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“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)[1]

Ephesians 5:18 states: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” In the context of Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul instructs the Christians at Ephesus to live wisely: to walk circumspectly, avoiding sin, while at the same time redeeming opportunities to serve the Lord. The “and” (kai÷) beginning v. 18shows the connection of v. 18 to v. 15–17; the verse marks a transition from a general fact to a particular instance of walking wisely in daily life.

The first command of Ephesians 5:18 prohibits intoxication.[2] “Be not drunk” (mh\ mequ/skesqe) is a present imperative, a general precept forbidding growing drunk, as the prohibition of being unwise in v. 17 was also a general precept. As verse 17 did not indicate that the Ephesians were already unwise, so verse 18 does not indicate that the Ephesians were already getting drunk, which would have been a matter for church discipline. The root of the verb for drunkenness in v. 18, mequ/skw, is one of a number of words that are related to inebriation. This particular verb not only prohibits the state of being drunk, but it also denounces here the process leading to drunkenness.[3] The verse does not allow any room for being intoxicated, since it prohibits the entire process which leads to becoming drunk, including the first glass and the first sip of alcohol.[4] The first drink a person takes puts him on that poisonous path toward becoming fully intoxicated. Furthermore, Scripture never states that one becomes drunk after a certain number of alcoholic beverages. Rather, after one drink, one is drunk to a certain degree; after two, one is drunk twice as much; after three, one is drunk that much more, and so on. The first drink affects one’s understanding and actions. Even in things that are lawful, unlike alcoholic beverages (Proverbs 20:1), believers are not to be “brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12); how much the more must they never give control of their minds and bodies to alcohol, rather than always retaining a “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)? As in the Wisdom books of the Old Testament (Proverbs 23:29-35; 20:1),[5] abstinence from alcohol is enjoined.

In modern English vernacular, wine solely indicates a fermented drink made from grapes. However, the Greek word oi•noßcan be used to describe any form of the grape and does not always indicate that which is fermented;[6] the English word wine was also a generic term that could be used of both fermented and unfermented beverages in 1611 when the Authorized Version was translated.[7] Sometimes context indicates that oinos is grape juice (cf. Matthew 9:17; John 2:3; 1 Timothy 5:23), while at other times the word refers to that which is fermented (Mark 15:23). In Revelation 19:15, the phrase “the winepress of wine” (th\n lhno\n touv oi¶nou) appears, but it certainly is difficult to think that the wine was alcoholic the moment it was pressed out of the grapes (cf. Revelation 14:20). The oinos of Revelation 19:15 is immediately drunk by the nations as they immediately face the wrath of the Lord Jesus Christ and are destroyed upon His return, so oinos in this passage necessarily refers to a beverage which is immediately pressed out of a winepress and is immediately drunken—there is no time for fermentation, since the Lord Jesus Christ does not wait some period of time at His second coming to allow His enemies to successfully fight against Him, but He destroys them all immediately. The context of Ephesians 5:18a clearly indicates that the verse refers to fermented and intoxicating oinos which the Bible always forbids. The believer is to make no gateway for the consumption of any type of alcoholic beverage.

The next phrase of Ephesians 5:18a, “wherein is excess” (e˙n wˆ— e˙sti«n aÓswti÷a), is often misunderstood as an explanation of what level of consumption of alcohol is permissible. One is allegedly permitted to drink fermented wine so long as it is not consumed to the point of drunkenness, which is assumed to be a fixed point, rather than a developing process. However, the idea “do not drink to excess” is not at all the teaching of the passage. First, the meaning of mequ/skw undermines such an idea; the verb not only forbids the state of intoxication but also the process of becoming intoxicated, as noted above. Second, e˙n wˆ— modifies oi¶nwˆ, not, as advocates of “moderate” drinking affirm, the entire clause. The affirmation is not that there is excess in being drunk with wine, but that there is aÓswti÷a in the oinos itself. In the only truly parallel syntactical structures to Ephesians 5:18 in the NT, the noun after the e˙n wˆ— + ei˙mi÷describes the specific noun before it, not an entire clause.[8] Parallel texts in the LXX,[9] Josephus, and Philo support this view of the e˙n wˆ—.[10] Clear examples of the syntactical structure in Ephesians 5:18 where the e˙n wˆ— modifies the entire previous clause rather than the noun immediately preceeding it are lacking. Furthermore, BDAG defines aÓswti÷a as “reckless abandon, debauchery, dissipation, profligacy.” The word appears elsewhere in Titus 1:6 (where the elder is not to be even accusable of asotia (KJV, “riot”), and 1 Peter 4:4, where large amounts of “riot” are in view. The word excess thus means to have a shameful abundance or to be indifferent to moral restraint. Fermented wine, in any amount, has passed the limits; it has gone too far. The KJV wherein is an English prepositional phrase in which, the antecedent being the word wine. People who take this word to mean “getting drunk is excessive” are misinterpreting it. The phrase is therefore describing the noun wine, not the verb be drunk. The understanding is this: “in wine is profligacy/excess.”

The view that the e˙n wˆ— refers specifically to oi¶nwˆ has precedent in the Latin Vulgate and in the patristic period in the history of interpretation. The Vulgate in Ephesians 5:18 reads: et nolite inebriari vino in quo est luxuria sed implemini Spiritu. The connection between vino (“with wine”) and quo (“which”) is unmistakable in Latin, because the relative quo has the same neuter gender as vino, upon which it depends. Tertullian (A. D. 160-225) renders the text in exactly the same way: et nolite inebriari vino, in quo est luxuria (“And be not inebriated with wine, in which is voluptuousness.”[11] Compare Jerome (who, of course, translated the Latin Vulgate), and identified the object “wine” as the item that has in it the “excess/riot”: “She called to mind the cave in which Lot found refuge, and with tears in her eyes warned the virgins her companions to beware of ‘wine wherein is excess;’ for it was to this that the Moabites and Ammonites owe their origin.”[12]

In light of Ephesians 5:18, believers must totally abstain from consumption of alcohol. They must also abstain from selling it, giving it to others, owning companies that produce or distribute alcohol through stock or mutual funds, or providing any other support whatsoever to alcohol (Habakkuk 2:15). Furthermore, faithful churches must warn against and separate from those who hold to the error of the “moderate” consumption of alcohol. The position of Scripture—total abstinance—must be strongly set forth and contended for along with the rest of the faith (Jude 3).

After affirming that the consumption of alcohol in any degree is forbidden in Ephesians 5:18a, Paul sets up a contrast being made between being filled with wine and with the Spirit. Believers were not to be controlled by wine, but “filled with the Spirit” (5:18b).[13] The passive voice of “be filled” also indicates the supernatural Divine initiative in Spirit filling—the believer does not fill himself. The verb “filled” (plhro/w) indicates that believers are to be “fill[ed] to the full . . . fill[ed] up to the top . . . so that nothing shall be lacking to full measure”[14] with the Spirit. “Lit[erally] the term means ‘to fill something completely’ . . . [n]on-lit[erally] it means ‘to fill with a content.’ Pass[ively] [it means] ‘to be filled with’ something; the content may not be specified, the subj. itself is the content, “to fill completely.”[15] The mind-altering control of alcohol was a model to be rejected by saints, sanctified ones. Nothing must control a believer’s mind except God; an emphatic contrast between the control of wine and the control of the Spirit is established. To “be filled” can connote the idea of being “completely controlled and stamped by the powers which fill him.”[16] One who is filled is characterized by that which fills him. One is controlled by Satan when the evil one fills a person’s heart (Acts 5:3).[17] When “sorrow hath filled [one’s] heart” (John 16:6),[18] or evil fills one’s heart (Ecclesiastes 9:3, LXX),[19] such exercise control over one’s life. The result of being filled with wine is the surrender of control to the wine. The result of being filled with the fruits of righteousness is a life directed by righteousness instead of by unrigheousness (Philippians 1:11). The result of being filled with the Spirit is control by the Spirit in the believer’s life.

Commonly, the Spirit is the content of the filling. One can see this by a comparison of the language of Acts 2:2, 4, where the filling of a house with wind (v. 2, e˙plh/rwsen o¢lon to\n oi•kon) is paralleled to the filling of people (the church, the house of God) with the Spirit (v. 4, kai« e˙plh/sqhsan a‚panteß Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou). Filling for content is the use when the verb pi÷mplhmi is used of filling (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24),[20] when the noun plh/rhßis used for filling (Luke 4:1; Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24),[21] and in the only verse other than Ephesians 5:18 where plhro/wis used, Acts 13:52: oi˚ de« maqhtai« e˙plhrouvnto cara◊ß kai« Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou. One should also consider Acts 5:3, ei•pe de« Pe÷troß ∆Anani÷a, diati÷ e˙plh/rwsen oJ Satana◊ß th\n kardi÷an sou, yeu/sasqai÷ se« to\ Pneuvma to\ ›Agion kai« nosfi÷sasqai aÓpo\ thvß timhvß touv cwri÷ou; “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” where the idea is that Ananias was controlled by Satan by means of the fallen angel’s filling Ananias’ heart with evil things. Thus, one would expect the same thing in Ephesians 5:18, namely, that the Spirit is the content of the filling.

Certain writers, especially advocates of Reformed theology, affirm that Ephesians 5:18 does not, like the texts in Acts, refer to the Holy Spirit as the content of the filling, concluding rather that the text should be rendered as “filled by the Spirit.” Some affirm that every believer is, to one extent or another, Spirit-filled. For example, Daniel Wallace argues: “[W]e know of no clear examples in biblical Greek in which e˙n + the dative indicates content. We should, therefore, seek some other nuance in such instances, as in Eph 5:18. . . . To see e˙n pneu/mati here as indicating content is grammatically suspect (even though it is, in many circles, the predominant view). Only if the flow of argument and/or the lack of other good possibilities strongly point in the direction of content would we be compelled to take it as such. There are no other examples in biblical Greek in which e˙n + the dative after plhro/w indicates content.”[22] Similarly, William Combs argues: “[Ephesians 5:18] would be the only example we have in Greek literature if this really is ‘filled with the Spirit,’ and that is the content . . . there is no filling with the Spirit.”[23] However, these conclusions are erroneous.

First, if one were to concede that e˙n+ dative does not explicitly express content, but an instrumental/means idea, and thus expresses a parallel idea to the dative oi¶nwˆ, namely, means or instrumentality (cf. the instrumental/means e˙n Pneu/mati structures in Ephesians 2:18, 22; 3:16; cf. also Eph 6:18), it would not eliminate the possibility that one is filled with the content of the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. While one is not to be drunk with wine, that is, by means of wine, but be filled by means of or with the Spirit, the person who is drunk is not simply drunk by means of wine, but is filled with wine in content. Furthermore, the category, using plhro/w, of dative of content, is employed by Paul in Romans 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 7:4.[24] Likewise, one is filled with the fulness of Christ by means of the Spirit, but one is also filled with the content of the Spirit. While “[b]elievers are to be filled by Christ by means of the Spirit with the content of the fullness of God,”[25] such a fact does not mean that believers are not also to be filled with the content of the Holy Spirit.[26] Indeed, being filled with the Holy Spirit is, since the Spirit is Himself God and in possession of the fulness of Deity, being filled with the fulness of God. Thus, even if one were to concede to the Reformed argument that plhrouvsqe e˙nin Ephesians 5:18 cannot syntacally signify content with a following dative, the conclusion that one is not to be filled with the Spirit does not follow.

However, there is no need to concede that plhrouvsqe e˙n+ dative cannot be used to signify content. First, it is not especially significant to affirm that plhro/w + e˙nis not content elsewhere in the New Testament. A search for the verb followed by the preposition will only yield 7 verses (Luke 9:31; 22:16; John 17:13; Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 4:12), six references other than Ephesians 5:18. In five of the six, plhro/w means “fulfilled” and thus is not especially related to the question of Ephesians 5:18.[27] The structure in Colossians 4:12 is also quite different. Thus, New Testament texts that truly parallel the plhro/w+ e˙n of Ephesians 5:18 are very limited. Furthermore, Colossians 2:9-10 supports a content idea for filling in the believer, employing plhro/w+ e˙n, by a comparison with the way that the content of the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ.[28] Second, the category exists, using plhro/w, of dative of content, which is employed by Paul, Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 7:4.[29] Similarly, the Liddell-Scott lexicon indicates that plhro/w is used with the “dat. [as] to fill with.” This category supports “filled with” in Ephesians 5:18. The use of plhro/w with the naked dative for content supports the use of plhro/w + e˙n + dative in Ephesians 5:18 as content.[30] While it is true that naked case usage and case usage after a preposition are not absolutely identical, they usually have substantial semantic overlap.

Third, in related Greek literature plhro/w + e˙n is followed by the content of the filling, parallel to Ephesians 5:18 as “be filled with the Spirit.” Note Sirach 26:2: “A virtuous woman rejoiceth her husband, and he shall fulfil the years of his life in peace,” gunh\ aÓndrei÷a eujfrai÷nei to\n a‡ndra aujthvß kai« ta» e¶th aujtouv plhrw¿sei e˙n ei˙rh/nhØ. Here the peace is the content of the filling, so parallel Greek syntax to Ephesians 5:18 specifying content is found in the LXX. Furthermore, the only usage of plhro/w + e˙n in the earliest patristic writers is found in Ignatius:

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and of the beloved Jesus Christ at Smyrna in Asia, mercifully endowed with every spiritual gift, filled with faith and love, not lacking in any spiritual gift, most worthy of God, bearing holy things: heartiest greetings in a blameless spirit and the word of God. ∆Igna¿tioß, oJ kai« Qeofo/roß, e˙kklhsi÷aˆ qeouv patro\ß kai« touv hjgaphme÷nou ∆Ihsouv Cristouv, hjlehme÷nhØ e˙n panti« cari÷smati, peplhrwme÷nhØ e˙n pi÷stei kai« aÓga¿phØ, aÓnusterh/twˆ ou¡shØ panto\ß cari÷smatoß, qeoprepesta¿thØ kai« aJgiofo/rwˆ, thØv ou¡shØ e˙n Smu/rnhØ thvß ∆Asi÷aß, e˙n aÓmw¿mwˆ pneu/mati kai« lo/gwˆ qeouv plei√sta cai÷rein (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 1:0).

Thus, the only documented instance in the earliest documents of Christiandom has plhro/w + e˙nexpressing content, specifically being filled with the content of faith and love, which is reminicient of New Testament texts that parallel being filled with the Spirit and being filled with Spirit-produced virtues (cf. Acts 13:52; 6:3, 5). It is therefore not surprising that BDAG, on plhro/w, comparing Ignatius’ statement to Ephesians 5:18: “With e˙n and dat. of thing e˙n pneu/mati with the Spirit Eph 5:18. e˙n pi÷stei kai÷ aÓga¿phØ ISm ins.” Thus, the standard Greek lexicon indicates that Ephesians 5:18b is properly rendered “filled with the Spirit.”[31] Furthermore, later patristics also taught that Ephesians 5:18 speaks of being filled with the content of the Spirit.[32] The contention that plhro/w + e˙n cannot mean “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18 because it “would be the only example we have in Greek literature”[33] is, therefore, very unconvincing. As in the book of Acts people were filled with the content of the Spirit, so in Ephesians 5:18 all saints are commanded to be filled with the Spirit.

Having the Spirit’s presence in a special way is the idea behind the Old and New Testament doctrines of Spirit filling—each believer has God the Holy Ghost with and in him, and is to be full of His presence. The full presence of God the Spirit gives the believer His personal influence and enablement to walk wisely (Ephesians 5:15-17). Likewise, as a congregation grows to be made up of Spirit-filled individuals, so the assembly corporately grows to be full of holiness and of the special presence of God the Spirit, and thus is filled with the fulness of God Himself (Ephesians 3:19),[34] resulting in both a personal and corporate holy walk.[35]

As in sanctification there is the all-or-nothing aspect of an upright and sincere Christian walk that is free from any desire to consciously hold on to sin, so that some Christians are right with God while others are backsliding, and there is also the aspect of progressive renewal into the image of God, so the Spirit’s special presence—His filling—is on one way all or nothing, and in another way something that can progressively increase or decrease. A backsliding believer is disobeying completely the present imperative,[36] requiring continuing and customary action, of “be filled” (plhrouvsqe) in Ephesians 5:18, while the believer who is right with God is enjoined to be continually filled all the more. In the context of Ephesians 5:18a, one is either entirely free from the control of wine or one is not, but for those who are not, there are degrees of drunkenness where control is more and more surrendered to intoxicants. The error that Ephesians 5:18a only prohibits excessive alcohol consumption, but allows “moderate” drinking that tolerates, to a lesser degree, the influence of alcohol over the believer, produces confusion in the command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18b. While the progressive aspect of Spirit filling, through which believers are to be ever the more full of the presence of the Holy Ghost and consequently ever the more under His control, can, to a certain extent, although improperly, be maintained against an alleged prohibition of excessive drinking that nevertheless allows some control by alcohol, the important all-or-nothing aspect of Spirit filling and consequent control is very poorly set in contrast with allegedly allowable degrees of control by alcohol. The command for total abstinence from wine in Ephesians 5:18a is excecedingly important context for the command in Ephesians 5:18b for believers to be filled with the Spirit.

In Acts 13:52,[37] the spiritual grace of joy, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and the presence of the Spirit Himself, are connected; believers were “filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” In one way, a believer is either full of spiritual joy, or he is not—a believer who is overtaken by sin loses fulness of joy as he loses the smiling face of his Redeemer. At the same time, the disciples of Acts 13:52 could grow yet more full of joy than they already were as they experienced yet sweeter communion with the God of joy—indeed, such was the prayer of Paul for the members of the church at Rome: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13). The consequence of such filling was that the Roman Christians would be “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).[38] God would, Paul prayed, fill these saints with more and more joy and peace so that they would ever more abound in spiritual graces, until perfected at glorification and completely filled “with all joy and peace.” Sanctification includes believers being “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:9-11)[39] and “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” with the result that they “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10;[40] cf. Colossians 4:12, 17; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:4) as they are filled and completed as they receive of the Divine fulness (cf. Colossians 2:9-10a).[41] In contrast, the unregenerate, as they “wax worse and worse” (2 Timothy 3:13), progress to new bottoms in their universally possessed total depravity, as they are “being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness” and grow “full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity” and other sins (Romans 1:29).[42] Thus, all in Acts 13:52 were filled with the Spirit because they were saved and right with God, but they could grow even more full as that same Spirit drew them yet closer to God and transformed them the more into the likeness of Christ, who, as the perfect Man, was perfectly right with God and perfectly sinless, and thus “full of the Holy Ghost” to the highest degree (Luke 4:1).

Acts 6:3, 5, in a fashion similar to Acts 13:52, connects Spirit-produced spiritual graces with being Spirit filled.[43] The spiritual servant-leaders of the passage, the model for all deacons, are “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” and “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 6:3, 5, 7:55[44]). They are to follow the pattern of Barnabas, who was “a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24). As with the possession of full spiritual joy, Spirit-wrought faith (Galatians 5:22) and wisdom (Ephesians 1:17; 5:18-19; Colossians 1:9; 3:16; Exodus 31:3) either fill the Christian or not in one sense, but, in another, they are capable of growth and development.

Spirit filling may be illustrated by containers holding various amounts of water.[45] Unlike a glass full of water, one with only a small amount of water at the bottom, or one that is one-fourth full and is slowly leaking, certainly has water in it, but it is hardly filled with water. Similarly, a backsliding believer has the holy Spirit—for all believers are indwelt by Him (Romans 8:9)—but he is hardly filled with the Spirit. Likewise, all believers love Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 16:22), but a backslider is hardly filled with Spirit-produced love (Galatians 5:22). On the other hand, some water storage vessels designed for camping trips or other similar purposes have the ability not only be filled to the brim but can, like an accordion, expand in their capacity when stretched, so that they have the ability not only be full to one level but, by the continued addition of water, expand to hold even more than they did before. In such a manner believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and with the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith that He supernaturally produces within them.[46]

As God produces, through the Theanthropic Mediator and applied directly by the Holy Spirit, ever greater degrees of Christlikeness in believers who are right with God, they enjoy ever greater degrees of the special presence of the Triune God with them and are thus the more filled with the fulness of the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Word made flesh, who is Himself “full of grace and truth”[47] (John 1:14), and who thus also receives from God the Father a measureless portion of the Spirit (John 3:34),[48] communicates to those who are united to Him by faith ever fuller measures of the Divine presence and moral attributes (John 1:17), so that they can testify, “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).[49] It was the Father’s ordination that in the God-Man should “all fulness dwell”; therefore in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and He can communicate of His Theanthropic fulness to those united to Him (Colossians 1:19; 2:9-10).[50] The Father grants (Ephesians 3:14) that, by means of the supernatural efficacy of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16) sent by the ascended Christ (Ephesians 4:10; John 16:7), Christ dwells in an ever greater way in the hearts of those who are in His church (Ephesians 3:17),[51] they gain experiential knowledge of the love of God in Christ, and in this way they are “filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19)[52] by Christ who, anointed King in His mediatorial kingdom,[53] “ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10).[54] The church, the assembly of immersed believers,[55] is Christ’s “body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23),[56] and the ascended God-Man communicates the Trinitarian Divine fulness to His body (Ephesians 4:15-16) by the Spirit. The ascended Mediator and Head of the church communicates to His body of the Divine fulness and full measure of the Spirit that He possesses, so that, by the Father’s ordination and will and through the incarnate and ascended Son, the saints are filled by the Spirit with the fulness of the Trinity, and thus are also filled with the Spirit Himself (Ephesians 5:18), as the Holy Ghost is Himself true God, in full possession of the undivided Divine essence by virtue of His eternal procession from the Father and the Son. This spiritual union, communion, and participation with God results in the believer’s growing inward and outward holiness; being filled with the fulness of God results in the Christian becoming a holy being filled with holy attributes and “full of good works” (Acts 9:36; cf. Colossians 1:9; 4:12). Such is the glorious fruit of being filled by and with the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament also associates being filled with and therefore controlled by the Spirit with the Spirit’s giving supernatural enablement for specific tasks, both through miraculous abilities in the first century and supernatural enablements for the entirety of the dispensation of grace, although the employment of a different Greek verb[57] for this sort of supernatural endowment sets this type of Spirit filling apart from that of Ephesians 5:18 and the texts in Acts discussed above. Ordained to be a prophet, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15) for the work of his prophetic ministry. The Spirit filled Elizabeth (Luke 1:41) and Zecharias (Luke 1:67) in association with their giving forth inspired prophecy, and after Christ baptized the church with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, her members were filled with the Spirit and thus enabled to miraculously speak foreign languages (Acts 2:4). Not only were specifically miraculous abilities given through this type of Spirit filling, but the Spirit filled and thus supernaturally empowered non-miraculous Christian work by believers who were right with God. Thus, believers were filled with the Spirit to boldy preach the gospel (Acts 4:8), the entire congregation at Jerusalem was supernaturally empowered to be preaching the Word with boldness because of Spirit filling for that purpose (Acts 4:31), and Paul was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17) in connection with Christ’s ministerial call to him to boldly preach the gospel to many nations as the Apostle to the Gentiles (9:15-16). Miraculous and non-miraculous supernatural filling could also be connected, as the Spirit-filled Paul both to non-miraculously rebuke and preach with boldness, and also to miraculously prophesy (Acts 13:9-12).

The connection of Spirit filling with supernatural ability to perform specific tasks stands in direct continuity with the Old Testament doctrine of Spirit filling.[58] God “filled” Bezaleel and those helping him “with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” so that they could complete the Divinely ordained task of building the tabernacle and all the rest of the “service of the sanctuary” (Exodus 31:1-6; 36:1-2). Both builders and those designing priestly garments were “filled with the spirit of wisdom” (Exodus 28:3; 35:25-35). Similarly, when Moses consecrated Joshua as the new leader of the children of Israel, “Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9).[59]

In conclusion, the New Testament does indeed command believers to be “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18. Rather than being filled with and consequently controlled by wine, believers are to totally abstain from alcohol, which inherently contains within it the quality of riotousness, and instead be filled with the Spirit, which results in His Divine control in the believer’s life. In continuity with examples in the Old Testament, New Testament examples indicate that there is a type of Spirit filling that provides supernatural enablement for specific tasks, most notably, for the course of the church age after the cessation of miraculous gifts, ability to boldly preach the Word and gospel of God. Believers appropriately look to the Lord for such repeated fillings and consequent enablement as they seek to advance the work of Christ’s kingdom. However, Ephesians 5:18 speaks specifically not of the Spirit’s enablement for specific tasks, but of believers being continuously filled in an ever greater measure with the Holy Spirit. The backslidden believer is not filled with the Spirit any more than he is filled with Spirit-produced joy, faith, love, or other graces, while every surrendered believer, all Christians who are right with God, are filled with the Spirit, and, as they draw ever closer and are transformed ever the more into the image of God, can expect to be ever the more abundantly filled with and consequently controlled by that Holy Ghost who Himself possesses, with the Father and the Son, the very undivided fulness of the Triune God.

Being filled with the Spirit is essential for obedience in the Christian life of the sort explained in Ephesians 5:19-6:9.[60] Edifying speaking and singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (5:19), giving thanks (5:20),[61] and the mutual submission and obedience to family and social roles (5:20, 5:21-6:9) are based on being filled with the Spirit. Husbands, wives, children, parents, employers, and employees must be filled with the Spirit to properly fulfill their roles. Furthermore, the Spirit filled believer will also “let the word of Christ dwell in [him] richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Scripture dwelling richly in the believer will also bring him the rich presence of the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14) and whole Trinity (2 Corinthians 6:16),[62] for the rich dwelling of the Spirit in the Christian is being filled with the Spirit, and the rich dwelling of the Trinity in the believer is being filled with the fulness of God.

The necessity of being filled with the Spirit is part of historic Baptist doctrine and practice. Describing the pre-Reformation Baptist group, the Paterines, Jarrel wrote: “In the midst of a people thus professing to be filled with the spirit, and whose pope was the Holy Ghost himself, none of the existing officers of the [Roman Catholic] church could exercise any of their hierarchal prerogatives.”[63] After the Reformation, in 1653, the Baptist church in Leith, England, wrote to the Baptist church at Hexham, “Dearly beloved Brethren, — We salute you in our Lord Jesus Christ, wishing grace, mercy, and peace may be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of the Father, that you may have the full communications of grace and of the love of God shed abroad in your hearts, being filled with the Spirit of truth; and may grow up in all things into him who is your head, and may approve yourselves to be persons making it your great study to honour God in your generations; that so you may be [the occasion] of joy unto all God’s people, and may indeed appear to be trees of righteousness of the Lord’s own planting.” The letter was written because the Leith church was “refreshed to hear of that eminent work of God that hath sprung up amongst you in these parts, in that he has pleased to add unto his church daily such as shall be saved.”[64] The great American Baptist pastor John Leland connected “Christian piety” and being “filled with the spirit.”[65] G. W. Joiner, who pastored a variety of American Baptist churches in the mid to late 19th century, considered it his “great joy” to be “filled with the Spirit.”[66] In the same time period, the Baptist “Dr. Webb . . . [b]eing filled with the Spirit . . . preached with much power.”[67] B. H. Carroll, Baptist pastor, professor of theology and Bible at Baylor University and Seminary from 1872-1905 and professor and president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1908-1914, wrote: “[In Ephesians] 5:18 . . . [t]here are two kinds of intoxication, one of wine and one of the Holy Spirit. I have seen people under the intoxication of the Spirit. . . . Whenever we want to be stimulated, we should go off and pray. As we are infilled with the Spirit, we become enthusiastic; a divine afflatus rests upon us, enabling us to think thoughts that breathe, to speak words that burn and to sing songs that have more convincing power than the sermon. That is spiritual intoxication.”[68] Modern Baptists should follow the godly example of their forefathers and continue to preach and experience the glorious truth of Spirit filling today.

The command, “be filled with the Spirit,” and the fact that God deigns to fill His people with the Spirit, should drastically change your life. Be amazed, oh heavens, and be awestruck, oh earth—the infinite God—the high and holy One who inhabits eternity—wishes for men to partake of Himself! He blesses His people with all spiritual blessings now, works all things together for their good, and guarantees them the infinite happiness of an eternity with Him, and He wills that they know His special presence even while, sinners though they are, they walk upon this fallen and rebellious earth. Indeed, He not only makes His fulness available to them, but positively enjoins them to be full of His presence, to be filled with His Spirit and the fulness of God. Who would refuse this? What awful evil it is to not be filled with the Spirit! Is it not immeasurable ingratitude, stubbornness, pride, rebellion, and wickedness to refuse to be filled with the Spirit? Is it not to exalt one’s self and own way against God, and by preferring self and sin to God and His presence, an act of the most awful idolatry and creature worship? What crimes are these that you have committed, oh Christian, by your refusal, so often, to be filled with the Spirit? And how great is your sin of not pursuing an ever greater fulness of the Spirit and the Triune God! Why are you not much further along than you are now? Why is your communion with Him and knowledge of His presence so miserably feeble? Will you not, in tears, greatly humble yourself and seek to be filled with the Spirit? For—despite all your crimes—your Triune God yet loves you with an infinite and unchangeable love, and still offers and bids you to be filled with the Spirit and the fulness of God. His provision has not been taken away, but is provided for you still.

You should diligently search your heart and be sure that you are right with God, so that you can enjoy the wonderful provision of being filled with the Spirit, as commanded in Ephesians 5:18. Since Spirit filling results in Spirit control, you should also detest and flee from alcohol and any and every other thing that would displace the control of the Lord the Spirit from mind-controlling video media, to worldly and fleshly contemporary “Christian” music, to the false spirits and false, mindless, fanatical, Spirit-quenching worship associated with Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. Do you want the Spirit of God, or the spirits of devils? Be filled with the Spirit, and reject with horror such productions of evil spirits. Do not be decived by whatever high talk of the Spirit such pseudo-Christianity employs. Do not let anything contest the control of the Holy Spirit over your life. You must not only abstain from consuming wine yourself, but abstain from selling, commending, or giving it to others (Habakkuk 2:15), and rather warn about its evil nature, as a substance that has within its very nature riotousness and wickedness. Be wise, and understand the will of the Lord. Abstain from beginning the process that leads to drunkeness, and be filled with the Spirit.

Furthermore, you should trust the Lord for supernatural enablement to boldy preach the gospel and engage in spiritual work in general. Be filled with the Spirit, both as a mark of your Christian life, and also by being empowered for His specific assistance in the advancement of the Kingdom. Will you seek to defeat the world, the flesh, and the devil in your own strength? Pray for boldness, and trust God to give you the special enablement of the Holy Ghost as you open your mouth to pointedly preach the Word, fearing God alone, not man (Acts 4:31). Do not fear persecution and opposition—rather, rejoice if you are counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s name (Acts 5:41). Do not disobey God and fail to boldly confess Christ (Matthew 10:32) because of what appears to be insuperable hardship. Do not those who have stood firm in such trials tell you that they enjoyed the special presence of the Lord with them at that time? Did they not tell you that they experienced the blessed reality of the special guidance of the Holy Ghost (Mark 13:11)? Indeed, if you have endured such tribulations yourself, do you not know by experience how wonderfully true the special presence of the Spirit is? Will you miss such a glorious blessing out of fear of mortal men?

What is more, let those in particular who are pastors and teachers recognize the absolute necessity of Spirit filling and enablement for their successful ministry. The souls of Christ’s flock, those of countless unconverted people, and the future of the kingdom of God advances or falls as the ministers of Christ either have or lack a Spirit-empowered ministry. The stakes are incomprehensibly high. A pastor who is not Spirit-filled is an awful spiritual disaster. Oh Christian worker, oh man of God, called to preach the Word and the gospel of Christ—will you not, of all men, be filled with the Spirit?

Furthermore, a pastor who is filled and thus empowered will boldly preach all the truth, emphasizing the specific sins of those in his audience (John 7:26; Acts 2:36-37; 4:1-13; 7:51-55). He will not hold back for pragmatic considerations, or out of the fear of man. He will not tickle ears, but will be able to testify of himself what was true of Christ: “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:9-10). The truly Spirit-filled preacher will not conceal or refrain from setting forth one tittle of God’s truth.

Finally, treasure the church—the congregation of Christ, His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. God has not designed you to be filled with the Spirit and grow in experiencing the special presence of the Trinity on your own (Ephesians 5:19-21). The fulness of Christ’s presence is not experienced by listening to a preacher on T. V. or on the radio, by attending a parachurch Bible study, or by attending the services of a denominational system other than the church Christ started in the first century. No, Christ’s temple—the place where His glory is especially manifested and His presence known—is your local, visible, Bible-believing and practicing Baptist church. Are there some people there who are harder to get along with than others? It is no matter—Jesus is there in a special way. Are the leaders, although admittedly godly and spiritually qualified men (1 Timothy 3), less than perfect? So were the Apostles themselves—fit into the church, and let Christ nourish and strengthen you as Head of His body, the assembly (Ephesians 4:15-17; Colossians 2:19). You have the glorious privilege and command of being filled with the Spirit—fulfill your personal and corporate responsibility, that it might be so.


[1]           kai« mh\ mequ/skesqe oi¶nwˆ, e˙n wˆ— e˙sti«n aÓswti÷a, aÓlla» plhrouvsqe e˙n Pneu/mati,

[2]           For the possible background of the command of Ephesians 5:18a in the pagan worship of Dionysius, see “The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18,” Cleon L. Rodgers, Jr., Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July 1979) 249-258.

[3]           As BDAG notes, mequ/skw is the “causal [form] of mequ/w,” to be drunk, and signifies “to cause to become intoxicated,” a process that begins with the first sip of an alcoholic beverage. A number of texts in the NT, LXX, and other Koiné writings are consistent with mequ/skw involving the process of becoming drunk in addition to the state of drunkenness itself. Note, e. g., the three present infinitives in Luke 12:45; also Proverbs 4:17; 23:21, LXX; in the Apocrypha, Sirach 1:16; 32:13; also Josephus, War 2:29 (; Sibyl 7:18-21; however, compare also Philo, Alleg 2:29; in favor of moderate drinking, note the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Judah 14:1-8.

[4]           While this is the teaching of Ephesians 5:18, it is not affirmed that to avoid mequ/skw Koiné speakers of Greek universally understood the verb as requiring total abstinence from alcohol.

[5]           Note Proverbs 23:31, LXX: mh\ mequ/skesqe oi¶nwˆ aÓlla» oJmilei√te aÓnqrw¿poiß dikai÷oiß kai« oJmilei√te e˙n peripa¿toiß e˙a»n ga»r ei˙ß ta»ß fia¿laß kai« ta» poth/ria dw◊ˆß tou\ß ojfqalmou/ß sou u¢steron peripath/seiß gumno/teroß uJpe÷rou Be not drunk with wine; but converse with just men, and converse with them openly.

[6]           See pgs. 368ff., The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Robert Teachout (Th. D. Diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979; elec. acc., for clear examples from classical and Koiné Greek where oinos is an unfermented beverage, contra BDAG. Teachout provides a powerful exegetical defense of the view that Biblical “wine” could be either unfermented or fermented and that Scripture requires total abstinence.

[7]           Thus, Bailey’s New Universal English Dictionary of Words, and of Arts and Sciences (1730) stated: “Natural wine, is such as it comes from the grape, without any mixture or sophistication.” (pg. 658).Juice does not come “from the grape” fermented. Thus, wine had the meaning of unfermented, as well as fermented grape juice. Likewise, John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum, or A General English Dictionary (1708) declared: “Wine [is] a Liquor made of the Juice of Grapes, or other fruit. Liquor or Liquour, anything that is liquid: Drink, Juice, etc. Must, sweet Wine, newly press’d from the grape.” Wine was made of the juice of grapes and must is defined as “sweet wine, newly pressed from the grape.” Further, B. N. Defoe’s A Complete English Dictionary (1735) defined: “WINE, a Liquor made of the Juice of Grapes or other fruit. LIQUOR, anything that is liquid: Drink, Juice, Water, &c.” Wine was not defined as fermented drink, but simply “the juice of grapes.” Benjamin Martin’s Lingua Brittanica Reformata, or A New English Dictionary (1748) stated: “WINE, 1. the juice of the grape. 2. a liquor extracted from other fruits besides the grape. 3. the vapours of wine, as wine disturbs his reason. LIQUOR, or LIQUOUR, any liquid thing, as water, juice, drink, etc.” (pg. 1045).

The translators of the KJV, by uniformly rendering the Greek word oinos as wine, replicated the Greek word’s reference to both fermented and unfermented juice with an English word that, in their day, was similarly general in reference.

[8]           John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! ei•den oJ ∆Ihsouvß to\n Naqanah\l e˙rco/menon pro\ß aujto/n, kai« le÷gei peri« aujtouv, ⁄Ide aÓlhqw◊ß ∆Israhli÷thß, e˙n wˆ— do/loß oujk e¶sti.

Acts 19:16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

kai« e˙fallo/menoß e˙p∆ aujtou\ß oJ a‡nqrwpoß e˙n wˆ— h™n to\ pneuvma to\ ponhro/n, kai« katakurieu/saß aujtw◊n, i¶scuse kat∆ aujtw◊n, w‚ste gumnou\ß kai« tetraumatisme÷nouß e˙kfugei√n e˙k touv oi¶kou e˙kei÷nou.

[9]           Genesis 7:15: went in to Noe into the ark, pairs, male and female of all flesh in which is the breath of life.

Gen. 7:15 ei˙shvlqon pro\ß Nwe ei˙ß th\n kibwto/n du/o du/o aÓpo\ pa¿shß sarko/ß e˙n w—ˆ e˙stin pneuvma zwhvß

Deut 17:1 Thou shalt not sacrifice to the Lord thy God a calf or a sheep, in which there is a blemish, or any evil thing; for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God.

ouj qu/seiß kuri÷wˆ tw◊ˆ qew◊ˆ sou mo/scon h· pro/baton e˙n w—ˆ e˙stin e˙n aujtw◊ˆ mw◊moß pa◊n rJhvma ponhro/n o¢ti bde÷lugma kuri÷wˆ tw◊ˆ qew◊ˆ sou/ e˙stin

Jer 23:28 The prophet who has a dream, let him tell his dream; and he in whom is my word spoken to him, let him tell my word truly: what is the chaff to the corn? so are my words, saith the Lord.

oJ profh/thß e˙n w—ˆ to\ e˙nu/pnio/n e˙stin dihghsa¿sqw to\ e˙nu/pnion aujtouv kai« e˙n w—ˆ oJ lo/goß mou pro\ß aujto/n dihghsa¿sqw to\n lo/gon mou e˙p∆ aÓlhqei÷aß ti÷ to\ a‡curon pro\ß to\n si√ton ou¢twß oi˚ lo/goi mou le÷gei ku/rioß

Eze 24:6 Therefore thus saith the Lord; O bloody city, the caldron in which there is scum, and the scum has not gone out of, she has brought it forth piece by piece, no lot has fallen upon it.

dia» touvto ta¿de le÷gei ku/rioß w° po/liß ai˚ma¿twn le÷bhß e˙n w—ˆ e˙stin i˙o\ß e˙n aujtw◊ˆ kai« oJ i˙o\ß oujk e˙xhvlqen e˙x aujthvß kata» me÷loß aujthvß e˙xh/negken oujk e¶pesen e˙p∆ aujth\n klhvroß

Judith 5:23 For, say they, we will not be afraid of the face of the children of Israel: for, lo, it is a people that have no strength nor power for a strong battle

Judith 5:23 ouj ga»r fobhqhso/meqa aÓpo\ ui˚w◊n Israhl i˙dou\ ga»r lao\ß e˙n w—ˆ oujk e¶stin du/namiß oujde« kra¿toß ei˙ß para¿taxin i˙scura¿n

Dan. 14:21 Then the king was enraged, and he seized the priests and their wives and children; and they showed him the secret doors through which they were accustomed to enter and devour what was on the table. [note here there is some difference between the RSV Apocrypha translation given and the LXX text below]

Dan. 14:21 kai« e˙phvlqen e˙pi« to\n oi•kon e˙n w—ˆ h™san oi˚ i˚erei√ß katagino/menoi kai« eu∞re ta» brw¿mata touv Bhl kai« to\n oi•non kai« e˙pe÷deixe Danihl tw◊ˆ basilei√ ta» yeudoqu/ria di∆ w—n ei˙sporeuo/menoi oi˚ i˚erei√ß e˙dapa¿nwn ta» paratiqe÷mena tw◊ˆ Bhl

[10]         Josephus, Contra Apion 1:198 (1.22.198) There is about the middle of the city, a wall of stone, the length of which is five hundred feet, and the breadth a hundred cubits, with double cloisters; wherein there is a square altar, not made of hewn stone, but composed of white stones gathered together, having each side twenty cubits long, and its altitude ten cubits. Hard by it is a large edifice, wherein there is an altar and a candlestick, both of gold, and in weight two talents; e˙ntauvqa d∆ e˙sti« kata» me÷son ma¿lista thvß po/lewß peri÷boloß li÷qinoß mhvkoß wJß penta¿pleqroß eu™roß de« phcw◊n rá e¶cwn dipla◊ß pu/laß e˙n wˆ— bwmo/ß e˙sti tetra¿gwnoß aÓtmh/twn sulle÷ktwn aÓrgw◊n li÷qwn ou¢twß sugkei÷menoß pleura»n me«n e˚ka¿sthn ei¶kosi phcw◊n u¢yoß de« deka¿phcu kai« par∆ aujto\n oi¶khma me÷ga ou∞ bwmo/ß e˙sti kai« lucni÷on aÓmfo/tera crusa◊ du/o ta¿lanta th\n oJlkh/n

Philo: Alleg 3:4 And let us in the next place consider how any one is said to be concealed from God; but unless any one receives this as an allegorical saying it would be impossible to comprehend what is here stated. For God has completed everything and has penetrated every thing, and has left no one of all his works empty or deserted. What kind of place then can any one occupy in which God is not? And Moses testifies to this in other passages, when he says, “God is in the heaven above, and in the earth beneath; and there is nothing anywhere but he.”4 And in another place he speaks in this manner, “I stood here before you did.”5 For God is of older date than any created being, and he will be everywhere, so that it cannot be possible for any one to be concealed from him: and what need we wonder at?

Leg 3:4 i¶dwmen de« e˚xhvß, pw◊ß kai« aÓpokru/ptesqai tiß qeo\n le÷getai. ei˙ de« mh\ aÓllhgorh/seie÷ tiß, aÓdu/naton parade÷xasqai to\ prokei÷menon: pa¿nta ga»r peplh/rwken oJ qeo\ß kai« dia» pa¿ntwn dielh/luqen kai« keno\n oujde«n oujde« e¶rhmon aÓpole÷loipen e˚autouv. poi√on dh/ tiß to/pon e˙fe÷xei, e˙n w—ˆ oujci« qeo/ß e˙sti; marturei√ de« kai« e˙n e˚te÷roiß le÷gwn: “oJ qeo\ß e˙n twˆ◊ oujranwˆ◊ a‡nw kai« e˙pi« thvß ghvß ka¿tw, kai« oujk e¶stin e¶ti plh\n aujtouv.” kai« pa¿lin: “w—de eºsthka pro\ touv se÷:” pro\ ga»r panto\ß genhtouv oJ qeo/ß e˙sti, kai« euJri÷sketai pantacouv, w‚ste oujk a·n du/naito/ tiß aÓpokru/ptesqai

Laws 3:60          And when all these things are previously prepared, the woman with her head uncovered, bearing the barley flour in her hand, as has been already specified, shall come forward; and the priest standing opposite to her and holding the earthenware vessel in which are the water and the earth, shall speak thus:

Spec 3:60 tou/twn de« proeutrepisqe÷ntwn hJ me«n aÓkatakalu/ptwˆ thØv kefalhØv to\ kri÷qinon a‡leuron komi÷zousa, kaqa¿per e˙le÷cqh, pari÷tw, oJ de« i˚ereu\ß aÓntikru\ to\ kerameouvn aÓggei√on, e˙n w—ˆ u¢dwr e˙sti« kai« ghv, aÓntikru\ sta»ß e˙pilege÷tw ta¿de:

[11]        Tertullian, On Modesty 17, cited pg. 163, Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages, by Samuele Bacchiocchi. Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 2001. Compare also Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book V:18: “(The apostle says further:) “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess,” — a precept which is suggested by the passage (of the prophet), where the seducers of the consecrated (Nazarites) to drunkenness are rebuked: “Ye gave wine to my holy ones to drink.” This prohibition from drink was given also to the high priest Aaron and his sons, “when they went into the holy place.”

[12]        To Eustochium, Letter 108, Jerome.

[13]         Note the contrast between the accusation that the Spirit-filled believers in Acts 2 were filled with wine and the fact that they were actually filled with the Spirit, although the verb in Acts 2:13 for the filling with wine is notplhro/w but mesto/w. Note also Luke 1:15.

The Greeks likewise spoke of being “filled with wine” (cf. “e˙ß a‡ggoß … βακχίου μέτρημα πληρώσαντεςhaving poured wine into the vessel till it was full, E.IT954,” pleroo, Liddell-Scott). Compare Jeremiah 13:13 (LXX): kai« e˙rei√ß pro\ß aujtou/ß ta¿de le÷gei ku/rioß i˙dou\ e˙gw» plhrw◊ tou\ß katoikouvntaß th\n ghvn tau/thn kai« tou\ß basilei√ß aujtw◊n tou\ß kaqhme÷nouß ui˚ou\ß Dauid e˙pi« qro/nou aujtouv kai« tou\ß i˚erei√ß kai« tou\ß profh/taß kai« to\n Ioudan kai« pa¿ntaß tou\ß katoikouvntaß Ierousalhm mequ/smati, “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will fill [in judgment] the inhabitants of this land, and their kings the sons of David that sit upon their throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and Juda and all the dwellers in Jerusalem, with strong drink.”

[14]         plhro/w, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Henry Thayer. Compare BDAG.

[15]         plhro/w, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittel, Bromiley, Friedrich.

[16]         “plhro/w also implies that a man is completely controlled and stamped by the powers which fill him[.] . . . There is in the term a strong element of exclusiveness or totality. The joy, knowledge etc. which fill the Christian shape his whole existence and imperiously claim his whole being” (plhro/w, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittel, Bromiley, Friedrich).

[17]         ei•pe de« Pe÷troß ∆Anani÷a, diati÷ e˙plh/rwsen oJ Satana◊ß th\n kardi÷an sou, yeu/sasqai÷ se« to\ Pneuvma to\ ›Agion kai« nosfi÷sasqai aÓpo\ thvß timhvß touv cwri÷ou;

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

[18]         But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. aÓll∆ o¢ti tauvta lela¿lhka uJmi√n, hJ lu/ph peplh/rwken uJmw◊n th\n kardi÷an.

[19]         touvto ponhro\n e˙n panti« pepoihme÷nwˆ uJpo\ to\n h¢lion o¢ti suna¿nthma e≠n toi√ß pa◊sin kai÷ ge kardi÷a ui˚w◊n touv aÓnqrw¿pou e˙plhrw¿qh ponhrouv kai« perife÷reia e˙n kardi÷aˆ aujtw◊n e˙n zwhvØ aujtw◊n kai« ojpi÷sw aujtw◊n pro\ß tou\ß nekrou/ß. There is this evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one event to all: yea, the heart of the sons of men is filled with evil, and madness is in their heart during their life, and after that they go to the dead.

[20]         The complete list of NT texts is: Matthew 22:10; 27:48; Luke 1:15, 23, 41, 57, 67; 2:6, 21–22; 4:28; 5:7, 26; 6:11; John 19:29; Acts 2:4; 3:10; 4:8, 31; 5:17; 9:17; 13:9, 45; 19:29.

[21]         The complete list of texts is: Matthew 14:20; 15:37; Mark 4:28; 6:43; 8:19; Luke 4:1; 5:12; John 1:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 8; 7:55; 9:36; 11:24; 13:10; 19:28; 2 John 1:8.

[22]        Pgs. 374-5, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace. Cf. pg. 94. Wallace neglects to mention on these pages (although he discusses the category of dative of content on pg. 170) that plhro/w + a simple dative is used for content in Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 7:4. These examples, furthermore, are actually in Paul’s writings, like Ephesians 5:18, and so they are more relevant syntactically than the examples in Luke-Acts for the syntax of Ephesians 5:18. Interestingly, Wallace himself translates Ephesians 5:18b as “be filled with the Spirit” on pg. 441 of his Grammar, despite his extensive argumentation elsewhere in his book that such a translation is incorrect.

[23]         “Filling of the Holy Spirit,” Dr. William W. Combs, Detroit Baptist Seminary lecture, Mid-America Conference on Preaching 2003 “The Ministry of the Holy Spirit,”

[24]         Cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, pg. 170.

[25]         Pg. 375, Wallace, Greek Grammar.

[26]         Compare the conclusion of the Word Biblical Commentary on Ephesians 5:18: “Believers are to be filled by the Spirit and thus also filled with the Spirit.”

[27]         plhro/w possesses the “fulfilled” idea from the idea of something being completely filled or completed; the step from being completed to being fulfilled was small.

[28]         o¢ti e˙n aujtwˆ◊ katoikei√ pa◊n to\ plh/rwma thvß qeo/thtoß swmatikw◊ß, kai« e˙ste e˙n aujtwˆ◊ peplhrwme÷noi, o¢ß e˙stin hJ kefalh\ pa¿shß aÓrchvß kai« e˙xousi÷aß; For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.

[29]         See pg. 170, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace.

[30]        In the words of the Expositor’s Greek Testament (ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, vol. 3. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, reprint ed., pgs. 362-363—some editing below in brackets):

In NT Greek . . . verbs that are followed by the simple dative sometimes vary it by a prepositional form, e. g., [u¢dati bapti÷zw](Luke iii. 16) and e˙n u¢dati (Matt. iii:11), panti« tro/pwˆ (Phil i. 18) and e˙n panti« tro/pwˆ (2 Thess ii[i]. 16), etc.; and the formula plhrouvn or plhrouvsqai e˙n is not wholly without analogy; cf. touv pa¿nta e˙n pa◊si plhroume÷nou, [Eph] i. 23 above; and [peplhrwme÷noi] e˙n panti« qelh/mati touv Qeouv [Note: the CT has eliminated the plhro/w in this verse] Col iv. 12, ,]” . . . The e˙n may be taken, therefore, as the instrumental, and the sense will be “filled with or by the Spirit.” Some (e. g., Ell., Alf.) . . . combine the ideas of in and by, supposing the unusual phrase to be chosen with a view to convey the fact that the Holy Spirit is not only the instrument by which the Christian man is filled, but that also in which he is so filled.”

[31]         The article on plhro/w in the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament likewise renders Ephesians 5:18b as “filled with the Spirit,” while the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes: “pληρόω e˙n == “with” . . . is also attested,” citing as support BDF §172.

[32]         Thus, note Chrysostom, Homily XIX on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians:

“But be filled,” says [Paul], “with the Spirit.”

And is then this Spirit within us? Yes, indeed, within us. For when we have driven away lying, and bitterness, and fornication, and uncleanness, and covetousness, from our souls, when we are become kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, when there is no jesting, when we have rendered ourselves worthy of it, what is there to hinder the Holy Spirit from coming and lighting upon us? And not only will He come unto us, but He will fill our hearts; and when we have so great a light kindled within us, then will the way of virtue be no longer difficult to attain, but will be easy and simple.

It would have been very surprising to patristics such as Chrysostom or Ignatius to discover that although they preached, taught, wrote, spoke, and thought in Greek, they did not have enough understanding of Greek syntax to know what modern English thinking and speaking critics of being filled with the Spirit know, namely, that plhro/w + e˙n does not indicate content.

[33]         “Filling of the Holy Spirit,” Dr. Combs, Detroit Baptist Seminary lecture, Mid-America Conference on Preaching 2003 “The Ministry of the Holy Spirit,”

[34]         Consider, in this regard, the imagery in Ephesians of the church as the “an holy temple in the Lord” in whom the individual members of the congregation “are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22, e˙n wˆ— pa◊sa hJ oi˙kodomh\ sunarmologoume÷nh au¡xei ei˙ß nao\n a‚gion e˙n Kuri÷wˆ, e˙n wˆ— kai« uJmei√ß sunoikodomei√sqe ei˙ß katoikhth/rion touv Qeouv e˙n Pneu/mati.). In keeping with the New Testment picture of both indivdual believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and the corporate congregation (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 3:15) as the temple of the Triune God, including God the Spirit, consider the Old Testament language of Jehovah “filling” His institution of worship, whether the tabernacle, the Solomonic temple, or the coming Millennial temple, with His special presence (Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 7:1-2; Ezekiel 10:4; 43:5; 44:4; cf. also Haggai 2:7, where the temple of Herod would have the presence of the God-Man, Christ within it, and thus be filled with the glory of God). The Old Testament predicted also the eschatological filling of the whole earth with Jehovah’s special presence (cf. Numbers 14:21; Psalm 72:19; Isaiah 6:3; 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14), as Ephesians indicates that “in the dispensation of the fulness of times [God the Father will] gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).

[35]         Thus, note the corporate aspect of Ephesians 5:19-21. However, Spirit filling does not affect actions in the congregation only, but also proper fulfillment of other roles in life by individuals as fathers, wives, children, masters, and servants (Ephesians 5:22-6:9).

[36]         Contrast the aorist imperatives in Matthew 22:32, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” (kai« uJmei√ß plhrw¿sate to\ me÷tron tw◊n pate÷rwn uJmw◊n), which the Jews did by their single culminating act of rebellion in crucifying the incarnate Messiah; cf. also Philippians 2:2, plhrw¿sate÷ mou th\n cara¿n. There are no present imperatives of plhro/w besides Ephesians 5:18 in the New Testament, while only one present imperative (in the active voice) is found in the LXX (Jeremiah 51:11/28:11) along with a handful of aorist imperatives (Genesis 1:22, 28; 9:1, 7; Psalm 70:8; 82:17).

The mh\ mequ/skesqe of Ephesians 5:18a is also certainly a customary present imperative indicating a general precept—Christians are not to be getting drunk, and are to do so by totally abstaining from alcohol—although entire freedom from control by wine is certainly possible in this life in a way that being filled to the uttermost extent with the Spirit is not in this life (cf. Galatians 5:17), while predominant fulness and control and a state of being progressively filled is the current blessedness of all sincere and upright Christians.

[37]         And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. oi˚ de« maqhtai« e˙plhrouvnto cara◊ß kai« Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou.

[38]         13 oJ de« Qeo\ß thvß e˙lpi÷doß plhrw◊sai uJma◊ß pa¿shß cara◊ß kai« ei˙rh/nhß e˙n twˆ◊ pisteu/ein, ei˙ß to\ perisseu/ein uJma◊ß e˙n thØv e˙lpi÷di, e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou. 14 Pe÷peismai de÷, aÓdelfoi÷ mou, kai« aujto\ß e˙gw» peri« uJmw◊n, o¢ti kai« aujtoi« mestoi÷ e˙ste aÓgaqwsu/nhß, peplhrwme÷noi pa¿shß gnw¿sewß, duna¿menoi kai« aÓllh/louß nouqetei√n. (Romans 15:13-14)

[39]         9 kai« touvto proseu/comai, iºna hJ aÓga¿ph uJmw◊n e¶ti ma◊llon kai« ma◊llon perisseu/hØ e˙n e˙pignw¿sei kai« pa¿shØ ai˙sqh/sei, 10 ei˙ß to\ dokima¿zein uJma◊ß ta» diafe÷ronta, iºna h™te ei˙likrinei√ß kai« aÓpro/skopoi ei˙ß hJme÷ran Cristouv, 11 peplhrwme÷noi karpw◊n dikaiosu/nhß tw◊n dia» ∆Ihsouv Cristouv, ei˙ß do/xan kai« e¶painon Qeouv.

[40]         Dia» touvto kai« hJmei√ß, aÓf∆ h∞ß hJme÷raß hjkou/samen, ouj pauo/meqa uJpe«r uJmw◊n proseuco/menoi, kai« ai˙tou/menoi iºna plhrwqhvte th\n e˙pi÷gnwsin touv qelh/matoß aujtouv e˙n pa¿shØ sofi÷aˆ kai« sune÷sei pneumatikhØv, 10 peripathvsai uJma◊ß aÓxi÷wß touv Kuri÷ou ei˙ß pa◊san aÓreskei÷an, e˙n panti« e¶rgwˆ aÓgaqwˆ◊ karpoforouvnteß kai« aujxano/menoi ei˙ß th\n e˙pi÷gnwsin touv Qeouv:

[41]         o¢ti e˙n aujtwˆ◊ katoikei√ pa◊n to\ plh/rwma thvß qeo/thtoß swmatikw◊ß, kai« e˙ste e˙n aujtwˆ◊ peplhrwme÷noi.

[42]         peplhrwme÷nouß pa¿shØ aÓdiki÷aˆ, pornei÷aˆ, ponhri÷aˆ, pleonexi÷aˆ, kaki÷aˆ: mestou\ß fqo/nou, fo/nou, e¶ridoß, do/lou, kakohqei÷aß: yiqurista¿ß,

[43]         The noun plh/rhß, instead of the verb plhro/w (Ephesians 5:18; Acts 13:52), is employed in Luke 4:1; Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24.

[44]         Acts 7:55 appears to involve the close presence of the Spirit that led the martyr to boldly preach the Word (Acts 7) so that the Spirit cut Stephen’s hearers to the heart (7:54), as well as the Spirit’s giving Stephen his dying vision of the exalted Christ, in addition to his generally being full of faith and the Spirit in his daily life (Acts 6:5).

[45]         Compare 2 Kings 4:4 (LXX): kai« ei˙seleu/shØ kai« aÓpoklei÷seiß th\n qu/ran kata» souv kai« kata» tw◊n ui˚w◊n sou kai« aÓpoceei√ß ei˙ß ta» skeu/h tauvta kai« to\ plhrwqe«n aÓrei√ß, “And thou shalt go in and shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and thou shalt pour forth into these vessels, and remove that which is filled.”

[46]         Compare Romans 15:29; Paul did not just want to come to the Romans in the indubitable “the blessing of the gospel of Christ,” but in “the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, e˙n plhrw¿mati eujlogi÷aß touv eujaggeli÷ou touv Cristouv e˙leu/somai.

[47]         plh/rhß ca¿ritoß kai« aÓlhqei÷aß.

[48]         o§n ga»r aÓpe÷steilen oJ Qeo/ß, ta» rJh/mata touv Qeouv lalei√: ouj ga»r e˙k me÷trou di÷dwsin oJ Qeo\ß to\ Pneuvma.

[49]         kai« e˙k touv plhrw¿matoß aujtouv hJmei√ß pa¿nteß e˙la¿bomen, kai« ca¿rin aÓnti« ca¿ritoß.

[50]         o¢ti e˙n aujtwˆ◊ eujdo/khse pa◊n to\ plh/rwma katoikhvsai . . . o¢ti e˙n aujtwˆ◊ katoikei√ pa◊n to\ plh/rwma thvß qeo/thtoß swmatikw◊ß, kai« e˙ste e˙n aujtwˆ◊ peplhrwme÷noi.

[51]         “[F]aith is . . . living and active . . . which immediately appropriates the whole Christ. It can indeed increase and grow in that appropriation, but it nevertheless always has for its object the whole Christ and can never isolate him from his benefits nor can it isolate one benefit from the others. Sanctification, accordingly, both from the divine and the human side, is an organic process. The more Christ indwells us, the more we are strengthened in faith; and the more our faith increases, the more Christ communicates himself to us” (pg. 264, Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavink, vol. 4).

[52]         plhrwqhvte ei˙ß pa◊n to\ plh/rwma touv Qeouv.

[53]         “The mediatorial kingdom may be defined . . . as the rule of God through a divinely chosen representative who not only speaks and acts for God but also represents the people before God; a rule which has especial reference to the human race (although it finally embraces the universe); and its mediatorial ruler is always a member of the human race” (“The Greatness of the Kingdom,” Part I, Alva J. McClain, Bibliotheca Sacra 112:445 (Jan 1955) p. 18). In the eternal state, “When the last enemy is put down by our Lord as the mediatorial king, when even death itself is abolished and complete harmony is established, then the purpose of his mediatorial kingdom will have been fulfilled. Then the Son will deliver up his kingdom to God the Father, to be merged into the eternal kingdom, thus being perpetuated forever, but no longer as a separate entity (1 Cor 15:24–28). This does not mean the end of the rule of our Lord Jesus Christ. He only ceases to reign as the mediatorial King in history. But as the only begotten Son, very God of very God, He shares with the other Persons of the Triune God the throne of the eternal kingdom. In that final and eternal city of God, center of a redeemed new heaven and earth, there is but one throne. It is called. ‘the throne of God and of the Lamb’ (Rev 22:3–5)” (“The Greatness of the Kingdom, Part IV: The Mediatorial Kingdom from the Acts Period to the Eternal State,” McClain, Bibliotheca Sacra 112:448 (Oct 55) p. 310]. The four parts of McClain’s series on the Kingdom in Bibliotheca Sacra (12:445 (Jan 55) p. 11-27; 112:446 (Apr 55) p. 107-124; 112:447 (Jul 55) p. 209-224; 112:448 (Oct 55) p. 304-311) are very helpful in understanding the concept of the mediatorial kingdom and its distinction from the eternal kingdom of God.

John Darby comments:

When He has put all His enemies under His feet, and has given back the kingdom to His Father (for it is never taken from Him, nor given to another, as happens with human kingdoms), then the Son Himself is subject to Him who has put all things under Him, in order that God may be all in all. The reader should observe, that it is the counsels of God with regard to the government of all things which is here spoken of, and not His nature; and moreover it is the Son, as man, of whom these things are said. This is not an arbitrary explanation: the passage is from Psalm 8, the subject of which is the exaltation of man to the position of head of all things, God putting all things under His feet. Nothing, says the apostle, is excepted (Hebrews 2:8) save, as he adds here, that He is necessarily excepted who put all things under Him. When the man Christ, the Son of God, has in fact accomplished this subjugation, He gives back to God the universal power which had been committed to Him, and the mediatorial kingdom, which He held as man, ceases. He is again subject, as He was on earth. He does not cease to be one with the Father, even as He was so while living in humiliation on the earth, although saying at the same time “Before Abraham was, I am.” But the mediatorial government of man has disappeared — is absorbed in the supremacy of God, to which there is no longer any opposition. Christ will take His eternal place, a Man, the Head of the whole redeemed family, being at the same time God blessed for ever, one with the Father. In Psalm 2 we see the Son of God, as born on earth, King in Zion, rejected when He presented Himself on earth; in Psalm 8 the result of His rejection, exalted as Son of man at the head of all that the hand of God has made. Then we find Him here laying down this conferred authority, and resuming the normal position of humanity, namely, that of subjection to Him who has put all things under Him; but through it all, never changing His divine nature, nor — save so far as exchanging humiliation for glory — His human nature either. But God is now all in all, and the special government of man in the Person of Jesus — a government with which the assembly is associated (see Ephesians 1:20-23, which is a quotation from the same Psalm) is merged in the immutable supremacy of God, the final and normal relationship of God with His creature. We shall find the Lamb omitted in that which is said in Revelation 21:1-8, speaking of this same period.

Thus we find in this passage [1 Corinthians 15] resurrection by man — death having entered by man; the relationship of the saints with Jesus, the source and the power of life, the consequence being His resurrection, and theirs at His coming; power over all things committed to Christ, the risen Man; afterwards the kingdom given back to God the Father, the tabernacle of God with men, and the man Christ, the second Adam, eternally a man subject to the Supreme — this last a truth of infinite value to us (the resurrection of the wicked, though supposed in the resurrection brought in by Christ, not being the direct subject of the chapter). (Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, part 2; the New Testament; comments on 1 Corinthians, pgs. 46-49 (598ff.); elec. acc. in Christian Library Series, vol. 15: Classic Commentary Collection, AGES Library, Rio, WI: 2006)

[54]         oJ kataba¿ß, aujto/ß e˙sti kai« oJ aÓnaba»ß uJpera¿nw pa¿ntwn tw◊n oujranw◊n, iºna plhrw¿shØ ta» pa¿nta). The “filling all things” of Ephesians 4:10 relates to Christ’s victory and rule over creation in His mediatorial kingdom as He puts all enemies beneath His feet and spreads the reign of God throughout the whole creation, and thus fills the creation with the special Divine presence and blessing, bringing it to its fulfillment and completion in God through Christ.

[55]         Since justifying faith is a prerequisite to Scriptural baptism, no unregenerate person is truly a church member, even if he has been dipped in water upon profession of his (spurious) faith, and so only regenerate persons are genuinely part of the body of Christ.

[56]         thØv e˙kklhsi÷aˆ, h¢tiß e˙sti« to\ sw◊ma aujtouv, to\ plh/rwma touv pa¿nta e˙n pa◊si plhroume÷nou.

[57]         That is, pi÷mplhmi.

[58]         The relevant Old Testament passages employ the verb aElDm in conjunction with Aj…wr.

[59]         Micah 3:8 is similar to the passages in the text; however, in it the prophet does not specifically affirm that he is filled with the Spirit, but filled with power by means of the Spirit.

[60]         Thus, the participles lalouvnteß, eujcaristouvnteß, and uJpotasso/menoi of 5:19-21 are dependent upon the plhrouvsqe of 5:18, and the teaching of 5:22-6:9 is connected by the uJpota¿ssesqe of 5:22 with the uJpotasso/menoi of 5:21, so that the entire passage flows out of the plhrouvsqe e˙n Pneu/mati of 5:18. Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is not introduced by a conjunction, as are previous divisions of Ephesians back to 1:3, supporting the continuitiy of thought of 5:22-6:9 with the requirement and development of walking in wisdom in 5:15-19.

[61]         Compare Ephesians 5:18, 20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 19: “be filled with the Spirit . . . giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”/“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.” Quenching the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit are opposites.

[62]         Thus, e˙noike÷w is found in Colossians 3:16; Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Corinthians 6:16. All believers are indwelt, but not all have the Godhead’s presence “richly,” even as all believers have the Word of Christ in them (cf. John 5:38), but not all let it dwell in them richly (Colossians 3:16). The rich presence of the indwelling Trinity will also produce a believer having “unfeigned faith” dwelling in him (2 Timothy 1:5, the final e˙noike÷w text in the NT).

[63]         Pg. 107, Chapter 13, Baptist Church Perpetuity, W. A. Jarrel. Elec. acc. Baptist History Collection, ver. 1. Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005.

[64]         Pgs. 232-233, Records of the Churches of Christ, by Edward B. Underhill. Elec. acc. Baptist History Collection, ver. 1. Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005.

[65]         Pg. 479, Chapter 40, “Which Has Done the Most Mischief in the World, the Kings-Evil or Priest-Craft?” in The Writings of the late Elder John Leland, by L.F. Greene. Elec. acc. Baptist History Collection, ver. 1. Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005.

[66]         Pg. 250, “Biographical Sketches,” in the “Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine,” vol. 2, by J. B. Link. Elec. acc. Baptist History Collection, ver. 1. Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005.

[67]         Pg. 94, Chapter 13, The Baptist History of South Dakota, by T.M. Shanafelt. Elec. acc. Baptist History Collection, ver. 1. Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005. The event recorded took place during a preaching meeting in 1874.

[68]         Pgs. 89-90, An Interpretation of the English Bible: Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, by B. H. Carroll, ed. J. B. Cranfill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1948. Elec. acc. AGES Christian Library Series, Vol. 11, B. H. Carroll Collection. Rio, WI: 2006.

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