The Rowboat, the Bassboat, and the Sailboat (Part I)

“Be filled with the Spirit.”

This is a statement you find in the Bible (Ephesians 5:18), and while it’s a nice idea, it gets a little complicated with you start really looking at it.

First of all, it’s a command. A command is, by its very nature, something you are supposed to do:

“Don’t commit adultery.”

“Flee from sexual immorality.”

“Devote yourselves to prayer.”

Problem is, “Be filled with the Spirit” is also passive. Just a quick language refresher here, but the active voice is what you see when you are supposed to actively do something. The passive voice is used when something is done to you. It’s the difference between “Kill that spider” and “Spider, be killed.” So you see the problem – here’s a biblical command that’s supposed to be done to us.

How does that work? It helps me to think of it in terms of an analogy involving various kinds of boats.


Think first about a row boat. A row boat is active in nature. The distance you travel in a row boat is linked exclusively to your effort. If you can pull those oars enough times, you could travel all the way across a lake. If you get tired, the movement forward stops.


That’s way different than a bass boat. A bass boat is built for speed. You turn the key, the motor tumbles to life, and away you go. There’s no effort on your part; all you do is hold onto the steering wheel for dear life.

Christians live in both of these ways. The rowboat Christian is the one who believes that their spiritual lives is exclusively about their effort. They try and try and try, and then they’re exhausted. You can’t fault them for their effort, but the downside of that is when they achieve victory, they really have to fight the sense of pride that comes along with it. It’s their victory, because they’re the ones holding the oars.

Then there are those Christians who want just “let go and let God.” They don’t think there is any effort involved in the Christian experience at all, so they don’t try hard at anything. Sure, we commend them for their level of faith, and yet their lives might be devoid of personal discipline and seem relatively low on the commitment scale.

“Be filled with the Spirit” fits in neither category, but somewhere in the middle…

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  • Jedi says:

    Very nice! I can’t wait for the Sailboat…

  • Taylor says:

    Very nice.

    Remember the drama that T5 did way back when we were in high school? The one about the two-seater-bike.

    “We need you to pedal, but you don’t get to steer.”

    I like that analogy too.

  • Rob Tims says:

    Perhaps a little Matthew 7:7-11 is in order. “ask, seek, and knock” for … what? The Holy Spirit (Luke 11). God Himself (2 Peter 1, Ephesians 1). Maybe the sailboat analogy will work there.

  • Michael K. says:

    Perhaps, Dr. Tims – let’s see what springs forth from the blog tomorrow… probably nothing as profound as Matthew 7. Probably.

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