Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι

The word underlying “be filled” in our passage is plēroûsthe. Grammatically, this is a second person plural present continuous passive imperative, from the verb plēróō ‘I fill’, which means we translate it “carry on being filled”, “be being filled all the time”.

The Greek verb has a quite well-developed system of tenses, aspects and moods, which means that it can convey subtleties of meaning that are not available to us in English. The verb under the spotlight today is in the present continuous tense, which corresponds to our -ing form, “I am coming”, “he is reading”, etc. A passive verb connotes something which is being done to someone; so here, we are instructed to be being filled with the Spirit, a filling which is acted upon us by an external agency. In other words, the “filling” is something that is done to us.

The verb plēróō is found 90 times in the New Testament and is rich with theological meaning. It is the word used to mean “fulfill” as in “when the times were fulfilled”. When it is used to mean being filled with God, it is only ever used in connexion with the Spirit; we are never told to be filled with Christ, or with the Father. It therefore sheds light on the nature of the Spirit as a wind; the Greek word for Spirit derives from pnéō, the word for ‘blow’, as of the wind. We must never forget, the wind-like nature of the Spirit notwithstanding, that he is a Person, and not an impersonal force.

The contrast is clear: instead of being intoxicated with wine, we must be continuously being filled with the Spirit; the two intoxications are mutually exclusive. Let us therefore obey the Word, and be constantly being filled with the Wind of God.

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