Monday, December 28, 2020

2020.12.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:18–21

Read Ephesians 5:18–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What must we not be (Ephesians 5:18)? With what? What does verse 18 call drunkenness? With what are we to be filled instead? Unto this end, what are we to do with one another (Ephesians 5:19)? In what three things are we to speak to one another? In what action are we to do this speaking? Doing what in our heart? To Whom? As we sing to one another, what else are we doing (Ephesians 5:20)? To Whom? In What? As we speak to one another in this way, and we are being spoken to, what are we to be doing to one another (Ephesians 5:21)? In What? 

Almost every reader of these devotionals would immediately join in the command not to be drunk with wine. This is the “put off” portion of command. Drunkenness leads to dissipation, which is the exact opposite of self-control—a recklessness that falls easily into any and every sort of sin.

But the “putting on” is every bit as much as a command. Being filled with the Spirit is not a higher state to which some believers finally attain. Rather, it is a command that is set in parallel cooperation with “do not be drunk with wine.” Our Lord commands every single believer to be filled with the Spirit.

Now, let us not get the wrong idea. Being filled with the Spirit is not something that we can “accomplish.” This is a commandment, but it is a passive commandment. “Be filled.” In other words, we are commanded to something that only the Spirit Himself can do. We might paraphrase it, “let the Holy Spirit fill you.”

Thankfully, in the next three verses, there are several participial verbs by which the Spirit Himself tells us the means by which He fills us, before going on in the next twenty-one verses to describe what that Spirit-filled life will look like.

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19a). Earlier in the letter, the apostle said that the risen, victorious Lord gives gifts to equip every joint to supply something and every member to do its share. What is a great part of that share? Public worship. Singing in public worship. Singing various kinds of Scripture (each of these terms comes from superscripts of different types of Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that they were using in Ephesus). Since the Spirit Himself fills us through our speaking to one another in the singing in public worship, you are commanded to attend. You are commanded to sing. And the Spirit Himself honors His means by filling you through that singing—not necessarily by making you feel very spiritual, but rather by making His Word to dwell in you more richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

“Singing and making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19b). Ordinarily, musical tunes energize the singing. We have all felt that. But that is not the accompaniment to the singing in Christian public worship. The accompaniment is the heart of the Christian, more specifically the grace of Christ in the heart (cf. Colossians 3:16). We understand this even better when we realize that it is Christ Himself Who sings through our brethren, and Who speaks through us to our brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). When this passage commands us to be filled with the Spirit, part of what it commands us to do is to realize that Jesus has not only given to us what to sing, but that He Himself is powerfully working to make those words of His to dwell richly in us while we sing. The command “Be filled with the Spirit” is a command to have a particular view of congregational singing.

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). The Spirit wars against the flesh, and as He wars against “fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, […] filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:3-4a), with what does He displace these things that are put off? The Spirit displaces them with the putting on of “giving of thanks” (verse 4b). So, what is the Spirit’s own incubator for this thanksgiving that is to saturate out conversations with one another and to saturate our view of our lives under God? The Spirit incubates this thankfulness in the singing of the congregation, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself expresses His own perfect thankfulness and joy through our mouths and in our hearts (Ephesians 5:20). 

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Who leads worship at your church? In one sense, the correct answer to that question is “the risen, ascended Lord Jesus leads worship from the throne.” Hallelujah! In a subordinate sense, the answer to that question is “the shepherd-teachers whom that Jesus has given for leading and teaching His church” (cf. Ephesians 4:11). But, in a very real and true sense, under Christ and His governance through those elders, the entire congregation is called to lead within the context of the singing. This is one reason that some current trends in public worship music, in addition to profaning the worship of God by offering what is according to the design of men instead of the command of God… these trends harm the congregation’s discipleship by removing this dynamic of each of us leading all the others, and each of us being led by all the others, during congregational song. 

And how dreadful for us to diverge from the Spirit’s directives for congregational song! Here, the Holy Spirit tells us that our submission to one another in this corporate singing is part of how He fills us—part of how we obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, if we decide instead to sing (or have musical performance) that is according to what feels most spiritual to us, we tragically give up the actual filling of the almighty Holy Spirit for a powerless and worthless feeling of spirituality. In our singing, we can only “submit to one another in the fear of God” if it is that God’s word being sung in that God’s way.

What a marvelous thing is congregational song in public worship! In it, we obey that wonderful command, “Be filled with the Spirit”!

What is happening when your church sings in public worship on the Lord’s Day? 

What are some things that you should be doing during that singing?

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

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