1 Jan 2002

Filled with the Spirit?

Submitted by theshovel
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Hello Jim. -I have a question that worries me! - I used to 'go to church,' and the teaching was that all christians have the Holy Spirit, but not all christians were 'FILLED' with the Spirit. They encouraged people to pray to God and ask Him to fill them with the Spirit. (To be baptized with the Spirit, with praying in tongues as a sign??) -Suggesting I had to pray hard to get something that not all christians have. (I had enough trouble at the time in believing that God loved me!) This kind of teaching doesn't sit comfortably with me at all. - You couldn't enlighten me in any way could you? (I hope it's not a stupid thing to ask) Thanks - Richard

Hello Richard!

A stupid thing to ask? Not a chance!! This performance-based "Christian church" stuff has been pounded into people for years! There seems to be countless ways divisions find their way into the religious scene so that certain believers are perceived as somehow better or "more spiritual" than another! You see, it's only the false premise of division that forces certain Bible verses to seemingly substantiate the ongoing lie.

Somehow, religion has turned the "filled with the Spirit" comment made by Paul (Ephesians 5:18) into some kind of an add-on feature of God's Spirit bestowed upon a select few, and only after sufficient begging. What a bogus suggestion! How in the world have we taken such a small phrase from an entire letter and made it contradict the whole?

By time Paul had made his statements in what we now call the 5th chapter he had already established (or should I say, re-established) the reality of total unity in the Spirit shared by all in Christ. His whole push regarding this unity was in his insistence that they stand firm upon it in all matters! No doubt there are differences in the way God works among the body so that there is an individuality that benefits the whole (in ways that we can't even begin to fathom), but the proposition put forth under the bogus premise of seeking the filling of the Spirit has only engendered division.

Even the immediate context of the paragraph in which the "filled with the Spirit" verse is found speaks of something far different than what has been proposed by those who promote this spiritual achievement. Paul did indeed make a distinction in this part of his letter, but it is the difference between life and death, light and darkness, our inheritance in God and the condemnation of the world. No distinction whatever is made between those in Christ! Instead, there is an insistence that those in Christ, the same who are children of God, merely need to wake up to the reality of their true identity so that they not continue to regard themselves according to the old inheritance found in the world.

Now the main reason these verses may not seem to be saying this to us is simple: the ages-long performance-based use of what was written often forces words meant to destroy that false premise right back into that ever-evolving false premise. In other words, if something is used incorrectly by enough people for a long enough period of time it can become accepted as meaning something else ... even as the direct opposite of the original meaning! However, such perversion of use must avoid the obvious connections that would otherwise defy the misuse; and it is here that a re-examination of the context will often give rise to many questions and contradictions that suggest the original meaning has been overlooked (The same holds true for any communication, ancient or contemporary).

Whereas we might hear Paul's "be imitators of God" as a suggestion to somehow PRETEND, or as an attempt to act like someone we're not, there is actually a more profound, yet simple reality. We imitate God just as a child imitates daddy because we are born of him. It is a call to live in our true reality, instead of after the old reality from which we have been removed. The rest of the chapter follows suit.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:15-18

The difference is made between how we live: in wisdom versus foolishness. From whence cometh wisdom? Is it not from the Lord? If there is one reality that Paul insisted upon regarding wisdom it is that "Christ has become wisdom to us" (1 Corinthians 1:30) and this is the same found throughout the letter of Ephesians. To live in wisdom is to live in the reality of the understanding put within us by God's Spirit, for we have been made alive in Christ and made heirs to everything of God (Ephesians 1). Paul was drawing a conclusion to the whole matter in this section, not creating some new proposition by which to contradict and deny everything he began with.

To "walk ... as unwise men" is a very simple concept as it is the very premise upon which we all learned to live in this world, that is, upon the basic principles that make our own little worlds go 'round. It makes no difference if we were even raised according to the "proper" form of God, because this existence we learned was formed according to those same principles of death.

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,"

For Paul to have made such a contrast is to have focused upon the fact that we have been raised from death and brought into new life! To take care as to how we "walk" or live in this world is not based according to a "right" set of standards, but according to the simple understanding ("as wise") of who we have been made in Christ. We are NOT who or what we USED TO be, but have been made heirs together with Christ: heirs of he who is, who was, and is to come!

"So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

How we so easily and quickly remove this from its context is simply amazing! All of sudden we're supposed to pretend that Paul hadn't been referring to the "will of the Lord" in describing his desire toward us from before the foundation of the world? No, this is no reference to some nondescript "will" that may or may not be found, this is a direct connection toward the importance of not giving in to the lies that tell us we still walk in the darkness, but that we IN TRUTH walk in the light!

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit"

To be "drunk with wine" vividly describes the ignorance of living according to false perception! No doubt it might make for good advice, but I don't think Paul intended it as such. No, I suspect he used it as a picture they could all relate to because he wanted them to see the sharp distinction between life and death, light and darkness, wisdom and foolishness; for this is what we have in Christ.

The meaning of be filled with the Spirit would connect back to Paul's "prayer" for these believers. This is the wisdom and will of God for us!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will KNOW what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.


Know what?

"The hope of His calling"

This is the very stuff of God which cannot be seen with human eyes, but has been deposited within us through God's Spirit so that our hearts have been drawn to HIM. It is Christ.

"The riches of the glory of HIS inheritance in the saints"

Notice, this is not OUR inheritance in God but HIS inheritance in US. OUR inheritance is better described by the "hope of His calling".

"The surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe"

Surpassing ... it goes beyond all possible human perception!

And all these are in accordance to what he accomplished in Christ through the death and resurrection!

To be filled with the Spirit was simply Paul's way of communicating this reality of God's very real and continued working in us (which is all according to Christ's work on the cross) so that it could be contrasted with the very premise of living according to the worlds' wisdom (which is ignorance) so that the life of Christ is seen for what it really is!

Please notice that the contrast to this "filling of the Spirit" is not presented as a distinction between those in Christ but as a contrast to the ignorance of the world. Though many have built doctrines around the concept that some believers are filled and other aren't it is not what Paul suggested, nor had in mind.

Live your lives, NOT according to the ignorance that only appears valid to those who are drunk on it, BUT according to the very wisdom of God who is causing us to know what it is to be alive in Christ! Do not be afraid to stand up to that which falsely presents itself as wisdom ... even that which disguises itself in the name of Christ.

Hopefully, this gives a little illumination! :)

Hello Jim. Re 'Filled with the Spirit.' Thankyou so much for your quick reply. You wont believe how much you have helped me! I've been so 'crushed' by the 'other teaching'. I could never accept it in my heart, but I thought there was something wrong with me! I think I've let myself fall victim to alot of 'spiritual bullying' in the past. -I could say so much, but for now I think I'll rest in this wonderful new feeling of freedom! (I was having trouble with reading the Bible without feeling condemned!) I'm feeling alot better now though. I can't thank you enough for your kindness! THANKS, THANKS and many THANKS! Love Richard

Please realize that I'm not suggesting that being filled with the Spirit is a formula, but that it has been turned into one

New Testament: 


Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unWISE men but as WISE, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:15-18 You almost have to wonder if what Paul had in mind in saying this was : “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of WISDOM” Adam

The surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” Surpassing … it goes beyond all possible human perception”-Jim I like to say it as it goes beyond all FLESHLY perception. For we do indeed perceive it, just not according to the flesh. Otherwise we would simply have a miraculous gift that we could never enjoy here and now. Love, Adam

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