What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)? Paul’s urgent command (it’s an imperative) has mystified believers and divided denominations, but it’s really very simple.
Paul used language that makes the verse clear. Paul emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains several important teachings about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has sealed us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30). He used the word “sealed” to designate a down payment or guarantee of our redemption at the day of Christ. We know that we belong to Christ because we have received the Holy Spirit of God. Paul also warned the Ephesians not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) by wrong speech, hurtful attitudes, or shameful actions (http://waylonbailey.com/?p=91).
When Paul told the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit, his language made clear what he meant.
First, the filling of the Holy Spirit is for all believers. Paul’s imperative command makes that clear. This is God’s plan for all believers, not for a privileged few or a select group. In addition, this is plural. It simply backs up the understanding that the filling of the Holy Spirit is God’s plan for His church.
Second, the filling of the Holy Spirit is the work of God. The Greek verb is passive. Our English translations reflect the Greek verb. Paul’s command is that they “be filled with the Spirit.” It is not what we do or contrive; it is what God does for us. We do not have a way to make the filling happen. No formulas are necessary. We simply must be open, obedient, and submissive to God’s work.
Third, the filling of the Holy Spirit is a continuing need. The present imperative verb makes this clear. We need a daily submission to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives. We have been “sealed” with the Spirit once and for all (according to the aorist verb), but we need to be “filled” with the Spirit every day and every minute of the day.
God gives us a once and for all experience that cannot be taken away, and a continuing filling that must not be missed.
How God has blessed us with the presence of His Spirit!