Being The Fullness Of God In Christ By The Spirit: Ephesians 5:18 In Its Epistolary Setting -- By: Timothy G. Gombis

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 53:2 (NA 2002)
Article: Being The Fullness Of God In Christ By The Spirit: Ephesians 5:18 In Its Epistolary Setting
Author: Timothy G. Gombis


Being The Fullness Of God In Christ By The Spirit:
Ephesians 5:18 In Its Epistolary Setting

Timothy G. Gombis

‘Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation,
but be filled by the Spirit’.

Summary

The enigmatic command in Ephesians 5:18, ‘be filled by the Spirit’, is often understood in terms of the empowerment of individual believers for discipleship and ministry. Such an interpretation leads to difficulties in relating the command to the five participles which follow, and to the argument of the epistle as a whole. Reading the command as directed to the community as a corporate body, and the five participles which follow as participles of means, instead of result, solves a number of problems normally associated with this passage.

I. Introduction

Ephesians 5:18 has proved itself an elusive text. While it appears to offer insight into the practical struggles of discipleship to Jesus Christ and to illumine theological issues related to the Holy Spirit, one often is left puzzled by Paul’s apparently cryptic instruction.1 Especially vexing is the nature of the relationship of the imperative in 5:18 to the five participles which follow in vv. 19–21.

In a modest attempt to relieve this difficulty, the present study will offer an interpretation of Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:18 which is read exclusively within the development of the argument of Ephesians. In particular, it will call into question the predominant understanding of the relationship between the imperative in 5:18 and

the five participles in vv. 19–21. Before offering an alternative reading, however, it is necessary to cover some preliminary ground.2

II. The Context Of Ephesians

The primary context for interpreting Ephesians 5:18 is the epistle itself. While this may be obvious, the internal context of the letter is often bypassed in favour of a variety of other contexts: a pre-determined biblical theology of the Holy Spirit, appeal to ‘principles of the Christian life’, the numerous ‘filling’ texts in Acts, or apparently similar contexts in Galatians and Colossians. Yet the present passage must be understood within the d...

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