The Spirit-Filled Christian
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
God desires every Christian to live a victorious life. That is the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his ascension, and his session as Sovereign Lord of the universe. Paul declares, "Now thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ. . . ." (KJV)
This passage gives us the key to living a victorious Christian life always. In Ephesians 5:15-17 we were directed to walk carefully, as wise people, and to redeem the time. We are not to be foolish, but to understand the will of the Lord. How can we do these things? The answer is found in verse 18: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."
The Holy Spirit is not a substance, a force, or an influence. He is the infinite God, the third Person of the Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and makes us a new creation. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us, making us holy and blameless.
The Bible says that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13), that the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian (Romans 8:11), and that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Here we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Prohibition: Do Not Get Drunk on Wine
Verse 18 consists, first, of a prohibition: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery." The non-Christian life is characterized by drunkenness. When the pagan Ephesians celebrated Bacchanalia, the festival of Dionysius, or Bacchus, the god of wine, they did so with wild music, frenzied dancing, sexual perversion, bodily mutilation, eating the raw flesh of sacrificed bulls, and, of course, drunkenness. To them, intoxication was a prelude to inspiration and communion with God.
Why do people get drunk today? Some people do so to feel courageous. Others drink to drown out their sorrows. Still others drink trying to get an artificial pickup, a sense of joy. However, according to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, wine is pharmacologically a depressant, not a stimulant. It causes loss of control and dehumanizes an individual, causing him to behave like an animal. Dr. Lloyd-Jones, who was a physician, said, "Wine knocks off the highest centers of the brain."
Drunkenness produces asŰtia, which means waste, dissipation, and destruction-the opposite of salvation or saving. AsŰtia is used in at least three other places in the New Testament: Titus 1:6 (An elder's children must not be "wild"); 1 Peter 4:4 ("They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation"); and Luke 15:13 (The prodigal "squandered his wealth in wild living"). A drunkard can lose his health, his chastity, his purity, his money, his marriage and family, his business, and his standing in society.
The Christian life is the exact opposite. For Christians, the remedy for sorrow is prayer, not the bottle. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit himself is our stimulant, energizing our intellect, will, and emotions. And, unlike wine, the Holy Spirit makes us more truly human and more like Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that bishops and deacons are not to indulge in too much wine (1 Timothy 3:5, 8); nor are older women to be addicted to it (Titus 2:3). Notice, it is not the use of wine that is prohibited, but its abuse. Nevertheless, Christians are also free to avoid the danger of drunkenness by avoiding wine altogether. As Christians, we do not need wine to give us a lift, for we possess the Holy Spirit.
The Command: Be Filled with the Spirit
After the prohibition, we are given the command: "Be filled with the Spirit." Notice, it is addressed only to those who are believers in Jesus Christ. Having convicted us of our sins and given us new birth, the Holy Spirit now indwells us.
Those who are not Christians cannot obey this command. Thus, if you are not a Christian, you must be saved. You must acknowledge that you are under the wrath of God and heading to judgment. You must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. This is God's time of mercy and grace, and he will save all who trust in him.
The saints of God are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be filled? First, it has nothing to do with baptism in the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, or sealing with the Holy Spirit, is a non-repeatable, once-for-all experience.
What, then, does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It is to be under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. For example, suppose a girl is so fascinated with a boy that she is always speaking about him. We can say that she is "filled" with that boy, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Whatever wholly takes possession of our intellect, will, and emotion is said to fill it. So to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled by the infinite third Person of the Trinity.
It also means to be led and energized by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for fill, plÍrousthe, is used to describe the wind filling the sail of a ship to move it along. So the ship is energized and directed by the wind-filled sail. In the same way, a person who is filled with wine is controlled by that wine. That is why he behaves like an animal.
An unbeliever is controlled, not by the Holy Spirit, but by an evil spirit, as we read in Ephesians 2:1: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Never think an unbeliever is free to do what he likes. He is completely controlled by a spirit and does exactly what that spirit wants him to do, fulfilling its lusts, thoughts and desires. If you are an unbeliever, I am describing you. You may glory in your "freedom" and "independence" and "individualism," but it is all false. You can be free only in Jesus Christ, and if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Acts 5:3 is a classic example of Satan filling a person to do his will: "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?'" When Satan fills a person, he causes that person to do his will, even to the point of lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 13 we read of Elymas the sorcerer, who opposed Paul's preaching of the gospel in Cyprus to the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The apostle rebuked Elymas, saying, "You are a child of the devil . . . ! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery." Elymas was so filled with the devil that he was doing Satan's will of opposing the truth of the gospel.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is the normal state of the Christian life. When the Holy Spirit controls us, we will do what is right-the will of God. Luke 4:1 says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit." So the person who is full of the Holy Spirit will be led and directed by the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 6:3 we read, "Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit." And in verse 5 we read, "This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." In Acts 11:24 we read about Barnabas: "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." And Acts 13:52 says, "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
So the terms "being filled with the Holy Spirit" or "being full of the Holy Spirit" or "being led by the Holy Spirit" are all speaking about the same thing. And this Spirit-filled life is the condition in which every Christian is to live. It is not an experience, for an experience is something that is out of our control, something as unpredictable as the weather. A person cannot be commanded to do something that he cannot control. But as saints in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, being filled with the Spirit is a condition we can fulfill.
Spirit-Filled . . . Scripture-Filled . . . Christ-Filled
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Romans 8:13-14 begins, "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die." That is the non-Christian life. "But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are being led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."
Galatians 5:16 tells us, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." To live by the Spirit or to walk in the Spirit means to be led and controlled by the Spirit. It is synonymous to being filled with the Spirit. Galatians 5:18 says, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." It is expected that every Christian will be led by the Spirit. And Galatians 5:25 says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Being led by the Spirit is to follow in his steps. We don't turn to the right or to the left. We are ruled and directed by the Spirit, not by our emotions.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to obey the Holy Scripture, because the Holy Spirit directs us through the Scriptures, which he authored. It is to obey Jesus Christ, whom we confess as Lord and who dwells in us. The idea that a person can worship God acceptably without obeying him, or receive eternal salvation without having to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, is demonic. Such teaching is found in many Bible-believing churches today. But it is a total contradiction of the normal Christian life.
So the Holy Spirit dwells in us, Jesus Christ is dwells in us, and the Holy Scripture is also to dwell in us. Colossians 1:27 says, "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (See also Ephesians 3:17). Christ, the hope of glory, dwells in us by his Holy Spirit. When Jesus Christ was here, the disciples would go to him with all their problems. Then Jesus said he was going away. But he told them, "Don't worry. I will send you another Counselor," and he sent the Holy Spirit in his stead. This same Spirit now dwells in us to direct us. We can speak to him, and he helps us deal with all our troubles. And in Colossians 3:16, which is the parallel passage to Ephesians 5:18, we are told, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Having the Scripture dwell in us richly means to let it control our life. We hear and do the word of God. So the Spirit-filled life is a Christ-filled life and a Scripture-filled life, for it is in the Scripture that the Holy Spirit speaks most clearly about the will of God.
The Holy Spirit and Sin
Romans 1 tells us that Paul was appointed by God as an apostle to call the Gentiles to the obedience of faith. Sin is transgression of the law of God, but salvation is the opposite: Saved people are to render obedience to God. So to say that we can be Christians and not obey God is false. To be filled with the Spirit is not to be filled with ourselves, that God may do our will. Rather, it means to live a God-centered, Christ-centered life.
So when a Christian is sinning, he cannot say he is filled with the Holy Spirit or being led by him, because the Holy Spirit never leads us to sin. The Holy Spirit is holy, and in him there is no darkness. His purpose is to sanctify us; how then can he lead us into sin? He is sent into our hearts to glorify Christ, and sin never glorifies Christ.
Yes, Christians have the freedom to sin. The Christian state is described as posse non peccare which means we have freedom not to sin. But it means we also have the freedom to sin. But when we sin, we are rejecting the Holy Spirit's control of our lives. (PGM) We end up grieving the Holy Spirit. But when we obey the Holy Spirit, it is a sign that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are filled with joy. In Acts 5:32 Peter says, "We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." A Spirit-filled life is a life of obedience.
The Spirit-Filled Life
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills us with wisdom (Acts 6:3, 10); faith (Acts 6:5); grace (Acts 6:8); joy (Acts 13:52); and power (Acts 6:8). In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you"-power to wrestle in prayer; power to suffer persecutions and afflictions; power to labor; power to resist the devil, the world, the flesh, and temptation; and power to worship. We worship with intelligence, with joy, with thanksgiving, with understanding, with our whole being-mind, soul, and spirit. That is Spirit-filled worship. We are transported into the very presence of God. The Holy Spirit gives us power to witness the gospel to the world without fear. And, finally, he gives us strength to die, when our moment comes.
The old life of being drunk, whether it was with wine or drugs, was a life of dissipation-a reckless, hurtful, wasted life. But the Spirit-filled life of a Christian is, first, a disciplined life. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). Show me a Christian who is disciplined, and I will show you a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Second, a Spirit-filled life is a productive and prosperous life, over against the waste of the previous life. It is a life of one blessing after another. Psalm 1 says, "Whatever he does prospers." The Holy Spirit will not lead us into defeat, misery, and failure; he always leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus. As we noted, wine is a depressant, but the Holy Spirit is a stimulant that invigorates and energizes our intellect, will and affections. Additionally, a Spirit-filled person does not grow weary. The life of sin is exhausting and miserable. But being led by the Holy Spirit brings refreshment to our souls, even when we work very hard.
Finally, the Spirit-filled life is a life of active fellowship. The Holy Spirit promotes, not individualism, but love and unity between the people of God. Thus we are exhorted in Ephesians 4:3, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." We are interested in other people and want to get to know them and get along with them. We are not cantankerous and implacable. One who insists he is right, no matter what, is not controlled by the Holy Spirit.
A Closer Look at the Command
Let us take a closer look at this command: "Be filled with the Spirit"-plÍrousthe en pneumati. First, it is a command, not a tentative proposal. Therefore, it is not optional but obligatory. An experience is unpredictable and cannot be commanded. But this is a command; therefore, it is something we are capable of fulfilling.
Second, the verb is used in the plural form. This means the command is not only for some religious elite living in monasteries, spending their entire lives in spiritual exercise. The use of the plural means it is for every Christian-the new Christian as well as the most mature. Every Christian is a saint; thus, this command applies to every believer.
Third, it is in the passive voice: "Be filled with the Holy Spirit," or, as the New English Bible translates it, "Let the Holy Spirit fill you." This means we are to surrender to the Holy Spirit and the word of God. The classic example is the story of Obed-Edom and his family. The ark was staying in the house of Obed-Edom, which meant that God himself was there, above the cherubim, for the ark stands for the presence of God. Now, God had already killed Uzzah for treating the ark irreverently. Not knowing what to do, David ordered that the ark be taken to the house of Obed-Edom. Can you imagine how the members of the family of Obed-Edom lived while the ark was there? They were careful and obedient. They always did what was right, because they knew that this God could either bless them or kill them. They lived circumspectly in the presence of God, surrendering to his will, and God blessed the household of Obed-Edom. This is the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is complete surrender to God, with no negotiation. The Holy Spirit is the Boss who tells us what to do.
Fourth, it is in the present tense, so it can be translated: "Go on being filled with the Spirit." It is not a one-time filling, or a once-a-week filling, but something we do moment-by-moment, continuously, throughout our Christian life. When Jesus told the servants in John 2 to "fill these vessels with water" so that he could change the water into wine, that command was in the aorist tense, meaning to fill only once. But here we see the present tense, meaning that we should always be filled with the Holy Spirit.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit, then, is the prescription for a happy, successful, and triumphant life. If we are filled with the Spirit, we will no longer be self-seeking, self-indulgent and self-centered. Wine may give a momentary lift, but the new wine of the Holy Spirit gives us joy inexpressible.
How to Be Filled With the Spirit
Confess all known sins and forsake them immediately.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. A Christian who sins is not being controlled by the Holy Spirit; rather, he is grieving the Spirit.
Consecrate yourself to obey God only. Totally surrender your mind, will, and emotions to God. "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1).
Know this command is not an experience but a duty to be obeyed.
Begin right now obeying God in the areas you know you must obey.
Study carefully the word of God so that you can do what it says. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Elsewhere we read, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." When we understand and internalize the word of God, it will govern our actions. Just as a person continues to drink until he is drunk, so we are to keep drinking from the word of God until it governs our actions. Jesus Christ said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." The word "drink" there is "keep on drinking." God is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures; thus, if we are to be governed by the Holy Spirit, we must come to the Holy Scriptures again and again until they regulate our entire lives.
Know that the Holy Spirit will never lead us to sin. When you are prompted to sin, you can know right away it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. "Flee youthful lusts!" The Holy Spirit will always lead us to righteousness.
Do not quench the Spirit's promptings. Christians tend to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person who speaks to us, guides us, prompts us, and directs us. Do not refuse him. Do not delay obeying him. Do not say, "Let me do something else first."
We must be careful, though, because there is a prompting that comes from the devil. So if you get a prompting that says, "Divorce your wife," understand that it is not from the Holy Spirit. God always directs us in accordance with his word.
Realize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us even now. This biblical revelation must regulate all our thoughts, words, and deeds. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Lord. He is the Comforter and Counselor.
Desire communion with the Holy Spirit. If you love someone, you will desire to be in his company, speaking with him, and he with you. Just as Mary desired communion with Jesus and sat at his feet, so should we desire such communion with the Holy Spirit.
Pray earnestly. Luke 11:13 says, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Practice the Spirit-filled life by obeying from the heart all God's duly appointed, delegated authorities in your life, beginning with your parents. If a child disobeys his parents, we can know right away that such a child is not filled with the Holy Spirit.
"Be filled with the Spirit!" To obey this command is the key to a happy, victorious life. I pray that every one of us will obey this command, beginning today. Amen.
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Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
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