Lesson 23: The Admonition for Spirit-Filling - Page 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)
by John Lowe
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Three things in verses 19, 20, and 21 are worth special note. Here Paul teaches that the melody of our heart as we sing is directed to the Lord; but we direct our words not only to Him but also to our fellow believers—we sing addressing one another.
This implies that our singing in worship has both a vertical and a horizontal component. It also implies that it is legitimate in the praise of God to address the words we sing to others and even to ourselves. While too much contemporary praise may be over-saturated with references to ourselves, we should not lose sight of the fact that Paul learned this principle from the praise book of his childhood—the Psalms of David. In them we find a remarkably balanced division between words addressed to God, to others, and to the self.
Please do not be offended or angry . . . please take this in the spirit in which I am giving it: a person who is filled with the Spirit does not have to advertise his filling of the Spirit to his fellowman. He does not go to church and brag and boast concerning his holiness and his purity, his godliness and his spirituality. The person who is filled with the Spirit sings psalms, songs, and makes melody in the heart TO THE LORD. The Holy Spirit is in the world to glorify Jesus. . . He is not in the world to glorify us, nor to glorify us before men. The person who is possessed by and filled entirely with the Holy Spirit will make melody unto the Lord—not unto man! A spiritually minded person never advertises his holiness. His daily living advertises his righteousness of heart. People know by his daily practices of life.
In addition, Paul’s words assume that we will sing! There is no dualism here (melody in the heart to the Lord, but no words on the lips!). Shame on me if I do not sing with heart and soul to the Lord and in order to bless my fellow worshipers with instruction and encouragement! Too sharp a distinction between the “psalms,” “hymns,” and “songs” should not be drawn. The language is intended to emphasize rich variety of sacred song, not to give instruction in ancient hymnology. If any differentiation is made, “psalms” may be taken to refer to Old Testament psalms, while “hymns” and “spiritual songs” both refer to distinctly Christian compositions, the latter possibly being impromptu rhythmic utterances produced under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
“Making melody in your heart to the Lord” indicates that these joyful expressions are not to be merely mechanical productions of lip and finger. Unless praise springs from the heart it is not acceptable to the Lord.
Paul has given us something else in verses 19 and 20―the evidence of the filling of the spirit. We mentioned the first evidence already; the apostle said that we will speak to ourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We sing, and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. This, then, is the first evidence and the second is . . .
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
The first evidence was the filling of the Spirit (19) and the second is found here; “GIVING THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS.” A Spirit-filled person is a thankful person . . . always, for all things. He is thankful to God the Father in the name of Jesus, because it is in Jesus that the filling of the Spirit is possible. If Jesus had not been willing to do the Father’s will, if He had not left the Father’s bosom and surrendered Himself into the hands of wicked men who nailed Him to the cross, if He had not died, we could not enjoy this precious salvation and the glorious filling of the Holy Spirit. Christian thankfulness should not be confined to Sunday worship; it should be evoked every day by everything the good God gives us; and it should ascend to heaven in the name and for the sake of the Lord who is our only mediator. A Spirit-filled life is a life that makes melody in the heart to the Lord, and gives thanks to God for the Lord Jesus. A Spirit-filled person will be always thanking God for the Lord Jesus, and for the spiritual joy, peace, blessings, assurance and security that we have through the shed blood and the grace of God in the Lord Jesus. Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you know the fullness of the Spirit? It is your blessing to possess if you are willing to pay the price. Redemption is free—you cannot pay the price for redemption. Salvation is free . . . but there is a price to be paid if we enjoy the fullness of the Spirit. The price is to submit to God to be emptied of self, selfishness, sensual lust, and the world; and when you are emptied you are then ready to be filled. “BE NOT DRUNK WITH WINE . . . BUT BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT!”
Unfortunately, this is a world marked by deep ingratitude (2 Timothy 3:2). The churches corporate and enthusiastic thankfulness in everything makes it a light in the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. Alas if we are unthankful, if our worship is without energy! Alas if we do not see singing praises as also an opportunity to encourage one another! The loss is ours.
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
In verse 21 we are commanded to submit one to another in the fear of God. One of the greatest needs in the local church today is for people to fear God, and work in harmony and unity. One of the terrible sins in the visible church today is the lack of unity. As in the Corinthian church, every person has a song, every person has a doctrine, every person has a testimony, every person has a sermon—and everybody wants to run things. God has an abundance of bosses, superintendents, presidents, chairmen of the board; He is looking for common laborers . . . folks who will get down in the dirt and be a humble servant. We are to submit one to another, and when we are filled with the Spirit we do that. This command sets mutual subordination as the rule in the Church. Paul’s concept of subordination is not popular in these days when we never tire of affirming that all men are created equal and when there is much talk of the equality of the sexes. Yet, even in a worldly society, some must rule and others serve, and in the Church this principle of mutual subordination finds its example in the One who “though he was in the form of God . . . emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).
To submit here is, literally, “to line up under”—as soldiers might do in placing themselves under their general. Paul will soon speak of the church’s life as warfare against the powers of darkness. There is therefore appropriateness in applying this military picture to the Christian life; especially when we remember the exhortation which opened this whole section—to strive to maintain the unity of our fellowship. Satan is always looking for ways to break it down and so mar the powerful witness to Christ that is present in a united fellowship (John 17:21-22).
Here, as in Philippians 2:1-11, Paul’s remedy for disunity (and even for the potential of it) is humility—counting others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). That does not mean false modesty or a denial of the gifts the Lord has given us. It does, however, mean that the person filled with the Spirit will always be asking “How can I serve my fellow believers.”
Our Savior, Lord, and Model were “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He humbled himself and took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Should we be prepared for anything less?
I would heartily agree that there are few examples of a Spirit-filled life today—but thank God, there are some. God help you and me to permit the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, God help us to be empty of everything that would hinder the cause of Christ, the building up of the body, the bringing in of the unsaved. GOD HELP US TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP IN THE EARLY CHURCH
From this passage we can gather certain facts about the Christian gatherings in the early days.
1. The early Church was a singing Church. It’s characteristic was psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; it had a happiness which made men singing.
2. The early Church was a thankful Church. The instinct was to give thanks for all things and in all places and at all times. Chrysostom, a great preacher of the Church of a later day, had the curious thought that a Christian could give thanks even for Hell, because Hell was a warning to keep him in the right way. The early Church was a thankful Church because its members were still dazzled with the wonder that God’s love had stooped to save them; and it was a thankful Church because its members had such a consciousness that they were in the hands of God.
3. The early Church was a Church where men honored and respected each other. Paul says that the reason for this mutual honor and respect was that they reverenced Christ. They saw each other not in the light of their professions or social standing but in the light of Christ; and therefore they saw the dignity of every man.