What does it mean to be "filled" with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18)?

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In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands us, "Do not be drunk with wine. That leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It means to be commanded, to be directed, and guided, controlled by the Spirit in all aspects of our life. If we look at Paul's command, we do see that it's an imperative, it is a command, which means we can obey it or we can disobey it. Now, we certainly are to obey it, but it is a responsibility of ours to respond to this command and exercise obedience to be filled. It's also an ongoing imperative, an ongoing command. We could paraphrase it: keep on being filled, keep on being controlled or guided by the Holy Spirit, moment by moment. So, it's a command that draws our attention to obedience, being controlled by the Spirit moment by moment. It's also a passive command. It's not an active, "throw the ball!" command. Rather, it's a passive command — be filled. And the step of obedience that is required is that we put ourself in a position of yielded-ness; we adopt a posture of yielding to the Spirit's control and guidance in our life. So, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It means to be consciously obedient, submitting to, yielding to the Spirit's direction and control, guidance in our life, moment by moment.

Answer by Dr. Gregg R. Allison

Dr. Gregg R. Allison is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.