“Is our experience of the Holy Spirit any less urgent or less vivid today than it was in the days of the apostles?”
I read that quote this week, and immediately I knew that was the question that we as a church need to be asking and answering.
Last week we laid out a plan for the future. But in order for that plan to be a success in God’s eyes it must be accomplished in and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Consider the first church, the church at Jerusalem. The odds for it’s success were slim. It came into being in the midst of a pluralistic culture. It was birthed in the heart of Judaism, emperor worship and rampant paganism.
Yet not only did the church survive it thrived. The membership of the church grew in the midst of those conditions to an estimated 100,000. The church grew, multiplied, and spread and we exist today in large part because of the first church.
If you have any ambition at all, you want to be successful. If you’re in sales or finance and you see other people being successful you’re probably going to try and find out what it was that helped them to achieve that success.
As a church when we look at the church at Jerusalem, we too want to experience the kind of success – success not in scope but in results. Meaning we desire to see God’s power manifested through us as He brings people to Christ. So we look for the clues to that success.
We really don’t have to look very far to see what it was that helped them to become the kind of church that they were.
“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Remember the visible church came into being after Jesus had gone back to Heaven. He instructed the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that they would be able to accomplish the assignment that he had given to them to make disciples of all the nations.
What happened? Our Father as He always does kept His promise. He sent the Holy Spirit to them. What happened on the Day of Pentecost? The Holy Spirit came and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter preaches and 3,000 were saved in one day and the church was off and running.
Therefore if we as a church want to accomplish anything at all for Christ that accomplishment must be in and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul understood this. He understood that if we are going to walk, to live as Christ lived that can only be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In fact if one were to read Ephesians 4, 5 and 6 and verses 18-21 of chapter five were left out we would be left with an impossible list of demands. We would be left with an incredible burden to bear. Case in point there is no way that we could walk in wisdom apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just go back and read Ephesians four and try and do all that you are instructed to do in your own strength and in your own power. Trying to do just one of those things, much less all of those things apart from the power of the Holy Spirit is impossible and leads only to failure, and discouragement in the life of a Christian.
That’s why Paul writes in Ephesians 5, “to be filled with the Spirit”.
This is such an important topic that I want to take the next couple of weeks to slowly work our way through this portion of Scripture.
If we as a church are going to accomplish the plans that we believe that God has for us, then we must understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
Today I’m going to give a broad overview of what it means to be filled with the Spirit and then next week we will drill down into the details of being filled with the Spirit.
There are four things I’d like to bring to our attention about the filling of the Spirit.
- It is an imperative
- It is in the plural form
- It is in the passive voice
- It is in the present tense
1. The filling of the Spirit is a command to be obeyed.
In this passage there are two imperatives. What is an imperative? An imperative is a command. When Paul instructs us to be filled with the Spirit he is not making a suggestion, he is not saying it would be good if you would consider doing these this. No he is giving us, really God is giving us a command to be filled with the Spirit.
Because it is a command that should be reason enough for us to do everything we can to understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
I said there were two imperatives in this passage. What is the other one? The other imperative is actually the first one we encounter. What was Paul opening statement? He said “And do not get drunk with wine…”. Remember that statement comes on the heels of what he has just taught us and what we learned about last week. Last week we learned that we are to walk in wisdom, we learned that we are not to be foolish and to understand what the will of the Lord is. Immediately upon instructing us to not be foolish but to be understanding he says “And do not get drunk with wine…”.
So the first command is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Don’t get drunk, don’t be a drunkard. To do so would demonstrate two things. One you are not walking in wisdom you have chosen the path of the foolish. Second it would demonstrate that you are not filled with the Spirit.
To be filled with the Spirit is not optional, it is exactly the opposite it is an obligation. We have just as much a responsibility to be filled with the Spirit as we do to obey the rest of the commands of the Christian life.
For instance let’s go back to the opening verses of Ephesians 4, what did Paul say there?
“therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Now who would say that we as Christians have the option to walk in humility, or to walk in gentleness, or to bear with one another, or to maintain the unity of the Spirit? Paul doesn’t leave us an option to do any of these things if we want to live, if we want to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.
All of these things and more became our obligations to obey when we accepted the call of God. An outright refusal to perform our obligations would reveal an unrepentant heart.
2. The command to be filled with the Spirit is given in plural form
In other words it is inclusive, it includes every one who is a Christian. It is given to every one who claims to be a Christian. No one who claims to know Christ can opt out of this part of the program. How different would the church be if everyone understood this and obeyed this command? How much greater would the impact be on the church if every believer lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. How effective would the church be if every believer ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit?
The reality is that is God’s plan. God expects every believer to live in the power of the Spirit. To live a Spirit filled life.
What has happened then? I think part of the problem is dis-obedience. There are some believers who know what to do but they simply don’t do it. James tells us
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
Is obeying God a good thing to do? What Christian would argue differently? Of course obeying God is the right thing to do, why then are so many professing Christians not obeying the command to be filled with the Spirit.
Another part of the problem is ignorance. There are some believers who know that they are to be filled with the Spirit but they simply don’t know what that means. Maybe they have been the victim of bad teaching and poor theology. This problem can be remedied through the right kind of teaching. Unfortunately the Holy Spirit is a neglected member of the Trinity. One writer called the Holy Spirit the “orphaned member of the Trinity”. As I was studying for this sermon I was somewhat surprised that some of the commentators I read really didn’t go into much detail or depth on Paul’s command to be filled with the Spirit.
There are many sincere believers who want to be filled with the Spirit but because solid biblical teaching on this subject is so hard to find, and all the wrong kind of teaching is so easy to find they end up seeking to be filled with the Spirit in all the wrong ways.
Because this command is given to all of us we are going to take the time to explore exactly what Paul means and how is it accomplished in our lives.
3. The command to be filled with the Spirit is passive
John Stott says “There is no technique to learn or no formula to recite.” This doesn’t mean that there are not actions that you and I need to take in order to be filled with the Spirit. In fact the Bible would argue that the filling of the Spirit should be and could be the norm for the Christian if we would walk in obedience in to the Lord’s command. As we are going to learn it is sin that keeps us from being filled with the Spirit.
To give you some idea of the idea of being passive is found in the parallel passage found in the book of Colossians.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
We’ll explore this verse in more depth probably next week, but for this morning let point out that the results of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly are the same results of us being filled with the Spirit.
How then according to Paul are we filled with the Spirit? Paul commands us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,..” The word of Christ is a synonym for the Scriptures. The word “dwell” simply means to inhabit, to settle down. As we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, the end result is that we are being filled with the Spirit.
Therefore we don’t have to seek to be filled with the Spirit as if God only gives that privilege to a few believers, rather it is a privilege that all believers can and should experience in their lives. How can they experience this privilege? By allowing the Spirit to fill them. Again in coming lessons we see exactly what the Scriptures teach.
4. The command to be filled with the Spirit is in the present tense
What exactly does that mean? It means obviously that right now we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, it’s not a command to be obeyed in the future. But it means much more than that. In the Greek language there are different tense’s for verbs. One tense refers to an action that takes place in the past and is a completed action. Another tense refers to an present action that is continuous.
What Paul is teaching us is that the command to be filled with the Spirit is not a one and done. Rather it is to be an on going experience in our lives. The command is to continue to be filled with the Spirit. At the moment of our salvation we receive the Holy Spirit, all of the Holy Spirit. But because of our sin and dis-obedience we lose that filling, we don’t lose the Holy Spirit, we lose the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Therefore we must make the necessary corrections in our lives in order to continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Think of it as taking a road trip, but for whatever reason you get sidetracked and you have to make a course correction on order to get back on track. In our walk with Christ we sin we get off course and when we sin we don’t lose the Holy Spirit what we do forfeit for a time is the power in the Holy Spirit in our lives.
If we as a church truly desire to reach our goals, and to reach them with God’s blessing, we must reach them God’s way. We must strive to reach them in the power of the Holy Spirit. What difference would it make in our own church if each one of us purposed to learn what Paul means and we set our faces like a stone to obey what would happen.
Remember Jesus used his disciples, men readily recognized as unlearned and not very “sophisticated” and through their being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit the Lord used them to take the gospel literally to the known world. We are still benefiting from their willingness and obedience today. We are part of the legacy they left behind.
We have the responsibility to carry on that legacy and leave a legacy of our own. We can through the power of the Holy Spirit.[/sws_author_bio_ui]