Be Filled with the Spirit

By Earl Trimble

Vol. 106, No. 08

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Paul gives two commands in this verse. (1) Be not drunk with wine and (2) be filled with the Spirit. The first command demands a life of sobriety. The second command is generally misunderstood.

There are two possible explanations of the meaning of, “be filled with the Spirit.” (1) It is a command to be filled with the actual Person of the Holy Spirit, or (2) It is a command to be filled with the Spirit’s teaching. Let us consider these views:

If the Spirit actually lives personally in the believer beginning at baptism (Acts 2:38), why would Paul command Christians to be “filled” with the Spirit? If the Spirit personally dwells in the saved person from the time of baptism, what role would the Christian have, then, in being filled with the Spirit?

If the Holy Spirit personally lives in the child of God personally at baptism, are there degrees or measures of the personal Holy Spirit abiding personally in the Christian? Is each individual Christian commanded to increase this initial measure of the Spirit until he becomes “filled” with the Spirit?

Brother Guy N. Woods’ chart graphically shows the parallel between Eph. 5:18-19 and Col. 3:16:

Ephesians 5:18

“Be filled with the Spirit.. ..speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs….”

“Be filled” present imperative. Keep on being filled! Daily filling–not a one-time experience following baptism.

Colossians 3:16

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. …teaching in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs….”

How filled!

Fill (Pleero)–Bagster: to pervade with an influence fully, possesses fully (Eph. 5:18).

Please note Bagster’s definition of the Greek Pleero (Fill) is to be filled with an influence. For one to “let the word of Christ dwell in” him “richly” is for him to “be filled with the Spirit.”

It is true that the Spirit is not a mere influence. Still, the Bible frequently uses a figure of speech (synecdoche) where a part is put for the whole, or where the whole is put for a part. Here, the word Spirit is used for the Spirit’s influence through the teaching of the word of Christ.

This rich dwelling of the Spirit through the word results in “speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” or “teaching and admonishing one another.” One does not speak in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as the result of being filled with the literal Person of the Holy Spirit. If so, then such singing would be the work of the Spirit, and all such teaching would be inspired. The Spirit influences people today only through the once-for-all delivered faith—the Word of Truth.

Which agrees with sound reason and with Scripture, to say (1) that being filled with the personal Spirit results from a command to do so, or (2) that being filled with the Spirit results from being obedient to commands of the Spirit and thus being filled with the Spirit’s teaching?

A study of Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19 shows that the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is the result of being “filled with the teaching of the Spirit,” or letting “the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”