Notes from Graham Cole’s He Who Gives Life (3/3)

~ The following consists of some notes that I am taking on Ephesians 5: 18. The notes come from pages 217-219 and 243-244 of a book written by my old prof’, Graham Cole. The book is He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit …” ~ Ephesians 5:18


In my previous two posts I mentioned that the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” is found in at least three different contexts.  Two of the context look something like the following:

(1) “filled with the Holy Spirit” + “and” + a speech act (i.e. something is said).

(2) “filled with the Holy Spirit” + “and” + some character aspect (e.g. joy).

The verses involving the “filled with the Holy Spirit” phrase were in the main found in Luke and Acts.  Now I want to discuss the above Ephesians occurrence of the phrase.

8 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. ~ Ephesians 5:18

Dr. Cole describes two interpretations of this verse, one that is individualistically oriented and one that is corporately or congregationally oriented.

Individualistic Interpretation:
He states that in the main, evangelicals have viewed this verse from a individualistic point of view. Understood in this sense, this verse is basically talking about self-control. That is to say, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then you will be not be drunk (at church, in a congregational environment) but rather you will be under the control of the Spirit in the church.

Over and against this is the view that states that the congregational context of the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” is so strong that this must be saying a lot more than something about exercising self-control. So what is being said about being filled with the Holy Spirit?

Corporate Interpretation:
This interpretation notes that these verses describe activities that are “other-person-centered”. That is to say they describe activities that go out from a given person and go to other persons in church and also out to God. For example when you encourage someone then words go out of you and go to that someone and he or she is built up.  Cole states,

“These practices constitute the filling rather than the Spirit’s controlling presence per se. … Put another way, Ephesians 5:18-21 is not about the indwelling of the Spirit in the individual and its consequences.” ~ page 219

So when the Church gathers together for some occasion, then the Holy Spirit is to fill the members with group activities that are other-person-centered. So they will be singing in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They will be giving thanks to God. These sort of happenings are indicative of the filling of the Holy Spirit.


My Two Cents On This:
~ One Cent: What we have in the verse above is a command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. (This in fact is the only time in the Scriptures where such is commanded.) However what Cole seems to be describing is a filling of the Holy Spirit by the Holy Spirit. Do you see what I mean? How can obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit when it is up to the Spirit to fill me. Perhaps that take away is that we have to gather regularly.

~ Two: