Ephesians 5:19-21 – The ingredients of a spirit-filled life


EPHESIANS 5:19-21 [Part 2 of v15-21]




This message is really part 2 of what we were dealing with last time. A wise and spirit-filled life. There were 4 things we said about a Spirit-filled life that arise out of verse 18:


Four things to note about this phrase “Be filled with the Spirit”

  • – it is a command this is not an optional extra we can add to our faith if we choose – it is a command to be obeyed.
  • – it is for all Christians – It is not for the spiritual elite – [the words are in the 2nd person pl.] you (pl).
  • – it is to be received we can not fill ourselves with the Spirit only God can do that so how then can it be a command if we can’t do it. : there are many things I can’t do but I have to co-operative in order for them to be done to me. Having an operation in hospital.                     We must co-operative with God so that his work in us can be effected.
  • it is ongoing – the tense is present and continuous – it is a day by day ongoing filling.


We also made a distinction between Baptism of the Spirit and the Filling of the Spirit – I will not go over that again! [Chat to me afterwards or listen to the tape!!]


When we speak of spiritual life it is easy to think in terms of a mystical and private experience but I am afraid that Paul does not allow us to fall into that way of thinking. As we have already see in chapters 4-5 when Paul expounds a theological principle he usually follows it with practical directives.


For example, in 4v24 he says that having put on the new self in the likeness of God THEREFORE do not steal, lie, harbour anger and bitterness, do not indulge in immoral sexual acts, words or thoughts …


In a similar way Paul here in v.19-21 having talked about a spirit-filled life now continues by spelling out some of the ingredients of such a life.

These include       – fellowship

– worship

– thankfulness

– submission



Speak to one another


The God we say we worship is a God who speaks – God spoke and the universe came into being – the first recorded experience of man and woman was that of God speaking to them. It is God’s nature to communicate – the heavens declare the glory of God – he spoke through the prophets, he has spoken through his son Jesus Christ, he speaks now through the Bible, through his people by His Spirit – God is a communicator.


A spirit-filled life is one that is becoming more and more like God. In 5v1 Paul urges us to be imitators of God – if we are going to become like God then we must speak to one another – how can we have this conversation with one another unless we are having meaningful fellowship. What kind of speaking?? Not speaking about the weather or the latest fashion or football match!!!

If we are going to have meaningful conversation with each other then we must spend time in each other’s company – you can’t talk to someone who is not there!

We talk about fellowship and we say we believe in fellowship BUT how much do we practice it.

If we don’t practice what we say we believe then in the end we stop believing it – Because we can’t be bothered to spend time with our fellow Christians we end up not believing in Fellowship or we change the definition of fellowship to fit our behaviour.


The Church is a community that is gathered around the person of Jesus Christ. The first disciples formed a community around Jesus – it was through these early disciples that the Church took shape in the HOMES of believers. It was structures around normal family life – fellowship took place in homes where they met together for prayer, for worship, for communion and to pass on the teaching of Jesus by word of mouth [speaking to one another]. [Acts 2]


The problem with the modern Western Church is that we focus on the building – it cost many £££ to put up and maintain then in order to justify its existence we plan most activities at the building – however the when we do meet in the building it is seldom for fellowship BUT rather a monologue sermon.


We speak of the Church as a community but unless that theory is put into practice it will have little meaning. But it is not simply being together that constitutes Christian fellowship and Christian community – there can be a sense of community and belonging at the local football club –

When we talk about the church we are not speaking about a building but about the community of Jesus and his Kingdom. Human community is only Christian community when it is formed around Jesus and lives by the Spirit of God for the sake of the Kingdom!!


You see why it is so vitally important that we are filled with the Spirit – because without the Spirit of God active in our lives and in the community of the Church there can be no fellowship.


There needs to be a coming together in meaningful fellowship = this can only happen in small groups = meaningful communication cannot take place between 100+ people on a Sunday morning. Do you have any meaningful Christian conversation, prayer, sharing over and above what happens here on a Sunday?? If you don’t then your Spiritual life will be deficient.

As with any family and any relationship you have to work at it, it does not simply happen. There is a commitment involved – so you write into your diary this is home group night – this is prayer night – so that these things become priority otherwise we are fooling ourselves!!


We very easily say that Jesus must come first in our lives – I challenge you to evaluate your life in the light of that statement. A mark of being filled with the Spirit is speaking to one another – this is a conversation between believer that is mediated by the Word of God – it is a speaking about the things of Christ in the presence of Christ.


I believe we need this kind of commitment so that we can grow, be accountable and be more effective in our witness.


Part of speaking to one another and an ingredient of being Spirit-filled is WORSHIP.




Ephesians 5:19 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (NIV)


Some commentators try to make distinctions between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and their is some justification for this.


The use of music in worship is a wonderful gift – one of the things I am really pleased about is the mix there is available to us To be able to draw on the wonderful old hymns of the past. We have sung some this morning.


Crown Him with many crowns

the Lamb upon the Throne

–a 19th century hymn


God is our strength and refuge

our present help in trouble

— a good example of a psalms [46]


Reign in Me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me….

— an example of a spiritual song.


All of these are good and enhance our worship – in order for Christian music to be good Christian music — the music itself must be good — good rhythm, melody and harmony BUT equally importantly or probably more importantly the words must be good – good theology.


There are some modern choruses that are very shallow theologically and even singing scripture IF it is out of context can be misleading or meaningless. A choruses we sang years ago had this line … is Mt. Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King …. What on earth does that mean!!

Some hymns have words that most people today would not understand .. here I raise my Ebernezer … few will know what that means — and there are many more examples.


Singing and making melody probably indicates vocal and instrumental music. We see through scripture, esp. the Psalms, that both are used in the praise of God.


BUT it is not just singing that constitutes worship – There are many wonderful songs and beautiful pieces of music – whether you like classical, jazz, country and western, folk, modern …. in all classes of music there are some wonderful pieces BUT these do not in and of themselves produce worship. Even Church music is not always worship.


There are two requirements in order for music to constitute worship –it must be to the Lord and it must be with all your heart.


I am so grateful that a requirement for worship was not having a good voice and singing in tune – I would not qualify. What is important is what is from the heart. BUT if you don’t have a song in your heart then you cannot sing from the heart. Only God can put that song there and even as Christians we will not have that song in our hearts unless we are under the control of the Holy Spirit.


God will not accept our worship when our hearts are out of tune with him. If you are bitter towards God or harbouring anger for one of your family or friends then God will not accept your worship. Hypocrisy can never praise God.


When the people of Israel came to worship God at the Temple in the days of Amos the prophet and their lives were in ruins and far from God, listen to what God says, Amos 5:21-24 21 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (NIV)


When we are right before God he hears and accepts our worship – Sometimes we come to Church and the singing seems lifeless – let me suggest that maybe it is not the singing that is lifeless but our own hearts that are dull and far from God. BUT how wonderful it is when we are caught up in worship and our hearts are almost bursting with praise to God.


JBP translation has this “making music in your hearts for the ears of the Lord”




Ephesians 5:20 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)


The Psalms are full of invitations to thank God — Psalm 100:4 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (NIV)


It is so much easier to whinge than it is to give thanks – we so easily slip into moaning and groaning. One of the besetting sins of the nation of Israel was that they were always grumbling.

We are the same – When the sun shines it is too hot — when it does not shine it is too cold — when it rains it is too wet ——


BUT a spirit-filled believer is not one who is always complaining but one who is full of thanksgiving. It is so easy to complain about what we haven’t got but how much better to give thanks for what we have got.


I complained when I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet


ALWAYS for EVERYTHING ?? Must we take this literally. Can we thank God for absolutely everything including blatant evil?? There is a strange notion popularised by Merlin Caruthers that the secret to Christian freedom and happiness is unconditional praise for everything, including evil.


ILLUS.: So a husband must praise God for his wife drunkenness and a wife must praise God for her husband’s adultery and parents must praise God for their children drug addiction or the break-up of their marriage.

At best such teaching is half-truth and at worse it is blasphemous.

The Bible tells us that God abhors evil and that we are to resist the devil — how then are we to give thanks for the devil’s work and for the evil that is in the world and which affects all of our lives.

To teach Christians to give thanks for evil is very insensitive – are we to give thanks for other people’s pain when the scriptures tell us to weep with those who weep..


Of course we need to learn not to argue with God in our suffering, but to trust him — it is something that I am having to learn as you know — it is in the midst of suffering and pain that God wants us to trust him and thank him for his loving providence by which he can turn evil to good purposes.


Romans 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)


Giving thanks for everything is not walking around with a big grin on your face when you are suffering but it is learning to be like Jesus Luke 22:42 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)


This is something that we all have to learn because we will all go through difficulties and suffering. Jesus said to his followers. John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)


How are we to give thanks to God? in the name of Jesus Christ!

Do you see again how the Trinity is involved and works together is us and for us.

When we are filled with the Spirit we can give thanks to the Father through Jesus Christ.




Ephesians 5:21

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (NIV)


There is a debate as to whether or not this verse belongs to this section we have been looking at or to the next section dealing with husbands and wives, parents and children, salves and masters.


Grammatically it belongs to this section in that it is a dependent clause which is linked to the command to be filled with the Spirit. It is another present participle the same as speaking … singing …. and thanking …..


It is also clearly linked to the next section as we will see next week. It is a link verse that ends one sections and begins another.


Sometimes people who claim to be filled with the Spirit become very assertive, arrogant and brash. BUT the Holy Spirit is a humble Spirit and those who are being filled with the Spirit will exhibit those qualities.


This issue of being in submission or subjection to someone else is something that is not very popular in our modern age of freedom and liberation.


As we come in the next few week to deal with wives’, children’s and servants’ submission we will define this term more clearly. It is a very provocative term and the discussion of it often produces more heat than light.


However submission does not mean being ‘doormat’ but it does mean considering others and putting others first.

Naturally we want to promote self – and very often when people are in positions of authority they tend to abuse that position and use it for their own ends. Sadly we often see that attitude in the church. “You must do this or that because I say so and I am the pastor.” NO!


I find it interesting that before Paul launches into teaching on the submission of wives to husbands, children to parents and servants to masters, he first says submit to one another.


And notice the phrase that follows out of reverence for Christ –

Paul has spent the whole letter so far showing that we are “in Christ” and that what we are and how we live must be governed by this fact. We are to submit to one another NOT because the other person is superior to us BUT Jesus teaches us to put others before ourselves – we are to love each other – bear each others burdens – These are the qualities that are marks of being spirit-filled.


This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV)




God commands us all to be filled with the Holy Spirit. You will not know this filling sitting in solitude contemplating your navel.

Yes we need to spend time in private prayer, study and meditation BUT if we want the filling of the Spirit we will need to be in meaningful fellowship with other Christians, we will need to worship together with other Christians, we will need to give thanks to God for all his good gifts and his providential care in difficult times and we will need to continue to learn to put others first.


Being Spirit-filled is to do with relationships – our relationship to God [worshipping him with thanksgiving] – and our relationship to each other [speaking and submitting to one another].





Ephesians 5:18 – 21


  1. A Spirit-filled life includes Fellowship.

       speak to one another


  1. A Spirit-filled life includes Worship.

       psalms, hymns, spiritual songs

            [vocal and instrumental music]

       in your heart

       to the Lord


  1. A Spirit-filled life includes Thankfulness.


       for everything

       to God the Father

       in Jesus’ name


  1. A Spirit-filled life includes Submission.

       to each other

       for Christ’s sake


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