Surprised by Hope: Being Like God, Part 2

In the last post, we considered the meaning of Eph 4:22-24 —

(Eph 4:22-24)  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In this post, I want to expand on a thought mentioned briefly in the preceding post: the rest of Ephesians explains how the Christian puts off the old self and puts on the new self re-created by God to be like God.

The very next verse says,

(Eph 4:25)  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

“Put off” is the same word used in v. 22 for “put off your old self.” And Paul’s explanation culminates in chapter 6 with —

(Eph 6:11)  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

And, of course, “put on” in 6:11 is the same word as “put on” on in 4:24. It all fits. And Paul repeatedly follows the same motif of: don’t do this but instead do that.

(Eph 4:28)  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

(Eph 4:29)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

(Eph 6:4)  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

I could list many other examples. But there’s one example I particularly want to focus on —

(Eph 5:18 ESV) And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The ESV correctly translates these verses as a single sentence, showing the “don’t do this but instead do that” structure of Paul’s argument. Paul is saying don’t get drunk, instead be filled with the Spirit. “Filled with the Spirit” is followed by three participles, each giving an example of consequences of being filled with the Spirit.

Now, this passage is particularly parallel to 4:22-24 because it speaks in terms of the Spirit’s work — God’s work in us. It’s one facet of God’s creating our new selfs. Therefore, given that the thought is about God’s work in us, we need to discover what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.” Otherwise, we’ll get the rest of the passage wrong.

We find the same expression in these passages —

(Acts 6:3-5)  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

(Acts 11:22-24)  News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

It’s hard to reach a solid conclusion from just these passages, but there’s no reason to think that one must be able to perform wondrous miracles to be filled with the Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit seems to qualify someone as a leader in the church. It only makes sense if being filled with the Spirit means that the Spirit’s work in the heart of the Christian has been particularly effective.

And this leads us to ask what the Spirit does in our hearts?

(Rom 14:17)  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

(Gal 4:6)  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

(Gal 5:16-25)  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

(Eph 3:16-19)  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

(Phil 3:3)  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–

(1 Th 1:6)  You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

This is not a complete list, but these verses will help, I think.

Rom 14:17 is very parallel, contrasting drinking with “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” All three virtues are “in the Holy Spirit,” and so we must figure that someone filled with the Spirit is a person filled with righteousness, peace, and joy. Indeed, we also see joy in Eph 5:22 and 1 Th 1:6. Joy is mentioned as often as any other fruit of the Spirit. Those filled with the Spirit are filled with joy.

We see in Gal 4:6, the Spirit calls out from within our hearts “Abba, Father” — that is, the Spirit produces a sense of familiarity — of being family — with our Father in heaven. The Spirit helps restore us to right relationship with God by helping us to relate to him as a child relates to her earthly father.

The passage from Gal 5 makes clear that the Spirit rejects “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (which sounds a lot like church, doesn’t it?) and instead produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Finally, Phil 3:3 tells us that Christians worship by the Spirit — and we’ve just seen what Christian worship must be like. Christian worship must filled, first, with joy. Add to that righteousness, peace, relating to God as a child relates to her adored father, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Now, that’s a large part of what it means to be filled with the  Spirit, except to note that “be filled” is passive voice (NEB: “Let the Spirit fill you”). God fills us. We let God fill us rather than grieving and resisting the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are God’s good gifts. As we strive to grow in the faith, we aren’t alone. God is in us through his Spirit — personally living in us — so that we succeed, indeed, so that we don’t prevent his succeeding.


3 Responses

  1. This sure puts a twist on John 4:24, doesn’t it? I grew up hearing that worship in spirit meant something that really had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit – maybe “spirited singing” – and worship in truth meant according to the teachings of the New Testament.

    I blogged on this here. There I said:

    What did Jesus mean by “worship in spirit”? He Himself had just said, “God is spirit.” In the context of chapter three, He had said, “Spirit gives birth to spirit” and that everyone who enters God’s kingdom must be “born of water and Spirit.” By being born of water and Spirit, those entering God’s kingdom come into relationship with God, who is Himself spirit. It is in that relationship with God that true worship can occur.

    About worship in truth, I wrote,

    But, what does it mean to “worship in truth?” John uses this phrase, “in truth,” also in 1 John 3:18. There he writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” What does the phrase mean there? It refers to genuine love that comes from the heart. It is an actual love shown, not in words alone, but in heart-felt action.
    Worship in truth is genuine worship that comes from the heart. It stands in stark contrast to the worship of the Pharisees of whom Jesus said as he quoted from Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:9; Isaiah 29:13).

    I feel much more comfortable with this more mature understanding of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well.

    Thank you for a good post.


  2. John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

    John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

    John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    We can see that Jesus’ emphasis to Nicodemus that a person born just of the flesh isn’t enough to save them but that they also need to be born of the Spirit.

    Jesus explained further telling Nicodemus, “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

  3. Jerry,

    Well said. I’ve got some thoughts to add in a post coming in a few days.

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