Genuine Sanctification (Ephesians 5:18 )

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Genuine Sanctification

This morning is imperative–just six words in English, only four words in Greek. It is as important as love, as crucial as faith. It is absolutely essential to your sanctification. You’ll not mature without these six words. You’ll not overcome your sinful bent without these six words. You’ll not become like Christ without this phrase.

This phrase is the only way your life will count for eternity—the only way your friendships or family will please God. Without this phrase, all you do for Christ will be burned up, but obeying this phrase, what you do will be rewarded. If you’re frustrated in your walk with God, lacking joy in your relationship with Christ.

If you’re guilty or burdened by secret sin, it’s because you’re not dependent upon this six-word phrase. So what is this truth? The phrase is found in the letter to the Ephesians. Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5:18b–just six simple words, “But be filled with the Spirit.”

Remember when your little sister started to vacuum the rug, but didn’t turn the switch on? She kept pushing it back and forth, but nothing happened–no work was done, no carpet was cleaned. That is you when you’re not filled with the Spirit. Lots of activity for Christ, but nothing is accomplished.

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. Obey the command of Ephesians 5:18, be being kept filled with the Spirit.

Stop trying to fix your spouse, force your disciple to do what you want, get your community group to like you, or make your older children do what you want. Training and discipling requires you to live filled with the Spirit and requires you to expect other believers to be filled with the Spirit. Filled with the Spirit is putting Christ on display.

The same God who created the universe, authored the Scriptures, empowered many Old Testament believers for special tasks for God’s glory, ministered to our Lord while on earth, and continues to convict the world of sin. This same Spirit lives in you, Christian.

He was the one who regenerated you, specially calling you to faith in order for you to turn in Christ. At the point of salvation, He sealed you, securing you forever as a child of God, and the Spirit baptized you–immersed you into the body of Christ, making you one with Christians. And this 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. So what does being filled mean? To be filled by the Spirit is a moment-by-moment action of God to be controlled, empowered and guided by God in order to put Christ on display, individually and corporately through His Word.

Filling is best summarized by Ephesians 5:18, since it is the only place in the New Testament, where every church and every Christian is commanded to be filled with the Spirit of God. Ephesians teaches the Church to practice its position in Christ. Paul wrote so the Ephesians would be overwhelmed with God’s love for them, that they’d love God and each other.

In chapters 4 to 6, the focus is the practice of the Church and Christians. Start reading at verse 15. Paul wants you to walk. Walk is the Bible’s way to describe your everyday lifestyle. Starting in chapter 4, your lifestyle is to be worthy, loving, then in verse 15, wise.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

The only way to be wise before God in verse 15 is to be filled with the Spirit in verse 18. I will ask and answer five questions about this essential, moment-by-moment commitment.

Question #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 all three persons including the Holy Spirit.

As a baby Christian, I attended a charismatic church one Sunday and concluded that the role of the Holy Spirit meant to transform you into an aerobics instructor, or to do something supernatural–that’s not filling. Being filled is not a bizarre experience, nor a second work of grace. Paul is not talking about the indwelling or baptism of the Spirit. Yet to be filled is not an option.

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 what you are doing right now will honor Christ is for you to be filled with the Spirit. Why else is being filled important to you? Look at the fruit it produces in verses 19 to 20. Being filled produces immediate praise, mutual ministry, inner joy, gratitude and a servant’s heart of submission.

Then look ahead to verse 22 all the way through chapter 6. Scripture teaches, being filled results in a great marriage, incredible parenting, fantastic employment–slave to master. Look at verse 21, the participle be subject is what Paul uses to begin discussion of the role of the wife in verse 22, meaning the key to a great marriage is to be filled with the Spirit.

In Galatians 5, the filling of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Who doesn’t want to hang out with someone manifesting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/be married to that? Think about the person you want to marry?

As the college pastor at Grace Community Church, 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”, bald, four eyes and driving a Pinto. 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’s continually loving, joyful and kind?

Most importantly, if you’re not in the Spirit, then the Bible says you are in the 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. Question #1, being filled is crucial to you, and . . .

Question #2  What’s REQUIRED to be filled with the Spirit?

Look at the context of Ephesians 5:18. You need to know what Paul has said in Ephesians 1 to 4 before you can respond to Ephesians 5 properly. So what does being filled call for? Two obvious requirements from the previous context . . .

First  Genuine SALVATION from Ephesians 1 to 3

In Ephesians 2, Paul tells you, before you knew Christ you were dead in your sin. But now that you’re in Christ, you have been made alive. Dead to alive is pretty dramatic. You were a zombie (a living dead person), but now made alive. But not alive for you, but alive for Christ. You live for Christ–He’s your first love. You love Him more than your family.

He’s the one calling the shots. He’s Lord. You obey Him through His Word. That’s not a super-Christian–just an average, born again believer. And the point? You can’t be filled with the Spirit unless you are genuinely saved. You can’t fulfill Ephesians 5:18 without Ephesians 1 to 3 being true in your life. What’s another requirement from the context?

Second  Genuine involvement in a CHURCH community

Ephesians 4 calls Christians to be equipped in the Word, and verse 16 summarizes it best when it says in verse 16, “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

That’s talking about you! You are the individual part. As an individual part of the body, you are to minister your giftedness and fellowship with others as we all grow together. You’re part of a team that needs you to play your position. You’re part of a family that needs each member, even the weird uncle. You’re part of an army that needs every soldier, even the private.

Are you an organ that’s functioning in the body, or are you merely the wart on the body of Christ? There is a corporate element to being filled with the Spirit. The wording is plural. Paul has rocked the Ephesians already. Ephesians 1:23 told us the church is the place where the fullness of Christ dwells. Ephesians 2:19 to 21 told us God has powerfully brought both Jew and Gentile together into one temple, so the church is now a place for all people to enjoy the presence of God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 3:14 to 19 tells us God works in the church so believers will come to a fuller understanding of the love of Christ to be filled to all the fullness of God. This corporate fullness only happens when we individually seek to be filled–but as we each seek to be filled, we fuel others to be filled with the Spirit.

You can‘t fulfill the command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5 unless you are also seeking to obey the teaching of Ephesians 4 where you’re intimately connected to a church–are you? So if being filled is so crucial and has some requirements, then question . . .

#3  What does it MEAN to be filled with the Spirit?

The word filled is translated in the New Testament as complete, abound, accomplish, satisfy and fill. It 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 in your own strength. Nor is it like filling a hydro-flask full of water. The Greek word for filled has two descriptive shades of meaning.

First Filled was used to describe SATURATION

Like full of gladness, or filled with the fruit of righteousness–saturated, like Airborne fizzy pills permeate the water with the vitamins to help you not get sick on an airplane. Or bath bombs saturate the bath with oils and nice stink. Being filled is God the Holy Spirit permeating our lives so Christ is seen through us.

Second The Greek word filled in the New Testament carries the idea of CONTROL

Like the way someone is filled with sorrow, or filled with anger–Christians are to be filled, controlled with the Spirit for Christ to be seen. 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, you’re to be controlled by the Spirit. No longer live the way you used to live, for yourself. Now live for Christ. In the local Ephesus temple, pagan worship gatherings would include everyone getting drunk and even orgies. Paul says, “Don’t do that, but be controlled by the Spirit.”

It is the grammar of the verb filled that makes its meaning clear. The literal rendering of the Greek verb to be filled with the Spirit is be being kept filled. It is an imperative, a command, a non-optional Christian life requirement. And in context, the only way a marriage can enjoy Ephesians 5 and parenting follow Ephesians 6 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 every moment–getting dressed, talking to family, yard work, your job, raising your kids, your attitudes, your ministry, your relationships, everything. And especially your driving–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.

For the believer, it’s like a marriage–how do you think my wife Jean would react if I were to say to her, “I used to love you all the time.”? That doesn’t work. The 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 point of super dedication, or an emotional experience–it is a moment-by-moment, present tense dependence. But who is it for? Everyone–the verb be filled is plural, which means you all be filled. This isn’t for the mature. Charismatics don’t understand it. It’s for every Christian in the Ephesus church and everyone here, individually each one and all of us together be filled.

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 you can’t do it.

So what is the Lord telling us through the apostle Paul? 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 like you’re in charge. No, He is God and you are not. The indwelling Spirit fills those who submit, yield, depend, desire Him and then obey His Word. You don’t even ask for it–you depend and He supplies.

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 and play baseball–what happens? It can play baseball and function in 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, they yield themselves to the Spirit, and dependently obey. They become the instruments the Spirit can use to display the person of Christ in words, actions and attitudes.

Like my grandsons–when Ryker walks with me, he raises his hand and holds on so he can walk and be safe. And when the ground is too difficult, he just hangs. 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.”

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 every step 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, all of us, are to be being kept filled. But how does this work out in everyday life?

#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 PRISMS, as it were, to the Spirit-filled life. The P.R.I.S.M.S. filling brings about in your life—sanctification. How can you and I be filled with the Spirit every day? PRISMS

First  POINTING to Christ and His Word

Nothing will glorify God in or through your life unless you are filled with the Spirit. And the Spirit has only one goal, just one–to make you like Christ so you show off Christ to this world. The Spirit is always pointing to Christ and His Word. Romans 8:29 declares what the Spirit is doing. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”

To become Christ-like, to grow into a godly man or woman, to become the ultimate single is to live by the Spirit every day. There’s no microwave process to be filled. You go to the game and the lights come on. The lights allow you to watch the game. You don’t focus on the lights–the lights allow you see the game. The Holy Spirit is the lights which point to Christ. Don’t focus on the Spirit, but depend on him to serve Christ.

Second  REPENTING of sin

God Himself dwells in you. This in and of itself should keep you from sin. We are reminded by Paul in 1 Corinthians in 6:18 and 19, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

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.

Ephesians 4:30 tells us our sin grieves the Spirit. Paul said in the previous chapter, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you.” As a person, our sin grieves the Holy Spirit.

Like when one of your kids 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. First Thessalonians 5:19 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 knew they should do, a sin of omission, not doing what the Lord commanded them to do, was quenching the Spirit. It was literally extinguishing the work of the Spirit. The Greek word quenching means putting out the fire–your sin will quench the Spirit.

Obviously, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must continue to repent of sin in your life. Whether it is sin of commission, committed acts against what we know the Bible forbids–or sins of omission, not doing what the Lord commands. Part of being filled involves repentance which will ultimately result in you confessing and turning away from known sin.

Do you know how to turn away from sin best? Pursue Christ, let Him out, let Him be seen through you. And the only way to let Him be seen is to speak and share in faithful service. Best way to make certain that happens is to faithfully serve Christ in ministry. So P is pointing, R is repenting, then . . .


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. Only the Spirit can fill you to be fruitful. You need to continually be aware of who you are and who God is. At best, you’re a vessel God works through.

Galatians 6:3, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” We’re nothing. 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 unable. Christ is all.

This is tough to own–especially when you’re young. You might think of yourself as “on varsity,” a “4.0,” or perky, the team captain, super cute, 6-pack, a Bible major, funny, the dorm leader, bearded, a future missionary or a spiritual giant. When in reality, you’re a sinner saved by grace who is now a vessel for the Spirit to work through to glorify God.

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 than in John 15:5b, when He said, “For apart from Me, you can do nothing.” All your scholarship, gifts, and abilities for the work of the Lord are nothing, unless the Spirit fills you for each task.

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. Inability means you can’t do anything in your own strength. To be filled with the Spirit you must live dependently.

You don’t grind out obedience—no, you depend on the Spirit by His Word. 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. You don’t make your kids feel good about themselves, you show them they have to depend on the Spirit to do anything. They learn it through instruction and example. So PRISMS is Pointing, Repenting, Inability and . . .


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, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always 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?

The fruit of being filled with the Spirit of Ephesians 5:18 and the fruit of let the word of Christ dwell in Colossians 3:16 are basically the same. Being filled with the Spirit is similar to let the word of Christ richly dwell within you. Part of being filled with the Spirit is to have the Word of God literally be at home in your hearts. Dwell is to be at home. Your life and thoughts are to be saturated with the Word, chewing on the Word, focused on the Word.

Attending a good church can help a lot, but it can’t force the Word be at home in your hearts. You must learn to chew on and be saturated with the Word every day in order to be filled with the Spirit. It is like a tea bag–as it sits in the water, it penetrates and saturates the water so it’s no longer water, it’s tea.

Dwelling on the Word is to have the Word saturate your everyday life, it no longer looks like you, but the Spirit. This is very much like meditation. Like a cow chews on its cud over and over to fully assimilate its nutrients, you are chewing the Word over and over to fully assimilate its truth in and through your life.

The world’s idea of meditation is emptying your mind, or repeating a phrase over and over, or focusing on happy feelings. FBC makes me happy, Mav, Finn, and Ryker, In N Out. But meditation in the design of God is filling your mind with His Word–thinking deeply about it from every possible angle. To be filled with the Spirit, you’re to be saturated in the Word. PRISMS is Pointing, Repenting, Inablity, Saturation . . .


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 from 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.

First Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Just some have gifts? No, each one. If you desire to see the Spirit manifested in and through your life, stop making excuses. Then as a way of life, specifically serve the body of Christ. PRISMS is Pointing, Repenting, Inablity, Saturation, Ministry and finally . . .

Sixth  SHARE

As you walk through the book of Acts, you’ll find in chapter 4, Peter was 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 in Acts 9, they were filled with the Spirit and testified about Christ.

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. Why wouldn’t He? The Spirit wants Christ known. Being filled with the Spirit is not a life lived like a bucket, collecting the blessings of God—it’s all for me.

No–the Spirit-filled life is like a hose, sharing the life of the Spirit to both Christians and non-Christians as we give ourselves away in service and sharing, experiencing all His blessing as we show off Christ. Christ is only seen as you serve, sacrifice or share. Being filled is saturated with the Word, living each moment remembering your total inability, hating sin and turning from it, serving, sacrificing and sharing Christ.

Devotions are for your heart, but not enough. Showing up is not enough–filling must be shown. The internal Spirit must be let out, seen, shown and demonstrated–both corporately and individually. Christ came to serve and He calls us to serve. Christ came proclaiming the Gospel and leaves you here to do the same.

PRISMS is Pointing to Christ, Repenting of Sin, Total Inability, Saturation in the Word, Ministry in the body and Sharing the Gospel to the lost. And the last question is . . .

#5  What are the RESULTS of being filled with the Spirit?

Look at Ephesians 5:18 to 21 for 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.”

These are the results and also the means of being filled. 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, and fruitful parenting is in Ephesians 6:1 to 4. And becoming an amazing employee or employer in Ephesians 6:5 to 9.

Just six words in English—four words in Greek. But this small phrase and the theology it exposes transformed my life. My prayer is it will do the same for you. Think about it.

1  Being FILLED with the Spirit is one of the KEYs to overcoming SIN

As you seek to be filled with the Spirit daily, moment-by-moment, you’ll then develop a walk in the Spirit, a lifestyle of dependence upon the Spirit and the Word. And as you do, Galatians 5:16 promises, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” The moment-by-moment filling with the Spirit leads to a lifestyle walk by the Spirit which empowers you to overcome sin and become like Christ over time.

2  Being FILLED with the Spirit results in REWARD

Any action done in your own strength (in the flesh) for your own glory will burn. Any action done in God’s strength (in the Spirit) for God’s glory will be rewarded eternally.

3  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 Christ makes you alive. If you don’t have the Spirit, you need to turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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