“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, NLT).” 

Imagine With Me!

Okay, so imagine you’re reading a letter from a wise friend. They’re talking about how important it is to understand certain teachings in a special book called the Bible. They say we should really study the Bible properly, making sure we understand what it’s saying. They use a big word, “exegesis,” which means understanding the Bible by looking at it closely and honestly.

They also talk about a part of the Bible called Ephesians, which is like a letter written by a guy named Paul to some friends in a place called Ephesus. Paul tells them to be filled with the Spirit. Pastor Paul talks about how we should think about what it means to be filled with the Spirit, especially in Ephesians 5:18, where Paul contrasts it with being drunk with wine. To understand this idea better, I’d like you to explore with me what it means to be filled with the Spirit, why it’s important, and how we can understand it better by studying the Bible carefully and listening to what smart people have to say about it.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the phrase “filled with the Spirit” shows up in other parts of the Bible, not just in Ephesians 5:18. To understand what Paul meant in Ephesians better, we can start by looking at other parts of the Bible that Paul often talks about. This can help us get a basic idea of what he’s saying and where he’s leading us in his letter.

Before we go on, let’s remember that there are other parts of the Bible that talk about things like being filled with the Spirit, but they might not say it in the exact same way. We can look at some examples where people had experiences like this, even if the words used are a bit different.


Old and New Testament Instances

For instance, in the story of Joseph, Pharaoh knew that God’s Spirit was with Joseph (Genesis 41:38). When Moses was talking to God, he mentioned that Joshua had the Spirit in him (Numbers 27:18). Then there are stories about some leaders of the ancient Israelites, like Gideon, Othniel, Jephthah, and Samson, who had moments when they were filled with the Spirit to help them do important things (Judges 6:34; 3:10; 11:29; 15:14). And when we talk about kings like David and Saul, they also had experiences like this. So, the question is, are these experiences the same as being filled with the Spirit in the Old Testament or the New Testament?

To try to answer this question, let’s think about a guy named Bezalel. He was chosen by God to help build something called the tabernacle. One scholar explains that Bezalel and others like him already had special skills, and when they were filled with the Spirit, it was like their talents got even better to do the work God wanted them to do (Exodus 31:2-3). So, being filled with the Spirit was about helping them with a specific job.

We can think the same way about the other people we talked about earlier. When they were filled with the Spirit, it was for a special reason, to help them do what God desired in His plan during that period of time. And we can use this understanding to think about similar things in the New Testament.In the Bible, even before the stories about letters (called epistles), there are examples of people being filled with the Spirit. We definitely won’t list them all, but we can name a few.

First, there’s John the Baptist, who was filled with the Spirit even before he was born (Luke 1:15). Some people think this means he had a special role as a prophet guided by the Spirit his whole life. Then, there’s Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were John the Baptist’s parents. Both of them were also filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41; 1:67). Unlike Mary, Jesus’ mother, who had a different experience with the Spirit (Luke 1:35). But just like in the stories from the Old Testament, we see a connection between being filled with the Spirit and having a special purpose.

Now, let’s talk about when groups of people were filled with the Spirit together. One big event was called Pentecost, which happened after Jesus came back to life. The disciples were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Some people argue about whether this means you need the Spirit to be saved, but we won’t focus on that right now, you can catch that at an upcoming blog post. Instead, we’ll think about how all the disciples felt God’s powerful presence, just like Jesus promised (John 14:6; John 20:22).

Another time, a group of people in Acts was filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:31) is when they had a similar experience to Pentecost, speaking God’s word boldly. Throughout the book of Acts, we see other groups being filled with the Spirit too (Acts 8:17; 10:44; 19:6). Scholars say that when the Spirit fills someone in Acts, it’s like giving them what they need to do what God wants and serve in His kingdom. In a general sense I would agree. 


The Church at Ephesus


Now let’s look at Ephesus (the place Pastor Paul sent the letter). Some scholars think that the letter to the Ephesians was probably read by lots of different churches, not just one. For our sake, let’s pretend it was sent to a group of Christians in Ephesus and written by a guy named Paul. Now, some scholars talk about what life was like for the Christians in Ephesus. They think they were dealing with people who partied a lot and didn’t worship properly. Meaning there seemed to be no difference between them and other groups when they got together. Scholars also think the wild parties in Ephesus might have been like those in the worship of the god Dionysus and Artemis.So Paul talks about leaving behind the old way of living and starting fresh. 


So, maybe when Paul said not to get drunk in Ephesians 5:18, he was talking about the parties people were having. But how do we know that Paul had any authority to speak on the subject?  The Bible says that a man named Ananias was sent by Jesus to help a guy named Paul. Ananias was supposed to help Paul see again by praying for him and also that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17) Now, if Paul wrote the letter to the Christian group in Ephesus, he must have known what it meant to be filled with the Spirit, right? He wouldn’t tell them to do something he didn’t understand himself. So, if Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he probably knew what it meant to be filled with the Spirit because he had experiences like that before. When we read what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18, we can remember these stories to help us understand it better.


What Does this Mean for Me? 


Got it, let’s simplify it! We’ve been looking at different parts of the Bible that talk about being “filled with the Spirit” to understand what Ephesians mean when it reads “Filled with the Spirit”. Some scholars conclude that there is no biblical precedent that alludes to how this command should be lived out both to the ancient audience in Ephesus and in our contemporary context as we read it in Ephesians.

But I disagree with them. I believe there are clear instructions and examples in Scripture that when obediently followed, can lead the reader to being filled with the Spirit. I think there are guidelines in the Bible for us to follow and when Paul is writing as pastor to his church he is explaining to them the difference between when Spirit-filled people get together and other groups get together. He saying that when we get together we don’t like other groups instead we “[speak] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. [We] sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19 NIV). 

When we talk about being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians, it’s not just about a one-time event. It’s about something ongoing, something that changes us from the inside out. It’s about how we think, act, and live our lives every day both individually and as a body of believers called the Church. Whether you’re by yourself or with a group, being filled with the Spirit transforms you. It’s like a light shining from within, guiding you in every step you take. It’s a beautiful journey of growth and change, and it’s something we all can experience.

If you haven’t experienced this yet, we invite you to join us for a Bible study. Together, we can explore more about what it means to be filled with the Spirit and how it can change your life.And if you’ve already been filled with the Spirit, we encourage you to let that light shine brightly. Let your actions and words show the world the transformation that’s taken place within you. It’s a journey of hope and renewal, and we’re excited to walk it together.

Blog Writer: Associate Pastor Gavin Cole