Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?

by Mike Ratliff

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 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. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NASB) 

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,“ At first glance that may read or sound like Paul is saying, “instead of getting drunk, do these religious things,” which he lists in vv19-21. However, as we know, the proper way to interpret Sacred Scripture is by keeping what we are studying in context foremost. Here, the context tells us that the Apostle Paul is making a contrast that the Ephesians would have understood perfectly. Let’s go deeper.

Here is the Greek for v18, “καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι”. Here is my translation, “And do not become drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled by the spirit.” That’s pretty straightforward. The words translated in the NASB as “not get drunk” and by me as “not be drunk” are μὴ μεθύσκεσθε. The word μὴ or is used here to make this a negative command to not do something. The word translated here as “be drunk” or “get drunk” is  μεθύσκεσθε which is the present tense, imperative mood, passive voice form of μεθύσκω or methuskō, which literally means to soak something to make it more elastic. This term came to mean becoming drunk to the point of being controlled by alcohol. The present,imperative passive form, in this context, would be talking about a way of life. Since Paul was telling the Ephesians not to do this then this is a command to not pattern ones life according to this.

Paul’s contrast here was referring to a form of drunkeness he called ἀσωτία or asōtia. While μεθύσκω does refer to becoming drunk to the point of being controlled by alcohol, ἀσωτία, which the NASB and I translated here as “dissipation.” What is this? The root of ἀσωτία is, of course, σωτία, which is derived from the the word σώζω or sōzō, which means “to save, deliver, make, whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, [and] destruction.” Since the alpha-negative is added to the beginning of σωτία to make ἀσωτία what we have here is the exact opposite. Therefore whatever is ἀσωτία has the properties of “no safety or deliverance, having no preservation from danger, loss, and destruction.” Do you see that Paul was referring to something much deeper than simply drinking too much wine?

The Ephesians would have understood because in the ancient Greek culture they worshiped the god Dionysus via frenzied orgies that were associated with intoxication. The use of phallic symbols, the tearing of wild animals to pieces, the eating of raw flesh, and savage dancing were also practiced. Why did they do this? They were supposed to induce some ecstatic communion with deities. In 1 Corinthians 10:19,20 Paul referred to this as the “cup of demons. In our time, in the visible church, there is a growing apostasy called Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation that, instead of drunken orgies and such, utilize forms of transcendental meditation to achieve this higher level of spiritual ecstasy.

So, what is the contrast? What is Paul commanding Christians to do instead of this? He says, “πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι” or “be filled  by the spirit.” Let us never forget that true communion with God is never induced outside of the means of Grace, which is by the Holy Spirit. All believers have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and are baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13). The command, πληροῦσθε or plērousthe is the present imperative form of πληρόω or plēroō. It means to fill as a net with fish, but the present imperative form tells us that this is a command to pattern our lives to being filled with the spirit which leads to self control along with the other fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23).

I do not think we are too far off to point to those who want to “go beyond” what the Bible teaches to “go higher” as being guilty of ἀσωτία because they are placing themselves under the control of wickedness. They are essentially losing control, but those who are filled with the spirit are actually practicing self control. While the natural man may look at that and see what I just said as a paradox, we do not because to be filled with the spirit is to be in the perfect place, the place where we are where we know what the will of God and is and we are in it. On the other hand, those who are seeking what is “outside of the box” will find out very quickly that ἀσωτία will only lead them to an ever slipperier slope where there can be no escape.

Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?

  1. Reblogged this on Rainbow Trout and commented:
    Mike makes an interesting point here and applies it to some practices in today’s churches. He weaves several of Paul’s letters together with a look at the Greek to make the point. I personally was following the contemplative tide for a few years or so back in the early 80’s even teaching these practices in church. Thankfully, I was drawn out and back to the Biblical Reformed study and application of God’s Word. Many I know still sincerely follow those paths, some even guided by those who claim to be Spiritual Directors. The field there is filled with good intentions which are hard to change.

    The KJV has the verses this way:
    Eph 5:18  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
    Eph 5:19  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    Back in the 1600’s the emphasis probably was on literal drunken “excess”.

    But as you read Old John Gill’s comment on verse 19 and examine the contemporary “worship” praise music which has replaced not only direct Psalm singing but virtually all doctrinally sound hymns in our church services. Both Mike’s comment and Gill’s thoughts are a call to us to think about our practices.

    Ephesians 5:19 John Gill
    Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,…. By psalms are meant the Psalms of David, and others which compose the book that goes by that name, for other psalms there are none; and by “hymns” we are to understand, not such as are made by good men, without the inspiration of the Spirit of God; since they are placed between psalms and spiritual songs, made by men inspired by the Holy Ghost; and are put upon a level with them, and to be sung along with them, to the edification of churches; but these are only another name for the Book of Psalms, the running title of which may as well be the Book of Hymns, as it is rendered by Ainsworth; and the psalm which our Lord sung with his disciples after the supper, is called an hymn; and so are the psalms in general called hymns, by Philo the Jew (n); and songs and hymns by Josephus (o); and שירות ותושבחות, “songs and praises”, or “hymns”, in the Talmud (p): and by “spiritual songs” are meant the same Psalms of David, Asaph, &c. and the titles of many of them are songs, and sometimes a psalm and song, and song and psalm, a song of degrees; together with all other Scriptural songs, written by inspired men; and which are called “spiritual”, because they are indited by the Spirit of God, consist of spiritual matter, and are designed for spiritual edification; and are opposed to all profane, loose, and wanton songs: these three words answer to תהלים שירים מזמורים the several titles of David’s Psalms; from whence it seems to be the intention of the apostle, that these should be sting in Gospel churches; for so he explains speaking to themselves in them, in the next clause:
    singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; singing, as it is a distinct thing from prayer, so from giving of thanks, which is mentioned in Eph 5:20 as another duty; it is not a mental praising of God, for it is called speaking, and teaching, and admonishing, but it is a praising of God with the modulation of the voice; and is rightly performed, when the heart and voice agree; when there is a melody in the heart, as well as in the tongue; for singing and making melody in the heart, is singing with, or from the heart, or heartily; of as elsewhere, “with grace”, and which the Alexandrian copy reads here; that is, either with gratitude and thankfulness, or with grace in exercise; and the end in view should be the glory of God.
    (n) De Mutat. Nomin. p. 1062. & alibi. (o) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 12. sect. 3. (p) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 94. 1.
    Quoted from E-Sword HD

    (Sorry for the long repost, but hopefully that addition is helpful)


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