In verse 18, Paul instructs believers to be controlled by the Spirit. He frames this in contrast with being controlled by alcohol, naming drunkenness as something Christians are to avoid. Verse 19 offers several expressions of being spiritually filled. Today we add another verse to this passage which adds another expression: an attitude of universal thanksgiving. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph 5:18-20).
Being controlled by the Spirit includes gratitude. The Spirit-filled believer is a person who is regularly thankful for what God has done in his or her life, even the things that didn’t feel good to us at the time, but later we see how God was able to use the situation for His glory. Both the Father and the Son are recipients of our gratitude through the control of the Spirit. All three persons of the triune God are involved in the ongoing life of the obedient believer. In another epistle we see, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18). It doesn’t say in things that you’re happy about–it says in everything!
We are to remember that we are not our own, but have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). And we are taught where we should look for guidance: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3)
Because we belong to the Lord and have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20), we are to put aside “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Col 3:8-9). Instead, we are to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other...Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col 3:12-15).
Paul has listed 11 negative traits to avoid, and 11 positive traits for believers to mimic. In this verse, he summarizes his teaching: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) This includes what we say and how we act. Our relationship with Christ is not about a set of rules—human minds could never make enough individual rules to cover every possible situation. Instead, we are to submit everything, and every moment to Christ. Instead of living by a checklist, we are to submit to Him in “whatever” we think or do, and do so with an attitude of gratitude for all that He has done for us!