What is a “Spirit-filled” Christian?

What is a “Spirit-filled” Christian? Is it some emotional frenzy with people barking like dogs, or getting slain in the Spirit, or uncontrollable laughter, or any other weird manifestation exhibited on Christian broadcasting (which by the way I highly recommend NOT watching)? Is it evidenced by ecstatic utterances or some type of “anointing” likened to electricity that jolts a person with supernatural power?

Paul tell us in Ephesians 5:18-21 what it means to be Spirit-filled. He writes, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Let me address the grammar of the text and then give some hints from the original language to clearly define what it means to be “Spirit-filled”. First of all, this is in the present tense—“keep on” being filled. This is not a one time instantaneous act or experience, but because of the verb tense, it is a condition. It is not to be sought as a blessing or a manifestation or some crisis event. In other words, this is how we should always live—constantly under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, it is a command in the imperative mood. We are commanded to be keep on continually being filled. This is not something that just happens to us. We must make the conscious choice to allow the Holy Spirit to have influence in our lives on a continual basis.

Let me give you two illustrations of what this verb “to be filled” means in the original language. First of all, it was used of winds carrying a boat along by blowing in the sails. This image shows that the Holy Spirit blows in your life and carries you along to do the will of Christ. You are guided, influenced, directed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, this verb can also mean, “permeated” like salt permeates food to make it taste good. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit permeates your life so that you produce fruit that makes you more like Jesus. But most often it speaks of control. In a sense, one voluntarily keeps on submitting to the Holy Spirit in order to live under His divine control or influence. So the main verb in this text is the command to keep on continually being controlled or influenced by the Holy Spirit.

And yet Paul also expands on this idea of being “Spirit-filled” by giving four evidences or fruits of what a Spirit-controlled person looks like. The first one is that of addressing each other in songs of praise. This is clearly the experiencing of the close fellowship of worshipping together. This is the joy of being together with other Christians for mutual edification and encouragement. A Spirit-controlled person loves to glorify Christ and enjoy Him forever by worshipping with fellow Christians. This is our public praise for the purpose of edification and exhortation and teaching.

Secondly, it means singing to the Lord with all your heart. This is our private devotion to Christ where we sing to Him in our hearts. Whether we sing literally from our mouths or make music in our hearts, it is the overwhelming joy of having Christ as Savior and Lord. There should be no such thing as sour or dour Christians. Nor should there be this “happy-clappy” syrupy sentimentalism. Instead, Spirit-filled Christians have the inner joy of the Lord as their strength and it comes out in a lifestyle of joy to others around them.

Thirdly, it demonstrates itself in giving thanks always and for everything. Often times as Christians, we can be the least thankful of people.  You can truly know a Spirit-controlled person when they exude the joy of the Lord in thankfulness.  What is going on in your life right now whether good or bad that you have not expressed thanksgiving to God for His gracious hand of providence in your life?

Fourthly, a Spirit-filled Christian keeps on submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. This word “submit” is a military term that means to line up in rank underneath.  Paul also tells us this in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When a person has a submission problem, often demonstrated by pride or arrogance, it is clear evidence that they are not being Spirit-controlled.

I want you to notice very carefully that clear evidences of being “Spirit-filled” have nothing to do with ecstatic utterances or the “anointing” or any other weird manifestations. No barking like dogs! No falling down and being slain in the Spirit! If there were one place to show these manifestations in Scripture in regards to the role of the Holy Spirit of all places it would show up here. But it doesn’t.

What’s the evidence of being Spirit-filled? Joy, worship, fellowship, encouragement, and mutual edification. In other words, a Spirit-filled Christian consistently displays the fruit of the Spirit. May we ask God in His grace to supply us the power to be Spirit-filled Christians who exude the joy of the Lord as a lifestyle

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