What Happens When We’re Filled With the Spirit?

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, 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 Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18

When I was a teenager, I began to hear about Christians who were “Spirit-filled.” Southern California was a major seedbed for a spiritual renewal movement in mainline churches. The so-called “Charismatic Movement,” borrowed from classic Pentecostalism, a theological understanding of the Christian life that emphasized the filling of the Holy Spirit. Several things tended to happen when one was “baptized” or filled with the Spirit, including: speaking in tongues, powerful feelings of joy, exuberant worship with hands raised, a new love for God, and a fervent desire to share all of this with others. Among many of my friends, these experiences, especially speaking in tongues, were primary evidence that one was Spirit-filled.

I don’t have room in this reflection to engage Pentecostal theology of the Spirit. I expect I’ll get into this when I write reflections on 1 Corinthians (in a couple of years, I expect). But I do want to note something curious and crucial about the filling of the Spirit as it’s described in Ephesians 5:18-21.

English translations make it hard to see what’s happening in the original language of this passage. In the NIV, we find three distinct imperatives with associated participles: Be filled with the Spirit: speaking. Sing and make music: giving thanks. Submit. But, the original Greek contains one imperative and five related participles: Be filled with the Spirit: speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, submitting. In Greek, these participles could reveal the cause of filling: “Be filled with the Spirit by speaking, singing, etc.” Or they could show the result of the filling, “Be filled with the Spirit, which will lead to speaking, singing, etc.” Or the participles could identify attendant circumstances that are not necessarily causes or results: “Be filled with the Spirit, which will be associated with speaking, singing, etc.” Commentators differ on how best to make sense of the participles in this passage. I’m inclined to go with the third option, since it allows for several possibilities. In some cases, speaking, singing, and the like will open us to the filling of the Spirit. In other cases, speaking, singing, and the like will be results of the Spirit’s filling. But, no matter the order, if we are filled with the Spirit, then our lives will be marked by speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, and submitting.

As I noted in yesterday’s reflection, it is significant that these evidences of the Spirit are mainly experienced in the context of the body of Christ. Speaking to one another and submitting require a corporate setting. Singing, making music, and giving thanks can be done with others or in solitude, though the context here underscores the shared experience of all five participles. One thing is clear: If we are filled with the Spirit, then we will share with our fellow Christians in speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, and submitting.

Ephesians 5:18-21 offers a different perspective on what happens when we’re filled with the Spirit. It also gives us a way to examine ourselves and our Christian community, so that we might know if we are being filled with the Spirit. Consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you speak to others in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? Do others speak to you in this way? Do you sing and make music from your heart to the Lord? Are you and your fellow believers always giving thanks to God? Are you submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I thank you for those people who, in my teenage years, helped me to realize that I could be filled with your Spirit. I thank you for the fact that you can and do fill me with your Spirit. Lord, I pray that you would do so, again and again.

As this happens, may I speak to others with the music of worship. May I sing and make music to you. May I give thanks always. May I submit to my fellow believers out of reverence for you.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me! Amen.


Pursue God

What does it mean to pursue God in all aspects of life? How do we live in such a way that every area of our lives and every facet of ourselves is available to the pursuit of God? Are we living fragmented, viewing parts of our lives as sacred and other parts as secular? What would happen if we let the different parts of our lives exist together in an integrated life, pursuing God in every aspect of who we are at work, at home, and at church? offers a few definitions of the word pursue, one of which includes the idea of following in order to overtake or capture, but who can capture God? Instead, let's consider an alternate definition that lifts up the idea of following close upon or going with. In the series, Pursue God, we'll consider how to go with God in every aspect of our lives—inviting him to integrate each part of our lives and to be Lord over all.

Featured image by Marty Hadding. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.