaching and preaching were supposed to remain oral literary activities."
Most of the people in that culture could not read or write, it was not necessary in an oral culture. In Yeshua's "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew's account five times Yeshua says:"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; Matthew 5:27 NASB
For the most part they had never seen or read a text of Scripture, but they had heard it and knew it. Only when Yeshua addressed the Pharisees, Chief Priest, Scribes, and Sadducees did he say:Some Pharisees came to Yeshua, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, Matthew 19:3-4 NASB
Kenneth Bailey says that this oral text is still going on in that culture. He tells of his preaching in the eastern culture:
Often while preaching I would tell a story new to the community. At the conclusion of the telling of the story the attention of the congregation would literally break up in what I discovered was a form of oral shorthand. The elder on the front row would shout across the church to a friend in a loud voice, 'Did you hear what the preacher said? He said...' and then would come a line or two of the story including the punch-line. People all across the church instinctively turned to their neighbors and repeated the central thrust of the story twice and thrice to each other. They wanted to retell the story that week across the village, and they had to learn it on the spot. The preacher was not allowed to continue until they had done so.
So these "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" were the way they taught in an oral culture. They passed everything they learned on to others orally. So the first result of the filling by the Spirit is teaching others, sharing the Gospel, teaching other believers; when you are filled with the Word it will spill out.
If we are not controlled by the Spirit, what are we being controlled by? The flesh.
Paul tells the Galatians that there is a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit:But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NASB
Here we see a contrast between the Spirit and the flesh. This struggle is made clear in the next verse:For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:17 NASB
What is the flesh? Paul uses the word "flesh" to mean: "something that is totally human, with no special grace attached." In Paul's use of the term "flesh" in Galatians, he does not simply mean: "possessed of a physical body"; rather, he means: "limited to only a physical body and the physical strength it contains."
So the flesh is what you do in your own power, in your own strength, what you can do yourself, which is legalism. Legalism is anything that I think I can do in order to make myself more righteous before God. It is human achievement; it's a form of self-righteousness.
No one can avoid the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. No one gets a Christian life free from outward pressure and inward turmoil. And so we must all be continually filled by the Spirit. We must spend time in the Word of God and trusting in the Spirit's power to live out the Christian life day to day. We must walk by means of the Spirit and allow Him to control our every thought and action. And as we are filled by the Spirit, the first result that we will see is our sharing the Word with others.
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