The Spirit-Filled Life
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, November 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Today we are looking at three passages about the Spirit-filled Christian life. The first is Ephesians 5:18-21, which commands us, "Be filled with the Spirit. . . ." The second is Colossians 3:16, which begins, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." We must have a rich understanding of the word of God-not merely intellectual understanding, but the experiential knowledge of the will of God. The third passage is Ephesians 3:17, which tells us that Christ dwells in and rules our hearts by faith.
When we read Ephesians 5:18 in the Greek, we find five participles relating to the leading verb "be filled." So the Greek text reads, "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of fear for Christ." Where the Ephesians passage says, "speaking to one another," the parallel passage, Colossians 3:16, uses "teaching and admonishing one another." These five participles illustrate the five ways in which being filled with the Spirit is manifested in a Christian's life.
The command "Be filled with the Spirit" is the same as "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." The idea is that if one is filled with the Spirit, one will also be filled with the word of God. In Ephesians 3:16-17 Paul writes, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is the person in whom Jesus Christ dwells as Lord. Such a person is one in whom the word of Christ also dwells richly. Notice, the Holy Spirit always points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, never himself. He therefore always enlightens us in the word of Christ so that we are governed by Christ through his word. We must understand the absolute centrality of the word of God to govern us.
If one is a Spirit-filled Christian, then that filling will manifest itself in certain ways. One cannot claim to be Spirit-filled if this so-called filling has no effects. Jesus himself attested to this fact: "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried out in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him'" (John 7:37-38). And in verse 39 we are clearly told that Jesus spoke these things concerning the Holy Spirit. If we are drinking from Christ, there must be some outflow of life from us to bless other people. If there is no outflow, it shows that we are not drinking from Christ, and our claim of being Spirit-filled is false.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ as he guides us to live according to the word of God. The Holy Spirit convicts us, teaches us, and causes us to remember Jesus' words. So to be filled with the Spirit is to be indwelt by Christ and governed by his word. Being drunk with wine results in ruin and destruction, but the effect of continuously drinking from Christ is rivers of living water that flow from us to bless others.
When he wrote Ephesians 5:18-21, Paul had in mind the context of a church gathering. The same is true for 1 Corinthians 14:26: "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church." The church consists of Spirit-filled believers, each receiving a measure of grace from God to be used for the common good and for the building up his church. This grace is manifested whenever we come together in public worship. So we want to consider the nature of the Spirit-filled life and the effects of being filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom." Teaching in all wisdom is the first consequence of being Spirit-filled. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him" (Matthew 12:34-35). We have a responsibility to store up in our hearts good things from the word of God.
A Spirit-filled Christian, as the Holy Spirit enables him, teaches the word of God to God's people in all wisdom. So when Spirit-filled believers come together, they do not just talk about psychology or politics or the problems of the home, and then go away. No, they speak to each other from the word of God. There is teaching going on. Listen carefully when people speak. If they are only saying earthly things, and nothing from the word of God, you can draw the conclusion that they have not been drinking from Christ.
The early church devoted themselves to the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42), but today, doctrinal preaching is very much lacking in the church. In fact, such preaching is despised in many churches. Because of this deficiency, many believers are weak and unstable. Lacking the firm foundation that comes from the word of God, they are easily tempted to conform to the world. A strong church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing." So if we want to grow in faith, we must keep speaking the word of God when we come together. Faith comes by hearing the word of God proclaimed and shared. Simply sharing our opinions and troubles will not cause anyone to grow in faith. Nor will the preaching of politics, philosophy, psychology, or personal experiences. That does not mean we should not share our difficulties with each other; we should. But if that is all we do, then woe unto us! Preaching God's everlasting word of life, preaching Christ-his birth, his life, his teachings, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his present kingship, and his coming again-this is what we need to hear. The whole of Scripture proclaims Jesus Christ.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16). We are told in Ephesians 2:10 that we are "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The Scriptures alone show us the way to live a holy life, a life that pleases God and blesses the people all around us. Thus teaching the word of God is of infinite importance, and such teaching is a sure consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit-filled Christian will eat the word of God in great hunger. He will be completely attentive when the word of God is preached, because he knows that it will strengthen him and cause him to grow. And when he comes to church and fellowships with others, he will speak the word of God for the everlasting profit, not only of himself, but of others.
You do not need to be a professional theologian to teach others. You need only to be a Spirit-taught, humble believer in Christ, because as you read the word and hear it preached, the Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind and give you understanding. You do not have to hold a degree to be able to understand God's word, profit from it, and teach others. What you need is a hunger, thirst, and desire for God.
So listen to what people say and you will know what is filling their hearts. One who eats the word of God will be filled with it, and will speak God's words. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. As you drink God's word, out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water to benefit all those around you.
We are told in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish [nouthetountes] one another." This is nouthetic counseling. It means putting the word of God into somebody's mind and requiring that person to be accountable to it and act. A Spirit-filled person is one in whom the word of Christ dwells richly; therefore, there is an outflow of life from him to the church in terms of admonishing.
What does admonishing mean? It means a Christian rebukes and corrects in love an erring believer. Every Christian has authority to do that. So when we see a person who is wandering, we have a responsibility to admonish that person. We are accountable to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We should not say with Cain, "Who is my brother?" We are to love our fellow Christian so much that we become concerned about his straying from the straight path of righteousness. We must therefore admonish him, exhort him, and counsel him to turn back to the path of God's word.
This is the responsibility of all believers, not just the pastor. In James 5:19 we read, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." Galatians 6:1 tells us, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." And in Daniel 12:3 we read, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."
So a Spirit-filled person is a counselor to his brothers and sisters. The church does not need professional counselors who use modern psychology. The church itself is to be a counseling, admonishing church. And this counseling is to be in accordance with the word of God only, not based on psychology or on one's own ideas. All that we need is in the word of God.
Paul spoke of this when he wrote to the church in Rome: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another" (Romans 15:14). That does not mean the Roman Christians were all theologians. No, they were simply average Christians who were filled with the Holy Spirit. But that is the qualification to make a person competent to teach and counsel. Every true Christian has the God-given authority and skill to counsel a straying brother and bring him back to the way of Christ.
Singing and Making Music
In the Greek, Ephesians 5:18-19 says, "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord." All of this refers to singing and making music in the context of worship.
A Spirit-filled person is a singing person, one who has a song in his heart and a certain buoyancy about him. James 5:13 says, "Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." And we have all the reasons in the world to be happy, don't we? Jesus says of us, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish." We are saved from the wrath of God. God has taken us out of hell, placed us in heaven, and enabled us to enjoy life everlasting. Neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God. Yes, we have all the reasons in the world to be happy in Jesus Christ, and our happiness will manifest itself in singing to God. Even the pagan Roman governor Pliny wrote that Christians "meet together . . . to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god." This was his understanding of Christians.
When a person is drunk with wine, his tongue is loosened up. He will speak more freely and sometimes even sing. But every time the Bible says someone was filled with the Spirit, we are also told he spoke. The Holy Spirit loosens our tongues and puts them to their God-intended purpose of praising God. We are created by God to worship him and praise him.
So a Spirit-filled Christian, out of the fullness of his heart, will speak and sing wonderful things of God. He does not speak about himself; he glorifies and praises God. A Spirit-filled Christian is a happy person; he is not baptized in lemon juice! There are some people who have no sunshine on their faces. They are always miserable and introspective, always looking at their troubles. To them we say, "Lift up your heads! Look to Christ! He is seated in the heavenly realms. He is the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Sing!"
If anyone is happy, he will sing songs of praise. He will sing psalms from the book of Psalms, set to music. He will sing hymns speaking of redemption through Jesus Christ. He may even sing spontaneous spiritual songs, perhaps in other tongues, as the Spirit prompts him. Some theologians do not know what to do with this idea, found in Corinthians 14; it is a chapter that baffles them. But Paul says, "So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind" (v. 15). What does this mean? To sing and to pray "with my spirit" means we may speak and sing in other tongues. We may not know the meaning of the words, for we will be speaking mysteries to God. But although our minds do not understand, nevertheless, we will be built up and edified. "But I will also pray with my mind" means we pray with understanding.
The people of God are a singing people. The book of Revelation tells us that heaven is filled with the sound of God's people singing. In Revelation 5:9 we read, "And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain. . . .'" This song is about our redemption accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ by his death on the cross. Revelation 7:11-12 says, "All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 'Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!'" Revelation 11:15 says, "The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'" And in Revelation 14:3 we read, "And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth." That is not speaking about Jehovah's Witnesses. It is a symbol for God's people.
Revelation 15:3 says, "They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb." Chapter 19, verse 1 says, "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. . . ." And in verse 6 we read, "Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.'" I do not know whether the Bible says there is preaching or teaching in heaven. But it does say there will be much singing!
So a Spirit-filled person will be a singing person. He understands salvation-planned by God the Father, accomplished by Christ the Son, and applied by the Holy Spirit. He knows that he is saved from the wrath to come, that he is a son of God, heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ. He has every reason to praise and worship God. So he sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs-all kinds of singing that glorifies our triune God and celebrates our salvation.
Jesus himself sang. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. And in verse 30 we read, "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Jesus was about to be crucified, yet he was singing. It may have been the Hallel psalms (Psalms 115-118).
Paul and Silas also sang. They were arrested, beaten up, and thrust into prison in Philippi, yet at midnight they were praying and singing. When we understand salvation, we will rejoice, even in tribulations. It is time, church, that we started singing. It is time we took our minds off our troubles and looked to the One who saved us. If we do so, all of a sudden, we will start singing.
Consider Mary's Magnificat. The Spirit of God came upon her and she started singing: "My soul magnifies the Lord. . . ." Or Zechariah's Benedictus, or Simeon's Nunc dimitis-"Now let me die . . . I have seen the salvation of the Lord." Such singing! When somebody is singing, you know he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Rivers of living water are flowing out of him.
There are a number of ancient hymns in the Bible. Philippians 2:6-11, about Christ, may be one of them:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Notice, all believers are to sing, not just a choir or professional singers. So if we do not sing, then we are violating divine command. For one thousand years the church did not sing-from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. Only professionals were allowed to sing in the church. But the Reformation changed all that. God poured out his Holy Spirit, the word was preached, and saved people began to sing, celebrating their salvation. Luther and others wrote hymns, which the people sang with joy.
Hymns must be theological and Bible-centered, not merely sentimental and subjective. St. Augustine says a hymn must have three characteristics: it must be sung, it must be an expression of praise, and it must be to God. The whole church is to sing because everyone is filled with the Spirit and has a right to celebrate his salvation and thus honor God. It is a taste of heaven on earth. Our singing here is practice for the rest of eternity. So do not weep for me when I die: I will be in the presence of God.
This text says we are to sing with our hearts. Some people sing only with their lips. To them, worship is forced, like a chore. They have no joy in them. But having confessed and forsaken all sin, we are to sing with a holy heart, a heart indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are to sing with our whole being. Having our hearts filled with good things, we are happy, so our singing is spirited. We sing with a holy passion in the freedom of the Spirit. Our singing is an expression of our Christian joy.
It says we are to sing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we confessed as Lord. He saved us by his death on the cross, laying down his life for us and becoming sin and a curse for us. By his death he destroyed our death and delivered us from our slavery to fear of death.
Only true Christians have legitimate reasons to sing. Pagans may sing, but all their singing is simply a funeral dirge, for they are dead, outside of Christ. But Jesus Christ has saved us from the wrath of God. We are born of God, given eternal life, and adopted into his family as sons and heirs. Forgiven of all our sins, we are justified by the Father and clothed in Christ's perfect righteousness. Now we can shout, "O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? Death has been swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
We are a singing church because we have experienced the salvation of the Lord. So we sing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the midst of us.
Someone once said that when a person prays without thanksgiving, he has clipped the wings of that prayer so that it cannot rise. But if we are Spirit-filled, we are "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We do not take God's mercy to us for granted. God from all eternity chose us for salvation; he sent his Son to accomplish it, and his Holy Spirit to apply it to us. He gave us birth, and then he gave us new birth. (PGM) He gave us food, clothing, and friends. He gave us a church. So we say, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" And if we have believing parents, we can say, "Thank you, O God, for giving me believing parents." Prayer is not just coming to Christ and demanding, "Do this and do that." We must be filled with thanksgiving, which gives wings to our prayers so that they will go straight to the throne of grace. God hears such prayer and answers it.
It is good to read the commentary on this passage by William Hendriksen (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Ephesians [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1967, repr. 1995]). He says several important things about thanksgiving, which I will briefly summarize here.
What is thanksgiving? Hendriksen says it is "grateful acknowledgment for benefits received" (p. 241). Today even children are brought up to be demanding. You can do everything for children, yet they will treat you with contempt and say that whatever you give is not sufficient. Such children act as lords and think that the father and mother, and God himself, must function as butlers. They think, "Everybody should come and take care of me."
There is little or no understanding of thanksgiving in the modern world, for that is the nature of unbelievers. Romans 1:21 says an unbeliever does not give thanks; he thinks everything comes to him through his own merit. He will not acknowledge the source of everything, which is God.
Consider the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed. Only the Samaritan came back to thank Jesus. James says, "Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17). Perhaps "good gift" means material things and "perfect gift" is spiritual things. So we must be aware of the source from which we are receiving all these gifts every day. It is God who gave us being through our parents. It is God who also gives us food and clothing, family and friends. It is God who gave us rebirth, saved us from judgment, and made us his children. It is God who gave us eternal life. As Paul asks, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) Absolutely nothing. Everything we have, we received as a gift from God. Then Paul asks, "And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" Think how God feels when we pretend that all that we are and have is due to our own effort! It is God who blesses us, and we must give him thanks.
When do we give thanks? Always. Here we must ask God to help us, for it is not easy to fully comply with that command. But God takes care of us every moment, just as a child is taken care of every moment by his parents. In him we live and move and have our being. Therefore we are to give him thanks always.
Hendriksen says we must praise and thank God for delivering us from our troubles. The classic example is found in Exodus 15. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they began to praise God, singing the song of Moses.
Not only that, Hendriksen says we should give thanks in the midst of our troubles, and he cites the example of Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the great fish, yet he thanked God from there. He recognized God's mercy, even though he was in serious trouble.
Hendriksen says we should also give thanks before trouble comes. The classic example is found in 2 Chronicles 20:21. The Moabites and Ammonites came against Jehoshaphat, and so Jehoshaphat went to meet them. But before he went out, he thanked God, saying, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever." It is a good idea to do that.
For what should we give thanks? We are told we should give thanks for all things-for physical as well as spiritual blessings, and for pleasures as well as pains. That is what "all things" means. God sovereignly causes us to enjoy good things, but he also permits us to suffer pain. We should learn to kiss the rod and thank God for the pain, for suffering will form our character in a greater degree than any material blessings will. That is why God allows pain and troubles to come our way.
How can we give thanks in hard times? Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know"-that means we know with certainty-"that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Notice, all things work for our good, even pain. Yet I still do not first praise God for everything as I ought-I have yet to learn to do that-but when serious crises came in my life, God has brought praise and thanksgiving out of my heart. It was a divine work.
We must understand that nothing happens to us without God's permission. So if he permits some pain to come our way, we can be sure that it has a purpose, and that purpose is for our good. God's purpose concerning us is stated in verse 29: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." God's purpose is to make us holy and blameless, to conform us to the character of Jesus Christ. So he ordains everything necessary to bring about his eternal purpose in our life.
Notice, Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians while he was in prison, in chains in a dungeon, experiencing various deprivations. Yet he writes that we must give thanks always and for all things. Why? Because Christian joy cannot be taken away by any pain or circumstance. Our joy is in the Lord and in the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, and no one can separate us from our union with Christ by faith. That is why Paul can say, "We also rejoice in our sufferings" (Romans 5:3).
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul tells of being troubled by a thorn in the flesh. Beginning with verse 7 he says, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." So Paul was in continuous torment and pain. Yet this trouble was for Paul's good. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul delighted in his pain, his persecution, his troubles, his prison, his chains, his poverty, because he understood it was all for his good, to conform him to Christ's image.
How do we give thanks? We give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ's incarnational life accomplished our redemption. Life is in the Son. He is our only mediator; we have no standing before God the Father in ourselves. That is why we always come to him in the name of Jesus Christ. Outside of Jesus Christ there is no salvation, for there is no other name by which we must be saved. Therefore we give thanks to God our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To whom do we give thanks? We are commanded to give thanks to God the Father. Why should we do so? Because of what the Father has done for us. Ephesians 1:3 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Then we are given a list of all these blessings: he chose us in him before the creation of the world, he predestined us, he adopted us, he forgave us all our sins, and he sealed us with the Holy Spirit. It is all the Father's work.
Ephesians 2:1 speaks about our former condition: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins." Then verse 4 says, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive." That is speaking about regeneration, spiritual resurrection. God made us alive! Verse 6 says, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms." And verse 10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works."
In Ephesians 3:14 Paul says, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." God is our Father and all these blessings come to us according to his plan. The Father has chosen us, he has sent his Son to be our mediator, and he has sent the Holy Spirit to apply redemption to each one of us. Therefore, we must always give thanks for all things to God the Father.
The Bible contains many illustrations of thankfulness and thanklessness. Look at the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21. His land brought forth a bumper crop, but did this man give thanks to God? Not at all! He was a fool. He said, "I will build a bigger barn to store it, and take my life easy for a long number of years." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you." Fools do not give thanks to God.
Or consider the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. He was a hypocrite who, in effect, said: "God, I thank you that I don't need you." That is what he is saying, isn't it? "God, I thank you that I don't need you; that I am righteous in myself and have no need for Jesus Christ. I have no need for a Savior." What hypocrisy!
And I have already mentioned the ten lepers who were healed. Only the Samaritan came back and thanked the Lord Jesus (Luke 17:19). I hope we will get into a habit of giving thanks always and for all things.
What does thanksgiving accomplish? Thanksgiving does at least three things. First, it honors God. When your child comes and says, "Thank you for giving me food. Thank you for giving me a ride to school," he is honoring you.
Second, thanksgiving makes prayer effectual. When a person says, "Thank you," it makes you want to bless him again. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." This is not going to God and demanding something. As I said, when a person prays without thanksgiving, he has clipped the wings of prayer so it cannot rise to the throne of God. God wants us to come and thank him for what he has already done. Then he will be pleased to bless us, and he does so again and again and again.
Third, thanksgiving keeps us from sinning. We must always ask the question, "Am I able to thank God for what I am about to do?" It shouldn't take too long to get an answer. Can we say, "Thank you, O God, for enabling me to commit adultery against my wife" or "Thank you for helping me to lie to my father" or "Thank you, heavenly Father, for helping me treat my mother with contempt this morning by my speech and my attitude" or "Thank you, heavenly Father, for helping me to be lazy" or "Thank you, heavenly Father, for helping me to be a glutton"? If we are Spirit-filled, then the answer will come, crystal-clear. If it is a sinful activity, then we will say, "No, I cannot give thanks. And I cannot do anything for which I cannot give thanks to God."
The fifth manifestation of being Spirit-filled is submission. The word for submitting is hupotass˘, from hupo, which means "under," and tass˘, meaning "order," from which you have taxis and taxonomy. To submit, then, is to be under order, under authority. The centurion came to Jesus and said, "I am a man under authority."
As Christians, we are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords. No Christian can say, "I am not under authority." Hupotass˘ is a military word-we are in the army of God,and Jesus Christ is our commanding officer. As Christians, then, we refuse to be individualistic and opinionated. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that everyone, of course, is an individual, and we may have differing opinions, but a Christian should not be individualistic and opinionated.
Everyone who is Spirit-filled will learn to submit because this command is for everyone in the church. First, a general submission is commanded, hupotassomenoi allŕlois, meaning everyone must submit to everyone else. Of course, later on Paul will mention more specific ways each of us is required to submit. But first is a general submission-the father submits to the children, the husband submits to the wife, the elders submit to everybody else, and we are to do so freely. It is a present middle indicative, meaning it is a willing, not forced, submission. In view of what God has done, we willingly submit to one another. We are willing to serve any, to learn from any, and to be corrected by any, regardless of gender, age, or position. That is why, in the church, anybody can correct, teach, and rebuke us. And if someone does, we should thank that person.
Jesus taught that he who wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all. Jesus himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many. He was the suffering servant. As Lord and Master, he washed the feet of his disciples and instructed them to do the same (John 13). The Bible says we are to regard the other person better than or superior to ourselves (Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:3).
We submit to one another because we are members of one body. Can you imagine the eye saying to the toe, "I don't need the toe," or the toe saying to the hand, "I don't need you"? We submit to one another because we are members of one family, the family of God. We also submit to one another because we are sinners saved by grace, so we need other people to help us. We submit to one another because without the humility of submission, we shall not receive grace. God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud. We submit to one another because God commands us to do so. We submit to one another, even to the least in our midst, because to each one grace is given for the common good and edification of all. So a father can submit to his children, because, if they are God's children, God can speak through them. You will be surprised what God can bring out of the mouths of babes. And if you are a husband, you can submit to your wife, if you want to receive the grace that she has been given for you.
Thus, if we do not submit to others, we are rejecting the grace of God that comes to us through them. What is our greatest need? Money? Health? Wealth? No! We need grace most of all. And grace comes to us when we are humble. Therefore we cannot live arrogant, self-centered, and self-seeking lives. We must humble ourselves before God and his people, that we may receive plenty of grace and flourish spiritually.
Jesus said in John 13:17, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." In other words, Jesus was saying that true happiness is found in submission and service. Are you miserable and unhappy? Then listen to Jesus. If you are not submitting, you are not receiving grace. Happiness is in submission and service.
The Greek world hated service; they did not respect slaves. But Christians thrive in submission and service. So let us rejoice in the privilege of submitting to one another. How can you tell if you are filled with the Holy Spirit? You will submit to others and serve them.
How should we submit to one another? Ephesians 5:21 says we should do so in the fear of Christ-en phob˘ Christou. Today Christians have "modernized" Christ. They have made him nice, always nice. But this is a false picture. Christ is Lord of all, Judge of all, and the head of the church.
So the controlling principle in this submission is the fear of Christ. We confess that Jesus is our Lord, for no one can come into the church without that confession, and then we fear him, revere him, and come under his authority to obey him. If Christ is our King, we must submit to all his commands. He is the head of the church, and the Father has subjected all things under his feet. He is the Savior and Judge. And if we submit to him we must submit to one another, because he commands us to do so.
So we are told, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Second Corinthians 7:1 tells us, "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." And Hebrews 12:28-29 says, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"
Finally, let me say this about submission: Submission is not weakness; it is strength. Submission is life, godliness, and happiness. Submission promotes peace and unity within the body of Christ.
In conclusion, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will do five things:
- Teach one another from the word of God. Everyone is a teacher to somebody else.
- Counsel one another. When we see someone wandering into error, we have a responsibility to bring that person back through biblical counsel.
- Sing to the Lord with a spirit of joy.
- Give thanks to God always in all things.
- Submit to one another. The more we submit, the more we receive grace and the more we flourish and thrive in the kingdom of God.
May we practice these things and thus bring honor and glory to our God! Amen.
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Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
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