By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: "Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." Eph. 5:18.
Here we have the highest grade of Christian character. The apostle uses a figure that not everyone can comprehend. While we protest against drunkenness, yet only those who have felt, or observed the power of intoxicants can fully appreciate the comparison.
Adam Clarke, in commenting on this verse, says: "The heathen priests pretended to be filled with the influence of the god (Bacchus) they worshipped; and it was in these conditions that they gave out their oracles. The apostle exhorts the Ephesians not to resemble these, but be filled with the Spirit of God, in consequence of which they should be wise indeed, and understand what the will of the Lord is."
The devil counterfeits everything that is of God and intoxication is Satan's highest imitation of being filled with the Spirit. In fact, on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, the onlookers could not distinguish between this and being "full of new wine." Let us notice then the analogy between intoxication with wine and that of being filled with the Holy Ghost. And how does an intoxicated man feel?
I. An intoxicated man feels rich and liberal. Before he begins drinking he may be what the world calls "a tightwad." See him standing alone sipping his glass! After awhile the contents begin to take effect, and he speaks to an old churn (who is sitting near by waiting to be treated) and says, "Come up, John, and have one on me." The more he drinks the richer he becomes and finally calls out to all the old bums, "Come up, boys, and have one on me." If a Salvation Army lassie, or any one else approaches him asking for a donation, he is likely to give the biggest piece he can find. Nothing mean and little about him now, for he feels as rich as the nabobs of Wall Street. That is exactly the way one feels when he is filled with the Holy Spirit. "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich and He addeth no sorrow with it." The after effect is good. Yes, just in proportion as one is anointed of God he is truly rich and has a dignity and holy independence that the world can not give, nor take away.
It is certainly sad to hear the majority of Christians pray. They are everlastingly begging, "Lord, bless me, fill me, protect me and my family." Me! Me!! Me!!! "Oh, that they could get to the end of themselves. They are continually taking in, but never giving out. They are consumers, but not producers. They are like a sponge, ever ready to drink in, but never giving out except when squeezed or pressed by outside circumstances. Surely this is not the divine standard.
Paul speaks of being "more than conquerors." After having conquered the world, the flesh and the devil, he infers that we can have enough joy, faith and victory left to conquer another world. To be more specific, the apostle mentions a number of things we are to conquer, such as "Principalities," "Powers," "Things present," "Things to come," and then for lack of words, concludes by saying, "Nor any other creature shall be able" to withstand us. Think of it! How few Christians are so possessed of God, so exhilarated by the Spirit, that they have more victory than they need for themselves!
A man can not help rescue a drowning person until he himself has complete mastery, over the waves. No one can help a worthy cause so long as he is struggling to support himself and family. Likewise, there are multitudes of good people who desire to help win souls, but the poor things are spiritually half-starved themselves. They do not have complete victory over everything; there is a constant struggle. "When the struggle for existence begins, the opportunity for usefulness ends."
We read, "If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity and thy darkness be as the noonday." Did you hear that? Your light will rise of its own accord and your darkest day will be as the noonday. When? When you get so filled that you can hold no more. When, like a magnanimous millionaire, you take delight in giving away the surplus and the more you give the more you will have to give. Isaiah continues, and says, "The Lord shall guide thee continually and satisfy thy soul in drought and make fat thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not." No little freshet here; no old cracked pump stalk, that has to be primed and a lot of water poured down to get half as much up. No! No!! But an overflowing experience; a poured out life. How is it with you my friend?
II. Another characteristic of drunkenness is Boldness. See that intoxicated man! He is not afraid of anything-fire, flood, men, nor devils. Why? Because he is so filled with wine that his natural fears are subservient for the time being to the influence of something stronger. Thus, when one is filled with the Holy Ghost, he is not afraid of the face of clay. See those cowering disciples before the day of Pentecost! See Peter, who crouched and trembled before a little maid! But now, after being filled and endued with power from on high, he declares before the rabble that we are not "drunken with wine, as ye suppose. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." He waxes bolder and finally hurls into their teeth the awful charge, "Ye have taken and by wicked hands crucified and slain the Son of God!" What a change in Peter! What has happened! Nothing, except he has been filled with the Spirit of God.
Oh, ye timid ones, who live good lives, but make all kinds of excuses for not having family prayers, giving out tracts, holding street meetings, or talking salvation to some refined or reprobate mind! You are miserable cowards! Get this mighty filling, this mighty surcharging and you will jump at a chance to win a soul, or do something for your King. If the world can produce men who count it a privilege to die for their country, why can not God Almighty produce those who, like men of old, "overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and love not their lives unto death"?
III. An intoxicated man is not easily hurt. Intoxication produces such a deadness to physical injury that many times a man falls, or stumbles against some sharp obstacle and does not seem to realize it; the blood may flow, a bone may be broken, but he does not complain.
Likewise, when one dies out to the bottom, and is filled with the Holy Ghost, he is saved from "feeling hurt" and "sore" over every little offense. How sad to see people shout, or preach with great liberty and then be as touchy and hard to please as an old setting hen. If things do not go to suit them they are ready to pick up their hats and say, "Well, I am done! If you are going to run things, go ahead and pay the bills!" Such people remind one of a felon on a finger. It seems that this finger is two feet long and everything has combined to hurt it, but such is not the case. What is the trouble? I'll tell you.
That finger has pus in it and needs lancing -- perhaps to the bone. Then a good squeezing will bring out the pus and core, after which the finger will heal and pay no more attention to obstacles than do the other fingers.
Sister, if you are quick to notice little slights and inattentions, contradictions and misrepresentations, is it not because you have the old carnal nature in you that needs a mighty killing? When you are completely emptied of the old self life and filled with the Holy Ghost you will then be able to testify and say, "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them." In other words, nothing shall get them out of fix. Have you been so fixed up that nothing ever makes you sullen, or grouchy or poutish? So even in spirit, that you do not act spiteful, or leave the table before having finished your meal? I believe the real baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire will forever put a stop to a lot of things among some holiness professors that are inconsistent and cause sinners to stumble!
Brethren, we must either live higher or talk lower! If you have what I am talking about you will have that humility which Andrew Murray spoke of when he said: "It is perfect quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble; it is never to be fretted or vexed, or irritated, or sore, or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel no resentment against anything or anybody, it is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around and above is trouble."
Is this too strong? Hear John Wesley's testimony when he said, "I make no account of any profit, or pleasure that does not bring me closer to God; nor do I shrink from any hardship or misunderstanding, if thereby it will more completely wean and detach me from the things of time and sense and unite me to God."
Do not find fault with these men, nor the standard, but rather with your own shallowness and lack of deep, inward crucifixion. When one is filled, he is full. He wants nothing more. Is this your experience? After this mighty baptism, then one song, one prayer or one sermon will be worth more than a dozen were before. Wesley said, "One man baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire will shake the country for ten miles square." Again he said, "One wholly sanctified soul is equal, in force and power, to twelve justified souls." Either he made it too strong, or we are not strong enough.
I have seen insane people -- no, they were demon possessed-so strong that it required three men to hold one little woman. Now, if it is possible for the devil to possess one until he has supernatural shrewdness and strength, why can not we expect God to likewise fill and empower us to such an extent that we are more than a match for anything that comes or goes. I declare to you on the authority of God's eternal truth, that He is looking and waiting for us to demand of Him this very thing.
Oh, brethren, shall we not humble ourselves afresh before God and confess our dryness, touchiness, covetousness, licentiousness, and every other thing contrary to immaculate purity? If we thus prepare the way and are thoroughly emptied, then we have a right to expect the mighty infilling of the Spirit. "According to your faith be it unto you."
"Thou canst fill me gracious Spirit,
Tho' I cannot tell thee how;
But I need thee greatly need thee;
Come, O come and fill me now.
"I am weakness, full of weakness
At thy sacred feet I bow;
Blest divine eternal Spirit,
Fill with pow'r and fill me now."