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Ephesians 5 v 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

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Our text this morning is - Ephesians 5:18

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

We notice first of all that the thoughts of verse 18 follow on straight on from v 17

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

We found last time Paul moving us from the source of foolishness – the source of all lack of wisdom – the evil in the world and the remnants of its effects in our Christian lives – to the possibility of our minds still succumbing to lack of wisdom as believers.

We are told here that the danger is so great, the wickedness of the world so appalling that we have to use our minds. But how can Christians, people who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, be UNWISE? How can true believers possibly show that they are stupid and absurd?

It is when they fail to do what God the Holy Spirit tells them to do namely to NEGLECT certain aspects of living as redeemed and precious sons and daughters of God.

We listed several areas -

1. We NEGLECT the Word of God the Bible.

2. Neglect the means of Grace.

By means of grace we understand attending the House of God for worship, for prayer, for hearing God’s word and the ordinances. They are also our personal private devotions and family worship.

3. To Neglect Christian service in the Church.

God has prepared works for us to do. When we are converted we are saved to serve. To serve God, His people and where appropriate the world as we seek to reach them for the Kingdom.

4. With regard to our minds we must not depend only on our own natural sharpness or perception.

We must depend on Christ Himself through His Spirit. He is all wisdom – therefore we need Him.

5. We must not rely only on the advice of others as the ultimate route to truth.

The final authority and advice for the individual child of God MUST come from God the Holy Spirit Himself – speaking in the quietness of the soul and assuring us tenderly – “This is the way walk ye in it.”

2. God has a plan for our lives.

Paul says,

“Be ye understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

Since God has given us these minds he expects us to use them – to understand His will and then to DO IT!

We made a doctrinal statement.

The Will of the Lord is what God desires or wishes, and has determined shall be done according to His good pleasure.

We noticed several of God’s sovereign intentions, and I refer you back to the tape for these.

But as we have reviewed the teaching of verse 17 we now can see how many times God the Holy Spirit is mentioned and how He is crucial to our understanding what the will of the Lord is. So Paul does not leave us hanging in mid air – next he continues in the same vein using the same literary device.

In verse 17 he has said,

“be not unwise – rather be understanding.”

In verse 18 in the same spirit of a command he says,

“Be not drunk – rather be filled with the Spirit.”

The man or woman of right understanding and discernment will not seek refreshment or excitement from carnal things such as wine – but from the Holy Spirit.

Now so that we can fully understand the inspired teaching of v 18 we will now look at the words that the Apostle uses.

1. Be not drunk. Expanded according to the Greek construction it means this – do not allow yourself to become intoxicated, to grow drunk in a process of drunkenness with wine.

2. With wine – wine here is OINOS. This word is usually an expression of fermented grape juice, which had the capacity to render the drinker intoxicated. Paul regularly identifies the drinking of this kind of wine as a stumblingblock to other believers. In Romans 14 v 21 he states,

it is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

The last book of the Bible authored by the Apostle John, the book of Revelation, indicates in no uncertain terms that wine became a regular symbol of the enticements of evil and its just punishment. The early church was trained thereby to take a very low view of alcoholic beverages and the churches conscience became very tender when it came to alcohol. Under the Old Covenant wine was a symbol of prosperity and the result of a successful harvest – for instance –

Psalm 104 v 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

Proverbs 3 v 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

But in the New Testament, under the New Covenant, Revelation points to the decline in civilisations making wine move from a category of “things acceptable” to that of “evil and harmful.” Here are the significant texts –

Revelation 14 v 8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. 10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

16 v 19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

17 v 1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

18 v 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

Wine provides a picture for something which appears to be attractive, but which, by steady enticement draws the person into an inflamed and lawless condition.

We begin to see therefore that Paul has strong views about the use of wine – and he goes further with the next phrase in verse 18 –

3. Wherein is excess. The noun excess here is the Greek ASOTIA. It means prodigality, wastefulness and profligacy. There is an adverb formed from ASOTIA namely AZOTOS which in essence means something which cannot be saved or is given up to a destructive course of life. We saw this in action in the parable of the lost son a few weeks ago when Luke describes how the son wasted his substance in riotous living. He was wasteful with what he had – he got involved in outrageously sinful conduct squandering his fortune until it was all gone. He behaved excessively. Paul links the same to the results of drunkenness with wine. He states in Titus 1 that an elder/Pastor/Bishop must be absolutely clear of drunkenness –

6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot (AZOTOS) or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

And 1 Peter 4 has the same thought – speaking of how converted people were in their unconverted days he says,

3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

4 wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

Excess here is more than going over the top, as we would say. Excess is the inevitable consequence of drunkenness – it will eventually lead to revelry, debauchery and destruction.

We have a responsibility to support our bodies with necessary food and drink. But if, by the indulgence of our appetites we render our bodies and minds as unfit for the service of God then we commit sin. To see men and women divested of their dignity and sunk below the level of animals in drunkenness is a tragedy. Intemperance generates other vices – impurity, passionate anger, profane language, disinhibition and inappropriate speech, abuse of other substances, waste of money and time and a contempt of any reproof given to call the person away from it. I believe that in these days we have a duty to be different in this respect. We have the opportunity to challenge the world’s social pressures to have a good time with drunkenness and drug abuse. Sin must be called what it is. And the worldling that tries to appeal to 1 Timothy 5 v 23

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities;

we need to inform them of the real meaning of Paul’s words – mix a little wine with your water, not a little water with your wine. Use wine as a medicine because of the unsafe water supply. But continue not to use wine as a beverage because an elder in particular must be an abstainer –

1 Tim 3 v 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine.

Having then looked at the words of the first part of the verse we come secondly to the contrasting second part –

“But be filled with the Spirit.”

Filled is an interesting verb, as we shall see in a moment. Men are said to “be filled with wine” when they are completely under its influence. But when they are filled with the Holy Spirit He controls all their thoughts, feelings words and actions.

We are going to look now at this term “the filling of the Holy Spirit.” There has been so much misunderstanding about this so we have to be clear.

An example of misunderstanding came in my own memory of 20 or so years ago. I had some Christian friends who had moved in a Charismatic direction. They were enthusiastic about a new experience that had happened to them that they called the baptism of the Spirit. But more than this they believed that after that event they had become FILLED with the Spirit, and they called themselves SPIRITFILLED Christians. They told me about several others that we knew who were also spirit-filled Christians. There was sense that a spirit filled Christian was just that little bit better than an ordinary Christian – needless to say my friends urged me to seek this experience too.

However my understanding of the Biblical text reminded me that every true believer has the experience of being Baptised in the Spirit at his or her conversion, and that this is a once only activity of the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ by his Spirit. We pass from death to life when baptised in the Spirit. We are redeemed from the curse of sin and granted the promise of eternal life with Christ. We are made right with God when we are immersed, baptised in the Spirit. Therefore my friends were mistaken in their terminology. And sadly it led them to a little bit of pride identifying those with a new experience, whatever it was, as first class Christians, a cut above the others so to speak.

The Baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s Body.

The Filling of the Holy Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.

Just as drunkenness produces rioting and debauchery, so the filling of the Holy Spirit produces joy in the heart and a desire to serve the Lord more and to please Him in our Christian lives.

As we shall see, the word filling is crucial to our understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers.

The verb “be filled” is PLERONSTHE. The manner in which the verb is used gives us a clue that is not obvious in our English rendering. Grammar to most people is boring and not something that we readily seek to study. But for a moment this morning let me tell you about this fascinating verb.

What does BE FILLED really mean to us as we think about it this morning? Grammatically it is the same as if I used the word LISTEN!

1. You are given a command – Listen – it is imperative that you do.

2. You are to do it NOW – Listen – it is in the present tense that the listening must be done.

3. You yourself are to do it – Listen – yield yourself to the message spoken as a passive listener.

The verb be filled is exactly the same – it is Imperative, present and passive. And it can form for us an explanation of precisely what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

1. Be filled – God commands that we be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Firstly then it is an imperative, a command. It is not an option or choice – God says be filled. Rather than be filled with wine, be filled with God in your life. Already we are noticing that Paul is teaching using a contrast or what is called an ANTITHESIS. But first there is a similarity. The effects of being filled with the spirit can resemble intoxication. Indeed there were those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost who made the wrong assumption. They assumed that the apostles who had been filled with the spirit on that unrepeatable occasion, and who were speaking in other tongues, appeared to be drunk. Both experiences have a feeling of intensity.

However drunkenness starts with external impulses; the filling with the Holy Spirit is guarded by internal impulses of grace.

Drunkenness is ruin; filling with the spirit is salvation.

Drunkenness proceeds from the flesh through sensual appetite and influences the emotions. But the filling with the Spirit begins in the soul, influences the emotions and has an effect on the body, modifying its activities.

Ephesians 5 v 18 is a kind of gateway to the rest of chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6. In order to be able to obey the commands that are coming up regarding husbands and wives, parents and children, servants and masters, we need to be filled with the Spirit. In order to live pleasing lives for Christ we must be filled with His Spirit – there is no other way to do it. This filling is not just for ministers, missionaries or Christian workers – this is for EVERY CHRISTIAN. You must be filled!

Now this implies something important. It implies that Christians can be only three quarters, a half, a quarter or even barely filled at all with God the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has baptised each Christian with Himself, does not necessarily have the place in our souls that He should – namely – full control. We like to keep back control. We like to choose whether His gracious influence in us is fully operative or not. We allow Him to have some control, but not always to have full control. It is possible to have the PRESENCE of the Holy Spirit without His fullness.

This is why then there is an imperative here of which we must be reminded regularly – you must be filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to live for and please Him who is your saviour. God commands it.

2. Be filled – this filling is a repeated experience.

The tense as we have mentioned is the present tense. But even more than that it is the present continuous tense – so be filled is “continually to be filled” or as one has said, “be being filled.” The command then is for us to be filled every moment. This is not an experience of a moment but the experience of a lifetime! The word filled is a word of degree. But the word is also related here to a PERSON not merely an influence. God the Holy Spirit is a person. Now we are all aware that you cannot have more or less of a person in your life. You either have Him or you don’t. You either are a believer, a Christian, or you are not.

You can, however, have more or less of a person’s trust. You can allow a person more or less liberty or freedom in your home. There are some people who when coming to your home they first need to knock on the door or ring the bell. They need to wait for an invitation to come in. And when they are in they are restricted usually to the living room for the duration of their stay.

But there are others, probably family, who can walk in unannounced, and can go to any part of the house downstairs and upstairs at will. There are therefore degrees of occupation depending on who the person is.

The tragedy is that some believers treat the Holy Spirit as an occasional guest, who visits when invited, when there is trouble, or when help is required. They forget that He is entitled to total occupation of the soul and He is able to fill the soul with His presence. They lose out when they are entertaining other guests in the soul – indwelling sins, dearly loved habits and attitudes, and ambitions. Mr Pride lives in one of the bedrooms; Mr Resentment has the spare room; Mrs Bitterness hides in a cupboard and so on – and unless these occupants are driven out then the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit cannot fill your soul!

But it can be more complicated than that. We can have a marvellous experience of the Lord’s presence and grace in our lives and we know intense joy and a filling of the Holy Spirit. We know a sense of the nearness of the Lord Jesus Christ because we have thrown out those occupants that should have no place in the life of the believer, and we do not want it to ever go away. But after a little while those other occupants of the house can creep in again through the back door. Mr Selfishness slips in and we are not full any more. He brings Miss Arrogance with him and our joy begins to diminish.

What is emerging then is this – being filled with the spirit is a constant and continual work of making room for Christ by His Spirit in our souls to the exclusion of all that would seek to displace Him. And this means that we must have a willingness for God the Holy Spirit to do in us what He wants, without us restraining Him.

Be filled is a command.

Be being filled is continuous -

3. Be filled – we must yield ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

We have thought about the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls – but the third part of the structure of the verb be filled is that it is in the Passive Mood. To be passive is to be yielded and not resistant. It is to be ready for anything and everything that he would want us to do. We do not fill ourselves but we permit the Holy Spirit to fill us. And the verb “be filled” has less to do with quantity, as though we are empty vessels that need a required amount of spiritual fuel to keep us going. “Filled” in the scriptures so often means “Be controlled by.” In Luke 4 we read at verse 28

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

controlled by anger and for that reason tried to kill the Lord Jesus. And in Acts 13 v 45

But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

The Jews were controlled by envy and opposed the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. To be filled with the spirit means to be constantly controlled by Him, in mind, emotions and will.

So often the Lord God cannot use us in service because He knows, with His all-seeing omniscience, that really we are not willing. We thought about knowing God’s will for our lives last time. But it is true that God only reveals His will to those whom He knows are willing to do His will.

As we come to a conclusion then let us apply this teaching this morning. First we can notice other references to the Filling of the Holy Spirit in scripture.

1. The first person to think about regarding fulness of the Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Luke 4 v 1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

As ever the Lord Jesus Christ is our pattern. He was empowered at His Baptism in Jordan to embark on public ministry. He was filled with the Holy Ghost and immediately tested in the wilderness. If we his disciples are to resist Satan and sin then we must be filled with the Spirit. It is He who will provide the necessary power to overcome the evil one. The Lord was completely and utterly controlled by His own Spirit and was never in subjection to any other spirit. So we, His sons and daughters, should also be filled with that same Holy Spirit right through our lives.

2. We often think of the power of the Spirit as being necessary for preaching and witnessing. This is true and it can be seen in several texts –

Acts 4 v 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

Acts 4 v 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 6 v 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Acts 6 v 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

Acts 13 v 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.

The apostles needed repeated fillings after their initial experience at Pentecost. And there are times when we need to come to the Lord for power – to pray, to love, to assist others, to speak for the Lord and so many other things that we know we cannot do in our own strength.

But we need to be cautious. The mere fact of being filled with the Spirit does not guarantee tremendous blessing in an evangelistic sense. Paul was filled with the Spirit when he went to Athens and Corinth we are told; not many were converted at either place in the short term. We certainly need to be filled with the Spirit for all of the tasks that the Lord calls us to do – including evangelism.

3. We need to be filled with the Spirit because we are facing a war. Whenever we launch out and jettison things in our souls in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit there is always a swift reaction from the enemy.

But there can be a positive reaction too. When people see sanctified lives filled with the Holy Spirit then He will do His sovereign work of convicting others of sin, the sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and then being brought to faith in Christ. Being filled with the Spirit is not an experience that leads into a peaceful, easy, comfortable Christian life – but rather into one of turbulence and battle. Are we ready for this? Are we ready to be faced with the challenge that we can only reach the needy world around us when we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit?

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be fully occupied with God, wholly guided by Him, wholly controlled by Him. May we each know of the reality of this in our lives – because the result will be genuine joy in the Holy Ghost, and will be expressed by what we find in verse 19 – 21?

BUT are you a Christian my friend?

You can’t be a true Christian, you can’t have the power of the Holy Spirit of God in your life, UNTIL you have renounced, said goodbye to, the sinful things belonging to your basic human nature. What are these things? We read about them in Galatians 5 v 19 – 21

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Adultery – unfaithfulness in marriage
Fornication – sex outside of the marriage bond
Uncleanness – sexual impurity
Lasciviousness – sexual activity to excess
Idolatry – concentrating the affection an anything or anybody besides God
Witchcraft – dabbling in the occult
Variance – deliberately provoking arguments
Emulations – jealousy
Strife – selfish ambition to have what you want
Seditions – always against the proper rules of law
Heresies – factions and cliques against authority
Revellings – gluttony and wild parties

What a list this is!

But the Lord Jesus Christ can deliver you from the power of these things that grip you and hold you fast even though you don’t know it!

But you start by admitting that they exist in you; acknowledging that they are evil; and then rejecting them – repenting of them – refusing to have anything more to do with them. THEN God Himself will save you and come into your soul with His forgiveness and peace. Will you have Jesus Christ to take over your life?

You either have Him – or you don’t!



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