It's All About Love

Ephesians 5:18

English is a funny language!
For instance why do we park our car on the driveway and drive our car on the parkway.
And why is a 'fat chance' and a 'slim chance' the same thing."
Why do we have noses that run and feet that smell?

If English is a second language to you, you have probably had difficulties with homonyms.
It might help you to make a list of homonyms, to see if you recall having problems with them.

For instance, bread and bred; berry and bury; bored and board;
cereal and serial (perhaps a story about confusion over why anyone would worry about a "cereal killer"?);
and then, there is the really confusing pair of opposite homonyms,
"raise" (to lift up) and "raze" (to tear down)!

Most of the time an English translation of the Bible enables us to understand the Word of God.
But there are times, because of the limitations of the English language,
we have a misunderstanding of certain words and miss their real meaning.

A good example of this is the word, "love."
In the Greek language in which the New Testament Scriptures were written,
there were three primary words for "love".
One is "eros", which means, physical love.
Another is "philos", meaning, emotional, friendship love.
And the third is "agape", meaning, spiritual love.

So when the English Bible says, "love," we don't know whether it means physical love,
emotional or spiritual love.
This results in a breakdown in our understanding of one of the most important teachings and all the Bible.

Another good example is found in Ephesians 5:18, when Paul commands that we be filled with the Spirit.
There are two words in the Greek which mean "to be filled".
When is "pierao", and the other is "pimplemi,", and they mean, two significantly different things.

So when the Bible tells us that we should be filled with the Spirit, we need to understand
whether it means we should be "pierao-ed" with the Spirit or "pimplemi-ed" with the Spirit.
So in that case we must dig back to the original meaning to be sure that we understand what is at stake.

Paul has just exhorted us to understand the will of God.
Then, in what seems to be a rather disjointed comment, he says,
"Do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit."
Why does he mention drunkenness in this context?
We could suggest a number of reasons, but it seems to be cultural.

Ephesus was a polytheistic city, and one of those they worshiped was Bacchus
– the god of wine and drunken revelry.
The pagans believed they could get in touch with Bacchus by getting drunk.

As a result, drunken, debauchery was common and widespread in emphasis at the time Paul wrote.
So when Paul said, "Don't get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Paul was saying when you commune with God – and everyone knew what he meant.

While this cultural context provides a background for understanding, the nuances of the language itself
still leave room for more than one interpretation.
Generally, there are two understandings for "being filled with the Spirit".

First, there is the charismatic meaning, when "being filled with the Spirit" manifested itself
in speaking in tongues.

This verse teaches that everyone should manifests the characteristics that were evident
on the day of Pentecost when everyone spoke in tongues.
The problem with this interpretation is that the word "to be filled" in Ephesians 5:18 is not the same
as the word used in Acts.

In a moment we will see that this interpretation is difficult to attach to this verse.
All I'm saying here is that this is not the intent of the command in Ephesians 5:18.

A second major interpretation is "the victorious Christian life."
Some are this position in the early days of their Christian life, and in much of their formal theological training
maintained that the filling of the Spirit is God's empowering for victorious Christian living and service,
but that it is not related to speaking in tongues.

Certain conditions must be met, and when you meet these conditions you are filled with the Spirit
– then you are ready to live the Christian life on a more victorious level and you become empowered for service.

These conditions are that, first, you must confess sin, and put away any sins that you're harboring in your life.
And in the second place, ask to be filled.
And then in the third place, believe that God will fill you if you ask Him.

So I believe that when Paul encourages us to be filled with the Spirit, he is encouraging us
to allow ourselves to be controlled by the fullest of Christ in our lives.

In Ephesians 5:19-6:6 we read that the results of being filled with the Spirit are:
Speaking in psalms.
Giving thanks.
And a harmony of relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves.

In Colossians 316-22 we see the same results:
Teaching with psalms.
And harmony between husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves.

However, the results in Colossians are produced not by being filled with the Spirit,
but by "let the word of Christ richly dwell within you."
Being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ dwell within you produce exactly the same results.
Therefore, they must be understood to be essentially the same thing.

In Acts 13:52, we find the only other occurrence of the verb form of "pierao", where we read,
"And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
Just as the disciples were filled with and controlled by the Spirit, we do this by allowing
the Word of Christ to dwell within us.

As the Word dwells within us, we come to understand the will of God.
The Holy Spirit applies God's truth to our hearts, and as we yield to it, allowing ourselves to be controlled by it,
we experience the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace… and gradually, more and more over time,
we are filled with the Spirit in a non-sensational manner that is just as miraculous
as it is a dramatic manifestation.

So this is what it means to be filled with the Spirit, it means to allow the Word of Christ to dwell within us
– yielding ourselves to it so that over time we begin to experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives,
and live up to the fullest of Christ.

We are not controlled by wine – we are controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Not in a passive sense, whereby the Holy Spirit just takes over, but in an active sense.
The Holy Spirit lets us know what we should do, and we do it.

It is not like a hand controlling the functioning of a glove, but like a speed-limit sign controlling
how fast we drive.
We are controlled by it in the sense that we have yielded to its authority.

We need to be more spiritual so that we can be filled with the Spirit.
Paul explains what happens when we are filled with the Spirit.

We speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs -- we minister to one another in truth.
We sing and make melody in our heart to the Lord -- we have joy.
We give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father -- we are grateful.
We are subject to one another in the fear of Christ – we have a servant's heart.

There are four things – mutual ministry, joy, gratitude and a servants heart that characterize the life
which has allowed the Word of Christ to dwell in it, and which is being filled with the Spirit.
We cannot get these things from the world – by being filled with wine.
We get them only by being filled with the Spirit.
The world cannot satisfy our deepest longings.
Earthly things cannot heal a heavenly vacuum.

Too often we look for fulfillment in the wrong places.
Deceived by the enemy and buy own natural inclinations, we pursue things that will never satisfy.

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II
for helping and hiding Jews in the Netherlands, wrote in her marvelous book, "Tramp for the Lord":

"The war was over.
Even before I left the concentration camp, I knew I would be busy helping those who had lost their way.
Now I found myself starting just such a work in Holland.
It was more than a home for the homeless, it was a refuge for those who had lost their way
spiritually as well as physically.

Yet, because I had lived so close to death, looking at in the face day after day,
I often felt like a stranger among my own people – many of whom looked upon money, honor of men
and success as the important issues of life.
Standing in front of a crematorium, knowing that any day could be your last day,
gives one a different perspective on life.
The words of an old German motto kept flashing in my mind:
"When I spent, I had; what I saved, I lost; what I gave, I have."

How well I understood the feeling of the artist who painted the picture of the corpse of a once wealthy man
and entitled it, Sic transit gloria mundi -- So passes the glory of the world.
The material things of this world no longer excited me – nor would they ever again."

The lesson Corrie learned is the lesson that Paul is trying to teach us in this passage.
Don't look for things in the wrong places

We should get to the place in our world that the material things of this world no longer excite us.
We must not look for things in the wrong places.
We must not look for meaning in the passing things of this world."

Paul is saying, "Don't look for commune with God in wine.
That is nothing but drunkenness.
Don't let wine or work or pleasure or money fill your life.
Rather, be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White