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How do we distinguish one thing from another? Contrast. Smooth versus rough. Light versus dark. Loud versus soft. In tune versus off key. The list is endless. And it is as true in spiritual matters as it is in the physical universe. In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul brings out a powerful contrast to enable us to distinguish between what the Spirit-filled life is, and what it isn’t. That’s our focus today on Through the Word in 2020. I’m your host, Reid Ferguson.
Luke 1:39-56; 2 Kings 18:13-19:37 and Ephesians 5:1-21 round out today’s reading. And while I cannot spend the time here, do take the time on your own to see how what we see in Ephesians accords with the account of Mary in Luke 1.
The Spirit-filled life. Growing up in the Pentecostal tradition of Protestant Christianity, I was raised with a certain understanding of what the “Spirit-filled” Christian was supposed to look like. The emphasis was upon manifesting the gifts of the Spirit as per 1 Corinthians 12 – and through the lens of the events on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. And there is much there to be considered for sure.
But when we come to Ephesians 5, there are dynamics introduced into this discussion which are often neglected. And it is opened up to us by way of contrast.
That contrast is located in vs. 18: “Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.”
The features of being drunk with wine don’t need a lot of explanation, so Paul doesn’t bother to detail them. Loss of proper inhibition. Skewed perceptions. Loss of emotional control. Poor reasoning. Blurred vision. Slurred speech.
When Paul pits drunkeness over against being filled with the Spirit – he is arguing that being Spirit-filled produces the opposite effects. Sharper thinking not less rationality; more self-control, not less. Clearer vision and sounder speech. If that’s not so, then we need to ask if our experience really is one of being Spirit-filled – or something else.
That’s the negative part of the contrast – what about the positive? What does the Spirit filled life look like?
1. A perpetual attitude of praise. 5:19
2. A perpetual attitude of thankfulness. 5:20
3. A perpetual attitude of humility. 5:21a – “submitting to one another.”
4. A perpetual attitude of reverence for Christ . Concern for His Person, His reputation, place in our hearts, minds and in the cosmos, and His purposes. 5:21b – “out of reverence for Christ.”
It is in contrasting these 2 that we grasp what the Spirit-filled life really looks like. And it is why we need to be praying for the Spirit continually, and not just for a one time experience. In fact, we could read verse 18 to say: “be being filled with the Spirit.” Be about it – always.
The Puritan John Owen wrote: “We are taught in an especial manner to pray that God would give his Holy Spirit unto us…Our Saviour, enjoining an importunity in our supplications…and giving us encouragement that we shall succeed in our requests…makes the subject-matter of them to be the Holy Spirit: [As Jesus taught] “Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,”…nor doth God bestow any good thing on us but by his Spirit. Hence, the promise of bestowing the Spirit is accompanied with a prescription of duty unto us, that we should ask…or pray for him…He…is the great subject-matter of all our prayers. And that signal promise of our blessed Saviour, to send him as a comforter, to abide with us for ever, is a directory for the prayers of the church in all generations.”
Let that soak in today Christian.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.