Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

After warning us not to get drunk on wine, Ephesians 5:18 adds a simple imperative: “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” That sounds great! Who wouldn’t want to be filled with the very presence and power of God?

Black and white photo of woman resting her head on her palm while smilingThe imperative “Be filled with the Spirit” implies that this is possible. There must be something we can do that will allow this to happen. What is that “something,” I wonder. How can we be filled with God’s Spirit?

Before we answer this question, however, we need to pay close attention to the language of verse 18. Our translation reads, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The original Greek of this sentence could be rendered more literally, “Be filled in/by spirit/Spirit.” This has given rise to a variety of interpretations. But it seems clear that, in Ephesians 5:18, the word pneuma, which in Greek means “wind, breath, or spirit,” refers to the Spirit of God, not the human spirit as a container for God. Since God gives us “the Spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1:17) and we Christians are “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22) and the Spirit strengthens us “in [our] inner being” (Ephesians 3:16), it seems most likely that we are also to be filled with the Spirit. The parallelism in 5:18 – not drunk [that is, filled with wine], but filled with the Spirit – confirms this understanding.

Thus, like Jesus, we can be “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Like those who received the Spirit at Pentecost, we can be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). In fact, throughout the book of Acts, Christians are repeatedly filled with the Spirit (4:8, 4:31, 6:3, 7:55, 9:17, 11:24, 13:9, 13:52). In every case, the fullness of the Spirit is a preamble to active participation in the work of Christ. This is also true of Ephesians 5, as we’ll see.

For now, I’d like to encourage you to consider what it would mean for you to be filled with the Spirit. The questions below might be helpful.

Something to Think About:

Have you ever been filled with the Spirit? If so, what was this like? What did you think, feel, or do?

Why do you believe you were filled with the Spirit?

Do you think it’s possible to be filled with the Spirit without knowing it?

Would you like to be filled with the Spirit? Why? Or why not?

Something to Do:

Ask God to fill you with the Spirit so that you might serve him and others well.

Prayer:

Gracious God, your Word today urges me to be filled with the Spirit. I thank you for this imperative and for the possibility of being filled with your Spirit. Teach me, Lord, what this means, so that I might respond positively to your instruction. May I be filled with the Holy Spirit today! Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
commentary:
A Christian Identity as God’s Kingdom Witnesses in Daily Life (Acts 2:1-41)

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