The How of Spirit Filling (Ephesians 5:15-21)

The How of Spirit Filling (Ephesians 5:15-21)



Darlene, the boys, and I were walking a paved path in Walker Ranch Heritage Park. The boys (Roderick Jr, Caleb, and President) were small and were either being pushed in a stroller, or were trying to learn to ride their bikes. Roderick Jr. had learned the basics and was enjoying a good time riding near the family on the trail. Caleb, being about two years younger than Roderick Jr., was still working to comprehend and apply the basics of bicycling; things like braking were not readily appreciated or understood. Stopping, for little Caleb, was usually more of an event than a decision. Although his bike was equipped with everything required for a safe biking experience, because he did not readily understand the fundamentals, his time in the park that day was nothing less than scary.

The path we were on was a circuit. As we came around the trail there was a decline toward a turn that would need to be negotiated by anyone wanting to stay on the path. As Roderick and Caleb met the decline for the first time they both experienced a bit of excitement. Roderick allowed gravity to work toward building a good speed. He enjoyed the speed and went down the hill without any problem. As he neared the bottom he pressed backward on the pedals to slow the bike. Caleb was a different story. The same forces of nature that produced fun for Roderick were producing terror in Caleb. His bike was speeding up without any effort on his part. The end of the decline was approaching and it just did not seem to poor Caleb that he was going to be able to negotiate the turn. And stopping by using the brakes was not an option… he was not sure how they worked.

His mother and I, taking notice of his quiet screaming and calm terror, took to advising our son: “Use the brakes, Caleb! Use the brakes!” Our voices went unheeded and Caleb spilled out on the concrete of the path. I ran to my son, now crying over his accident, and began helping him back onto his bike. Over the next few minutes we reviewed braking. Caleb would pedal for about five inches and then pedal backward. After allowing him to do this a few times we resumed our walk around the circuit. And before too long we came again to the place where the trail had previously turned into a decent into unmitigated terror.

As Caleb began to go down the path Darlene and I, being the proactive people that we are, began taking measures to prevent the problem experienced earlier: “Use the brakes, Caleb! Use the brakes!” We yelled it early and with gusto. But it was to no avail. Our little boy was already gripped by gravity-induced panic. Caleb was yelling out as his bike accelerated down the hill. Although we kept calling out truth to him he was, by vice of inexperience, unable to apply what was being said. And it was then that I began to receive insight into the outcome. Whether or not it was merely intellectual or spiritual I began to see, prior to the actual outcome, that my son was not going to use the brakes. Perhaps it was the fact that his legs were straight out to each side with the toes of his shoes pointing skyward.

Roderick Jr., having already reached the bottom of the hill, had dismounted and was standing out of harms way. He too had the gift of insight that I had received; it told him not to be on that path at that time. Standing next to his bike he watched as Caleb came flying down the hill, certainly unable to negotiate the turn required for staying on the path, expecting that he would go into a rocky gorge some feet away from the trail. As expected Caleb flew past Roderick and into the rocky area. He was out of sight and his parents were now gripped by morbid thoughts of what had happened to their young cyclist. I ran down the hill to determine what could be done for my son. As I reached the end of the hill Roderick Jr., pointing in the direction that Caleb had gone, said “He went that way, Daddy!”

The bike was worse for the wear and Caleb… he was fine. I picked up my boy, the battered bike, and walked out of the rocky area with a profound spiritual truth wrapped in the object lesson of Caleb and his bike:

God has equipped Jesus’ followers with the tools and power for abundant life in His service even when things are going down hill. However, many of us lack the training and experience required for experiencing that life.

The Purchase of Life (Ephesians 5:15-16)

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus Paul has already shown that God has (1) planned a great escape for sinners from the penalty of sin, (2) taken great pains to liberate sinners from the power of sin, and (3) provided everything required for living holy in the midst of a fallen world. The word then translates οὖν (therefore); a reasonable conclusion is being introduced in verse 15. The apostle says, in light of all that God has done in the providing of our salvation, it is logical that his readership would look (Βλέπετε) carefully to ensure that they are [walking] circumspectly. The word translated circumspectly (ἀκριβῶς) calls to picture the idea of accuracy and dogged determination (Matthew 2:8; Luke 1:3). The believer is being directed, in light of God’s amazing grace, to live with intentional biblical accuracy. In the phrase that follows Paul further clarifies; Ephesians, “conduct yourselves not as fools, which is inconsistent with your heavenly provision in Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and identity in Christ, but as wise people.” How? By redeeming the time

The notion advanced is that time formerly wasted in activities of no value to God (1 Peter 4:3) should now be redeemed unto God for His purposes. Insofar as the Ephesus believers belong to God, what they own belongs to God. Every waking moment is to be volitionally made to count for the calling on their lives; it is not their time. It is to be purposefully sought after and retrieved with the intention of bringing the time under the lordship of Jesus. And why does Paul encourage his readers to buy back the season?  The answer is given in the phrase that follows: the days are evil (ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν).  

A passive stance in the presence of active evil will always result in actual loss.  The believer, in light of pressing wicked agendas, cannot be less than aggressive in living for God; excellence is never an accident.  

By taking back time that was wasted and bringing it to God for His service we effectively say, “Your kingdom come, Lord. Your will be done, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)”  Paul says that the Ephesians are to see [to it] that, in their sphere of influence, the ever aggressive evil of their day does not find them foolishly failing to acquire all time for God’s glory.

The Profit of Living (Ephesians 5:17-18)

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 

Any attempt to use time effectively must be evaluated in the light of Lord’s expressed will. Sincerity and sentimentality are not acceptable substitutes for biblical obedience. While heart-felt service in Jesus’ name is essential, it is not sufficient. God revealed His will through the Scriptures and fully expects His servants to serve Him according to that revelation (Luke 12:48; 1 Corinthians 10:11). At this point the recipients of Paul’s letter are clearly being commanded to apply themselves to getting an understanding (συνίετε, understand) (Proverbs 4:5-7). To understand what the will of the Lord is (συνίετε τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου) would mean availing themselves of every opportunity to seek His will in prayer, in patient listening, and persistent pouring over the Scriptures. The alternative, though it is appealing to the eye (1 John 2:15-17), is nothing short of wasted living. Satan offers counterfeit products and substandard services that all lead the users into bondage:

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 14:17)

As strong drink stimulates the physical forces and men are prone to turn to it for help over the difficult places, so the child of God, facing an impossible responsibility of a heavenly walk and service, is directed to the Spirit as the source of all sufficiency.  Every moment in a spiritual life is one of unmeasured need and superhuman demands. – Chafer, Lewis Sperry, He That is Spiritual

Let no one imagine, however, that [ministry can] be engendered by human ingenuity. Jesus made it abundantly clear that his life was mediated only through the Holy Spirit. …The superhuman work to which [we are] called demand[s] supernatural help – an endowment of power from on high.

Those who live without the hope of things getting better express their depression by escaping from reality with any opportunity. The good life, based on the desire for the dulling of the senses, is the gone life.


The Prescription for Filling (Ephesians 5:19-21; Exodus 40:1-2, 9-10; 33-35; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 9 “And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. 10 You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy.  (Exodus 40:1-2, 9-10)

What is the purpose of anointing the tabernacle and all of its utensils? It has the effect of setting it aside as holy. Even common things become sacred when they are anointed with oil with the intent of consecrating them. Moses is setting the tabernacle aside exclusively for God’s service.


33 And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  (Exodus 40:33-35)

God has responded to the dedication of the tabernacle by filling it with his glory. Notice that when the glory or goodness of God has filled the temple of God the flesh can no longer operate.


1 So all the work that Solomon had done for the house of the Lord was finished; and Solomon brought in the things which his father David had dedicated: the silver and the gold and all the furnishings. And he put them in the treasuries of the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:1)


13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying:For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

This sounds great. But how does it apply to us? More specifically, what does it have to do with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Everything! The dwelling place of the Spirit of God was a tent. Then it was upgraded to a stationary building. Finally it has been upgraded to being the body of the believer. This is what Jesus was referring to when he was discussing the miracle of raising the temple in three days.

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

His enemies thought that He was referring to the physical building surrounding them. However, the Lord Jesus was talking about His own body (John 2:13-22). After His baptism by John the Baptist Jesus received the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13-17).

16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (2 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The sign of the Spirit’s filling is a yieldedness that is manifest in (1) the singing of spiritual songs, (2) saying thanks in all situations, and (3) submission to the saints in the name of the Savior. 



The Provision and Power of the Holy Spirit: Saved (Ephesians 1:13)

God has provided his Holy Spirit to his children as a comfort to them in this world. The Spirit gives us the energy and inspiration to fulfill the high calling of the Christian life. Apart from receiving Christ as Savior there is no possibility of spirit filling; the gift of the indwelling Spirit is only for those who have made a decision to follow Jesus. Along with being declared righteous, the person that receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior also receives the Spirit to help them in the work of serving God and growing into the likeness of Christ. If you would like to experience the filling of the Holy Spirit you will have to begin with indwelling. How? By faith you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord. When you do you also receive the Holy Spirit.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

The Practice of Spirit Filling: Surrender (Ephesians 5:15-21)