This week's "thought" comes to you from J. D. Watson's book, "A Word for the Day - Key Words from the New Testament."
Today's selection is actually a short phrase Paul uses in Eph. 5:18 comprised of three Greek words: "plerousthe en pneumatic" (or in English, "Be Filled With the Spirit." ) It's a phrase frequently used in the Church and yet often misunderstood. His explanation is helpful in guiding us in this regard. I hope you find it helpful. Enjoy.
"plerousthe en pneumati"
Be filled in (or with) the Spirit
"The word plerousthe (from pleroo) speaks of filling a container and means, "to influence fully, to control." As one authority adds, "To fill up, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to flood, to diffuse throughout." It is used, for example, in Matthew 13:48, to refer to a full fishing net. The chief idea then, is that we are to be permeated with, and therefore controlled by, the Spirit.
All of that, of course, is fine in theory, but what does it mean in practice? Preachers often say that "filling" means "control," but what exactly does that mean? As theologian Louis Sperry Chafer puts it: "It is not a matter of acquiring more of the Spirit, but rather of the Spirit of God acquiring all of the individual." It means that we are influenced by Him and nothing else. To put it succinctly: To be filled with the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else, set on spiritual things and spiritual growth...
It is interesting that since some NT Christians are referred to as being "full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:3), there must have been something about them that was recognizable as evidence. What did people see? Can there be any doubt that it was Christlikeness of character? [In terms of Acts 6:3 - wisdom, compassion and graciousness.] That's the point of Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control, against which there is no law."
When such character is present in our lives people will see Holy Spirit control [or filling] in us. They won't have to see some emotional outburst or ecstatic experience; rather, they will see Christlike behavior.
The construction of the Greek verb for "filled" (plerousthe) is all-important. One of the most prominent misconceptions about Spirit-filling is that it involves some "crisis experience," some "dramatic event," some so-called second blessing, which comes only because we "agonize over it in prayer" for a period of time. But Scripture says none of that. On the contrary, we need not struggle for it, we simply claim it.
FIRST, the verb plerousthe is in the present tense, which shows a continuing action. In other words, Spirit-filling is designed to be a continuing reality. A literal translation of the Greek is, "Be being filled." We are to be in the state of constantly being filled with the Spirit [constantly surrendering to His control].
SECOND, the verb is in the imperative mood, which indicates a military type command and something we control. Spirit-filling is not optional, but rather mandatory. As Ephesians 5:17 declares, this is the will of God. God, therefore, would not give us a command unless we were being put in charge of carrying out the command. So it's up to us to obey. While "sealing" and "baptism" [regeneration or the initial reception of the Spirit] are done by God, and are therefore in the aorist tense, "filling" is up to us to allow. It has to do with a yieldedness whereby we allow the Holy Spirit to take control.
THIRD, this is further indicated by the verb being in the passive voice, the subject being acted upon. We allow the Holy Spirit to act upon us and control us. Let us each day renew our yielding to Holy Spirit control.
And LAST, we come to another question concerning Spirit-filling: "What exactly is the purpose?" All one need do to find the answer is open the book of Acts. There are at least six instances in Acts where people are "filled with the Spirit" (2:4, 4:8 and 31, 7:55, 9:17 and 13:9). In every instance, the purpose of Spirit-filling was an empowering for service, more specifically, an empowering to proclaim the truth of God.
That is the power spoken of in Acts 1:8: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth."
Helpful I hope! As he makes clear, the "filling with the Spirit" enhances the ripening or maturing of the "Fruit of the Spirit." It equips us for service while also serving to sanctify us. It all goes together and must never be separated, lest the "experience" be sought apart from the purpose for which it is given.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff