by Mike Ratliff
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-18 ESV)
As we saw in yesterday’s post Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?, the Apostle Paul was making a very deep contrast in v18 (above) between the people being controlled by evil as they seek ecstatic spiritual experiences in any way other than the only way God has prescribed for His people. That way is to be filled with the Spirit, which is to be controlled by Him in the sense of having one’s life permeated with Him. In this post I would like to take a closer look at the contrast Paul made in v18 between the process of “being filled” with wine using the word μεθύσκεσθε, which is translated as “get drunk” in the ESV and the process of “being filled” with the Spirit using the word πληροῦσθε, which is translated as “be filled.” It should be obvious these are different words and mean something totally different, but many today misinterpret Spirit-filling to be something that causes one to lose control and become mindless such as in the “laughing revival” for instance. Let’s take a closer look at these words.
If you haven’t read Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else? please do before proceeding because the exegesis I did in that post shows exactly what these two words mean. What we must understand is that Paul did not use μεθύσκεσθε to define the filling of the Holy Spirit, but πληροῦσθε. Even though the disciples in Acts 2 were accused of being drunk with new wine on the Day of Pentecost, those mocking them were not believers. On the other hand, those being drawn by God to believe the Gospel were amazed by what they saw and heard, which was not a frenzy or ecstatic gibberish, but rather, people who were controlled by the the Spirit and who coherently proclaimed Christ in human languages they had never spoken before.
The root of πληροῦσθε is πληρόω or plēroō, which speaks of filling a container and means “to influence fully, to control, to fill up, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to flood, to diffuse throughout.” It is used in Matthew 13:48 to refer to a full fishing net. Again, in the context of being filled with the Spirit, Christians are to be permeated with, and therefore, controlled by, the Spirit.
So, I think all of us see the dangers of the wrong way of seeking ecstatic filling and spiritual experiences that are drinking from the cups of demons, but how do we go about being filled by the Spirit? To be filled with the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else set on spiritual things and spiritual growth.
I will warn each of you reading this and being drawn to this though. Once you start down this path, be prepared for every part of your life, including your thoughts, to come under careful scrutiny. You will no longer be able to be at peace with those things of the flesh, those things of the world that you tolerated before that are actually idols…
Soli Deo Gloria!