Paul reminds the Ephesians that they “are now light in the Lord,” and so he tells them, “Live as children of the light”(Ephesians 5:8). He then lists what living in the light is and what it isn’t.
In order to live as light:
- find out what pleases the Lord (verse 10)
- have nothing to do with deeds of darkness (verse 11)
- expose deeds of darkness (verse 11 & 13)
- be careful how you live–not as unwise but as wise (verse 15)
- make the most of every opportunity (verse 16)
- do not be foolish (verse 17)
- understand what the Lord’s will is (verse 17)
- do not get drunk (verse 18)
- be filled with the Spirit (verse 18)
- speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (verse 19)
- sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (verse 19)
- always give thanks (verse 20)
This list is directed to those who have already been made new, who Paul already called “light in the Lord.” Paul is teaching Christians how to walk out their faith.
That’s what makes #9 so interesting. He commands (with a passive imperative) those who already have the Holy Spirit to “be filled with the Spirit.” Passive imperatives show up throughout Scripture. It is a command (that’s the imperative part) that you have to let someone else do to you (that’s the passive part). So, for instance, “be baptized” is a passive imperative. You are commanded to do it, but it is something someone else has to do to you.
The command to “be filled” is the same. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit but the actual filling is something the Lord has to do. In water baptism, our job is to position ourselves–make ourselves available–to surrender to the other person baptizing us. The same is true for being filled with the Spirit. We surrender our lives in such a way that we are in a posture to receive an increase of Holy Spirit as He fills out our whole life with His Presence.
This command lets us know unequivocally that just having the Spirit is not the same as being filled with the Spirit. According to Scripture, they are two distinct situations. And I would suggest that the reason much of the American Church is riddled with sin, living powerless lives, is because many, if not most, are not filled with the Spirit.
We were only taught that we needed the Holy Spirit to be saved. We were never taught that to walk in holiness, purity, and freedom from sin we needed to be filled with the Spirit. We were never taught that in order to walk in the miraculous power of God we had to be filled with the Spirit.
Just as salvation is an event that happens (we were saved) and an ongoing process (we are being saved), being filled with the Spirit is both an event that happens (often separate from salvation) and an ongoing process. Like a waterfall that reveals a wider section of the river, being filled with the Spirit is both that moment of being deluged by the waterfall, and it is the process of traveling down the new section of the river.