"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)
This text has done one of two things for so many Christians. For most, no doubt, it is just a cause for confusion and disagreement, and, therefore, is not really addressed thoroughly. The question is “what does it mean to be “filled” in this context?” “Is there a “second work” of the Holy Spirit?” And some may ask “Did I not receive ALL of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation?” All of these are great questions to ask and are worth giving serious thought to.
The first thing to do when addressing a verse of scripture is to look at the context. Who is writing, and who are they writing too? The answer is simple and certain here; Paul is writing the letter to the church in Ephesus. So this letter is not written to lost people, but to Christians! So the question still remains, with all its complications, namely, why is Paul telling Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
In Scripture, we must discern what is meant by “being baptized in the Holy Spirit” and “being filled with the Holy Spirit." Notice, in the same letter, Paul teaches (prior to this verse) that a believer is sealed at the moment of salvation “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, ESV) for the day of redemption “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, ESV) So there is no doubt on where Paul stands on the issue of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. He even goes as far as say that if a person does not have the Holy Spirit, they aren't Christians at all! “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9, ESV) So the truth is that there is no “second baptism” or “second work” as we are sealed and blessed with every spiritual blessing “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV)
But what about this verse in Ephesians 5?!
What is interesting is that in the book of Acts we see different accounts of this “being filled” Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17, 13:9, 52. This “filling” seems to manifest itself in a couple different ways. In Acts chapter 2, the people speak in other languages the things God hath done, in Acts chapter 4, Peter preaches when he is filled and the believers “spake the Word of God with boldness”. In Acts chapter 9, Paul (Saul at this time) begins to preach Christ in the synagogues, in Acts chapter 13, Paul blinds a man who is trying to keep another from coming to the faith. And later, the disciples, being filled, are said to preach to the Jews and Greeks. I think we can conclude, that primarily, this filling will cause us to speak out publicly about Jesus with boldness.
So how does one become “filled” with the Holy Spirit? I think this is captured in the next three verses after verse 18 of chapter 5: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19–21, ESV)
Notice the present participles (“-ing” words) following verse 18. These words mean an action that is happening currently and, in this context, continually. These verses seem to reveal the “how” of being “filled” with the Holy Spirit.
Someone is filled with the Holy Spirit when they have a proper disposition of the mind and heart towards God which reflects itself towards others. We entertain His presence in our lives in a way that expresses itself naturally in our person. It isn’t that we lose control of ourselves, because one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit being present in our lives is self control. However, in the same way that we are more heavily influenced by the effects of wine in our body when we consume more of it; The more we focus on who God is and celebrate Him the more influence the Holy Spirit will have in our lives.
Being filled is a separate issue altogether than being indwelled or sealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Being drunk with wine is allowing the influence of the alcohol to change your behavior. You give yourself over to it and in the same way you can give yourself over to the Holy Spirit by partaking in worship in your heart and thanksgiving to God. This results, of course, by bearing the fruits of the Spirit “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV) When we are filled with Him, we are empowered to boldly proclaim Jesus to the world.