1 Corinthians 12–14
Singing (Ephesians 5:19)
You must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What comes into your mind when you hear that phrase? How about if I say it like this…”YOU MUST BE FIIILLLLEEEED WITH THE HOOOLLLY SPIIRIT!
Do you picture men and women sitting quietly in church, smiling and nodding and taking notes as the pastor preaches a sermon?
Probably not. When you hear of someone being filled with the Spirit, you think of something entirely different.
If you’ve ever watched TBN, or if you have attended certain churches or gone to so-called “Spiritual Revivals” then you have a completely different picture in your head.
You see in your mind a choir or a band singing and playing in the background. You see stage lights and brilliant colors. You see a person dressed in fine clothes up on stage, almost frantically pacing back and forth, and sometimes up and down the aisle, shouting into a microphone.
Sometimes you are able to understand what the speaker is shouting. Sometimes not. Sometimes, all that comes out is a stream of what sounds like gibberish to the “uninitiated,” but which you are later informed was speaking in tongues.
At one point in the sermon—if you could call it that—the speaker calls forward all those who want to receive the Holy Spirit—or be filled with the Holy Spirit. All the sick and the lame and the blind are also called forward. All those who have prayer requests are told to come forward. All those who are possessed or oppressed by demons are told to come forward.
As masses of people surge to the front of the auditorium, the show really gets going. The speaker goes up to some people, and prays over them, sometimes waving his arms around them. Then he blows on them, or smacks them on the head, and sometimes they start talking what sounds like gibberish to you, but which you are told is that person’s prayer language.
Sometimes the person who gets smacked on the head falls over and writhes for a while on the ground. Sometimes the person falls to the ground and laughs hysterically, or starts barking like a dog. Sometimes the person will start stumbling around and walking into things like they were drunk.
All the while, the speaker goes from person to person until there are scores of people doing various things up on the stage or around it. Meanwhile, the crowd is going crazy too. Some of them have started talking in their prayer language. Some of them are dancing around crazily. Some are shouting out praises to God.
Later, if you have the boldness to ask someone about it, they tell you that these people were all filled with the Spirit. They might even say that they were “drunk” with the spirit, and turn to passages like Acts 2 and Ephesians 5 to show that Spirit-filled Christians act drunk. And they will tell you that if you want to have everything God wants for you, then you too must be filled and do some of these things.
This is the sort of thing that most people have in mind when they think of “being filled with the Spirit.”
Is this a correct view? Is this what happens to those who are filled? Is this really God’s will for your life? Must you speak in tongues, and fall over as if dead, and stumble around as if drunk in order to have all that God wants for you?
Today, and in the next couple messages, we are going to find out.
And we are going to do this by looking to the sole source of authority and instruction on the matter. We are going to look at the Word of God. We want to see from God’s Word today what the filling of the Spirit looks like.
We previously learned from Ephesians 5:18 what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and how to be filled. We saw that the filling in simply an issue of letting the Spirit control you, and we saw that in order to be filled, you need to make sure have a good, solid foundation in the Word of God by spending time reading it, studying it and praying about it.
Then, when you are filled with the Word, you simply submit you will to it. Being filled by the Spirit is being controlled by the Spirit, and if you are going to be controlled by Him, you need to submit yourself to Him.
I closed last week by encouraging you to daily offer your lives and bodies to the control of the Holy Spirit. Since beginning this study, I have daily prayed that I would be filled with the Spirit. I would encourage you to do the same thing.
Today, we want to look at how you can know when you are filled with the Holy Spirit. What it looks like. What happens to you. What it feels like.
And we will see this ultimately by looking at Ephesians 5:19-21. Now because this topic is so important (and so misunderstood), I am actually going to take three messages to get through these three verses. So today, we will only be considering Ephesians 5:19.
But before we even look at Ephesians 5:19, I want take you on a quick tour through some key passages in the New Testament which will help lay the foundation for what we see in Ephesians 5.
This tour will instruct us on the effects of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Many people want to begin such a study with the book of Acts. But let’s go back further, and look at the place where Jesus promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come. We begin in John 14.
It is in John 14 that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, He also tells His disciples what to expect when the Holy Spirit comes. In other words, He tells them how they will know when the Holy Spirit arrives.
In John 14:16, Jesus says, “And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” This is simply the promise that the Holy Spirit will come, and that He will abide—or remain forever.
Then in John 14:26, Jesus elaborates on this Helper by saying this: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
So here, we see the first effect of the Holy Spirit’s coming. He will teach the apostles and remind them about everything Jesus said.
Then, Jesus begins to talk about the vine and the branches in John 15, and doesn’t get back to teaching about the Holy Spirit until John 16:7. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” Verse 7 is the third promise that the Holy Spirit will come.
John 16:8-11 talk about what the Holy Spirit will do for unbelievers. That doesn’t concern us today, so let’s skip on ahead to John 16:12-14, which says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
So we see two things here about what the Holy Spirit will do for them when He comes. Again, from John 16:13, we see that he will teach them and instruct them and guide them, and secondly, from John 16:14, He will glorify Jesus.
Now, some people read these chapters, and argue that since Jesus tells his apostles that the Spirit will guide them into all truth, we don’t need the Bible anymore, because the Spirit can teach us what we need to know.
Without getting too much involved refuting such teachings, let me just say two things against this idea.
First, Jesus is making this promise to His apostles. He is not making it to us. He is telling them that when the time comes for them to write Scripture and help start the church, the Holy Spirit will help them remember the teachings of Jesus so that they can be written down, and will help guide them into the right way to start the church.
But secondly, I find it odd that the people who think Jesus is saying “You don’t need anyone to teach you except the Holy Spirit” often do a lot of teaching which they expect other people to listen to. If all we need is the Holy Spirit to teach us, then why are these other human teachers going about teaching? If they are correct that all we need is the Holy Spirit, then they should just sit down and be quiet and let the Holy Spirit do the teaching. But they never do. Instead, they encourage you to buy their books and listen to their teachings, in which they show you that all you need in the Holy Spirit. The position is self-defeating.
So when Jesus makes this promise about the Holy Spirit coming to teach all things, He is making it only to the apostles, and is speaking of how the Holy Spirit will bring to mind the things Jesus taught them so that they can write it down in Scripture for future generations, and also of how the Holy Spirit will guide them into the truth of the church and how to go about spreading the church around the world.
None of this is to discredit the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. The Holy Spirit does open our minds and hearts to understand Scripture. But the promises of Jesus in John 14 and John 16 were primarily to His apostles, and we do indeed need teachers to teach us, and we must seek to properly learn and understand Scripture, because this is an important step in being filled with the Holy Spirit.
So John 14–16 is where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts shows what happened when the Holy Spirit actually came.
Acts 2, 4, 9
The Holy Spirit first came upon the church in Acts 2. In Acts 2:4, we find the first filling of the Holy Spirit. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Now just so we understand—a lot of things are going on here besides these believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. It was at this meeting that the Holy Spirit came for the very first time upon believers. At this moment they were regenerated, indwelled, baptized, sealed, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
All of these things happened to them, but Acts 2:4 only mentions the filling because of what happened next—many of the disciples began to speak in tongues. So, speaking in tongues is indeed a possible effect of being filled.
But notice what the tongues were. In Acts 2:6-11, we discover that the tongues were not gibberish. The tongues were not a prayer language. The tongues were actual languages. Luke could not have made it more clear. Three times he says that these were real languages, and the people in the audience understood what was being said (Acts 2:6, 8, 11).
Yes, it is true that some thought they were drunk (Acts 2:13), but this is not because of their behavior, but because of the many languages being spoken.
Yet notice what happens next. Peter, who was there, who we can also assume was filled with the Holy Spirit, preaches the first Spirit-filled sermon ever. And what was this Spirit-filled sermon? Well, if you read it later, you will discover that it is the Gospel.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, got up and preached the Word of God to the Jews. And according to Acts 2:41, 3000 people were saved.
So in John, we saw that the Spirit’s coming results in learning the Word of God. Here in Acts 2, we see that the Spirit’s filling results in teaching the Word of God. Yes, some of them taught it in a language they didn’t even know, but it was still the Word of God which was being taught to some in the crowd who understood.
So we’re kind of seeing a pattern here, but Acts 4:8 helps us see it even better. The text says this: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel …”
Here we see that Peter is filled again. This indicates that the filling can happen multiple times. But that’s not the important part. Notice here the result of Peter being filled. In Acts 4:9-12, Peter presents the Gospel message to the Sanhedrin. He preaches to them the Gospel. And he does not preach in another tongue or language, but preaches with power and boldness in a language that the audience understood.
Acts 4:31 indicates something similar. Here, the disciples have gathered to pray for boldness and power, and again, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and again, the same thing results—they speak the Word of God to one another. The word for “speak” there is the same word used for preaching or teaching.
Something similar is found in Acts 9:17. “And Ananias went his way and entered the house, and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”
So in this text, Ananias (a different Ananias than the one which got struck down in Acts 5 for lying to the Holy Spirit) praying over the newly converted Saul to receive back his sight and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
And what happened? In Acts 9:20, Saul went and preached about Jesus in the synagogues, and according to acts 9:22, he preached about Jesus Christ so convincingly that nobody could stand up to him in a debate. Here again, the filling of the Holy Spirit does not lead to strange and erratic behavior, but to the powerful, bold, clear, and convicting preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are many similar passages which show the same thing, but you get the idea. Being filled with the Spirit causes people to teach the Bible and preach the Gospel with power and with boldness.
1 Corinthians 12–14
Something similar is seen in 1 Corinthians 12–14. These three chapters contain the most detailed and comprehensive explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life—specifically in regard to spiritual gifts.
We dealt extensively with spiritual gifts when we studied Ephesians 4:11-12, so we don’t need to go into that teaching again. But let me just summarize what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 12–14. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes that everyone has a different set of gifts, and they are given to Christians, not to divide us, but to unite us. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that we can become unified in our diversity by focusing on love.
Then 1 Corinthians 14, Paul provides some detailed instruction about tongues. Paul had to give this because apparently, the Corinthian church was abusing tongues. So he tells them that tongues must be interpreted and that only two or three can speak, and then only one at a time, and that it all must be done decently and in order. Paul also teaches that the goal for meeting together is not for speaking in tongues, but for edification. For teaching and instructing one another. There’s that theme again we saw in John, in Acts and now here in 1 Corinthians. The work of the Holy Spirit within believers is primarily for the edification of believers, which can be accomplished through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Paul says he would rather speak five words that can be understood than 10,000 words that cannot (1 Cor 14:19).
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit. These verses describe the characteristics which will be revealed in the life of one who is controlled by the Spirit. Paul writes this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Here we finally see something beyond teaching God’s Word! Up until now, it seemed like the only thing the filling of the Holy Spirit did was enable a person to teach the Bible with power and boldness to others. But here we finally see something different. Notice we see love again—at the top of the list, some other qualities, and at the bottom of the list—self-control.
When you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, you do not act drunk, for a drunk person has no self-control. No. When you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, you are the most self-controlled you have ever been. You are able to stifle the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousy, wrath, selfishness, dissentions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, and revelry.
When you are walking according to the Spirit, He gives you such incredible self-control that you are able to keep away from all the sins that used to drag you down and enslave you.
Being Spirit filled is not a loss of control, but gaining it. Because as you give control of your life to the Spirit, He gives you Godly self-control.
Now, there is much else which could be said about the Holy Spirit in the Bible, but those are a few of the main passages which deal with our subject today. How do you know you have been filled? We have seen already that when you are filled, you are able to understand and teach the Bible, you have a desire to edify and instruct others with the Word of God, and you are full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Do you have a growing desire to understand God’s Word? Do you have a thirst to teach God’s Word? Do the qualities in Galatians 5 describe what you are becoming more and more, day by day? Those are a few of the ways to determine if you are continually being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now, finally, with all of that as introduction…let’s look at Ephesians 5:19.
Paul instructed us to be filled in Ephesians 5:18-21, now he begins to tell us what it looks like to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul lists three characteristics or traits of the person who is filled with the Holy Spirit. These three traits are singing, thanksgiving, and mutual submission. We will consider the first today, and the other two in future messages.
A Sign of Being Filled with the Spirit: Singing (Ephesians 5:19)
Ephesians 5:19. … speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
I don’t know about you, but frequently, after I have had a particularly wonderful time in Scripture, a song just comes to my lips and I end up singing it all day long as I go about my work.
Many of you have experienced the same thing. As you go on hikes or bike-rides and see the beautiful trees and hear the birds, maybe you just start singing the verses to “How Great Thou Art.” Or as you are headed to work, or get up in the morning, you just start singing along to the Christian music on the radio.
Or maybe as you worship God with others in the congregation of a Sunday church meeting, you love singing the songs along with everyone else. You sing loud and you sing with excitement and joy. You are so thankful to God that you cannot hold it back. You love God so much you just want to sing about it.
If this happens to you, then be encouraged. This is the first sign of being filled with the Spirit. You don’t need to worry about speaking in tongues. Instead, sing to God!
Paul also talks about the content of these songs. He writes about psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
The psalms, of course, consist of words taken directly from Scripture. He mentions psalms, but I think we could include in this any song which is taken directly from the words of Scripture. So this is speaking Scripture to one another through song.
Hymns are those types of songs which give direct praise to God and focus on His attributes. These songs may or may not be in a hymnal.
Spiritual songs speak more of a believer’s experience or goals as a child of God. Many of these are what we would call contemporary choruses, but some hymns would fall into this category as well.
So those are the three categories of songs and their content. Songs taken from the words of Scripture, songs about God, and songs about our experiences with God.
Notice also the two audiences here when you sing. When we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, we are singing them to one another. Through singing, we edify, encourage and teach one another about God’s Word, about God Himself, and about our experiences with God. Singing together is a wonderful way to build one another up in the faith.
That is why we need to make sure that what we sing is accurate. If we are singing words which are un-Biblical or false, then it is the same thing at teaching error or heresy.
Yet even though we sing these to one another, we must be careful that our singing is not for one another. That is, we must make sure that our singing is for God alone. Note that Paul writes about making melody in your hearts to the Lord.
We see two things from this.
First, singing doesn’t have to be done out loud, but can also be a joyful song of praise and adoration to God that is in your heart. When you sing, it’s okay if you sing silently to yourself as an act of worship, especially if you are uncomfortable singing out loud. But what Paul is also referring to here is that when you sing, it is not the words you say, but the condition of your heart that matters most.
This is seen by Paul’s instruction that singing should be to the Lord. I sometimes wonder if the people who walk around all the time singing out loud are doing so just so that they can appear to be holy and spiritual in the eyes of others.
It’s like when Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day for saying their prayers in the market places and street corners so that they would be seen and heard by men. Sometimes, singing out loud in public places can be similar.
It can even happen in a gathering of Christians. Some people raise their hands, sing real loud, and even dance around in a Christian church service just so that they can appear to be super spiritual in the eyes of others. Such singing is not singing to the Lord, but is singing to other human beings, and is not what Paul has in mind here.
When you sing, make absolutely sure that the condition of your heart is pure, and that the motivation for your singing is not to impress others people. Don’t sing to be seen and heard by other people. Check your heart when you are singing. It is the condition of your heart that matters most, so make sure you are making melody in your heart to the Lord, and not to men.
So what is the first sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit? Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:19 that singing is an evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Somehow, in our churches today, we have gotten sidetracked away from simply singing to God, and some churches have become more focused on peripheral issues rather than on the instructions Paul gives us here.
We have some churches that are hymns only. We have others that are purely contemporary. We have some that want drums, some say that if we use drums we’re practicing voodoo. Some argue that only a piano should be used, and nothing that requires electricity.
I had a woman call me up about four weeks ago who had just moved into the valley and she said she was looking for a church and was calling around to ask the pastors a few questions.
As it turned out, the only thing she wanted to know was whether we sang out of a hymnal or put the words up on a screen. She didn’t care about anything else.
I tried to tell her that where the words were read from wasn’t really what mattered, whether out of a book or off the wall, and that what really mattered in a church was whether the Word of God was correctly taught and applied and obeyed, but she would have none of it. She couldn’t go to a church where they put the words to the songs up on the wall. After all, Jesus didn’t sing from words that were on the wall.
If she wanted to argue that way, I thought about going to Daniel 5 where God actually wrote words on the wall, but it wasn’t worth arguing.
In telling a friend about this recently, he said that I should have told her “We nail our hymnal to the wall …”
Sadly, the music we sing in churches has often torn churches apart rather than brought us together in love and unity. These “worship wars” as they are sometimes called, are splitting churches and consuming time and energy. And this is not a new thing.
In pre-reformation days, the Roman churches preferred singing in unison. Harmony was allowed if the interval was an open fifth (for example, a “C” and a “G”), but an open third (a “C and an “E”) was considered a “sensuous interval” and so they wouldn’t sing in those keys.
In the sixteenth century, Zwingli would not allow any music. Luther had to have music but said that it must be simple. (Very possibly, Luther’s “Greatest Hit”—A Mighty Fortress Is Our God—is set to a drinking song he picked up while studying his Bible over a stein of beer at the local tavern).
Calvin said that only psalms should be sung but used modern music that was disparagingly called ‘The Geneva Jingles.’
In the seventeenth century, Pietists said that there ought to be singing, but it needed to be unaccompanied.
In the eighteenth century, Christians had orchestras, but no violins, because they were called ‘the Devil’s fiddle.’
In the nineteenth century, the organ came in and began to push the orchestra out. Since the Roman hydraulis, or water organ, was used with pagan rites, games, and theatre, Jerome warned in the 4th century that Christian virgins should be deaf to its music. When the organ was introduced to churches in Colonial America, many worshippers called it “the devil’s box of whistles.”
Then William Booth came along and said, ‘Why should the Devil have all the good music?’ so he started brass bands. The Scandinavians came over to America and brought guitars. In the twentieth century, the youth culture brought rock; from the South, we got folk music; the Charismatics began to emphasize praise music; and from Britain we got the celebration marches.”
Still, in Northern Scotland, it is considered scandalous to have any sort of instruments in church to accompany music, and to sing any sort of song other than the direct words of the Psalms.
Now we look at all of this and say “How silly! They didn’t want to use violins? They didn’t want to use organs? They thought these were from the devil?”
But do you know what? In 50 or 100 years, that is what they will be saying about guitars and drums. “How silly! They didn’t want to use guitars and drums? They thought these were from the devil?”
You see, according to Paul here in Ephesians 5:19 and the rest of Scripture, it that singing is a good thing, and when done from a pure heart full of joy to God, it will bring us together and unit the church, because it is a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
According to Ephesians 5:19, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will know it because you want to sing. Songs will just bubble up from within.
That is the first evidence of being filled with the Spirit—speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.
Let me just encourage you in closing. As you lay the foundation for the Spirit this week by studying the Bible—and as you ask to be filled with the Spirit—see if you don’t have a desire to sing.
When you do—that a sign of being filled.
We will look next week at another sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit when we consider Ephesians 5:20.
Notes on Ephesians 5:19
 Lloyd-Jones, 15ff; Stott, 204.
 Stuart Briscoe, “You had to bring it up” Leadership Journal (Fall, 1995), 65. http://www.ifca.org/voice/00Sep-Oct/mathewsonrevised.htm. Accessed September 17, 2002. See also, Bob Russell, When God Builds the Church, (West Monroe, LA: Howard, 2000), 39-71.
 Heard from an Alistair Begg sermon on the Radio. Don’t remember the date, text or title.