Monday, March 27, 2006

The Spirit-filled Church: Filled with the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

The reality is that this is a hot question in the church today. Probably it shouldn't be but it is. Some consider it to concern fresh-experiences of the Holy Spirit. Others have talked about it as us having the Holy Spirit and then leaking, so requiring re-filling. Is being Spirit-filled something that happens as we pray for one another? Is it the way we practice our faith?

What we need to consider first is what this passage says!
  • Addressing one another in songs
  • Making melody to the Lord with all your heart
  • Giving thanks to God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ
This doesn't tell us how to be filled but rather what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit. Its all about how we relate to one another - in speech and submission. And it concerns the way we speak to one another. Its about how we relate to God - in thanksgiving and song.

According to this being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a subjective experience for us to have. The Spirit-filled church is one living in the unity of the Spirit, united to Christ and one another.

What God says in Ephesians 5 is that we should seek to find what pleases the Lord and what his will is. It is this that is described as being Spirit-filled. The alternative to which is grieving the Spirit. This might seem to be simply acting differently in our relationships. But the exhortation is to be filled with the Spirit. Or even, to be being-filled.

This is both something to do and to pursue. It is something to seek from God and to live out. This seems very similar to the exhortations of Galatians 5 and Romans 8 to keep in step with the Spirit and set our minds on the Spirit.

The filling of the Spirit is a sovereign work, we observe believers elsewhere being filled. It must be right to pray for ourselves and others to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is something we are to seek, commanded even! When we see people filled with the Spirit in the Bible various things follow. Sometimes they speak the gospel in foreign languages (Acts 2). Other times the word of God is spoken boldly (Acts 4). Other times joy (Acts 13). On other occasions, true speech and submission in relationships in the church (here in Ephesians).

Being filled with the Spirit we must surely be mindful not to grieve the Spirit through divisions and dissentions, but rather to maintain the unity of the Spirit in speech, song and submission. And to do so would be to live worthy of the calling we have recieved.
The final part of the description of the Spirit-filled church is about submission. Paul gives an exhortation to submit to one another - out of reverence to Christ. This is not a blanket submission (caricatured by Christians at a doorway - after you, no after you...). Christ-fearing submission works out in the creation order of particular relationships - in marriage, with parents and children, and the master-slave relationship. This requires further expoloration in another post.

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