Tuesday, January 17, 2006
A Time and a Place
My mind drifted to our away football trips. It actually drifted about something drifting, which you'll see. With everybody piled into the bus with equipment, luggage, and school books, it became rather claustrophobic. But then, these were guys, boys, big ones, from divergent socio-economic environments, and one that had stomach problems on a certain occasion. Those problems were obviously being relieved, and the interior of the bus became akin to closely confined cattle with their inherent scents. The other boys didn't like it. They reacted--moaned, laughed, ridiculed, and showed loud, general disfavor for the lingering smell. Our coach stepped into this fray and said with his low, New England accent, "Gentleman (an overstatement for sure), there's a time and a place." I've never forgotten that particular phrase: There's a time and a place. I've used it myself many times since then. Some of you can relate to having nicely scripted phrases available for special occasions. Sometimes I even say it just like he did, and, of course, only I get that particular inside joke.
Appropriateness. Context. Time and place. When we approach passages of Scripture, we must take into consideration a time and a place. We strive to understand it as people would have understood it in that day. This principle relates to prayer. I've heard people pray for the Spirit's filling. Should we be praying for Spirit filling now? Is this the time and place to pray for that? The locus classicus (to throw more Latin at you) for Spirit filling is Ephesians 5:18: "Be filled with the Spirit." "Be filled" is a command. That means we are to obey it. We don't pray for something God commanded us to do. We might pray that God would help us to be Spirit filled, but praying for God to do something that He commanded us to do is like asking your parents to make your bed after they told you to do it. The command is in the passive, meaning that we are allowing this to be accomplished. It is in the present tense, meaning that we are to keep on being filled (be ye being filled). The word for "filled" (plerao) has the understanding of "controlled." We are commanded to let the Holy Spirit control our lives. Romans 6 calls it "yielding to the Spirit."
So why do people pray for Spirit filling? I'm pretty sure that they pray for it because of a wrong view of Luke 11. In Luke 11, the Holy Spirit had not come yet, so Jesus taught the disciples that the Father would give the Spirit to them who asked. The disciples prayed for the Holy Spirit, and God answered that prayer on the Day of Pentecost. We pray for the kingdom to come, and God will answer that prayer at the second coming of Christ. Knowing the time and place of Luke 11, we don't pray for something that God commanded us to do. We just do it.