It had to have been a science class somewhere along the way in my education, maybe as early as fourth grade. The teacher put a glass in front of us and asked us what was in it.
"Nothing," we replied in unison, at which point she told us we were mistaken—it was full of air. It took a while for some to catch on. A glass is never empty, not even half-empty. It is either full of some liquid or it is full of air or it contains some of both. That was the beginning of our study of vacuums, leading to the old Bell jar demonstration.
What is true for a glass, is true for us as well. "Be filled with the Spirit," our passage above says, and we understand that if we do not fill ourselves with that, something much worse will worm its way inside us because, just as physical nature abhors a vacuum, so does spiritual nature.
And so we need to know how to fill ourselves with the Spirit and all too often we stop with those two verses. "By singing!" we exclaim when someone asks how it is done, and then laud our congregation for its Spirit-filled singing, as if that is all there is to it. We sound great and those harmonies and rhythms stir our souls, making our hearts even beat faster, so that must be how to do it. Wow! Look at all the Spirit we have in this one room.
Yes, that is indeed part of it. But if we think that a good songfest will take care of the issue, we have shown ourselves to be poor readers of the Word. That paragraph does not stop with "singing," and neither does that sentence.
…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Eph 5:20).
How good am I at giving thanks, especially if I have had a particularly trying week? How often does my thanks become complaining because my life has not gone the way I expected? Because Ii got up on the wrong side of the bed? Because someone cut me off in traffic? How often do I resort to those words of self-pity, "Why me?" when suffering comes my way? Probably more often than I should, but still, being thankful is fairly easy to do when you have been steeped in the plan of God to save us from sin and the sacrifices He made to do it for your entire life. So how about the final point in that sentence?
…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:21).
What?! Yes, if I am filled with the Spirit, I am submitting to my brothers and sisters. "Aye, there's the rub," we say along with Hamlet. We are perfectly happy to sing and even to give thanks, especially when reminded every so often, but submission? Now that IS a rub—a hindrance or impediment—to allowing the Spirit to fill us. What exactly is meant by this (grumble, grumble) "submission?"
Well, it is the same word as the next verse, Wives submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. The answer is right there. A man should submit to his brothers and sisters exactly as he expects his wife to submit to him, and even the manner is specified: as unto the Lord.
"I have my rights."
"I have liberties."
"I have my opinions."
"I am just as good as anyone else."
"No one can tell me what to do."
I have heard them all, not just once or twice, but too many times to count. And what does that mean? It means I have heard a lot of people who are filled with something besides the Spirit, probably themselves, because your heart abhors a vacuum just as much as nature does.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [How?]
1. addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
2. giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
3. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:18-21).