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July 31, 2011
Filled with Spirits or The Spirit
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 5:18

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The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

More From This Series


The church has always been a people of two books, the hymnal and the Bible. And it’s a wonderful thing when we’re able to tie our songs and our sermons together, but that necessitates the pastor and the song leader working together. I was tempted to tell a story this morning in our sermon on alcohol about the prohibitionist preacher who worked himself into a real lather about the whole issue of alcohol abuse. And he got going and towards the end of a sermon, he said, “You know what? If I could take all the beer in the world”… He was a country preacher not far from a creek. He said, “If I could take all the beer in the world”… He said, “I would chuck it in the river.” And everybody said, “Amen.”
Encouraged by that, he said, “And if I could get all the whiskey in the world”… he said, “I would chuck it in the river.” And he got another rising amen. And he said, “If I could get all the brandy and the rum, I’d chuck it in the river. May God save us from alcohol.”
He finished the sermon, the [inaudible 00:01:01] and said, “Could we turn in our hymnals to 555 and stand to sing Shall We Gather at the River?” So you almost got to be careful. You got to get that song and that sermon in sync or you’re in trouble.
Here’s what I was thinking for tonight, since we have emphasized the issue of wine in the last couple of weeks and looked at that from the wisdom perspective of Proverbs, I thought tonight, just for a few moments, it would do us well to talk about being filled with the spirit. One of the great verses on this issue, and we have touched on it, is “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” And so for a few moments tonight, I want to speak to you on the subject of filled with spirits or this spirit.
And so take your Bible and turn with me to Ephesians chapter five and verse 18. We’ll spend part of our service tonight just reflecting on our need and the nature of being filled with the Spirit of God.
Whatever our opinion or whatever our conviction about drinking wine, you and I, as a body of believers, must be unanimous in our conviction that we must be filled with the Spirit. And so I want to spend some time just talking to you about that. Let’s just catch our bearings and go to Ephesians five, verse 15. “Be then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 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, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ submitting to one another in the fear of God. Filled with spirits or the spirit.”
Two men were walking in the woods one day when they saw a huge black bear coming toward them. One of the men quickly put on his jogging shoes. The other man said to him, what in the world are you doing? You can’t outrun the bear. The man putting his shoes on responded, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”
Determining what needs to be done is a good thing. Understanding with clarity what you need to do next is a good thing. What your obligation responsibility is, that’s a good thing. But knowing what you have to do is only one thing. Actually doing it is another and that’s our problem. We know what we ought to do, but Paul tells us of his own struggle in Romans chapter seven verses 15 through 25, where he says there is a country law at work in him in that there are things he wants to do but he ends up not doing and the things he doesn’t want to do, sometimes he ends up doing and that’s our problem. It’s not that we don’t know what to do. Most of the times we do. The problem is actually doing it.
We can sometimes be hearers only and not doers. And that brings us to consider tonight the importance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit because here in chapter five, Paul is in the middle of a discourse in his letter to the Ephesians where he is rattling off their responsibilities in the light of their position in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s calling them to be imitators of God. He’s calling husbands to love their wives. He’s calling wives to submit to their husbands. He’s calling children to obey their parents. He’s calling workers to integrity and industry. He’s calling employers to fairness and equity. There’s many things he’s asking the Ephesians to do and it’s very clear, but here in this discourse, he not only tells them what to do, he tells them how they can do it. And the feeling of the Spirit is the secret to that.
The Holy Spirit is the deciding factor in not only knowing what to do but also in doing it. The Holy Spirit animates and activates the truth of God’s word in the life of the believer who he indwells.
In the immediate context here, he wants these men and women to know that it is only through the filling of the Spirit that the tyrant can be taken out of the man so that he’s a loving leader and the rebel can be taken out of the woman so that she’s a submissive. Help me. He wants them to understand that their greatest responsibility is to respond to the Holy Spirit’s ability so that he might lead them and help them to love. And so while the context is that, I want to just zero in on this issue of being filled with the Spirit of God. It’s so critical to all that we seek to under take for God’s glory, whether as husbands and wives or children or whether as workers or employers, we are commanded here not to be drunk with wine, to be filled with the Spirit of God.
Let’s talk for a few moments about the filling of the Spirit. Want to talk first of all about the exercise of spirit fullness, the exercise of spirit fullness. You and I have got to be as exercised about being filled with the Spirit of God as we are about staying sober and guarding our hearts against drunkenness. Paul exercises these believers. He commands them to not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but to be filled with the Spirit. He’s reminding them of the strategic ministry of the Holy Spirit in terms of their marriage and in terms of their ministry and in terms of their work and their lives. They can only be followers of God if they keep in step with the spirit.
He begins here in chapter five in verse one, “Therefore be imitators of God. Walk in love.” But they can only do that if they walk in the Spirit and are filled by the Spirit according to verse 18. He has called them from chapter four in verse one, to fulfill the calling that is bind up in their conversion and possession in the Lord Jesus Christ. But he reminds them that they can only fulfill that calling if they’re filled full of the Holy Spirit.
And so here we have this exercise to spirit fullness. There are two elements to that, what I call the matter of obedience and then the matter of obligation. First of all, the matter of obedience. This is important for us to grasp. This is not a suggestion. Paul is not saying to these believers at Ephesus, “Would you be filled with the Spirit pretty please?” It’s not a request of that kind. It’s a witty command. It’s an imperative in the Greek. It’s in the imperative mood. That simply means it’s not a tentative suggestion, it’s not a mild recommendation, it’s not a polite piece of advice. This is a bold, fierce command, an obligation that is squarely placed on the shoulders of the Ephesians. They have no more liberty to escape this duty than they have the ethical duties that surround the text. Just as husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands and children must obey their parents, so they must be filled with the Spirit and we’ll see the connection. They will not be able to do the one without the other.
So there’s this matter of obedience. By the way, this is not only an imperative mood, free is in the Greek is in the plural form. This is a plural verb. So this is a verb that is addressed to everybody. And you have the different categories. Let’s just pick three of them. There are men mentioned, there are women mentioned and there are children mentioned. And Paul is addressing the church which is made up of adults, men and women, and children, boys and girls. And the interesting thing to me is that this command is a blanket command. It is a net that gathers them all in. What’s the point? It’s simply this and it’s an important one. The filling of the Holy Spirit is part and parcel of a normal expression of Christian faith and service. It’s not an added extra. It’s not a luxury. It is a state and it is an experience that you and I ought to be operating in all the time.
This is a matter of obedience. Let me just draw a thought here, which I think is interesting because we have a negative command and we have a positive command. Did you notice it in verse 18? Here’s the negative command. Do not be drunk with wine wherein is dissipation or excess. It’s a term that means to go beyond the limit. Do not drink wine beyond the biblical boundaries. That is a command. It’s a negative command. Then it’s followed by a positive command, be filled with the Spirit.
And I’ve thought about this text and I’ve thought about my experience in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ both in the pew and behind the pulpit. And I think that many churches just like our own tonight would be profoundly shocked if a believer come in tonight drunk as a skunk and we would immediately go to this verse and we would get in there fierce and we would say, “You’re not to be drunk with wine” and we would be right to do it.
But what if a believer comes in here tonight and they’re not filled with the Holy Spirit? Is that not just as much a command as the negative one? It reminds me of our propensity to concentrate on the negative to the exclusion of the positive. Listen to these words. It is therefore just as important for you to be filled with the Spirit as for you to be sober. The vast majority of modern Christian people are utterly content to live a negative Christian life and there is a dangerous tendency to judge a man’s spirituality merely by the things he does not do. But the New Testament emphasis is altogether different. I think that’s a great statement. You and I must never be satisfied that we are a dry church. That’s a good thing. Not one of us should ever be drunk with wine. That would be disobedient and a violation of God’s law, but just as we want to guard our sobriety, we must seek passionately to guard our spirituality.
We must be filled with the spirit. After all, you and I have lived long enough to see that no drunk has ever entered our business meetings and left the place in an uproar. But many a business meeting has been disrupted by a Christian, not filled with the Spirit of God. No pastor to my knowledge or certainly of my association has ever staggered into the pulpit drunk, but some of us have preached without the enablement of the Holy Spirit. So many Christians measure their Christianity by what they do not do rather than by what they do do. And I think that’s a tremendous challenge here. This is a matter of obedience. It is a sin to be full of wine and it is a sin not to be full of the Spirit.
It’s not only a matter of obedience, certainly it’s a matter of obligation. Paul is actualizing them to sobriety and then to fullness in the life of the spirit. And the context is so that they might submit to one another and so that they might, as husbands and wives in their marriage, put the Lord Jesus Christ and his love for the church on display so that they might, as children, be seen to be obedient to their earthly parents just as a Christian is obedient to the heavenly parent.
These are the obligation Paul talks about and in this context, he’s calling them to obedience in this matter of being filled with the Spirit because he understands that they will not be able to fulfill their obligations in a spiritual God glorifying manner without the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” It’s not that you can’t do anything, but you can’t do anything that satisfies the heart of God. You and I must do spiritual work. There’s always a danger.
We find it in the church at Galatia, having begun in the Spirit they ended up in the flesh. They sought to do God’s work some other way than God’s way. And if you and I are to fulfill our obligations, if you and I are to do what God wants us to do in the way he wants us to do it, we must do it by the fulfilling of the Holy Spirit. You see, one of the fruits of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is verse 21, an ability to submit to one another. If we are under his lordship and leadership we are much more humble and willing to work with others in a humble way. And just as that’s true, generally that will be true particularly if the wife is ever to submit to her husband, she will need to be filled by the Holy Spirit.
So this is a matter of obligation. You and I need the help of the Holy Spirit. We need to be under his control, not doing our own thing. Remember sometime ago reading the story of a man who was at a county fair and he happened to notice an exhibit that was rather interesting to him. At a distance it looked like there was this tin man who had his hand on a water pump and he was pumping the water pump. And he was drawn to this exhibit and as he got closer he realized that the tin man’s hand was attached to a mechanical water pump. And so in reality, at first sight it looked like the man was pumping the pump, but in reality the pump was pumping the man. And when people look at us, I hope when they take a good look at us, they’ll realize that what we’re doing, another is doing it through us.
Because if you really think about it, no man can love his wife like Christ loves the church. No woman would naturally submit herself to a man. She’s his equal and yet here she is putting herself in a position of subordination. How does a woman do that with joy? Children have foolishness bound up in their hearts. Yet high does a child become obedient and happy to do what mom and dad asks him to do? You’ll find it is the case when you find people like that, the spirit of God is at work.
Paul not only talks about the exercise of spirit fullness, he then goes on to talk about what I call the essence of spirit fullness. What is it? And here we’re concentrated in the verb be filled. What is spirit fullness? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit and a day of charismatic confusion and chaos, we need to make sure we understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Is it some kind of goosebump experience that you enjoy at the Hans of some man who’s got special powers?
Is it the Christian kind of working themselves up into a spiritual lather to a point where the Holy Spirit kicks in? It’s like those old cars, you crank them into life and so you kind of crank yourself into that kind of spiritual state of fullness. Is it the same as the end dwelling of the Holy Spirit, simply the fact that he is in us, which is the case from the moment we are saved? Does it kind of hint that receiving the Holy Spirit in installments in that you kind of receive him and then you do some more things and you receive some more of him until, after so many of these spiritual experiences, you’ve actually received him in his fullness? Do we get the Holy Spirit in an installment plan?
It’s none of these things. The filling of the Spirit is not the same as the indwelling, the baptizing or the sealing of the Spirit. That is momentary and permanent. This is continuous and conditional.
What is it then? Well, we’re given a hint at least in the contrast that’s drawn, a contrast that’s actually a comparison. There is a contrast being drawn here that’s really a comparison because the filling of the Spirit in a way is like the effects of the intoxification of a person under wine. There is a sense in which the result of being filled by the Spirit may be compared to being intoxicated. You think that’s strange? Not really. In fact, on the day of Pentecost, when those early disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and begun to speak in tongues and evidenced a presence of God among them, it says in Acts two verse 15 that many of the people watching thought that they were drunk.
You see, when a person is under the influence of alcohol, they are under the control of alcohol, right? It takes charge of their senses, clouds their mind. It possesses their judgment and that really is the meaning of the word filled. It means to be under the control of.
And so Paul calls us to be filled with the Spirit of God. It’s a matter of obedience, it’s a matter of obligation and in its essence it means that you come under the control of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Greek word is playru. It connotes more than being filled with something, I.e. a glass being filled with water. It actually carries more than the idea of coming under the control of something. In fact, it’s used in second Peter one, verse 21 of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the act of inspiration when he moved upon those prophets of old. That’s our word, and it’s a word in that context that kind of carries the idea of the sail of a ship being filled with wind and coming under the controlling direction of the wind.
This is our word. In fact, it’s used in other places to come under the total control of an emotion. In Luke chapter five, verse 25, we read that people were filled with fear. In Luke six, verse 11 we’re told that people were filled with anger. It’s the same word. They were full of fear, they were full of anger. That means that that emotion dominated their actions and their reactions. That’s our word. It’s to be dominated. It’s to be under the control of. When we say, “You know what? I’m full of the cold.” What does that mean? It means that we feel shivers or a fever all over our body. The effects of the cold can be felt everywhere in our body. We’re filled with the cold. That’s the idea here and that’s the challenge, folks, to you and to me. You and I ought to, on a day by day basis, to be under the control, influence direction and domination of the Spirit of God.
Just as much as I do not ever want to be drunk, I must ever want to be filled with the Spirit of God and under his control and direction. John MacArthur and his commentary on this verse says, “The Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit can be compared to a glove. Until it is filled by a hand the glove is powerless and useless. It is designed to do work, but it can do no work by itself. It works only as the hand controls and uses it. The glove’s only work is the hand’s work. It does not ask the hand to give it an assignment and then try to complete the assignment without the hand, nor does it gloat or brag about what it used to do because it knows the hand deserves all the credit. A Christian can accomplish no more without being filled with the Holy Spirit and then a glove can accomplish without being filled with a hand.”
It’s a great analogy, which brings us to the third thought, the experience of Spirit fullness. We realize this is an important issue not to be dodged. This is a matter of obedience. This is a command that went out to the whole church, not just to the pastors, not just to the deacons. Can you imagine it? It went even to the children, to be filled, to come under the control of the Holy Spirit, to allow the life of God within to affect everything without.
So how do we experience it then? What about the experience of spirit fullness? How is it we can come to and stay in this blessed state? I think there are two things here and I’ll try and bring it out of the text. First of all, it begins with what I call the crisis of decision. Let’s go back to our verb and do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but be filled… Remember what we said it’s in the imperative mood. It’s a command. It is in the plural form. It’s addressed to everybody and it’s in the passive voice.
You see, pastor, you’re getting very technical. Just hang on. You are smart people. It simply means, if it’s in the passive voice, it means that this is an action that the person doesn’t do. It’s an action that someone else does to the person. If you read the Greek, if something’s in the active voice, that means God is telling you to do it. But this is in the passive voice. This is something the Spirit does for us. So when Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit of God, come under his influence, domination, and direction”, and then he uses the passive voice, he’s saying, “Look, it begins with you yielding. It begins with you taking your hands off the steering wheel. It begins with you taking your fingers off all the levers of your life. It means you sitting back in this sense that you understand that the spirit of God must take complete control.”
There’s things you must do. We’ll get to that in a moment, but it begins with this crisis of decision. It’s you and I realizing tonight. If we have not realized it for a long time, or maybe we haven’t realized it at any time, you and I must give up on fleshly methods and human works to do the will of God. We must have the Spirit of God to fulfill the will of God according to the Word of God. And you and I need to make a decision tonight that we can do nothing apart from Christ’s help and Christ sent us a helper and that is the Holy Spirit. So you’ve got to say to yourself, “I can do nothing. It begins tonight. A fresh work of God in my life begins tonight with me making a decision, a decisive decision to allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of my marriage, my career, my thought life, my heart’s desires.”
It’s got to be that way. Remember what it said of Daniel. Daniel purposed in his heart not to eat the king’s meat. Remember it said of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord”? Charles Bridge is the great puritan and who wrote a good commentary and proverb said this, “The narrow way was never hit upon by chance, neither did a heedless man ever lead a holy life.”
Maybe in a quiet moment tonight, you and I would again go to God and realize, “Oh God, I yield myself up to you. I present my body as a living sacrifice. I need to do it on a continual basis and I need to make a decisive act and a decisive action to take my hands off my life and the allow myself to be governed.” We don’t like that. Our Adamic nature doesn’t like to be governed.
It begins with a crisis of decision and it continues with what I call a process of dedication because this is in the present tense. You didn’t realize there was so much to get out of a little word, a verb, but the Greek has moods and it has tenses and it has voices and this is a present tense verb, so it’s an imperative verb. It means it’s a command. It’s in the plural form. It’s a command given to everybody. And it’s in the present tense. It means that this is a command that you just don’t fill once and you’re done with it. This is a command that you’ve got to be constantly obeying. Now it begins with the decision, a surrender, a point of yieldedness where you say to God, the Holy Spirit, “Fill me.”
We realize that the spirit of God is resident, but is he president. He’s resonant, but is he reigning? Have you and I yielded ourself to the control of the Holy Spirit? We’ve got to offer that up to God and then on a continual basis, you and I have got to continue to yield ourselves to God. Just as a man has got to keep drinking to get drunk, so a Christian has to keep being obedient to be filled.
Let me help you with this. “A man who was filled…” Says George Duncan in his little book, Mastering the Storm. He was a Scottish Presbyterian minister I had the privilege of hearing on a number of occasions. He pastored The Tron church in Glasgow. He said this at a conference, “A man who is filled with the Spirit is a man in whose life the ministries of the Spirit are being fulfilled.” What does it mean to be filled? What does it mean to be under his control? He’s given you a clue here. The Holy Spirit was sent to us by the risen Lord as a gift. What a gift. Do you realize when God give you his Spirit, he give you himself because we believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity?
He’s not less than the Father. He’s not an inferior of Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, when the Lord Jesus Christ said in the upper room discourse, “I’ll send you another helper”, he used a Greek word which meant I’ll send you another of the same kind as myself as a helper. The Holy Spirit is God. When God give us the Holy Spirit, he give us himself and the Holy Spirit came with particular purposes and ministries, and if you and I are going to be filled by him, then we must all allow him to fulfill those ministries in us and through us. And if those ministries are being fulfilled, you and I can be sure we’re filled with the Spirit.
The filling of the Spirit is not evidenced by speaking in tongues or display some gift of miraculous healing or doing something crazy. The filing of the spirit is evidenced by you seeking to glorify Christ in everything you do. We know that because that’s one of the ministries of Holy Spirit. Amen? Holy Spirit was sent to what? To glorify the Lord Jesus. And when your life and my life is heading in the direction of glorifying the Lord Jesus increasingly, you and I can be encouraged that we are being filled and acted upon by God the Holy Spirit. When you and I take time to read our Bibles and get excited about Bible study and become obedient to what we know, we can be sure we are increasingly being filled by the Holy Spirit because that’s another ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Read the upper room discourse. He has sent to lead us into all truth. When you have a hunger for truth, when you will defend truth, when you will fight for truth, when you love truth, that’s another evidence that the Holy Spirit is filling you. When you let God take ownership of your wallet, of your thoughts, of your desires, of your life, that’s another evidence that you’re being filled with the Spirit because one of his ministries is to seal us. We’re told of that in Ephesians chapter one, verse 13 to 14. The word used there, to be sealed by the Spirit, is a word that was taken from the… I remember reading this in Harry Ironside’s book on Ephesians many years ago that down in the harbor at Ephesus, when a man bought perhaps some lumber, he sealed it with his business crest or whatever and he would come back a few days later to take what was his. That was the image that Paul uses and it’s an image of ownership and authority over that possession.
And when you and I are yielding our possessions and ourselves to the Holy Spirit for his use to the disbursement of our goods, for God’s glory, we can be encouraged we’re beginning to be filled by the Holy Spirit. When we have a hunger to pray and seek the face of God with the church and alone before the throne of grace, then you and I can be encouraged that the Holy Spirit of God is acting upon us. He’s got a wonderful prayer ministry in our life.
You know you’ve got two advocates. You ever think about this? God give us two advocates. We’ve got the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven who’s an advocate between us and God, and we’ve got the Holy Spirit who advocates the hidden complicated desires of our heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are out of prayers, he prays. Romans chapter eight, verse 26.
One other sign, there’s others but we’ll be done with this. He came and he give us gifts. Read about it in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 11. When you and I got saved, we were baptized by the Spirit, placed in the church. We are in union with all those who are in union with Christ and the Spirit of God gives us gifts, spiritual enablements to teach, to help, to administer it.
When a person is filled with the Spirit of God, they’ll be active and they’ll take their gifts and you’ll see them adding to the strength of the body life of a local church. If a person is not ministering in a church, you can be sure that they are not filled with the Spirit of God because people who are filled with the Spirit of God are people whose lives are marked by the Spirit’s ministries being fulfilled in them. They’ll be praying, they’ll be serving, they’ll be studying, they’ll be teaching, they’ll be glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thiel Moody said this, “A great many think because they have been filled once they are going to be full for all time after. But all my friends, we are leaky vessels and have to be kept right under the fountain all the time in order to be kept full.” It’s a good quote and it is a reminder that this is a present tense verb. You and I have got to stay under the fountain, under the faucet. We’ve got to stay close to the Spirit of God. We must not grieve him. We must be filled by him. We must remind ourselves often. You know what? It’s not just what I don’t do that marks me out as a Christian, it’s what I do do. Okay, I have never been drunk, but am I on a continual basis being filled with the Spirit of God? Is his ministries being fulfilled through me, my wife, my children? Because this is a command to all of us.