Spirit – Baptism – BT6




The nitty-gritty of Ephesians 5:18 “being filled BY the means of the Spirit”





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Now about the nitty-gritty of Ephesians 5:18:  “Being filled” is something we can only ask for to be done to us because it is in the passive voice, just as “being submissive to one another” is passive – yielding to another’s actions.  Based on the Greek grammar and context, most Greek scholars don’t see these present participle routines of “active practices” or “passive submission” as a formula that brings about or causes us to “be routinely filled by the Spirit,” but instead these participles are the empowering results of “being routinely filled by the Spirit,” just as debauchery and all kinds of other sins simply are the result of being routinely filled by wine to the point of drunkenness!  There is a “power” to both kinds of “spirit!”  Paul is asking us to choose between what we want to have “power” over us.  This is keeping with Paul’s theology of God’s indwelling Spirit-empowerment:  “It is God that works in you, both to desire (will) and to do (work) His good pleasure” (a).  Paul doesn’t need to give us a formula, partially because he has already told us the means/instrument in which to “be routinely filled” – it’s “by the Spirit.”  I can attest to many, many things radically changing in my life after every one of my Spirit-baptisms, so I can definitely agree to these ‘results’ being very natural when you are being naturally “led by the Spirit” (b) and “walking by the Spirit” (c) and “keeping in step with the Spirit” (d).  It seems that more Christians should inquire “how-to” do this!  <Notes> a) Philippians 2:13, b) Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18, c) Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16, d) Galatians 5:25.


This phrase en pneumati in the dative case throughout Paul’s writings always refers to the means/instrument of the Holy Spirit.  Too many bibles erroneously translate this as “with the Spirit,” which is called the Spirit-Filled view.” However, choosing the “with” [the content of] translation can radically distort your view of the nature of the Holy Spirit and thus your interaction with Him.  The Holy Spirit is not like inanimate water or wine that you can be filled more or less with.  The Holy Spirit is “living water” because the Holy Spirit is the nature of the living person of Christ – see Prophetic Rhema – B12 and Identity page.  You can’t have more or less of a person!  That’s a good enough reason for rejecting the “with” [the content of] translation.


It is just as incorrect to think Christians can repeatedly be “filled WITH the content of the Spirit (a), because the Holy Spirit is a whole person that comes to dwell in a person, once and for all, sealed upon conversion (b)!  Again, if we don’t have “the Spirit of Christ,” we are then not “in the Spirit but still in the flesh” and therefore “do not belong to Christ” (c).  You are either “of the flesh” or “of the Spirit!”  The Spirit is not a Star War’s “force” that we can get more or less of.  The Spirit is not a quantity of “living water” or “light” or “electricity” or anything else that we can get more or less of.  The Spirit is a divine person, almost always in the masculine case!  However, if we refer to the enabling-power (d) or anointing (e) of the Holy Spirit, then we sometimes see the neuter case and can speak of varying quantities.  <Notes> a) the ‘Spirit-filled’ translational viewpoint, incorrectly translating the preposition en followed by the dative case as “with” as if it were the genitive of content used in Ephesians 3:19 of ‘the fullness of God’, b) Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:5, c) Romans 8:9, d) Micah 3:8; Zechariah 4:6; Luke 1:35, 4:14; Acts 1:8, 10:38; Romans 1:4, 15:13, 19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:7, e) 1 John 2:20, 27.


We can’t get more of a person, but we can get more of what they offer!  For example, we often see Paul proseuchomai conversationally-praying for Christians to get more “wisdom and revelation that Spirit alone possesses (a) by the means of genuine, experiential, relational epignosis knowledge of Christ” (b). Christians have already been enlightened (c) when the Holy Spirit came into them, but Paul uses the perfect participle in Ephesians 1:18 to indicate:  “the eyes of your heart having been enlightened” with continuing lifestyle results, even implying that this to happen again and again! <Notes> a) and here is willing to share, b) Ephesians 1:16-20, c) Hebrews 6:4, 10:32.


You can be “filled” with more of the “fullness” or “abundance” or “the riches of the glory” of the content of God the Father, that is, to “become partakers” or “companion, fellowshipping sharers” (a) of “His eternal power and divine nature” (b), to experience more of Christ, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (c).  And you can get this “filling BY the means/instrument of the Spirit,” but we have to remember that Christ is still the agent – without Him, no grace-gift of the Holy Spirit nor His supernatural grace-gifts of ministry (d) would be given (e).  We owe everything to Christ!  <Notes> a) 2 Peter 1:4, b) Romans 1:20, c) Hebrews 1:3, d) Romans 11:29, 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 14:1; Hebrews 2:4, e) Ephesians 4:7-16.


Nevertheless, as Douglas Petrovich stated for his Master of Divinity thesis in The Meaning of En Pneumati  in Ephesians 5:18 “Therefore, it must be concluded that the Spirit-Filled” view cannot be maintained as an acceptable interpretation of en pneumati in Ephesians 5:18, as the weaknesses of the view seems insurmountable.”  His 51 pages are exhaustingly detailed!  Another Greek scholar, of which many other scholars quote, Daniel B Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the NT on pg. 375 says:


“There are no other examples in biblical Greek in which en + the dative case (i.e., pneumati) after pleroo (be filled) indicates content [for a translation of “with the Spirit.”  Further, the parallel with en + the dative case (i.e., by wine) as well as the common grammatical category of means/instrument when en is followed by the dative case, suggest that the idea intended by Paul is that believers are to be filled by the means/instrument of the [Holy] Spirit.  However, there seems to be an unnamed agent!  The meaning of this text can only be fully appreciated in light of the use of pleroo throughout Ephesians. Always the term is used in connection with a member of the Trinity. Three considerations seem to be key:


1) In Ephesians 3:19 Paul’s kneeling request from God that the believers ‘be pleroo completely-filled with (a) all the pleroma abundant-fullness (b) of God’.  The explicitly stated content of pleroo is thus “with all of God’s pleroma abundant-fullness.” <Notes> a) eis: toward and arriving at, introduces content, b) pleroma from pleroo: that which is complete or abundant, which can in turn fill to completion something else.


2) In Ephesians 4:10 “He who descended is the One who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might pleroo completely-fill all things.”  Christ is said to be the agent of the filling, with v. 11 adding the specifics of His giving spiritual grace-gifts (not people, positions, offices, or titles): “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and/coupled teachers…”


3) The author then brings his argument to a crescendo in Ephesians 5:18: Christians are “to be completely-filled [‘from the agent of Christ’ in Ephesians 4:10] by the means/instrument of the Spirit [‘with the content of all the fullness of God’ in Ephesians 3:19].”


As stated above, with the pneumati dative case ofSpirit,” the preposition en always denotes that the Spirit is the means/instrument by which you can be pleroo completely-filled, thus termed the “instrumental view,” which many scholars hold to but unfortunately is represented only in a few bibles that I could find:  Holman’s Christian Standard Bible, Lexham English Bible, and the New English Translation BibleThe Contemporary English Version has “Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life,” which brings out the passive voice but erroneously implies the agent is the Spirit, though we have seen Christ is from Ephesians 4:10. Young’s Literal Translation says “But be filled in the Spirit,” erroneously treating the preposition en as the Dative of Location, which is very abstract and non-practical in parallel with a very concrete and practical exhortation to stop be filled by wine!   Finally, the Phillips translation has “Don’t get your stimulus from wine (for there is always the danger of excessive drinking), but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.” It’s really quite crazy the “artistic license” translators take with a sacred text!


Some scholars mentioned above that support the “by the means/instrument of the Spirit” “instrumental viewpoint” include:  Ephesians – a Bible Study, by Frederick Widdowson, Major Bible Themes, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit and the Effect of His Indwelling and Infilling Ministries on the Christian Life, Andrew S. Kulikovsky, The Filling of the Holy Spirit – A Quality of Life, Dr. Tommy Ice, The Moody Bible Commentary, Michael Rydelnic, Michael Vanlaningham, How to Enjoy the Bible, E. W. Bullinger, Filled with the Holy Spirit, Dr. W. A. Criswell.  Even Billy Graham in his book The Holy Spirit on pp. 117-120 says “The Bible teaches there are many fillings – in fact, we are to be continuously filled by the Holy Spirit.”  John F. MacArthur in Charismatic Chaos on p. 314 says regarding Ephesians 5:18 “As the Israelites gathered manna daily, the Christian must be kept filled by the Spirit daily.” And in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Acts 1-12 on p.19, he says “They need to experience the release of that power in their lives . . . and being continually filled and controlled by the Spirit.”  You can do your own internet search and you’ll see there is a lot of confusion on this subject, and some have tried hard to clear up the confusion between “with the Spirit” and “by the means/instrument of the Spirit.”


Paul uses the same en pneumati  phrase in the dative case earlier in Ephesians 2:21-22, “In Christ, the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy Temple in the Lord.  In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by [the means of] the Spirit.”  The whole passage makes it clear that the Spirit is the means/instrument by which the Body of Christ, or Church, is unified into the Temple of God.  Later in Ephesians 3:5, Paul refers to “the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the means/instrument of the Spirit.”  Again, the Spirit is the means/instrument of revealing Christ to His servants, though the Father ultimately is the revealer (a) even though the Son also selects who to reveal the Father to (b).  Although the Father or Son may be the agents of revelation, the Holy Spirit is always the means/instrument of this revelation (c).  Paul says:  “God has revealed these things to us dia through-the-realizing-channel-of His Spirit” (d).  Again, God (context: the Father) is the agent, the direct object is “these things,” the indirect object is “us,” and the “channel or conduit” that the revelation flows through to work on “these things” to get them “to us” is the Holy Spirit!  The Holy Spirit is the interface! <Notes> a) Matthew 11:25, 16:17, b) Matthew 11:27, c) Luke 2:26, d) 1 Corinthians 2:10.


As Christian musicians, shouldn’t we be asking how to get “routinely be filled to completion by the means/instrument of the Spirit,” which naturally produces an incredible “party” atmosphere to worship the Lord in?  Isn’t this easier that have Worship Team meetings to “program” a worship service?  Isn’t this “getting the cart before the horse?”  Why are we trying to do the Spirit’s work that naturally moves God’s people to zealously worship the Lord by “psalms, hymns, and Spirit-kind-of songs?”


Are we caught up in the Star-Wars mythology that the Spirit is a “force” to get more or less of, when He is a whole person that you either have or don’t?  Instead, we are to be “routinely filled WITH the content of all the abundant-fullness of God the Father BY the means/instrument of the Holy Spirit.”  Let’s get our language and understanding right!  What we want MORE of is what God has to offer!  We want MORE of is the singular fruit/nature of the Spirit of God that is unconditional-love with its “flavors” described as Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Mastery” per Galatians 5:22-23.  We want MORE of His wisdom and understanding to discern His will through revelation by the Spirit – see New Covenant Ways – BT16.  We want MORE of the enabling-power of the Spirit.  We can’t actually have MORE of Him as the indwelling Spirit, but we can have MORE of His “abundant-fullness” or “riches of His glory.”  We can’t have MORE of His Spirit, but MORE of what the Spirit does to influence us to partake in God’s holy nature.   Let’s go for the right MORE!  James says that “You don’t receive because you ask wrongly!”


The only part we play for ALL of this to happen is surrendering ourselves in perserchomai drawing-near-to-God prayerful-worship much like proseuchomai conversational-praying as we routinely ask, seek, and knock (A.S.K.) for this grace-gift of the Holy Spirit’s filling of God’s abundance, waiting patiently as we watch and listen for God to answer.  It’s up to God to do the rest!  Now that takes trusting-relying-faith!


Without Christ being the agent by first asking the Father to give us the Holy Spirit, and then giving the Church grace-gifts by the means/instrument of the Spirit, none of this “complete-filling of God” would be possible!  I could only find 3 bibles that accurately depict the Holy Spirit as the means/instrument for our filling.  This is pitiful even when so many scholars have shown this to be true throughout Paul’s uses of this Greek phrase en pneumati.  That’s why so much false doctrine “blows through the churches!”


Therefore, Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:18 something like this:  If you want a great ‘buzz’ worth seeking and really want to “party,” then “routinely ask, seek, or knock” for your glass/life to be “completely-filled with the contents of the abundant, rich, glorious fullness of God, through the giver Christ, by the means of the Holy Spirit.”  Simply do this in patiently-waiting, watching, listening, worshipful, conversational-prayer instead of “routinely asking” your bartender to ‘fill’er up’ with beer, wine, or any other unholy ‘spirit,’ because getting drunk on these things IS a self-indulgent, reckless waste of your valuable time in this evil, dark work.  Instead, focus your time on being more in the light by routinely ‘filling up’ on God by the means/instrument of Holy Spirit!




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Categories: Spirit-Baptism