Yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas, and today is Epiphany, the celebration of Christ our light. Tomorrow marks the start of Ordinary Time, until Lent. So what is Christ’s light for us in ordinary time, all through the year? We walk in the light of Christ when we’re filled with his Spirit.
In the Old Testament the phrase “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is used to describe special callings and equipping for specific tasks, such as the artist Bezalel who was filled with the Spirit of God for the building of the tabernacle, or John the Baptist, the final Old Testament prophet described as “being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15) for the task of announcing the Messiah. However, the Spirit is not given to all believers in the Old Testament, and is not given permanently, otherwise David would not have said, “take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11). In the case of Sampson we are told, “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him” (Judges 13:25), “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him (Judges 14:6,19; 15:14).
In the New Testament, when Jesus receives the water baptism from John, the Spirit descended from heaven and remained on Jesus. John said to the crowds, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 1:33). The Spirit remained on Jesus, and he lived is life in the power of the Spirit, died on the cross, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). As the second and last Adam, Jesus became life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), and has given the gift of the Spirit to every believer, as a seal of salvation and down payment on the promised inheritance.
When Paul uses the phrase, “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18, it is in contrast to being controlled by drunkenness. All believers have the indwelling Spirit (Eph. 1:13, John 14-16), but since Christ is the one on whom the Spirit remained, to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with, ruled by, obedient to, and conformed to Christ. Being filled with the Spirit isn’t a second blessing, or a second class of Christians that only some believers attain. It is the gracious provision of the Spirit of Christ to every believer, for Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18). The point of 1 Corinthians 15:45 is that Christ, by virtue of his exaltation as the last Adam and second man, has come into such permanent and complete possession of the Spirit that the two are equated in their activity.
Colossians 3:16,17 is a parallel passage to Eph. 5:18-20; in Ephesians we are to be filled with the Spirit and in Colossians we are to let the word of Christ dwell richly in us. Christ is the word of God who created all things, and whose word creates the new creation in our hearts, and just as the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters at the beginning of creation and controlled the unfolding work of creation, so we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us and the Spirit to fill us, controlling and creating the new creation in our hearts and lives. In John 16 we see that the Holy Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus, and in 2 Cor. 4:6 Paul draws a parallel between the Spirit’s work at creation and his work in our hearts: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Being filled with the Spirit means to be filled with Christ.
We sang during Advent, “He comes to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found.” Christ’s light shines on every square inch of creation. If you’d like some music to reflect on Christ in the midst of ordinary time, check out the band Ordinary Time (you can stream their albums on their site).
Happy Epiphany, and may the light of Christ shine through your life, even in seemingly ordinary time.