When the Holy Spirit Comes to Church Pt.1


“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Ephesians 5:18-21

Ephesians 5:19-21 is a pertinent passage for worship. In this series of posts, we will be looking at its relevance to our worship. We must be a people who submit ourselves to the Bible’s definition of right worship.

Before we get started, we need to do a bit of grammar work here, which I understand may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is part of rightly handling the Word of God. We want to understand the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit has given them to us.

In the preceding verses we have various commands: do not do this, but do this. For example: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

Flowing from this command, we have five connected participles. These participles reveal the result of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. The title of this series of blog posts, When the Holy Spirit Comes to Church, is not to be thought of as irreverent. The title is meant to examine the practical results of the Holy Spirit filling a church.

In the Legacy Standard Bible, it is essentially every “ing” word in this passage that marks an action. Here are the five actions connected to the command to be filled with the Spirit: 

  • Speaking (Eph. 5:19)
  • Singing (Eph. 5:19)
  • Making Melody (Eph. 5:19)
  • Giving Thanks (Eph. 5:20)
  • Being Subject (Eph. 5:21)

These five verbs flow out of the first imperative. In other words, this is what it looks like when the Holy Spirit comes to church. I want to dive deeply and directly into these verses to show Paul’s connection to being filled with the Spirit and the life and worship of the church. 

What does it look like when the Holy Spirit comes to church? Our first answer is regular assembly. I start here because the King James Version says “speaking to yourselves” (Eph. 5:19). Thus, some may mistake this to merely mean individuals encouraging themselves with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. 

This is certainly true to some extent. But Paul’s purpose here is not for individuals in the church to encourage themselves individually. Rather, his purpose is how the Legacy Standard Bible translates the text: that we would do this to and with one another. 

When the Holy Spirit comes to church, there are people there. He may gather with many small churches all over the world, but He never gathers at a place with nobody assembling, because the local church is an assembly. 

The church regularly assembles because we are in Christ and the Spirit of God is in us. Part of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to speak the truth of God to one another and sing the truth of God together. 

There are aspects of this verse that can be done outside the church meetings. In fact, singing should be more a part of your Christian gatherings. When we gather for lunch or when we gather in homes, worshipful singing should be part of the life of the Christian and should be a way we encourage and teach one another. Let us minister to one another in song even outside our regular gatherings.

But do not miss that Paul is addressing the whole church with this letter. The only way for the whole church to fulfill his command is for the whole church to gather. When the Holy Spirit comes to church, there is regular assembly (Heb. 10:24). Certainly, we gather to do more than just sing. We sit under the preaching of the Word and we pray. But there is no understanding of the filling of the Holy Spirit that is disconnected from our assembling together. 

This may seem like such an obvious point, but it needs to be emphasized. The worship of God certainly can and should be done by individuals. It can and should be done in the home. Yet the grandest design of worship is for the whole church to assemble. 

Now what does it look like when we assemble? We will cover that in more detail in part two.

For further reading
Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home, and Work by Martyn Lloyd Jones
Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary by Harold Hoehner
A Taste of Heaven: Worship in Light of Eternity by R.C. Sproul
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Allen S. Nelson IV

Allen S. Nelson IV

Allen S. Nelson IV is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Perryville, AR, where he resides with his wife Stephanie, and their 6 children. Allen is the author of From Death to Life: How Salvation WorksBefore the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness, and A Change of Heart: Understanding Regeneration and Why it Matters. He is an M.Div graduate of Grace BIble Theological Seminary in Conway, AR.

February 12, 2024

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