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How Can I Be Filled With the Spirit? Part 1

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

After warning us not to get drunk on wine, Ephesians 5:18 adds a simple imperative: “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” That sounds great! But immediately I wonder, “How? How can I be filled with the Spirit?”

In order to answer this question, we need to pay close attention to the language of verse 18. Our translation reads, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The original Greek of this sentence could be rendered more literally, “Be filled in/by spirit/Spirit.” This has given rise to a variety of interpretations. But it seems clear that the word pneuma in 5:18 refers to the Spirit of God, not the human spirit as a container for God. It could be that the Spirit is the one who fills us with God (see 3:19). But, since God gives us “the Spirit of wisdom” (1:17) and we Christians are “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (2:22) and the Spirit strengthens us “in [our] inner being” (3:16), it seems most likely that we are also to be filled with the Spirit. The parallelism in 3:18—not drunk [that is, filled with wine], but filled with the Spirit—confirms this understanding.

Thus, like Jesus, we can be “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Like those who received the Spirit at Pentecost, we also can be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). In fact, throughout the book of Acts, Christians are repeatedly filled with the Spirit (4:8, 4:31, 6:3, 7:55, 9:17, 11:24, 13:9, 13:52). In every case, the fullness of the Spirit is a preamble to active participation in the work of Christ. This is also true of Ephesians 5, as we'll see.

For now, I’d like to encourage you to consider what it would mean for you to be filled with the Spirit. The questions below might be helpful.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever been filled with the Spirit? If so, what was this like? What did you think, feel, or do? Why do you believe you were filled with the Spirit? Would you like to be filled with the Spirit? Why? Or why not?

PRAYER: Gracious God, your Word today urges me to be filled with the Spirit. I thank you for this imperative and for the possibility of being filled with your Spirit. Teach me, Lord, what this means, so that I might respond positively to your instruction. May I be filled with the Holy Spirit today! Amen.

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How Can I Be Filled With the Spirit?

This is the first of five reflections in a short series responding to the question: How can I be filled with the Spirit? The Apostle Paul surely knew the story of Pentecost and the charge that the believers were drunk. He also knew that many of the pagan religions in his time mixed drunkenness with mystical experience. Drinking great quantities of wine was a ticket to spiritual ecstasy and wild celebration. Paul was clear that this was not the way of Christ. His followers were not to get drunk on wine in order to be filled with the Spirit. Rather, they were to avoid drunkenness. Instead, they were to be filled with the Spirit. In this series of reflections we consider what it means to "be filled with the Spirit."

Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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