Ephesians 5:18-21 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
In Ephesians 5:19-21 Christians are told to be joyful, thankful, and submissive. The believer is instructed, in Ephesians 5:18, to be filled with the Spirit. The context of this command is seen in the contrast with being drunk with wine. An individual who is drunk is under the control of the alcohol. A person filled with the Holy Spirit of God will be controlled by the Spirit of God. The Bible clearly teaches that every believer has received the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9b says “… Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Galatians 5:17 describes the struggle believers have with the inward war, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” The previous verse, however, Galatians 5:16 shows the way to victory, “… Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Someone has well said, “When we get saved we have all of the Holy Spirit we will ever have, but He may not have all of us.” Only as the child of God is filled with God’s Spirit can they have genuine joy, true gratitude, and sincere submission.
Ephesians 5:19 speaks of joy. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is difficult to sing when you have no joy. Psalm 137:3-4 illustrates this “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” Of course, these Jewish folks did not have God’s Spirit, so the request to sing while they were captive in a foreign land was ludicrous. Some commentators say it would have been treasonous. Isaiah 35:10 tells of joyful singing when God’s children return to their promised land, “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Contrast these Old Testament passages to the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. They had many stripes laid upon them, they were cast into prison (the inner prison), and their feet were placed in stocks. Yet, Acts 16:25 testifies “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” A preacher got on an elevator one day, and exchanged greetings with another man. He asked how the man was doing. “Not bad, under the circumstances,” answered his new acquaintance. The preacher, with a grin, responded, “What are you doing under the circumstances?” Paul and Silas were not under their circumstances. Even in prison, they had joy. And their midnight song declared it!
In Ephesians 5:20 the Bible says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Dante Gabriel Rossetti said, “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank.” Unfortunately, many Christians are not as grateful as they ought to be. When a child of God is filled with the Spirit, they will have a different outlook, and will have an attitude of gratitude. Ephesians 5:20 does not simply say to be thankful. It says to give thanks “for all things.” That is repeated in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Often, an individual sees things from a very limited perspective. A Spirit filled individual will tend to see things from God’s perspective, and by His grace, will understand that God is sovereign, and will be able to be grateful. This limited perspective can be illustrated by Lot’s daughters, after the destruction of Sodom. The older daughter to her younger sister “… there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth” (Genesis 19:31). Her world had just been destroyed – and she couldn’t see beyond it. But God saw beyond the smoke and ashes.
Ephesians 5:21 continues “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Submission is a word that is hated today. Women do not want to be told to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). And men do not want to be told to submit to anyone. A dislike of submission is not a gender problem, it is a human nature problem. It is a sin problem. Pride rejects submission. The flesh detests coming under authority. But God’s Spirit enables the believer to yield to the Lord and to his authorities.
Romans 8:9 points out that every child of God has the Spirit of God. Notice the context, Romans 8:7-9 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Christians may choose to walk in the flesh, or to walk in the Spirit. If they walk in the flesh, they cannot please God. If a person is not filled with, or controlled by, the Holy Spirit, it will be impossible to be joyful, thankful or submissive. However, if a person is filled with the Spirit, the natural, perhaps more accurately, the supernatural evidence will be a life of joy, thanksgiving, and submission.