Ephesians 5:18-21″And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
In this portion of Scripture, we have several areas listed that are directly related to a believer being filled with the Holy Spirit. If there is something we lack in Christianity and in our churches, many would agree that we do not live lives full of the Holy Spirit/ What does it mean? What does it look like?
Ephesians 5:18-21 is a single complete sentence. Each verse ends with a semi-colon, so we will tackle the whole passage as a consistent thought.
Be filled with the Spirit
As we introduce this thought, I would like to clarify a few things. First of all, upon salvation, you get all the Holy Spirit you will ever get! He comes and resides in the believer (Romans 8:9) and seals the believer until he is with Christ (Ephesians 4:30). When we fail to yield to and obey the Holy Spirit, we grieve and quench Him (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). On the flip side, as we yield to the Holy Spirit in obedience from the heart, we allow Him to control our lives. As a person drunk with wine is heavily influence by something from within, so the believer who is filled with the Spirit will be heavily influenced by Someone from within. Being filled with the Spirit is not a matter of how much of the Spirit you have, but rather, how much of you the Spirit has.
*Just to clarify, no one in the Bible ever lost control of their own faculties while being filled with the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:32 tells us that the person with the spiritual gift, exercising his gift in the power of the Holy Spirit, is in control of that gift. No one was ever overtaken to uncontrollably speak in an unknown tongue, fall on the ground laughing, be “slain in the Spirit,” or any such thing. That is of another spirit, and is not of God. (Here is a great book on this topic and here is an insightful documentary on the subject.)
Be not drunk with wine
This passage first begins with a negative contrast. “Be not drunk with wine.” The verb “be” that shows up twice in verse 18 is written in the continuum tense. This is not a tense we use in the English language, but in the Greek, it carries the idea of an ongoing, repetitive action. When it says “be filled with the Spirit,” the Greek verb tense would render it as “be being kept filled.” I know that doesn’t make grammatical sense in English, but that is basically what is being said. This goes along with “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25). The filling of the Holy Spirit is something that is to be done all day, every day, and every moment of every day. It is continual and on going.
Being filled with the Spirit is contrasted by “be not drunk with wine.” The “be” verb here is in the same tense. To put “not” after it would then carry the idea of not even taking the first step that would lead in that direction. In other words, don’t even take the first sip! If these two ideas are contrasting ideas, then can somebody be filled with the Spirit while having any wine in them? I submit that we cannot.
Having a song
After we are given the instruction to be filled with the Spirit, we are introduced to some results that flow from being filled. The first fruit of being filled with the Spirit is “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The Psalmist said, “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God…” (Psalms 40:3). When we yield our hearts to the Holy Spirit, He in turn puts a new song in us.
What is the song?
It says in our text that we will speak to ourselves in these songs. This is not just having a tune stuck in your head, but there’s going to be substance to the song. This is one reason why we should listen to more than the latest pop song (Christian or otherwise) that does not have much of a message.
“In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” speaks of the kind of song. The book of psalms is the largest book of the Bible and a book that was meant to be sung; Israel’s song book.
Psalms would include, not only the book of Psalms, but any scripture you put to music. I am thankful for the church I came from. We had hundreds of Bible verses put to music. They have been such a help to me over the years, not only to put those Scriptures to memory, but also for the Holy Spirit to bring them to my mind when I needed them.
Hymns are songs directed to our God (Ex. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”). I sure love the old hymns of the faith. They have substance. Many have a tremendous story and testimony behind them. They are rich in doctrinal truth, so much more than the latest “praise” song that gives you a couple of catchy phrases that is just repeated over and over. Jesus warned about “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7), and it applies in music as well.
Spiritual Songs are songs of spiritual substance and testimony (Ex. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”). Often we look at the words of the song, but there is so much more to a song that the words in it. A song could have good content but be carnal by the structure of the music. In 2 Corinthians 6:15 says, “And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” Concord comes from the Greek symphonesis meaning “harmonious tones.” Can Christ’s music be mixed with the world? Yet MOST of what is called “Christian music” today is nothing more that repackaged and reworded worldly music. God puts a NEW song in us. He doesn’t repackage the old junk.
Singing in your heart
Once we have the right song, the disposition of the Spirit-filled believer will be one of joyful singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. That is what the Lord is looking for; the heart. A heart of praise. Anyone can sing before others. Anyone can put on an appearance of Christianity like a garment. But the Spirit-filled Christian will have a song in their heart that will flow out to their life.
Here’s the question I would like to bring our with Part 1 of this post:
If a result of being filled with the Spirit is speaking to yourself in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, then could one be filled with the Spirit if they are filling their lives with that which is contrary to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? Could it be that so many Christians lack Holy Spirit discernment and direction because they have grieved Him by the music in their lives, “Christian” music or otherwise?
Music is a powerful force. It guides our thoughts and emotions. I remember when I had to let go of the songs I was filling my life with in order to draw closer to God and better hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Was I listening to ungodly, satanic music? No. Most of what I listened to was played on Christian radio. But it was still the world’s music. I’ll speak more to that in a later post. (For more on this particular topic, check out these resources: Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, Can We Rock the Gospel?, and Music Matters).