In the beginning of verse 18, Paul had made this very point. Christians were to be distinct and different from those around them in the pagan culture. They were to abstain from being drunk, lest in their drunkenness they fall prey to the number of sins that abound. Paul tells the believers that instead of being known for their lascivious and unbridled lifestyles, they are to be filled with the Spirit.
The phrase “filled with the Spirit” must be understood though. It does not mean that believers must obtain some further indwelling of the Spirit. At the point of conversion we understand that the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell inside of believers and begins the work of sanctification in them whereby they can be convicted of and fight against sin. Being filled with the Spirit also does not mean that they need some special further equipping with the spiritual gifts of teaching, or giving, or serving, or the other spiritual gifts, because like indwelling of the Spirit, that too took place at conversion.
Being filled with the Spirit means that believers are to be led by the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. Like the wind that fills the sails of a ship, the Spirit is to be the driving and guiding force for the believer. The person who is filled by the Spirit will have the Spirit produce fruit in their lives. When a believer is carried along by the Spirit, they will eventually become more like Christ. When a believer is filled with the Spirit they will grow in godliness and love for others.
Paul explains the filling of the Spirit with three simple evidences in the next three verses. In verse 19, those that are filled with the Spirit have songs of worship to God that are springing up in their hearts and end up being sung to those around them. The evidence of the Spirit-filled life is an overflowing joy that can’t be contained in the heart of the believer but must be shared.
Another thing that the Spirit-filled life will exude is given in verse 20 – thankfulness. When a Christian is led by the Spirit to understand the goodness of God as demonstrated in the Scriptures and seen plainly in our lives, the only natural response of the Spirit-filled believer is gratitude. Rejoicing at God’s goodness, the believer that is filled with the Spirit thanks God for every good and perfect gift that He has given.
Finally, in verse 21, Paul gives the last evidence of a Spirit-filled life – humility. Lovingly and humbly, believers should seek what is best for others. In stark contrast to the wisdom of the world, being filled with the Spirit results in believers not striving for selfish gain and prestige, but lovingly pursuing what is best for those around them. Instead of trying to dominate every conversation, and instead of trying to advance one’s own agenda, the Spirit-filled believer humbly labors for the betterment of others. May God help us to be Spirit-filled. May we be ever joyful, thankful, and humble as we see His goodness to us, and as His Spirit leads and guides us.
Reflect: What are the evidences of the Spirit-filled life that Paul gives in this text? How do they correlate with what Paul says in Colossians 3:16-24?