Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20

The level of spiritual influence and empowerment is equal to (or close to it) the level a believer submits to the Holy Spirit. The believer’s submission opens the opportunity to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s control is not about  putting the believer into bondage, but to lead the believer into a freedom that can only be experienced when a believer fully submits to the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not a substance. Though there are Old Testament types that help us to understand the Person of the Spirit, we must not think of Him as wind, breath, wine, oil or water. The Scriptures use these and other examples and types to illustrate the Holy Spirit’s work, ministry and personality.

Therefore, we must not think of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts as we would think of water filling a bottle, a vacuum, or an empty basket. The heart of the believer is not a receptacle to be emptied in order that the Holy Spirit might fill it. The Holy Spirit is a Person and when a believer is full of the Spirit that believer is led, guided and controlled by the Spirit.1

In Ephesians 5:10 Paul told the church to, “find out what pleases the Lord.” The exhortations that followed this command speak directly to the very heart of the Pauline philosophy. He saw the victorious Christian life resulting from the believer being under the influence and in complete harmony with the Holy Spirit.

Paul expected the results to include: that the believer has nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11); the believer makes the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16); understands the Lord’s will (Ephesians 5:17); and lives in submission to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

In each of his letters, Paul wrote much about the will, heart, reason and the emotions of the believer being in harmony with the Spirit. Paul’s specific expression to the Ephesians, “be filled with the Spirit” speaks of the importance of the Holy Spirit possessing the heart and soul of the believer as well as implying the importance of the Holy Spirit’s influence over that person’s beliefs and actions.2

The phrase Paul uses here in Ephesians 5 (be filled with) refers to the level of influence and control that the Holy Spirit is allowed to exert over the believer who is said to be filled with Him. This influence and control starts when the believer decides to submit to the Holy Spirit. When we come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit breaks the power of sin and the sinful nature. He takes up residence within us. Not only does the Holy Spirit break the power of the old sinful nature, but He now gives opportunity to the believer to be filled, influenced, empowered and controlled by the divine nature.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The freedom of the Spirit helps the believer to identify, isolate, suppress, defeat and overcome the old nature through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) and by giving the believer a new nature by replacing the old (2 Corinthians 5:17). A believer is not automatically controlled (filled) with the Spirit just because the Spirit indwells him. The believer has to make a decision to be filled with the Spirit. In other words, a person can “have” the Spirit without the Spirit “having” the person.

That is, the influence upon and control of, which the Spirit exerts over the believer, is dependent upon the believer’s active and consistent adjustment to the Spirit.3

For the Holy Spirit “to have us” we must be in a state of continuous decision.  This decision results in the continual filling of the Holy Spirit. The believer being in a continuous state of being filled enables the believer to be obedient and then conform to both the Word and the Will of God. Therefore, when we speak of a Christian being filled with the Spirit, we are referring to the control which a Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, has over a human being, a believer.4



End Notes


  1. Untranslatable Riches from the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest. Page 104-105.
  2. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon Entry Fill, Filled
  3. Untranslatable Riches from the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest. Page 103
  4. Ibid.

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