The fullness/filling, the Spirit, and the Ephesians temple-church.
Andreas J. Köstenberger points out that “God’s subjection of all things under one head—that is, Christ (Eph 1:10)—sets the remainder of the epistle in proper perspective.” Paul, it should be noticed, takes up considerable space in the Letter linking the concept of filling/fullness, the church, and the Spirit throughout the Ephesians text. The Ephesians 5 filling command, then, is associated with God’s summing up of all things under Messiah, which links the filling to God’s cosmic reconciliation (Eph 1:10; 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 28, 30; cf. Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12; Col 1:18; 3:15). The range of Ephesian referents associated with the work of God through the Messiah (the Head) and his church (Messiah’s body) to the cosmic reconciliation of his Lordship over alienated earth and heaven suggests that the Ephesians 5 filling command is to move us to reimagine the redemptive reordering of human existence. This suggests the same for the household code that syntactically follows (5:22-6:9) the filling command (5:18). As the temple-church is a reordering of human relationships (i.e., believing Jews and Gentiles together in one household-church, Eph 2:11-22), so also the household code is a reordering of the status quo and points us toward the concept of personhood as reflected in the relationship-trio.
In chapters 1-3, Paul stacks up relevant terms (Messiah, body, filling, fullness, Spirit, head, subjection) to ensure the hearer/readers a vivid imagination of the church’s relationship to God’s redemptive/reconciliation action through the Son (the Head). In Eph 5:18 the concept of filling is also linked to the Spirit, drawing our attention back to Paul’s description of the Ephesians 2 growing/expanding temple-church (vv. 19-21), which is being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (v. 22). The Ephesians 5 household code (5:22-6:9) even has a conceptual link to the Ephesians 2 temple-church in Paul’s reference to the Ephesus church as God’s household (v. 19c), where God is the paterfamilias. There are sufficient antecedent lexical and conceptual marks in the Ephesians 2 growing temple-church to indicate an epistolary connection to the Ephesians 5:18 command to be filled in Spirit and the following household (5:22-6:9).
The sphere of the Spirit in Ephesians ought to influence the interpretive imagination of the Ephesians 5 filling command. The believers in Ephesus are sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13) and they are not to grieve the Holy Spirit by whom they were sealed for the day of redemption (4:30; cf. Isa 63:10-11), connecting the Ephesians 5 filling to the Old Testament. The Spirit is related to temple images: the community of believers of Jews and Gentiles together (i.e., the one new man, Eph 2:15c), have access in one Spirit [en heni pneumati] to the Father (2:18) and are now, together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord (2:21b), which is being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit [en pneumati] (Eph 2:22). The connection is strengthen by the Ephesians 2 temple-church and the Ephesians 5 filling by en pneumatic (in the sphere of the Spirit) used in both texts. Finally, the sphere of the Spirit (en pneumati, Eph 6:18) is associated with prayer and petitions, also a temple related activity.The Ephesians 5 filling command, in light of its antecedent range of referents in the Letter, suggests that the command to be filled in Spirit is to be considered corporate, that is applicable to the saints who at Ephesus (1:1), as a (multi)household-centered church experience, rather than a command directed at the individual. Thus, it is better to understand the filling command more related to ecclesiology rather than anthropology, that an activity related to the temple-church (Eph 2:19-22).
*For those following my thoughts on "Church Growth" as I prepare a paper for the upcoming November 2015 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta. Other Not by the Numbers posts >>
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.