by Mike Ratliff
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)
As we have seen, the passage Ephesians 5:18 is a command. The verb forms of “do not get drunk” and “be filled” are both present tense, imperative mood, passive voice. The imperative mood equates to a military command and something the Christian does control. Neither not getting drunk with wine unto debauchery or Spirit-filling are optional, but rather mandatory for Christians. You may ask, “how so?” This is clearly shown to be the will of God in Ephesians 5:17, just one verse earlier, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Never forget my brethren, God would not give us command unless we were being put in charge of carrying out the command, so it’s up to us to obey.
Since we are being commanded to “be filled” with the Spirit, how can we know if we or any other Christian is? The only place we can look for the answer to something like this is God’s Word. Let’s look first at Acts 6:3.
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3 ESV)
How were the people to recognize these “deacons” as being “full of the Spirit?” What was the evidence? It has to have been the growing of Christlikeness or Christ’s very character in them.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
When these character traits are consistently seen in a believer as they walk through life’s tests and trials, then the Holy Spirit’s control of them will be evident. This fullness of the Spirit will not be exhibited in some emotional outburst or ecstatic experience, but, rather, in a consistent Christlike behavior.
As we saw earlier. the verb construction for πληροῦσθε, which is translated in Ephesians 5:18 as “be filled,” is present tense, imperative mood, passive voice. The present tense shows a continuing action which is designed to be a continuing reality. Here is the last part of v18 from the Greek, “πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι.” With the verb structure clearly in mind, a literal translation of this would be, “Be being filled in Spirit.” This tells us that we are to be in a constant state of being filled with the Spirit.
As we saw above, this is also a command and God has structured it to be up to us to obey. Other parts of our salvation are totally done by God such as our sealing and our baptism into the Spirit and we see that because those verbs which speak of those things are in aorist tense rather than present tense. Never forget my brethren, those who are filled by the Spirit are filled more or less to the level of their yieldedness to allow the Holy Spirit to take control.
The passive voice part seemed puzzling to me for a while. We are to obey the imperative command, but the filling is actually done by the Holy Spirit and we are the subject of the filling so that makes sense. We allow the Holy Spirit to act upon us and control us. If you are anything like me this whole process of letting go of control while obeying this command of being filled is not natural. As I shared yesterday, when you enter this path, your idols are revealed in a hurry. You find out that you are much more self-protective than you even admitted to yourself. You have not really died to self at all and are still clinging to parts of your life that mean absolutely nothing in eternity. As I evaluate myself on this, I find myself indeed lacking. I also find myself continually in the fire and I know that that is a good thing spiritually because that means God is both cleansing me and working in me to mature me, but when I look at what is revealed by this whole process, I see one who must remain in the Valley of Humiliation for quite some time. God’s Will be done.
Soli Deo Gloria!