“Being Filled With The Spirit” – Ephesians 5:18-20

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Faith Bible Church, NY

November 24, 1996

Being Filled With The Spirit

Ephesians 5:18-20

This morning we come to another one of those texts that has often been ripped from its context and misinterpreted. There exists no little confusion what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.” I hope to clear up any confusion you may have this morning as well as challenge you to live according to what our text says. Turn to Ephesians 5:18-20.


Remember that we must always understand the context if we are going to interpret a passage correctly. The context here is in the midst of the sixth practical ramification that Paul has given in this book. In view of all that God has done for us in bringing us to salvation in Jesus Christ, there are implications to how we should daily live. We are no longer what we were, but something new. We were dead in our trespasses and sin, slaves of Satan, but now we are alive in Jesus Christ and servants of righteousness. Nothing could be a more radical change or more opposite in nature. This new creation that we are (2 Cor. 5:17) has abilities that we did not have before, including being able to understand and discern spiritual matters.

As I pointed out last week, we have been given wisdom and we need to live accordingly. We need to make the most of the time God has allotted to us. We must have our priorities set correctly and keep them if we are to do what is best with our lives and not just what is good. That is the only way you can take advantage of opportunities and know they are coming from God. That is how you live in keeping with God’s will.

In our passage this morning, Paul continues on this general theme of walking in a manner worthy of our calling in Jesus Christ by living in wisdom and not foolishness, and so Paul states here: 8 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 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 Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.


1) Not a particular event: The command here to “be filled” is in the present tense, therefore it speaks of something that is continuing, not something that happened once. It is something on going. We could more accurately bring out this sense by translating: “be being filled,” “keep on being filled,” “continue being filled.”

Because this is not something that happens just once, then “being filled with the Spirit” cannot be either the baptism of the Spirit or the sealing of the spirit.

2) Not the “baptism of the Spirit” – 1 Cor. 12:13. The charismatic movement has caused most of the confusion on what it means to be “filled by the spirit” by equating it with the “baptism of the spirit” and the bestowment of the charismatic gifts. Let me quickly put that idea to rest.

First, every believer in Jesus Christ is baptized by the Holy Spirit. Look over 1 Cor. 12:13. This is the chapter that deals with spirit given gifts such as tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, etc. If you want a full explanation on these gifts you can pick up the tapes on the Sermon series I did on the charismatic movement last year.

Look at 1 Cor. 12:12 & 13. It says, “2 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. 13 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”. Every person who is saved was placed into the Body of Christ by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. All true Christians were made to drink of the one Spirit. There are no exceptions to this, and it occurs only once at salvation.

The filling of the Spirit and the Baptism of the Spirit are not the same, though a person is filled with the Spirit when they are baptized by Him. The Baptism of the Spirit inducts the person into Christ’s Body and comes as salvation; it marks that point in which the Spirit indwells the believer. Romans 8:9 makes clear the importance of this indwelling. “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” If you do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, then you are not saved.

3) This is not a “second blessing”

Let me add here before I move onto the sealing of the spirit, that the filling of the spirit is not some “second blessing,” or spiritual “zap” from God that moves a person into some ecstatic state as some have claimed is evidenced by speaking in tongues or having visions. In Acts 2 we find the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:5 fulfilled. Jesus said that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” and then some ten days later on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4 says, “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving the utterance.” I have always found it curious that those in the charismatic movement claim this as the foundation for speaking in ecstatic “unknown tongues,” yet the “unknown tongues” turn out to be languages known to those present, but not to the speakers, for the languages spoken are listed in verses 9-11.

A person may be very moved emotionally when they are filled with the spirit, but then again they may not. Some examples from the Old Testament: Bezalel was “filled with the Spirit” and its only evidence was his artistic abilities (Ex. 31:2). Joshua was “filled with the Spirit” and it was evidenced in his leadership and military abilities (Deut 34:9). In the New Testament, Peter was “filled with the Spirit” and gave a powerful sermon to the religious leaders (Acts 4:8). The rest of the early Christians also spoke with such boldness when they were filled with the Spirit (4:31). When Paul was “filled with the Spirit” he received his sight back (Acts 9:17). Paul is “filled with the Spirit” again in Acts 13:9, and he rebuked Elymas the magician. In Acts 13 we find Paul, Barnabas and the other disciples “continually filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

From these examples we see that the “filling of the Spirit” occurs at salvation and then subsequently to it many times, so it is neither the baptism of the spirit, nor a “second blessing,” and neither is it the sealing of the spirit.

4) Not the “sealing” of the spirit.

We have already seen in Eph. 1:13,14 that were sealed with the spirit at salvation. That happens only once and it is the pledge of God’s promises to you.

5) This is not some process of progression in getting the Holy Spirit. When you get the Holy Spirit, you get Him all because He is a person, not some mystical force. You cannot get just part of a person. If you invite me to come to your house, you get all of me. I don’t send over just my mouth by itself.

6) Being filled with the Spirit is also not some stoical act of your will. The verb voice here is passive. It is something that happens to you, not something you actively acquire for yourself.

Do note as well that the verb is in the command mood. Whatever being filled with the Spirit means, it is not an option for the Christian. It is something that is necessary for all Christians to do if they are to live the Christian life at all.


1) The verb here “to be filled” has several connotations. There is the idea of fullness; as in a glass being filled to the brim and overflowing. That sense was used earlier in Eph. 1:19 where Paul says the purpose prayer was “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

2) Another sense is like the wind filling sails. A sailing ship is moved along by the wind when it fills the sails and pushes the ship forward. The prophets and apostles that wrote the scriptures did so as they were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we are moved forward into greater holiness and service for our Lord.

3) Another connotation of being filled is that of permeation, like salt placed on meat to infiltrate it and thus preserve it and flavor it. Our lives are to be so infiltrated by the Holy Spirit that he permeates all that we do, think or speak. Our lives should be marked by the evidence of His presence within us.

4) Another meaning in being filled is being totally controlled, as in a person who is filled with some emotion and that controls them. A person filled with anger (Lk 6:11) is controlled by that anger, a person filled with sorrow (John 16:6) or fear (Luke 5:26) is controlled by those emotions.

To be filled with the Spirit is to be under the His control. This is brought out clearly by the contrast Paul makes: “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the spirit.

A person who is drunk is someone who has lost control of their mental and physical abilities due to the influence of the alcohol they have consumed. The greater the influence of the alcohol the less control they have. Mental ability is diminished, speech is slurred, coordination declines.

To be filled by the spirit is to be influenced by Him so that you are no longer in control. His control of the individual is not in the sense of a puppet or robot, but rather a directing influence that causes you to live differently than you would otherwise. Left on our own we quickly become spiritually weak and return to self-centered ways of living. As we are filled with the Spirit we again see the world from God’s perspective and seek to please Him and serve others.

Again, take note that this is a command. It is not an option for the Christian. To resist the filling of the Spirit is to be in blatant disobedience and to minimize its importance is to in rebellion against the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Every Christian needs to be filled with the Spirit with our wills brought into submission to His.

5) The evidence of being filled with the Spirit is having the fruit of the Spirit. Look over at Galatians 5:16. If you walk by the Spirit (are under His control) you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. You will either be under the control of one or the other. If it is the flesh you end up with sinful practices such as those in verses 19-21. If you are filled with the Spirit you will bear His fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”


How is it that we can be filled with the Spirit? Again, the verb voice here is passive. It i something that God does in you and He will do so in the Christian as long as you do not grieve the Spirit – which we already talked about in Eph. 4:30. When you resist the Spirit you grieve Him and when you stubbornly refuse to obey Him, you quench Him (1 Thess. 5:19). In both cases the true Christian is still baptized and indwelt by the Spirit, but they are not “filled” with Him.

To be filled with the Spirit, you pray for Him to do it – it certainly is in keeping with His will since He commands it. And then you live according to your new nature as a believer.

What does that mean? Well, it is all which Paul has already talked about. Walking worthy of your calling in humility, gentleness, patience and love (4:1,2); Fulfilling your role in body by using your spiritual gift(s) to build up one another (4:12-16); Walking in a renewed sense of mind (4:17-24); Being selfless and considerate of others in your dealings with them (4:25-32); Imitating God in love (5:1-6); Walking as children of light (5:7-14) and Living by wisdom (5:15f).

None of these things can be faked for very long. They can only be done as you live by faith. You believe what God has said and in faith you step forward and do what He says, trusting Him for the future results. As you step out in faith He fills you with the Spirit, empowering and enabling you to accomplish His will.

The greatest evidence of this life of faith and being filled with the Spirit are the changes made in your heart toward God and exhibited in your praise of Him.


Verse 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

1) The place of music in Christianity

Music holds an important place for the Christian, because it is the response of the heart over the joy of salvation. We find it as a part of worship from early in Genesis (4:2) to the end of Revelation.

Music is primarily a response of joy to salvation and all its ramifications. The Israelites sang after their escape from Egypt. The various Psalmists sing about a wide range of subjects – the majesty of God, His grace and mercy, and His mighty works, petitions are brought to Him, as well as thanksgiving for answered prayer. It has been part of the church from its foundation and it will be part of our activities in heaven where we will join in the chorus of praise singing the song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3).

One of the most thrilling aspects what Paul says here about music is that there is no mention about the quality. Every believer is to be involved in this. Even if you cannot carry a tune in a bucket, you can make music that pleases God because He looks at the heart. That is why Psalm say seven different times to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Certainly there is also the aspect of the trained musicians that make beautiful sounds unto the Lord as is detailed in the temple worship, but God’s primary interest is the heart of the person singing for the song is to be a response of a person filled with the Spirit.

Note here as well that the songs are sung to other believers. The music of believers is focused on God, and therefore done in edification to one another. It is part of our celebration of worship and therefore not really evangelistic, though God may use words of songs to move unbelievers.

What are the different elements of our music?

2) Speaking – from “laleo” and it means what it sounds like: “la, la, la”. It basically means to make a sound. Its origin is probably from the chatter of children first learning to talk and it is used to describe birds chirping. It is also used of trumpets and peals of thunder. Any sound offered to God from a spirit filled heart. God desires songs offered in praise to Him from a heart filled with the Spirit and the quality of that sound is unimportant – organ, choir, guitar, drum, homemade flute – all can be equally pleasing to God.

3) “Psalms” refer primarily to the Old Testament psalms put to music, but the term is also used of vocal music of any type. The psalms magnify God primarily by focus on the nature and work of God, especially in relation to the life of a believer. A modern psalm would be something like “O Worship the King.”

4) Hymns center more on songs of praise and differ from psalms only in that they specifically praise the Lord Jesus Christ. Many scholars believe that certain scripture passages such as Col. 1:12-16 were used in this manner. A Hymn would include songs such as “May Jesus Christ Be Praised” and “Worthy is the Lamb.”

5) Spiritual songs were probably songs of testimony that covered a broad category of any music that expresses spiritual truth. This would include many of our modern choruses as well as songs such as “He Touched Me” and “When We All Get to Heaven.”

The expression of our music is both through voice and musical instruments.

6) Singing simply means to sing with the voice. You may sing well, you may sing poorly, but God wants you to sing. It is to be part of your worship of Him.

7) Melody comes from the word “psallo” – and means specifically “to pluck on a stringed instrument” especially a hand harp, which if you wanted to get technical, the closest instrument we have to that now would be a guitar, but is used for a wide range of instruments.

God wants us to use our voice and instruments to praise Him as an expression of our joy in Him.

8) Our music is to be expressed to one another, in private and always to the Lord. Note again that to sing with our hearts means that our music takes its origin from within our hearts and then through our hearts it is channeled to God. Many people can sing with their lips or make skilled sounds on instruments, but if the heart is not included, it is not spirit filled music, and thus lacks in its ability to truly praise God or be a spiritual blessing to others.


Another evidence of a spirit filled life is in giving thanks. Verse 20 states: Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

1) Thanksgiving is the mark of salvation. We do not give thanks for things we think we deserve – the human heart invariably thinks it merits good things. Giving thanks for all things is a demonstration that a person has come to humility and is poor in spirit, and that they in reality deserve nothing, and so they see everything they have received as coming by God’s grace.

2) Thanksgiving is the mark of wisdom. Remember, wisdom is living according to reality. Giving thanks in all things demonstrates that a person has come to grips with the reality of their own finiteness and need for God’s provision and intervention in every point in life. They are therefore thankful for all that He does.

3) Thanksgiving is the mark of maturity. Those who are mature understand that the purpose of their existence is for the Lord’s glory and not their own. They even understand that trouble and trials bring about even greater maturity so they are thankful even for the negative aspects of life.

4) Thanksgiving is the mark of worship. Worship of course is more than merely giving of thanks, but the thankful heart is one that is ready to also give praise and glory to God. The thankful heart recognizes the truth of who God is and bends in worship before Him with gratefulness that the creator of the universe loves them.

A thankful heart cannot exist apart from the working of the Spirit in the life of the individual. People may say, “Thank you” out of common courtesy or because they are genuinely moved by some special gift, but to be thankful in all things the individual must be filled by the Holy Spirit.


A new creature filled with the spirit is in submission to God and therefore will have a submission to others that belong to God. Submission is not obedience for it is done willingly. Obedience is done out of compulsion. Believers lives are to be marked by this.

A genuine Christian is a radically changed creature. One of the radical changes in our lives is this desire to have God in control of us. We are to be filled with the Spirit – striving to submit to Him in all areas, and as we do He in turn empowers us to fulfill His will.

Those who are foolish allow themselves to be influenced and controlled by outside forces such as alcohol, drugs, etc., but those who are wise understand that genuine life exists only in God and so they want to live their lives to the fullest extent possible completely under His control. I pray your life will be marked by wisdom and you will be in submission to the Spirit, controlled by Him, filled with Him.

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