“…And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18-19 (Amplified)
It can be beneficial to see each biblical verse as being written to us personally. It is also important to remember that often the intended audience (scripture was designed originally to be read aloud) is a church or group of congregations.
In the book of Ephesians Paul emphasises the “togetherness” of believers, and addresses his letter to the collective church. Nevertheless Christians often interpret the idea of “being filled with the Spirit” in the above verse in an individualistic way: they see it as a personal instruction to seek frequent re-fills of the Spirit just as one may get an empty bottle replenished or a tea flask re-filled. Paul refers to being drunk with wine: he tells the collective church at Ephesus not to keep on re-filling themselves with wine, which would lead to their getting drunk.
Paul contrasts being filled with wine to being filled with the Spirit and concludes that there is no similarity. The Spirit is not like a commodity that we use up and then go to get more, like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. We don’t run out of the Spirit as we may run out of a grocery item such as flour or sugar. Moreover being filled with the Spirit does not lead to uncontrolled and reckless behaviour like drunkenness does. In our togetherness the church operates out of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which fullness is already available to us in Christ.
Paul then describes what a church that is filled continuously with the full presence of the Spirit may look like. In this each member does his or her part. Let’s read aloud how his description begins: “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:19-21 NIV UK). These verses and much of the rest of what Paul writes in Ephesians are linked grammatically to “being filled in the Spirit”: they amplify and expand Paul’s phrase and its application to the church. This, Paul also says, is “what the Lord’s will is” (5:17).
Let’s all do our part in being filled together with the Spirit. Let’s co-operate with the fullness of the Spirit in making our congregation a Spirit-filled church.
From Day By Day, Friday 16 May