Meditations on Ephesians 5:18-21

Spiritual Exercises

Mountain Climbing on Mt. Rainier, Washington, USA

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, 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.

 

Many English translations of Paul’s words try to break his long sentence into smaller and smaller parts. Some of them actually divide it into two paragraphs! If grammar left you cold in school, please excuse this meditation but sometimes grammar is a means of grace.

Let me explain. The heart of a sentence is the verb – the action word. In this case, Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, “Be filled with the Spirit.” That is the key. That is what the apostle is concerned about communicating. Naturally we want to know “how?” How can we be filled with the Spirit? That’s where the words ending in “-ing” come in. (Grammarians call these words “participles.” H.V.P. Nunn calls them “verbal adjectives sharing the characteristics both of verbs and adjectives.”) They explain “how” we can fill ourselves with God’s Holy Spirit. In a very real sense they represent spiritual exercises for Christians. Here they are from our text:

  • “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”
  • “singing”
  • “and making melody to the Lord with your heart”
  • “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
  • “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Just as a physical fitness trainer designs a program of exercises to help our bodies become strong, so the Apostle Paul is providing us with a series of exercises to feed our souls.

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