“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
Paul’s command to be “filled with the Spirit” is one of the climatic points in his letter to the Ephesians. This command reminds us that one of God’s great aims in redemption is to see us indwelt, empowered, and controlled by the third Person of the Trinity.
Of course, the reason why this command is so important is that it represents one of the final promises that Jesus made to His disciples – the promise that we would possess the Spirit. On the night before He died, wanting to assure us that His death and resurrection would not be to our disadvantage, He made a number of extraordinary promises about the Holy Spirit. For example, in John’s Gospel, He said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth… And you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (14:16).
This is one of the most amazing statements of the Bible because it reminds us that not only can we know God, which is a wonder in itself, but Jesus is telling us that we can also be filled with God because He will come to live in us. And Paul reminds us of this truth here in Ephesians 5. The great wonder and glory of the Christian faith is that the Creator of the universe, the one who made the heavens and earth, as well as being our Redeemer and Saviour, has planned to come and dwell, not simply with us, but in us. And so, Paul’s command, “be filled with the Spirit” represents, as it were, the climax of his teaching.
Paul’s emphasis on the fact that every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a reminder that one of the central promises of the New Covenant has been fulfilled. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of a coming age in which God would give His people new hearts. “How?” you ask. Ezekiel tells us that God promised His people to “put my Spirit in you and move you to keep my decrees” (Ezekiel 36:26). “Well,” says Paul, “that moment has now dawned.” And this is why at the beginning of his letter he tells the Ephesians that he is praying that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened so that they may know the hope to which they have been called… and God’s incomparably great power for those who believe” (1:18-19). What exactly is he praying for here?
I think one of the things that is uppermost in his mind is that these believers will realise that God has come to dwell in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that this marks the major turning-point in their lives. Before they received the Holy Spirit, they were powerless to love God and serve him. Now they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they have the incomparably great power of Christ’s resurrection at work within them. This is what makes it possible for the Christian to live life in a new dimension. I can imagine Paul saying to the Ephesians, “If the Spirit of God dwells in you, then that means that God’s mighty power which He exerted in raising Christ from the dead isat work in your hearts.”
In other words, there is no experience or event in our lives which is more transformative or holds out greater potential for the present as well as the future than to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So the great question facing us all is this: “Has the Spirit come to dwell in your heart? Is He controlling and directing it?”