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Ephesians 5:18-21 (YLT):

18 and be not drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in the Spirit,

19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

20 giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the God and Father;

21 subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.

In verse 18, Paul encourages the Ephesians to seek the infilling of the Spirit.

Then, he enumerates various laudable actions in the verses that follow:

  • Praise the Lord (v19).
  • Express gratitude to the Father, in the name of Jesus (v20).
  • Be submissive to one another in the fear of God (v21).

Are the laudable actions of verses 19-21 either consequences of or conditions for being filled in the Spirit? Is there a causal relationship between being filled in the Spirit and these laudable actions? If so, what is the direction of the arrow of causation? Or should we rather see this as Paul just giving a list of things for the Ephesians to do, and the infilling of the Spirit is just one more item on the list?

A complementary question one could ask as well is: How did Paul expect the Ephesians to obey the command to be filled in the Spirit in a practical and concrete way?

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It is well-known that the so-called "Acts of the Apostles" should have been called, "The Acts of the Holy Spirit" because the Holy Spirit did so much leading and enabling of the early disciples. Here is a quick sample:

  • Acts 20:22 - Paul is compelled by the Spirit
  • Acts 19:21 - Paul is compelled by the Spirit
  • Acts 18:5 - Paul is compelled by the Spirit
  • Acts 15 - the important decision and communique was led by the Holy Spirit

In other places we often see people being lead and motivated by the promptings of the Holy Spirit such as:

  • Matt 4:1 - Jesus led by the Holy Spirit
  • Luke 4:1 - Jesus is led by the Spirit
  • Luke 2:27 - the prophet Simon was led by the Spirit
  • Rom 8:9 - Christians are led and live by the Spirit
  • Rom 15:19 - people used the power of the Spirit of God
  • Gal 5:22, 23 - Paul lists the Fruit of the Spirit, love joy peace, etc. These are transforming aspects of the human character miraculously produced by the Spirit.
  • Gal 5:25 - Paul encourages us to be led by the Spirit
  • 1 Cor 12 describes the many gifts of the Spirit for enabling the sacred work of the church to continue

The phrase "filled with the Spirit" occurs in Acts 4:8 and is the obvious cause that enabled Peter's fearless boldness in declaring Jesus Christ as the long awaited and prophesied Messiah to antagonistic Jewish leaders.

Is being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) what enabled all the disciples to (a) praise, (b) express gratitude and (c) be submissive to one another? To answer this I note that:

  1. Such actions are not natural for sinful human beings as rom 3:10-18 makes very clear
  2. Such actions in many other places were at the prompting of the Holy spirit
  3. If such actions are NOT the result of being filled withy the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit's work in us and through us (John 16:5-15) is useless and pointless.

Therefore, the answer to the OP's question is undoubtedly "Yes" - it could not occur any other way!

APPENDIX - Grammar and Syntax

The phrase in question is ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι [= but be filled with the Spirit] in which the important word is ἐν = "en" - but what does it mean in this instance?

According BDAG, ἐν can mean, "in", "into", "with", "at", "near", "on account of", "in connection with", "by", "while", "when", etc. There are 12 basic meanings listed in BDAG. When used in the dative case noun, the meaning become one of instrumentality, "with" or by means of".

Thus, in Eph 5:18 most versions correctly have the translation as "with"; only a very few have "by" but the sense remains the same.

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  • This answer presents a very good argument to conclude that being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) is the enabling cause of the laudable actions of following verses, which is the view I personally lean more towards as well. What still remains answered though is the final question: How did Paul expect the Ephesians to carry out his command to be filled in the Spirit in a practical and concrete way? -- in other words, if one has to be filled with the Spirit first and only then one is able to obey the next verses, this begs the question how can we be filled with the HS in the first place? – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 25 at 13:45
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - the Bible is explicitly silent on this point; BUT, we are also told that keeping our eyes upon Jesus who is the beginner and finisher of our faith is the key (Heb 12:2, 3). That is, as we look to imitate Jesus, the Spirit enables us to do things. Put another way, the Spirit enable - we do not control the Spirit! – Dottard Mar 25 at 20:35
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Is there a causal relationship between the infilling of the Spirit and the actions listed in subsequent verses in Ephesians 5:18-21?

There are five participles in the following verses, indicating how one can be filled with the spirit of God. Paul's advice is helpful and fitting in Ephesus, in this city they had festivals to Bacchus (or Dionisius) the god of wine, which was characterizes by heavy drinking, followed by wild dancing, and sexual immorality.

The bold inserts in the verses are mine.

Ephesians 5:18-21 (YLT):

18 and be not drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in the Spirit,

19 (1 by speaking) speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, (2 singing) singing and making (3 music) melody in your heart to the Lord,

20 ( 4 giving thanks) giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the God and Father;

21 (5 submitting) subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.

Faithful servants of God may at times become downhearted and struggle to maintain a positive outlook. What can help? By following Paul's advice in Vs 19-21, beseeching God in prayer, singing spiritual songs, and meditating on the scriptures can lift one's own spirit and thus help rechannel their thoughts.

Notes: Vs 18

"and be not drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in the Spirit,"

According to the Greek Koine below the definite article "the" is not in the scriptures and so the verse should read "but be filled in spirit " . The insertion is due to theological bias, such translators are not translating but inserting their own beliefs in the scriptures. Pneuma translated spirit is neuter in the Greek , in other words it is an it/which not a who/whom.

(WHNU) Vs 18 "και μη μεθυσκεσθε οινω εν ω εστιν ασωτια αλλα πληρουσθε εν πνευματι"

en= εν=in

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  • So you are saying that the infilling of (the) spirit is a consequence of the following verses, not a cause. In other words, there is a causal relationship, but the direction is backwards. Am I interpreting your answer correctly? – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 25 at 13:48
  • Yes by doing those things, your basically asking the Father in heaven to give you the gift of the holy spirit,Luke 13 "So if you, despite being [a]evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will [b]your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”" – Ozzie Ozzie Mar 25 at 15:06
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As pointed out by Ozzie, there are five participles. ESV did a pretty good job in translating Ephesians 5:18b-21.

Ephesians 5:18b but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing 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.

Note that all of the above is only one clause within a long compound sentence. Paul often wrote long compound sentences. As usual, there is only one verb in this clause: Be filled. There are 5 non-finite gerunds: addressing, singing, making, giving, and submitting. All 5 gerunds are grammatically dependent on the verb "Be filled". That's the syntax. Semantically, the gerund actions are dependent on being filled. In other words, the filling is a necessary condition for the 5 gerund actions.

Is there a causal relationship between the infilling of the Spirit and the actions listed in subsequent verses in Ephesians 5:18-21?

Unfortunately, causality is not a concept within the formal framework of first-order logic. There is no explicit mention of "cause" in Ephesians 5:18b-21 either. So there is no textual or grammatic reason to believe that the filling would immediately cause the 5 gerund actions. To show causality, you would need supports from other passages.

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