The Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Here in Ephesians 5:18, we observe that Paul labels drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh. Paul identifies some of these works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. He says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This shows that drunkenness excludes one from inheritance in the kingdom of heaven and leads to other forms of profligacy and “riot” as the true meaning of excess. For example, in the story of the prodigal son, we see that the son wastes his inheritance on “riotous living.” (Luke 15:11-32) Notice that the downward path he takes travels with increasing rapidity. From “wine” he becomes like one of the “swine.” Likewise, if we are in this same condition of the prodigal, our minds are dulled and our sense is rendered insensible. How can we then discern the will of God, “walk circumspectly” or “redeem the time” as Paul says? (Ephesians 5:15-16)

One characteristic that stands out in a drunk is that he is completely under the control of his drink. Conversely, Paul urges the believers at Ephesus and believers today to be filled or controlled by the Spirit and under His divine domination. The doctrine of the “filling of the Spirit” has been neglected or deleted in common theologies today. To appreciate the Spirit’s importance in one’s life it demands an experimental understanding of the truth in addition to theological knowledge. Many attempts have been made to explain this doctrine without a proper understanding of its context in baptism, which includes regeneration, or the sealing of the Spirit. Some have chosen to ignore the teaching of the scripture in favor of conclusions based on experience alone, but this is dangerous and can even be inspired by the evil one.

Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:18 strongly indicate that each Christian is commanded first not to be drunk with wine wherein is “dissipation,” or debauchery, but to “be filled with the Spirit.” From this fact there evolves the question, “How can I be filled with the Spirit?” This brings us to the main message of this lesson. Let us first look at the negative side of this indwelling of the Spirit. First, we cannot be filled by the Spirit if we live on a low spiritual plane, because our lives are cluttered by the luggage and rubbish of life. Secondly, it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit by simply willing it; rather certain conditions must be accepted. Thirdly, fleshly or carnal Christians cannot be filled with the Spirit, because they are already filled with the flesh.


The Conditions

Now let us think about the overwhelming great news about the filling of the Spirit. First, in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must meet the scriptural conditions regarding this in every respect. Let us examine these scriptural conditions. First, we are prohibited from quenching the Spirit. (See 1 Thessalonians 6:19) Secondly, we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. Lastly, in Galatians 5:16, we are taught to walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Let us look at each of these more closely:


“Do Not Quench the Spirit,” 1 Thessalonians 6:19

The word quench means, “suppress” or “stifle.” In order to not suppress or stifle the Spirit, we must never resist or oppose His will. Every Christian at some time or another must face the obvious fact that “no man can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and mammon.” (See Matthew 6:24) Most Christians recognize this as a fact intellectually, but this truth must be apprehended in experience as well as doctrine. Consequently, Christians are exhorted, “do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13) Notice here how Paul uses the verb “present” twice. This is the same word in English, but in the original language it is written in two different tenses. In the first instance, it is in the present continuous tense, essentially meaning, “Stop continuing to present your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.” This is an appeal to everyday living from Paul. In contrast to this, the second instance of this word is in the aorist tense, essentially meaning that we should present ourselves to God once and for all. Therefore, a true Christian is called upon to make a definite yielding of his life to God in order to unleash the potential for useful service. In the same way, the Christian is yielded to God. If there has not been an initial act of surrender, or if there has not been this constant state of yieldedness, then we are guilty of the sin of “quenching the Holy Spirit.” We are refusing His leading and guidance and have proved ourselves to be defeated Christians, which means we are quenching Him. This is quite a challenge!


“Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 4:30

Secondly, we are taught to not grieve the Spirit. Obviously this is closely linked with not quenching the spirit, because often in quenching Him we likewise grieve Him. Perhaps the greatest source of grief to the Spirit is sin, and perhaps more specifically, unconfessed sin. How do we know if we have grieved the Holy Spirit? The determining factors should be a noticeable loss of fellowship with God, as well as a loss of fellowship with believers. These things to a Christian are invaluable. We can also know by the marked absence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Or worse, if we have become engulfed in spiritual darkness, we know we are possibly grieving Him. Recognizing these conditions as a believer is bad enough, but sin left unconfessed unto God is tantamount to spiritual suicide. In fact, unconfessed sin is the curse upon Christianity today. Do you confess your sin to God believing that He will forgive your day-to-day sins? 1 John 1:9 teaches, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” There are other evidences of unconfessed sin that grieve the Holy Spirit: spiritual barrenness, ineffectual service, loss of Christian joy, and stunted Christian growth. We must be constantly watching so that we do not fall into these snares.


“Walk in the Spirit,” Galatians 5:16

The two previously mentioned requirements for a Spirit-filled life are somewhat negative in character. If we are to be filled with the Spirit, we cannot say “no” to Him, thus quenching Him, and we also cannot continue grieving Him. A believer who is walking in the Spirit, so close to the Lord that neither the Spirit’s power nor the Spirit Himself is quenched, is a mature believer ready for the “filling of the Spirit.” Furthermore, the command to “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18 is written in the present imperative tense, implying a continuous filling, rather than a one-time event. Although there is one baptism in our lives, there are many fillings of the Holy Spirit. For example, in the scripture we see many instances where the Holy Spirit fills believers continuously. In Acts 2:4 we see that the early church is filled on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 4:8, Peter is filled again, and in Acts 4:31, the entire company who meets to hear of Peter’s encounter with the Sanhedrin is again filled. Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 3:5 to be wary of men “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” This may not be a picture of an apostate, liberal, professing church, but rather a picture of the current fundamentalism that denies the power of the Holy Spirit. Many true Christians do not even know the Holy Spirit, His work for fellow believers, or His presence in them.

Another requirement of walking in or by the Spirit is the positive aspect of the truth; in many respects this is more important than the other two. A person who is walking by the Spirit is one who is controlled by the presence and power of the Spirit within. In Romans 8:14 Paul tells us, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” This means that one is being controlled by the Spirit in the same way an inebriated man is controlled by his wine.

Let us discuss the process and signs of being filled by the Spirit. First, we must make a complete surrender to Him. Then, we must accept God’s will for our lives. Finally, we must present our bodies as “living sacrifices” and yield ourselves completely to Him, presenting ourselves to God. (See Romans 12:1 and 6:13) Some of the signs of being filled by the Spirit should include being separate from profane things. This ultimately means being in the world but not of it. (See John 17:11 and 17:16) A Spirit-filled believer should be dedicated unto God’s will, purpose, and program. Furthermore, a believer who is “walking by the Spirit” is someone who is controlled by the Spirit, exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, is separated from the world, sanctified to God and set apart, fearless to speak the Word, undeterred from opposition, persevering through tribulation, and unspoiled by success. The central ideas of a Spirit-filled life, then, are first consecration, then separation, and finally, purification. We, as believers, are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, but do we actually desire to be so filled? If we do, we have already looked at the conditions of doing so. However, a progressive sanctification, being Spirit-taught, a mature, deepened prayer life, and a more intelligent worship and fruitful service signal the manifestation of the Spirit-filled life.  


Let us look at the characteristics that mark the Spirit’s presence in the apostles. First, each has great boldness. Continually in Acts 4, Luke mentions the apostles’ in prayer and proclaiming the Gospel. (See Acts 4:13, 4:29 and 4:31) Secondly, the apostles exhibit great joy in their ministry, whether facing opposition, persecution, or church growth. (See Acts 8:8 and 13:52) Third, great fear characterizes the apostles’ being filled with the Holy Spirit. Although signs and wonders are being done, these acts also prove to bring about much wonder, amazement and fear upon seeing the power of the Holy Spirit in action. (See Acts 2:42, 5:5, and 5:11) Fourth, a great grace is bestowed on the apostles through the filling of the Spirit as well. In Acts 4:33, Luke tells us, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” Lastly, it seems that great power is displayed through the apostles through the Spirit’s filling. (See Acts 4:33) The results of filling not only manifests itself in these apostles but should be brought forth by believers today as well. We should take our final admonition in regards to being filled with the Holy Spirit from Ephesians 5:19-21. Brothers and sisters in the faith, we should be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things,” and “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:19-21) This, beloved, is what it means to “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)