The Power to Prevent Damage to Marriage
The key command of marriage–Ephesians 5:18bff
Have you found it true that we often hear what we want to hear? Marriage is a blessing . . . marriage is the grace of life . . . marriage is the most intimate of all relationships—all of which are true, but not the whole picture. Marriage doesn’t transform you, like genuine salvation does. Marriage doesn’t make it easier to be more devoted to Christ, like singleness can. Marriage doesn’t remove your bent to sin, the war with your flesh, the allurement of the world or the temptations of the devil. Marriage doesn’t automatically make life simple or romantic. Like every healthy relationship, marriage requires continual work.
There is a great danger in hearing what we want to hear. Everyone has an opinion about what’s best for marriages. That famous psychologist recommends this, my doctor friend recommends that. But the key for Christians, more than anything–you need to hear what God says. The Lord is the one who designed marriage. Doesn’t it seem wise to follow the plans of the original architect? And this morning is imperative. Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5–just six words in English, only four words in Greek. As important as love, as crucial as faith.
Today is absolutely essential–you’ll not mature without this short sentence. You’ll not overcome your sinful bent without these six words, you’ll not become like Christ without this phrase. And your marriage will never be what God intended unless you own it. This phrase is the key command in Christian marriage. The phrase is found in Ephesians 5:18b–six simple words. It says this, “but be filled with the Spirit.”
I know you men love power tools. I know you ladies love power appliances. But nothing is more frustrating than when the power goes out. You can push that vacuum back and forth, but unless the power is on, you’re actually making things worse. Far too many marriages have spouses trying to make the relationship work without the power turned on. That is you, if you’re not filled with the Spirit. You can’t live the Christian life in your own strength. You can’t have a godly marriage without the resources of Christ. You can’t maintain healthy friendships on your own.
The moment you submitted to Christ in saving faith, the Holy Spirit came to live within you. There is no Christian here who does not possess the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Him.” Yet I’ve heard people pray, “Oh God, send your Spirit.” Or, “give me more of your Spirit,” as if the Holy Spirit came in doses. Friends, the third person of the Trinity is a person–He lives within you.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.” But you’ll not experience His life in and through you unless you’re filled with the Spirit. The same God who created the universe, authored the Scriptures, ministered to our Lord while on Earth, and continues to convict the world of sin–this same Spirit lives in each Christian.
The Spirit was the one who regenerated you, specially calling you to faith, in order for you to turn to Christ. At the point of salvation, He sealed you, securing you forever as a child of God, and He baptized you–immersed you into the body of Christ, making you one with Christians. And now, as a Christian, you are to be filled with the Spirit. The same Spirit who indwells you can now fill you. Every true Christian is indwelt with the Spirit–but not every Christian every moment is filled with the Spirit. To be indwelt means you have all of the Spirit. To be filled means the Spirit has all of you.
Why is being filled so important to marriage and friendships? God tells us in Ephesians 5:18. Ephesians teaches the Church to practice its position in Christ. Chapters 1 to 3 tell us our position in Christ. Then chapters 4 to 6 focus on the practice of the Church. Start reading at verse 15 to embrace the practice of being filled with the Spirit. Paul wants you to walk–walk is the Bible’s way to describe your lifestyle (how you live). Starting in chapter 4, your lifestyle is to be worthy and loving. Then in verse 15, wise.
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:15 to 21). The only way to be wise before God in verse 15 is to be filled with the Spirit in verse 18. Let me ask and answer five questions about this important, moment-be-moment commitment.
#1 Why is being filled CRUCIAL to you?
Some Christians are afraid of the Holy Spirit. Reformed churches tend to focus on the Father. Dispensational churches tend to focus on the Son. And charismatic churches tend to focus on the Spirit. But the Bible says we worship a Trinity. We baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit–three persons, yet one God. We need to know each person of the Trinity. And the Spirit is crucial to our sanctification and our marriages. John MacArthur writes, “To resist the filling and control of the Holy Spirit is flagrant disobedience; and to deny or minimize its importance is to stand rebelliously against the clear teaching of God’s Word.”
The only way my preaching right now will honor Christ is if I am filled with the Spirit. And the only way your worship right now will be acceptable to Christ is for you to be filled with the Spirit. Why else is being filled crucial to you and your marriage? Look at the fruit it produces in verses 19 to 21. Being filled produces (verse 19) immediate praise, mutual ministry, inner joy, (verse 20) gratitude and (verse 21) a servant’s heart of submission.
Then, important to us this morning, the filling and fruit of being filled of verses 18 to 21, is directly linked in Greek to Paul’s teaching on marriage in verses 22 to 33—it’s required. Think about it–in Galatians 5, the filling of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Who doesn’t want to develop a friendship with (or live with a spouse) who is known for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
Or consider the person you want to marry. As a college pastor of 800, gals would tell me they were looking for a guy who is 6’ 2”, blue eyes, blond hair, and drives a Porsche. It was funny what they ended up with—often 5’ 1”, four-eyes, bald, and drives a scooter. If you want to die happy, find someone who strives to live filled with the Spirit. Who wouldn’t want to live with someone who is continually loving, joyful and kind?
And most importantly, if you’re not in the Spirit, the Bible says you are in the what? Flesh. If you are not living by His strength, you’re living in your own strength–meaning this . . . the only way to glorify God, to live by faith and please the Lord is to be filled with the Spirit. One commentator writes, unless a Christian is filled with the Spirit, “he will live in spiritual weakness… frustration and defeat.” So question #1 Being filled is CRUCIAL to you—and question #2 . . .
#2 What’s REQUIRED to be filled with the Spirit?
Last week, we reviewed the entire book of Ephesians. Since you can’t live Ephesians 5 without honoring the entire letter as well, Paul assumes these things are true of you before you actually pursue His specific design for a husband and wife in marriage. Don’t be . . .
Chapter 1 IGNORING God’s Sovereign purpose for your marriage
Chapter 2 MINIMIZING your sinfulness and your desperate need for God’s grace
Chapter 3 OVERLOOKING the incredible LOVE of GOD to fill your life
Chapter 4 AVOIDING your inter-connectiveness to the church family
Chapter 6 ELEVATING your children over your marriage
Your marriage can’t function biblically in Ephesians 5 without the truths of Ephesians 1 to 6 functioning in you as a husband or wife. And because marriage requires supernatural power to thrive–before Paul describes marriage, Paul describes the key command to God’s power in all relationships, especially marriage. #1 It is crucial, #2 It has some pre-requisites, then . . .
#3 What does it MEAN to be filled with the Spirit?
Consider your marriage or friend group–there are times when those relationships are easy, and times when they are hard work. They are especially difficult because you have to fight yourself–your flesh, your desires, your pride, and your selfishness. And this battle with you isn’t finished until Heaven. You can’t microwave relationships–they take time and effort, and so does be being kept filled with the Spirit.
Being filled doesn’t mean getting a spiritual zap resulting in a permanent spiritual high. Nor is it the opposite–a mere dry choice of your will to grind out obedience to the Word of God. The Greek word for filled has three descriptive shades of meaning. First, the Greek verb filled is used in the New Testament to describe the pressure of wind that fills the sail of a sailboat, pointing to the Spirit filling a being–like putting our sails up so that the Spirit moves us (like wind in a sail) toward the pathway of obedience.
Secondly, the Greek verb filled has the idea of permeation and saturation, like salt permeating meat with its flavor. Or the way the Airborne pill permeates the water with its flavor and medicine. God wants the Holy Spirit to permeate and flavor our lives so a spouse or others see Christ’s presence in us and Christ’s character through us–for His glory and our good.
Thirdly, the Greek verb filled in the New Testament carries the idea of domination or total control. The New Testament uses filled to describe someone is filled with anger, or filled with fear–Christians are to be filled, totally dominated, with the Spirit. In a positive sense, being filled is yielding our lives to the Spirit in such a way that every emotion, thought and act of the will is under His direction, totally in line with His will found in His Word.
You get the same sense when you look carefully at Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” There are two commands here. One is, don’t get drunk–the other is, be filled. In contrast to the wine controlling you or dominating you, you’re to be dominated or controlled by the Spirit. Some believe this is tied into pagan worship, which used strong drink as a way to worship. But the contrast is clear–to be drunk is to be under the influence of alcohol. When you’re drunk, it affects every aspect of your life. In contrast, to be filled with the Spirit means to be under the control of the Spirit, so the Spirit affects every aspect of your life.
Also, people drink to escape–they want to forget their empty life. So Paul says, don’t get drunk, watch TV, eat, or sleep to fill your empty life. Be filled with the Spirit. Don’t use marriage or friendships to fill an empty heart. Now it is the grammar of the verb, to be filled, that makes its meaning dramatically pointed. The literal rendering of the Greek verb to be filled with Spirit is ”be being kept filled”. It is an imperative, a command, a non-optional Christian life requirement. And in the context, the only way a marriage can enjoy Ephesians 5 is to be filled with the Spirit.
How often are you to be filled? The Greek verb for filled is a present tense, all the time, every moment of every day, 24/7. Like faith, without it you can’t please the Lord. Like love, without it you’re merely making a lot of noise. Being filled with the Spirit is to be our goal with every word, each action, every attitude, and especially as you drive. Just watch the parking lot after church—it’s obvious who are the filled drivers, and who’re the flesh drivers. Being filled is present tense, all the time, right now.
How do you think my wife Jean would react if I were to say to her, “I used to love you all the time”? Or, “I’ll love you again sometime in the future”? That doesn’t work. This issue is, “I love you now, present tense, all the time.” That would be like the new husband that gave his wife a mood ring to help him understand his bride–and it did. It turned green when she was in a good mood and it left an ugly mark on his face when she was in a bad mood.
“Be filled” is present tense now. Being filled is not a one-time high, or a decision of super dedication, or an emotional experience. It is a moment-by-moment, present tense dependence. But who is it for? Every person in any relationship. The verb be filled is plural, which means you all be filled–for every Christian in the Ephesus church and everyone here too, being filled is required for every marriage. So how can I be filled? This is where it gets tricky.
The verb for “be filled” is passive. If it were active, you could do it. If it were middle, you would do it to yourself. But it’s passive—you can’t do it. It must be done to you. How do you like that? God gives you a crucial command, but in giving it, also tells you that you can’t do it. It must be done to you. In order to be filled with the Spirit, you are to yield to the Spirit. You desire, you obey, you expect, you respond—but you don’t control the Holy Spirit, as if you’re in charge or control. No, He is God and you are not. The indwelling Spirit fills those who submit, yield, depend, desire Him, then obey His Word.
It’s like my baseball glove–if I say to my glove, “Play baseball,” what does my glove do? Nothing. My glove cannot play baseball. But if I put my hand in my glove, what happens? My glove can play baseball and function the way it’s designed. My glove fulfills its created purpose. John MacArthur writes, “A Christian can accomplish no more without being filled with the Holy Spirit than a glove can accomplish without being filled with a hand.” Spirit-filled people learn what God wants them to do in His Word, then they yield themselves to the Spirit, and dependently obey. They become the instruments the Spirit can use to display the character of God through our everyday life.
Like my grandsons when they were 1 and 2 years old. When walking with me, the boys would raise their hands and put them in mine so they can walk. When it’s too tough, they just hang. Spirit-filled Christians are those who raise their hands and grab onto their Father’s hand in order to walk in this world. This truth is clear in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith depending in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” I hang on dependently, as I step out in obedience to the Word of God.
Back to Ephesians 5, the verb to be filled is passive. You can’t do it, it must happen to you–but you put yourself in a position to be filled. You live in dependence, you live desiring to be filled, then you step out in obedience to His Word. I like how Spurgeon practiced this truth. As he stepped up to the pulpit to preach God’s Word, the prince of preachers would say to himself with each stair he took, “I believe in the Spirit, I believe in the Spirit, I believe in the Spirit,” seeking to be filled, controlled, as he proclaimed God’s Word. Christian, you and I are to be being kept filled. But how does this work out in everyday life?n #4
#4 How can you be filled with the Spirit EVERY moment?
Let me encourage you to write this down in the margin of your Bible. I want to give you a PASSS, as it were, to the Spirit-filled life. P.A.S.S.S.–so much of what we hear we forget. My challenge is for you to remember this for the rest of your life. How can you and I be filled with the Spirit every day? PASSS
First Dwell on a PASSAGE
P stands for Passage. Look again at Ephesians 5:18 to 20, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks.” Now turn to Colossians 3:16–Colossians and Ephesians are parallel books and there’s an interesting parallel in 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Do you notice any similarities? Sure, the fruit of being filled in the Spirit of Ephesians 5:18 and the fruit of letting the word of Christ dwell in you in Colossians 3:16 are basically the same. Being filled with the Spirit is very similar to letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you. Part of being filled with the Spirit, part of yielding to Him, is to have the Word of God literally be at home in your hearts. Your thoughts and my thoughts are to be centered on the Word, be saturated with the Word, and focused on the Word–learning, studying, meditating, memorizing, speaking, and living the Word of God.
Attending a healthy church can help a lot. But it can’t force the Word to be at home in your hearts. Your marriage must learn to be saturated with the Word every day, in every situation, in order to be filled with the Spirit. You and your spouse make choices to filter every issue, every decision, every attitude through God’s Word first, until you are so saturated in the Word that biblical direction becomes automatic. Like a tea bag, as it sits in the water, it saturates the water so it no longer is water, it’s tea.
Dwelling on a passage means when life cuts you, you bleed Bible. You ask, “Honey, what does God’s Word say about this trial?” How can we attack this sinful behavior or bent in our lives? How Can God’s Word guide us in this decision?” In everything! In order to be filled with the Spirit, dwell on a passage. P is for Passage. Next, A is for Aware.
Second Be AWARE
The passive voice of the verb be filled tells you, you can’t do it. Just like only Christ can live the Christian life through you! And only God can glorify God through you. You need to continually be aware of who you are and who God is. At best, you’re a vessel God works through. Do you realize that? Turn for a moment to Galatians 6:3 and let me build your self-esteem as Paul wraps up this letter. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). We’re nothing–feel built up yet?
The New Testament tells us to die to self, surrender daily, and put no confidence in our flesh, our thoughts, our strength, our ideas, even our abilities. Be aware of who you are–you’re nothing and Christ is all. Say often in marriage and friendships, “Lord I can’t, but you can through me.” God often allows trials, pains, and unbelievable hurts in your life to remind you just how dependent you are. Jesus could not have been more pointed in John 15:5b when He said, “For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Nothing you and I ever do will count for eternity unless two things are true—1) it’s done in the power of the Spirit, and 2) for the glory of God. You must be in the Spirit, or you’re in the flesh. Be aware, you can’t do anything in your own strength. Some of you are halfway there—”I can’t love my spouse.” True. But Paul says the Spirit can love your spouse through you.
You don’t grind out obedience–no, you depend on the Spirit by His Word. And you don’t wait for a feeling–you act upon your will and Dependently Obey. Christianity is not do this, do that–Do Do Do. No, it’s D.O. It’s Christ did it, it’s done, now you D.O., depend and obey. So your PASS to the Spirit-filled life is dwell on a P-PASSAGE and be A-AWARE you can’t and God can. Add to that, S . . .
Third Deal with all known SIN
S is for Sin. The third person of the Trinity dwells in you. He’s called the “Holy” Spirit, which tells you He reacts to sin in your life. He’s holy–this is why the Scripture specifically points out how our sin ends up grieving and quenching the Spirit. Turn back to Ephesians 4:30 to 32 and take a look at what grieving the Spirit is. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Obviously, the Spirit’s feelings are different than our emotions–His are a sovereign choice of His will, where ours are typically reactions to circumstances. But there is a similarity, in that as a person, our sin grieves Him. Like when one of your children makes a poor choice, you understand what it means to be grieved. Here, the Spirit is grieved by your unwillingness to deal with disobedience to His Word, specifically in Ephesians 4, misusing your tongue and not forgiving others, but generally sins of commission–sins which violate what you know to be true in His Word. Sin grieves the Spirit.
But your sin also quenches Him. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and 20, which talks about quenching the Spirit. In this young church early in the Apostolic era, Paul says to this baby church, “Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances.” The Thessalonians were stopping the proclamation of the Word in the Early Church. This stopping what they know they should do, a sin of omission, not doing what the Lord commands us to do, was quenching the Spirit. It was stifling or extinguishing the work of the Spirit. The Greek word quenching literally means putting out the fire–your sin will quench the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will move you to deal with sin in your life. Regular confession, which is to admit God is right and you are wrong, and turning from sin in repentance–all that is a regular part of a healthy marriage. Strong relationships are sustained by the admission of sin and the sincere giving of forgiveness. Finally, your PASS to the Spirit-filled life is to dwell on a P-PASSAGE, be A-AWARE you can’t and God must, plus deal with all known S-SIN, and now the final two S’s.
Fourth Seek to SERVE and SHARE
If you were to study the New Testament teaching on spiritual gifts, you’d discover that spiritual gifts are literally called spirituals, or that which is of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts are God-given abilities for service within the body. These unique abilities–given at your salvation, designed for you to display Christ in a special way, are of the Spirit. If you desire to see the Spirit manifested in and through your life, if you desire to be filled with the Spirit, then as a way of life, specifically serve the body of Christ–it’s how you see the Spirit through you.
But it even goes a step further–as you walk through the book of Acts, you’ll find in Acts 4, Peter filled with the Spirit to give testimony of Christ. Again in Acts 4, the early Christians were filled with the Spirit and spoke of Christ with boldness. And Acts 9, they were filled with the Spirit and testified about Christ, causing us to conclude that the Spirit manifests Himself especially in the proclamation of the Gospel, declaring the person and work of Christ to those without Christ in this world.
In other words, being filled with the Spirit is not a life lived like a bucket, collecting the presence and blessing of the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is lived like a hose, sharing the life of the Spirit to both Christians and non-Christians, as we give ourselves away in service and sharing. Spirit-filled marriages are not about getting, but giving. They’re not about satisfying your needs, but meeting the needs of your spouse–that’s how God blesses you. The Spirit desires one thing–to make you like Christ. In doing so, you will become a servant in the Church and a sharer of the Gospel in the world. P-ASSAGE, A-WARE, S-IN, S-ERVE, S-HARE–the PASSs to God’s design for marriage and relationships. You ask, “Is it really that good?” The last question . . .
#5 What are the RESULTS of being filled with the Spirit?
Look at Ephesians 5:18 to 21—there are four immediate results. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19[mutual ministry] speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, [inner joy] singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20[gratitude] always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21[submission] and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Now you see how the results of being filled with the Spirit lay the foundation for an incredible marriage in Ephesians 5:22 to 33. What will your marriage be like if the husband and/or the wife seek to be filled with the Spirit all the time? Mutual ministry, inner joy, gratitude and submissiveness. Just six words in English—four words in Greek. But this small phrase will transform your life and transform your marriage and your relationships.
A Being filled with the Spirit is the most important COMMAND in marriage (and relationships).
Look at verses 21 and verse 22, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” What you can’t see, is that the connection between the verses is so strong, that the verb “submit” in verse 22 is (like it is so often in Greek) assumed from verse 21–the instruction on marriage assumes being filled with the Spirit. The first command of marriage is being filled–D.O.
Next to keeping your vow is to obey this command. This command should be the priority in every premarital process, at every marriage ceremony, and at every marriage conference. As a church, we actually have committed to not talk to people in the flesh until they’re filled with the Spirit. When angry, we don’t talk or discuss until both are filled. How many times have you said things in the flesh and you wished you could take those words back?
Don’t say, “I gotta fix my marriage.” Say, “I gotta be filled with the Spirit.” Husbands, work at D.O. and be filled with the Spirit. Wives, work at D.O. and be filled with the Spirit as your most important command and highest goal 24/7.
B Being filled with the Spirit is how you FIX your marriage
As you’re filled with the Spirit, being dependently obedient to God’s Word, the Spirit in you has just one goal–to make you like Christ. Romans 8:29 declares what the Spirit is doing. “He [the Holy Spirit] …predestined [you] to become conformed to the image of His Son.” To become Christ-like is what fixes your marriage and relationships because it transforms you.
There’s no microwave process to become a godly man or woman. But as you are daily, moment-by-moment filled with the Spirit, you will develop a walk in the Spirit. When you walk by the Spirit is when you overcome your flesh and sin. When you live in the Spirit is when you receive reward in Heaven. The ultimate wife and the amazing husband will be the ones who seek every day to be filled with the Spirit.
C Being filled with the Spirit requires SALVATION
You can’t be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18, if you have not been converted from Ephesians 1 to 3, where you were dead, but now Christ makes you alive. If you don’t have the Spirit, you need to turn to Christ today in repentance and faith. Surrender to Christ–you are separated from God over your sin, but God loved you so much He punished Christ for your sin. When you believe in Him, God forgives you and transforms you into a new person–one that He can love through, forgive through, and bless others through.
“But Chris, what about the roles of men and women. What does a biblical marriage look like?” For the answer to that, you have to come back next week. Let’s pray.