Being Filled with the Spirit
We are all filled with something, mostly ourselves, or, like some of the Christians at Ephesus, that and way too much wine (Eph. 5:18). The point is that whatever fills us controls us, constantly captures our attention, and occupies our time, efforts, and defines our goals. For Christians, being filled with the Spirit is the only real concern; being filled with anything else is distracting at best, destructive at worst.
But what does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit”? One thing we can know right off the bat is the verb ‘be filled’ is in the present tense, imperative mood signifying Paul is not making a suggestion, if we feel like it or when we get around to it, but a command. We can dispense with any procrastination, it’s something we are ‘to do and do it now’. Knowing this is not an option, then, one way to understand being ‘filled with the Spirit’ is through the term displacement and, as a result of displacement, replacement. An instance of displacement occurs when something heavy is put into something light, like a heavy rock into a pail of water. The water is displaced and runs over the sides of the pail. Replacement is simply that the rock takes the place of where water once stood.
The importance of being “filled with the Spirit is further reinforced by this observation: fifteen times the word ‘spirit’ (pnuema) is used in this letter and twelve of these refer directly to the Holy Spirit of which 5:18 is one example. We are sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13); we have access to the Father through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18); the mystery of Christ has been revealed to us by the Spirit (Eph. 3:5); we have unity in the Spirit (Eph. 4:3-4); we are forbidden to grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30); we manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Eph. 5:9); we have the sword of the Spirit as part of our spiritual armor (Eph. 6:17); we are to pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18).
We already know that the Spirit is in every believer. The issue of being “filled” is how much of the Spirit you and I have and this obviously depends on how much space there is for Him. I think we all can agree that the Spirit is ‘heavier’ in terms of sheer existence than our ‘self’, that narrow little narcissistic center of consciousness, infinitely heavier in fact. So the more we give to Him of ourselves the more He settles into our lives and the self is displaced and, eventually, replaced with the fullness that is God. To be ‘filled’ is to be so full of the Spirit there is no room for anything else, to the point we overflow and all that emanates from us is the presence of God.
Finally, consider how remarkable it is how Paul uses the terms filled and fullness in this epistle, always building upward into the realities of being a Christian, the high point being “filled with the fullness of God” (Eph.3:19). Paul delineates what we have already have and what awaits us in his typical now/not yet logic. Line after line, idea after idea, prayer after prayer, Paul sets forth such a vision that we might run from the sometimes paltry lives we live and start enjoying the riches of His grace and love. It is for us to appropriate, enter into, take hold of what is ours in Christ Jesus and we must want it more than anything else, that very fullness of God that was in Jesus Himself (Col. 2:9). Being filled with the Spirit is being filled with the fullness of God.