When the Spirit Fills
"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit"
The Bible calls us to live with wise urgency. How are we going to do that? By being filled with God himself.
When we come to Christ, God gives us an inexhaustible resource of fullness. The concept of “filling” is really important to Paul in Ephesians. In 1:23, he says the church is Christ’s body, “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” In 3:19, he prays that we “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” In 4:10 he says Jesus “ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” In 4:13 he says God put gifts in the church to “become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” And now here, in 5:18, Paul says to be filled with the Spirit.
God did not create a world full without him. He created a world to be filled with him. We were made to be filled with God. But when sin entered the world, we turned from God to idols. Sin didn’t remove our need for filling; it just redirected our gaze from the one who can satisfy to worthless fillers, like junk food on a Saturday night.
So, Paul gives us two opposite ways we can be filled: with wine or the Holy Spirit.
The seems like a strange choice of options, doesn’t it? Get wine-filled or Spirit-filled! But this isn’t the first time the Bible mentions these two together. We see in the book of Acts, when the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, that some of those watching thought the disciples were drunk. So, there must be something to that comparison. The word Paul uses for drunk means to be soaked, saturated with, dominated by. Being drunk is to be controlled by the alcohol. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by him. But the Spirit takes control in an opposite way from alcohol. He makes you better, not worse.
To be drunk with wine is debauchery. The Greek means spilled out. It’s what Jesus used in the parable of the Prodigal Son, when he said the younger son went out and spent all his money on riotous living. He spilled it out. He wasted it. He squandered it. He spent all his inheritance and got nowhere. That’s what being drunk on wine does. It spends you and gets you nowhere. But being filled with the Spirit is the opposite. When filled with the Spirit, we aren’t wasters. We’re buyers. Those drunk with wine waste their time. Those filled with the Spirit buy up the time God gives, they make the most of it.
Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones understood this. He was a medical doctor before he became a pastor. He says:
“Wine, pharmacologically speaking, is not a stimulant. It’s a depressant. Further, it depresses first and foremost the highest centers of the brain that controls everything that gives self-control, wisdom, understanding, discrimination, judgment, balance, the power to assess everything; in other words, everything that makes a man behave at his very best and highest.
The Holy Spirit has the exact opposite effect. If it were possible to put the Holy Spirit into a textbook of Pharmacology, I would put him under the stimulants, for that is where he belongs. He really does stimulate. He stimulates our every faculty: the mind and the intellect, the heart and the will.”
Being filled with the Spirit is a life of mental, emotional, and psychological stimulation. It’s being alive in the most wonderful way—alive to God.
But maybe you say, “Well, I’m not a drunkard.” That’s fine. Replace wine with any other idol. It’s the same thing. It leads to debauchery. It leads to exhaustion. Riotous living might not look like a keg party every Friday night. It might look like a normal Williamson County life, void of the Spirit of God and full of the spirit of the age, pursuing comfort, security, and the good life. The question for us today is: do we factor God into our life or is our life too full for him?
God is saying we must empty our lives and be filled with the Spirit because that’s what we’re made for. We spend so much of our life going from one thing to another never being satisfied. And God is commanding all of us today, “Stop it! Stop filling yourself with emptiness. Let me fill you.”
When you say yes to that call, the Holy Spirit will lift you far higher and for far longer than anything else. Everything else is fleeting. The Spirit abides.
The Spirit’s filling is part of the gospel promise. In John 7, Jesus stood at a feast and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” And John says, “This he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.”
In the gospel, God promises to continually fill us with the Spirit as we come to him and drink. So, here’s the command today: go to Christ and drink! Fill yourself up with him, and he will fill you up with himself. You don’t have to pay for him. He’s free. You don’t have to earn him. He’s all of grace. You don’t have to maintain him. He’s self-existent. You don’t have to perform for him. He’s not impressed with you, anyway. He’s impressed with Christ. But you must go to him. And when you do, he floods with living waters. So, what are you waiting for? Why put life on hold for one more second? Go to Christ!
This is an excerpt of my sermon on Ephesians 5:15-21. You can read the rest or listen to the full sermon here.