Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Does Jehovah God Give the Holy Spirit Sparingly?

Is Jehovah God sparing/parsimonious when it comes to giving his servants the holy spirit? I think enough scriptures assure us that God is not selfish, stinting or sparing, but he gives the holy spirit generously to those who obey him and sincerely ask for the spirit. See Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32; Titus 3:5-6; James 1:5.

Cambridge Dictionary: sparingly-"in small amounts, or without wasting any"

In addition to the verses above, I want to focus on Ephesians 5:18 (ESV): "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,"

"And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit"

Greek (SBLGNT):
καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι

This blog entry will concentrate on the latter part of Ephesians 5:18. How should it be rendered, and is there any significance to translating it one way rather than another? As you see above, ESV prefers "but be filled with the Spirit" while HCSB opts for "but be filled by the Spirit."

Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, (WB Commentary Series) offers these comments:

"The use of ν with πληροσθαι in an instrumental sense is unusual (cf. also Abbott, 161–62; J. A. Robinson, 204; Schnackenburg, 242 and n. 598). Believers are to be filled by the Spirit and thus also filled with the Spirit. The idea of being filled with the Spirit recalls that of being filled up to all the fullness of God in 3:19 and that of the Church as the fullness of Christ in 1:23 (cf. also 4:13). Clearly, the Spirit mediates the fullness of God and of Christ to the believer."

Lincoln thinks Ephesians 5:18 communicates the idea that believers should be filled "by the Spirit" and in that way, they will be filled "with" the Spirit. He mentions that ν could be employed with πληροσθαι instrumentally (i.e., "with the Spirit"), but that would be "unusual." According to the NET Bible, it would be so unusual because, "There are no other examples in biblical Greek in which ἐν + the dative after πληρόω indicates content." This point along with the context might suggest a strong case for Paul meaning, "be filled by the Spirit/spirit." Unfortunately, NET dwells on the purported Trinitarian overtones of the passage, but I'm trying to think about Bible translation without bringing those issues into play. What does the lexical data suggest?

J.P. Heil (Ephesians, page 230) offers the rendering,
"And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is dissipation, but be filled in the Spirit." Why does he opt for this rendition?

As with many other matters, these exegetical issues cannot be settled in a blog post, but there is good reason to answer the question in the title of the post, negatively. While I don't believe that Ephesians 5:18 depicts the Spirit/spirit as the agent doing the filling, it does appear that the agent could be either Christ or his Father, Jehovah based on the texts above. In either case, the ultimate credit for sending the spirit or giving holy spirit to the people of God goes to Jesus' Father (Acts 2:32-33). He does not give the holy spirit sparingly.