Under the Influence
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 5:18
Our text this morning is a well-known verse on Christian living and I invite you to turn to Ephesians 5:18. We're going to look at a single verse today and by the time it is done, you are going to have, I believe, a greater sense of appreciation for what the Spirit of God has done in our lives and what the privilege is of being associated with the Church of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18 says,
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
This text brings us to the concept of the Spirit filled life which has been the subject of much teaching over the years and it's a principle that connects us with the broader purposes of God. There is a tendency, perhaps I believe, to view the Spirit filled life from kind of a private self-centered perspective, you know, am I filled with the Spirit and what does that mean for me? It's kind of like what we talked about, the will of God a couple of weeks ago. We defined the will of God in ways that make it something self-centered. What is the will of God for my life and what does God want from me and what does God have for me? And in the middle of talking about God's will, we put me, we put ourselves right at the center and that, we saw, was a serious mistake and a distortion. What it means for us is kind of secondary to what it means to God and in a similar way, what we're going to see today is that the idea of a Spirit filled life is something that transcends your private life, transcends your private devotion, and what a joy it is to be able to see these things and to open them up here together this morning
Paul in this verse is continuing on in his discussion about his call to unity and purity in the church which he began in chapter 4, verse 1, having expounded, having explained the great purposes of God in salvation and how God saved us by grace and not through works of our own and did a great work through God and chose us before the beginning of time in order to become a part of the body of Christ through faith in Christ. Paul moves into chapter 4 and explains what that means and gives us a therefore. Gives us the implications now that you are in Christ, what does that mean for the way that you live today. He instructs us that it means that we should be those who seek after unity with other believers in the body of Christ and that we would live a life of purity. And that's the broad context of what we find, of what sets the stage for what we see here in verse 18. So he gives us here a contrast about what influences daily life for a true Christian and he gives us, we're just going to structure this message in a contrast of what not to do and what to do and we'll spend most of the time on the latter part.
But here in the first part of verse 18, Paul tells us and this can be our opening point: be not filled with wine. Don't be a drunk, in other words. Don't be drunken in your approach to life. Thinking about God's will as we saw in verse 17, looking at verse 17 with me, "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is," thinking about the will of the Lord in Paul's mind brings us to think about his Holy Spirit; brings us to think about the purposes of God in saving us and what it is that God intends for us and so God's will naturally leads into a discussion about God's Spirit in the mind of Paul. Look at it there, "understand what the will of the Lord is," and he connects it together, "do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." This verse is a twofold command. It's a contrasting command: a negative followed by a positive. And the negative command is: do not get drunk with wine, perhaps referring to pagan practices of that day of the first century would get intoxicated and participate in orgies as a means of coming to some kind of ecstatic communion with their false god; that was what they believed that true worship was like. And perhaps that lays in the background of what Paul is saying here. Don't get drunk with wine, that true Christianity is not experienced by an intoxication that alters your mental state and brings you into some kind of communion with God. Remember that. True worship is not about altering your mind in order to have communion with God. We'll come back to that later on.
But here Paul says that don't get drunk with wine. I certainly don't think he's just trying to limit it to a polemic against pagan practices because all of Scripture has repeated warnings that condemn drunkenness in other settings. So for example in Proverbs 20:1, it says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise." So there is a blanket condemnation of drunkenness that Scripture makes, that Scripture pronounces, so that it should be in the mind of a true Christian that, "I must be separate from that lifestyle. I must be separate from the drunkenness which marks pagans. I must be separate from the drunkenness that marks those and the intoxication that marks those who do not know Christ and find their love, their satisfaction, their enjoyment, in a realm of alcoholic fury that alters their mind and conceptions." And the biblical concern goes even beyond just your private use of alcohol and warns us about associating with people that give themselves over to drunkenness. Proverbs 23:20 says, "Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty." Scripture gives us a warning about who we associate with lest they're handing themselves over to the sinful ways of the world would influence us and pull us into the debauchery of their lives. So it warns us to stay separate from that, to stay separate from drunkenness and to stay separate from those who give themselves over to it. So as you look at this command in Ephesians 5:18 and the broader biblical context, it's obvious that Paul is forbidding drunkenness for all time as a whole matter of lifestyle for a true Christian. He's not simply making a statement about the existing religious practices of a false God that existed at the time, although that would be included within what he said.
Look back now to chapter 5, verse 18 here. Paul not only gives the command, "Don't get drunk with wine," but he also gives the reason for it. He says, "Don't get drunk with wine for that is dissipation." That word "dissipation" is not one that we commonly use. I don't know that I have ever heard any one of you use the word "dissipation" in conversation with me unless you were actually quoting the NASB version here of Ephesians 5:18. What does "dissipation" mean? Well, think about it this way: when we, some of us when we were driving into church this morning, there was a heavy fog over the river both over the Licking River and over the Ohio River, and what happens when the sun comes up and starts to bear down on that fog? We say that the fog dissipates. It spreads out. It kind of just goes away and the vapor diminishes and disappears gradually over time. Well, that gives us a sense of what Paul is saying here and what grounds and undergirds his warning against drunkenness. It's dissipation and what he means by that is that you waste your life in drunkenness. Those of you that have come out of a drunken lifestyle of giving yourself over to drugs or intoxication, you know what this is talking about. Those years of your life were squandered, weren't they? There was nothing good that came out of them. There was nothing productive that came out of them and you can't get those years back. What Paul is saying is that those that give themselves over to drunkenness are dissipating their lives. They are squandering their opportunity and as Christians he says there is no place for that.
This word "dissipation" is only used three times in the New Testament. It appears in Titus 1:6 and also, I believe, in 1 Peter. But Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son uses the adverb form of this verb and gives us a perfect sense of what Paul is talking about here. You remember the prodigal son, he demands his portion of the father's estate and he goes out and he spends his wealth with prostitutes and all of that. In Luke 15:13, it uses a form of this Greek word and makes this statement about the prodigal son, "He squandered his estate with loose living." Loose living being the picture of dissipation; of having something and just frittering it away. And so Paul here gives us this command that is consistent with other Scripture saying, "Don't be drunk with wine." Why? Because you're a Christian. Why? Because God gave life to you and gave salvation to you and you are not supposed to waste that. You're not supposed to squander it. You're supposed to realize that you have a stewardship given to you in salvation that you are not meant to waste but that you are to put to productive use in your life. And you waste your life in drunkenness and those who give themselves over to alcohol are squandering their one opportunity to live life. So Paul says, "So don't be drunk with wine. Get yourself away from that. Separate yourself from it. That's not why God gave salvation to you was so that you would turn around and give yourselves over to that which squanders your life. Its dissipation. It fritters it away little by little by little and all of a sudden you come to the end of your life and you have nothing to show for it."
Those of you who are perhaps watching over the live stream from different parts of the country, we have a serious heroin problem in our area and it is so common. It's common news for these heroin addicts to die sometimes with their young children beside them, and they have squandered life in that and it's a picture of a total waste that takes place when you give yourself over into these mind altering substances in a pursuit of, I don't know what: of escape, of happiness, of good times. I think there will be a particularly hot spot in hell for the people who promote these things; who distribute these things; who market them in a way that make it attractive and bring people into that which actually enslaves them and ruins their lives. And Christians should have no part with that lifestyle; should have no part with the whole realm of that kind of drunkenness. It's not why we exist. It's not why God saved us.
So what is it then that Paul is after? The command on drunkenness is almost a little bit of an aside to the greater point that he's making and he quickly gives this contrasting command which is where we will spend the rest of our time with this morning. "Be not filled with wine," he says. "Don't be a drunk." He says instead, giving us a contrast in command, "Be filled with the Spirit." Be filled with the Spirit. Christians, rather than being under the influence of alcohol are to be those who are filled with the Spirit as their pattern of life. This is a continuous command in the original language, "Be continuously filled with the Spirit. Make it your pattern. Make it the ongoing nature of your life to be filled with the Spirit."
Look at verse 18 with me again. It's remarkable that we'll probably spend 50 minutes here with these few words in this verse. "Do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but," sharp contrast. Night and day. Black and white kind of contrast here. "Be filled with the Spirit." The command against drunkenness has merely set the stage for a contrast to point you into a whole different realm. It's a launching pad to launch you into a whole different realm of thought and a whole different realm of the way that you approach life and that's what we're going to look at here because it's Paul's focus. "Be filled with the Spirit."
What does that mean? What does that mean? If you had no other context, it would be kind of difficult to make sense of that. You know, to be filled with the Spirit, a non-material entity, how do you feel yourself with that? Well, hopefully we can sort through all of that. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Well, let's clear out some misconceptions at the start, an important thing to do. I know that some of you come from charismatic backgrounds and God has brought you out of that and praise his name for that. A Spirit filled believer is not, I had to say it like that because it's in italics in my notes, not by way of point of emphasis. It is not someone who engages in bizarre behavior that is often found in charismatic circles. They pretend that the Spirit makes you lose control of yourself so that you start speaking in ecstatic babble or you fall down when a man on a platform waves his hand over you. You lose control because the Spirit's at work and you are knocked over by his supposed presence. I've seen videos of people claiming to be filled with the Spirit running around in circles in a worship service and then jumping into the baptistery at the end of the time all in the name of being Spirit filled and showing forth that the Spirit has come upon them. Does that have anything to do with being filled with the Spirit? Is acting in a silly way that in any other context would probably get you taken to a psych ward have anything to do with what Scripture means with being filled with the Spirit? No, it doesn't. It has nothing to do with that at all. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what Scripture describes as a Spirit filled life as that which is the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says this, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness," and what? You can tell me. "Self-control." The mark of the Spirit in the life of a believer is that there is a spirit of self-control that comes upon him rather than this mindless abandonment to external influence that is too often found in those circles. That's not what it means. This is not a proof text for the charismatic lifestyle at all.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Ephesians 5:18, let's look at it again. Let's keep the text right in front of our minds. "Do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." There is a parallelism in the command. As I said, it's an ongoing command so what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Because it's an ongoing command, we know something about it. It's not referring to that one time past event where you were sealed by the Spirit, Ephesians 1:13, and God sealed you and marked you out as his own for all of time. It's not that. It's not referring to the moment when the Spirit indwells you permanently at the moment of your conversion. It's not talking about that. This is in a section related to ongoing Christian living and so while the sealing of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, the indwelling of the Spirit are definite realities of the Christian life, they happen at a point in time and abide and that's not what Paul, Paul is not commanding you to be indwelt by the Spirit, as a Christian you already are. So that's not it.
How can we peel back and see what Paul is getting at here? Well, let's just think about it for just a moment in the context in which he speaks here. When a man is intoxicated, he has had too much liquor, too much wine, we have a phrase for that, don't we? In fact, if he's caught driving like that by the authorities, he is charged with driving under the influence. He's under the influence of alcohol. He's not under the control of his natural faculties. The alcohol is influencing him and therefore he is acting in a particular way. Well, I'm just making a very general observation here: to be filled with the Spirit then is to say that this man, this Christian, Paul is commanding us an ongoing matter to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that the character of the Spirit of God, that the purposes of the Spirit of God, would have an ongoing influence in the way that you live your life. It's an ongoing command. Now, give that a moment to sink in, filter into your mind. It's talking about the Spirit having direction, having a controlling influence in the way that you live life.
Now, that leads to another question: in what way would the Spirit of God influence us? Let me say that again. This is a pivot point. This is a really key hinge in the message. We are pivoting into understanding what Paul is talking about so I want to highlight that in your mind so that you're aware of it. In what way would the Spirit of God influence us? In what way would a man who is filled with the Spirit, a woman who is filled with the Spirit, in what way would they live? What would mark them? You know, we have a sense of what marks a man who is under the influence of alcohol: slurred speech, hard to walk. There's a reason why they have standard tests to test drivers that they pull over and under suspicion that he's driving under the influence. There are certain things that mark him. Well, what marks the person that is under the influence of the Spirit of God, who is filled with the Spirit?
Key question here. This question unlocks it for us. It points us in the right direction. You must remember our standard principles of biblical interpretation to answer this question rightly within the context of the book of Ephesians. Remember interpretive principles and ask this question, as you ask: what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, you should immediately ask this question, what does the context say? What has Paul been talking about throughout the book of Ephesians that leads up to this statement that says, "Be filled with the Spirit"? If, follow me, there is a lot at stake here: if Paul has been talking about the Holy Spirit earlier in the letter before he says this in chapter 5, verse 18, that should inform the way we understand what he's saying here in this particular verse. If there are places that expand on what the purposes of the Spirit are within the four corners of this book, then that should inform the way that we think and understand the command to be filled with the Spirit. That's pretty obvious, isn't it? If he's been talking about something repeatedly over time, he doesn't suddenly change and divorce himself from that and separate it out and start talking about something completely different when he's talking about the same person of the Trinity. That wouldn't make any sense at all. What he's been saying earlier in the letter guides us like laser focused radar to help us understand what he's saying here in this particular verse. What does the context say? It means to be filled with the Spirit. That's what we're going to start looking at now.
Well, at one level and this is the level that most of you are probably used to understanding this principle if you've been under biblical teaching, at one level, the Spirit filled life is one of Christ centered purity. At one level, it is being informed by the word of God and having your mind transformed by the principles of God's word. That's true and that's accurate. For example, look at chapter 5, verse 2. Paul says and we're seeing that in the context Paul is talking about the purity of a Christ centered life, he says in chapter 5, verse 2, "walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." These are the words that the Spirit of God inspired the Apostle Paul to write. Verse 3, "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."
Now watch this, what kind of Spirit is the third person of the Trinity? He's a Holy Spirit, right? The Spirit of God is a Holy Spirit and when he comes into a life, when he is exercising his influence upon a man's character, he is directing him and pointing him into a way of personal sanctification. Immorality and coarse speech and greed are put away and in their place comes this loving response to Christ, this giving of thanks. There is a total reorientation of life away from the sin of the world and toward the purity and the love and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is that aspect of it that is essential to a Spirit filled life. So a Spirit filled person is engaged in God's word. He is confessing sin. He is turning away from sin and he's conscious of putting himself in submission to Christ, putting himself in submission to God's word, and living in response and living obediently there unto. Now, so there's going to be things that are going on in a person's heart that is a Spirit filled person.
Now, stay with me. With those things in mind, it is attractive, it is perhaps easy, especially in our Western individualistic culture in which we live, to think of, watch this, stay with me, it is tempting to think of the Spirit filled life solely in terms of personal purity and power in your heart and to just say, to ask, "Am I Spirit filled? Well, you know, what's going on in my heart?" And like I say, that is part of it but, beloved, I’m absolutely convinced and certain that it is a mistake to stop there, to only assess the Spirit filled life in the context of your own personal purity. That's a mistake as I'm going to show you. That can't possibly be all that there is to it based on the context of the book of Ephesians.
Now, Ephesians is going to inform what we say about this, not simply cross references to other passages or speculations in the teacher's mind. Let me say this: I'm about to go on what will probably be a 15 or 20 minute review of Scriptures that we've already studied in Ephesians. There are several passages that we need to go through and I want you to understand something before we do so that you don't get lost in it. And what I'm about to do and as I go through these passages over the next 15 or 20 minutes, I'm making one simple point and so understand that I'm just making one point with what I'm about to say at this point of the message. There is only one thing being said and I'm just saying it looking at different passages and supporting it from a number of different places within the book of Ephesians. So we're just making this one simple point but we're going to talk about it a lot because I don't want you to miss it because I think this is central to the Spirit filled life. This is central to your existence as a Christian and I'm not sure that maybe you've seen this before as you've considered or studied the Spirit filled life.
What is this point that Paul makes? What does Paul say repeatedly over and over again when he discusses the Spirit of God in the book of Ephesians? Beloved, what he consistently talks about, what the book of Ephesians emphasizes again and again is this: it emphasizes the Holy Spirit's role in producing unity in the body of Christ. Unity in the body of Christ. The Spirit of God here in Ephesians is consistently connected with the purposes of God in bringing unity to the church, bringing unity first of all in bringing Jews and Gentiles together in one body in Christ, first of all, and then going on talking about the role of the Spirit and our responsibility before the Spirit to promote that unity and to not disrupt it. You look at the role of the Spirit again and again and again and you see this principle of unity at stake. So by way of summary statement and then I'll walk you through this and show it to you, so that to talk about the Spirit of God in the context of the church of God, you quickly go to the principle of unity amongst the people of God. That's Paul's emphasis when he's talking about the Spirit. It's undeniable.
If then that is one of the primary defining roles of the Spirit in the church, then if we are Spirit filled, if we are under the influence of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God is at work in your heart and directing you and changing you, then he is going to be directing you and changing you into that which he does himself and what he does himself is oriented toward the unity of the body of Christ. And that means that the Spirit filled life is not like a silo that you consider and evaluate in isolation when you're having your private devotions or going through the thoughts of your heart. The Spirit filled life should be understood in the context of the body of Christ, the people of God, not in isolation, and that's the principle that we're going to develop here. That's the main thing that you're supposed to see in these passages that we are about to see.
Ephesians 2:17 now. We're setting the context to understand the Spirit filled life. Paul writes this in Ephesians and it's very common for commentators to neglect and to forget what he's already said about the Holy Spirit in the book of Ephesians. Don't do that. Don't make that mistake. It tells us what he's been thinking about when he's been talking about the Spirit. Ephesians 2, let's start in verse 11 so that you can get the full context. It will run up to his introduction about the Spirit. He says, "remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, remember," verse 12, "you were at that time," before your conversion, "you were separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Watch this, Paul here is writing to Gentiles and he says, "You were separate. You were apart. You didn't belong to the covenant people. You had no promises of God. You were outside and separate and apart from the people of God yet now God has saved you by grace. Christ has raised you from the spiritual dead and you belong to him." And what Paul is saying is God reached out and brought you, though you were far away, brought you into one body with believing Jews so that you have been brought near. You were separate but now you have been brought near and there is now one.
Look at verse 13, "now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." Okay, stay with me here. Paul says, "The two have been made one. What was separate has now been brought into unity." Having established that principle, he now injects the Spirit of God into the discussion.
Look at verse 18, he says, "for through Him," through Christ, "we both," Jews and Gentiles, "we have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household." Verse 21, "the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." Stay with me. He says, "We both have access in the Spirit." He says, "We are being built together, unified, collectively we are being built into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." The Spirit of God is at work. He's already brought Jews and Gentiles, believers together in Christ, and now he's building us together. He's unifying us even more. He's building on that unity that already exists in Christ and he's building it together to bring it to maturity. The Spirit is involved with the unity of the church.
Look at chapter 3 now, verse 5, he says this "mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets," where? "In the Spirit." What is the Spirit? What flows out of his consideration of the Spirit of God right there? He says, "Let me be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." They are fellow heirs. They are fellow members. They share in this together with believing Jews. The two have been made one. There is a unity that the Spirit is producing through the revelation given through the apostles and the prophets. Unity. Unity. One Spirit giving one access to one God. Unity being the key theme. It doesn't stop there. When you see these things collectively, you see them cumulatively, there is such an impact as you understand. This is the consistent theme when Paul is talking about the Spirit in chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 and it affects the way that we think about the Spirit filled life.
He goes on in Ephesians 4 stressing unity and the Spirit. Look at chapter 4, verse 1. Having completed his discussion about the doctrine of Christian salvation and moving into the duties that that produces in the lives of believers, Paul says, "Therefore, based on this truth I've been saying, here now are the implications that it has for you." This is the overarching theme of the rest of the letter. Stay with me, I beg you. He says, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling."
Are you starting to see it, beloved? When he's talking about the Spirit in Ephesians, he's talking about unity. He speaks about it in terms of relationships with one another. He talks about Jews and Gentiles coming together to be one in Christ. He says based on this, you need to walk in a unity of Spirit. Well, unity means that there is some diversity. That means it's not just private to you, that the Spirit filled life is a reflection of the purposes of the Spirit of God in promoting unity in the church.
He goes on. How do you protect that unity? How do you preserve it then? He brings up the Spirit of God in chapter 4, verse 30. Look at it with me. He says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Holy Spirit, it's the same person of the Trinity. He's talking about it again and in what way, what flows from that? "Don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Watch this, "Don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God who is at work producing unity in the church." Don't grieve him. Don't sin against him. Don't go contrary to his purpose of producing a unified people who exist for the glory of Christ. Don't do that. Verse 30, "by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." What do you mean don't grieve him? How would I grieve him then? Verse 31, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." What does bitterness and wrath and clamor and slander do except to separate people from one another? To set them at odds with one another? To violate relationships and destroy trust in a way that sets you against me? And him against her? It says don't do that. Put a way that clamor, that bitterness and instead, "Be kind to one another," verse 32, "tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Look at this with me. His discussion about the Spirit is focusing on unity and as he is focusing on unity, he quickly brings it into a relational realm where he says, "Forgive each other just as God has forgiven you. Be kind to one another." Do you see the "one another's"? The "each other" that is involved? When he's talking about the Spirit, he's talking about unity. When he's talking about unity, he talks about each other. He brings in to bear relationships within the body of Christ. Paul repeatedly joins the Holy Spirit with church unity. Now, beloved, therefore when he gets to Ephesians 5:18, he is not suddenly separating the two. When he talks about the Spirit he hasn't suddenly forgotten about unity simply to talk about the way that you feel inside your private heart and, "Am I filled with the Spirit? Do I feel God's presence?" That's too self-centered.
Look at chapter 5, verse 18 with me again. I love how this just becomes undeniable. Chapter 5, verse 18, he says, "Don't get drunk with wine, that's dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." Okay? Now, we've seen what leads up to this verse and we've said that the Spirit and unity are woven together in the book of Ephesians, where does he lead out from having said, "You be filled with the Spirit"? Where does he go to from there? Where does he lead away from having said, "Be filled with the Spirit"? Having invoked the presence of the Spirit as a continual influence and presence on the Christian's life? Where does he go from there? He goes to unity with one another in an undeniable way. He starts speaking about that which produces unity; the influence of the Spirit is seen in what follows in verses 19-21. We'll talk about these more next week. But look at the "one another's" in this. "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." You see it, don't you? You see it, "Speak to one another like this in a spirit of gratitude. Be subject to one another. Be filled with the Spirit." And the "one another's" start to immediately tumble out of his tongue in clear intelligible speech and human language, not ecstatic babble.
So Paul, having spoken about unity in the Spirit for multiple chapters, says, "You as Christians, you be filled with the Spirit. You be influenced by the Spirit." What should be at the center of your thinking about that, you should be thinking, you should be asking, you should be evaluating, "How do I relate to others in the body of Christ?" because that's where he goes with it. You know, he goes into the realm of joyful, edifying, unifying, grateful speech and deferring to one another within the context of the body of Christ. Being filled with the Spirit, the Spirit who is after the unity of the church, spills over into pursuing unity in your relationships with the body of Christ. That's at the heart of it.
Now, there's a parallel passage in the book of Colossians that is often used to interpret Ephesians 5:18 and when you go to this passage, you'll find the very same thing I'm telling you here this morning. Go to Colossians 3. We're going to bring this all to a point of application in just a moment. Colossians 3:14. No, no, let's go to verse 12. We've got time. I've got time. Colossians 3:12, Paul says, "So, as those who have been chosen of God," he emphasized that in Ephesians 1, didn't he? We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. "So," as a result of that, as those who have been chosen of God, "holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another." There again, it's relational. It's interactive. "Bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." Verse 14, "Beyond all these things put on love, which is," what? "The perfect bond of unity." He says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." Now in verse 16 he says, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you," and this is a parallel to Ephesians 5:18 to 21 as shown by what says here going on. He says, "with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." We'll stop there.
Look, this passage in Colossians where he talks about the word of God filling you is said in a context of unity. He's enforcing, he's calling us to these attitudes which promote a harmony within the body of Christ. It's not in isolation. And so, beloved, when you ask yourself, "What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?" When you ask yourself, "Am I filled with the Spirit?" Everything that I have said in the past 40 minutes has been brought up to this, it's to make this very point. Everything culminates right here and finds its climax. You are commanded by God to be filled with the Spirit and to live a Spirit filled life so it's important to know what that means.
And what we see from the context of Ephesians, from our cross reference to Colossians 3, is that Paul is emphasizing not your inner feelings about truth and power when you think about God. That's not his point. It's not that selfish. It's not that self-centered. It's not given to you for your private enjoyment, in other words. That approach is too subjective and too self-centered. "Am I Spirit filled? I am, well good, then I can go live my life how I want." No, no, no, no, no no no, that's not it. The Spirit of God, when he is influencing a Christian, the Spirit of God leads you into a unifying role within the people of God. The Spirit of God is concerned with, at work producing unity in the people of God. If he is working in the heart of an individual, if he is influencing an individual, that can be seen by an individual's desire and contribution to a unifying role in the people of God.
This, to me, is absolutely undeniable so let's work out the implications of what that means then. "What exactly are you saying, preacher?" Here's what I'm saying: people who habitually isolate themselves, who habitually as an accepted pattern of life say, "I don't need the church. I'll worship God privately. I'll go sit under a tree. Just leave me alone so that I can be with God." They're not filled with the Spirit. That couldn't possibly be true and it doesn't matter what they say about their own private devotional life. If someone is content to live apart from the people of God and have no involvement whatsoever with a local church or somehow involved in the fellowship with other saints, they're not filled with the Spirit. They are living in disobedience to Christ. They are living in disobedience to the word of God. They are living in direct disobedience to the Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit's work is to promote unity within the context of the body of Christ.
In like manner, bitter, critical, contentious people are not filled with the Spirit. They couldn't be because everything that Paul has said about the work of the Spirit is toward forgiveness, forgiving others like God and Christ has forgiven you; loving one another; speaking to one another in psalms and spiritual songs; being in subjection to one another. You see, it's a woven fabric. It's a whole cloth. The work of the Spirit which includes his work in your heart, he doesn't do that in isolation. He's doing this in the works of all the other people of God as well. So we are meant to understand that the Spirit filled life is lived out in the context of a body of believers who love the word of God and submit their minds to it and no one who separates themselves from that and is content in that role can lay claim to being a Spirit filled Christian. Whether they're a Christian or not, you know, we'll leave that to the Lord. Whether they are Spirit filled? Absolutely not because the Spirit is about the body of Christ and unity in the body of Christ. What does the Holy Spirit do? What's his work in this age? The Holy Spirit builds and unifies the body of Christ. He builds them up. We've seen that repeatedly in Ephesians and he's concerned about unity.
So, beloved, pivoting away from those who separate themselves, you're all here and so what would this say to you? Well, when the Holy Spirit is influencing your life, you find a place of giving and receiving edification in the body. The Spirit of God is at work building up the body of Christ in unity and an individual who is Spirit filled is going to be found, watch this, identifying himself with the purposes of the Spirit of God and making his own contribution in the realm that God has given to him. So we shouldn't assess a Spirit filled life in isolation privately. We join that with an assessment of where this fits in the broader body of Christ because that's the Spirit's concern.
Look, look, I'm saying the same thing in 50 different ways to make sure you get it. The Spirit of God is concerned about your sanctification, yes, absolutely. Praise God for that and he is at work producing that in your heart but do you know what else? This same Spirit, this one same Spirit is also at work in the lives of other Christians working and promoting their sanctification and influencing them toward godliness. Well, if you're filled with the Spirit, then obviously you're going to want to have some kind of role of participation in that process to align yourself with the purposes of the Spirit of God, to submit to that, and his influence on the body of Christ generally finds itself in expression in your life particularly. So the Spirit filled life finds at its core a love, a desire, a commitment to the unity and the edification of the body.
So are you filled with the Spirit? Many of you are. I don't have to know what you think in your private thought life to say that because it shows. It's manifested in your love and your faithful involvement with the people of God over time. Where the people of God are, you are contributing, loving, interacting, engaging, sharing, doing all of those things that come from a healthy body life. And your faithfulness to a body of believers over time is a manifestation of a Spirit filled life. Praise God for that and praise God for you. This is very encouraging. All of a sudden you don't have to say, "Oh, I missed my quiet time. Am I filled with the Spirit of God or not?" Well, let's think about it over time and assess it more objectively in terms of do you find, do you want, do you have, do you desire a role in the body of Christ? That's the manifestation of it. That's where many, many, many of you are.
Some of you, maybe you should examine yourselves. Maybe you should take a look at what the purposes of the Spirit of God are in the unity and involvement of the local church and say, "Do you know what? I want that to influence me because this is the mark of a true Christian. This is the mark of someone who is under the influence of the Spirit of God." Purity, confession of sin, absolutely marks of the Spirit filled life. Trusting him for power, absolutely. Just don't stop there because where the Spirit of God is at work in the life of an individual believer, you're going to find other believers gathered around as well, him involved in other aspects of relationships with others because the Spirit is working in many lives to promote this unity of several into one and that's the way we should think about the Spirit filled life.
Let's pray together.
If you are not a Christian this morning, I invite you to come to Christ. You've stood apart from, separate from, perhaps critical of Christ's church. Well, do you know what? Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for sinners just like you. He will forgive all of your sins if you come to him in repentance and faith. I invite you to come to a crucified and risen Savior today for your salvation.
Our Father, may your Spirit influence us with such power that you fully achieve all of the purposes for which you have saved us in Christ, that the unity which the Spirit is promoting would be found to be furthered by the way that we live. Give us grace to that end. Give those who are walking in your Spirit a great sense of encouragement in these moments in which we sing. May those who have stood on the sidelines or been actively opposed to the production of unity in the church, Father, may you bring conviction on them so that they would repent and find in Christ forgiveness, and find in Christ a new purpose and a new commitment to the unity and the participation in the unity of the church. We pray these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.