The H. Leo Boles/J. W. McGarvey theory of “measures” of the Spirit is simply wrong — and unnecessarily complicates something that is very simple. We make it so complicated that only an “expert” trained in a preacher school can explain it — taking it out of the hands of those who just have Bibles and concordances. But it’s simple.
The “measure” theory comes from the Jewish idiom found in —
(Jn. 3:34 ESV) For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
The NET Bible translators explain,
Grk “for not by measure does he give the Spirit” (an idiom). Leviticus Rabbah 15:2 states: “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.” Jesus is contrasted to this. The Spirit rests upon him without measure.
“Measure” refers to an amount, not a kind. Two cups and one cup measure differently. Water and flour differ, not by measure but by kind. The rabbis said that the prophets had differing amounts of the Spirit — not kinds of Spirit. This doubtlessly goes back to —
(2 Ki. 2:9 NET) When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of the prophetic spirit that energizes you.”
In some sense, some prophets have a greater measure (amount) of the Spirit. A similar concept is found in —
(Eph. 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
It’s more common in the NT to speak of differing degrees of being “filled” with the Spirit. Obviously, if I’m to be “filled with the Spirit” I can be not fully filled — right?
It’s the same Spirit — but the Spirit gives differing gifts. Some Christians are more influenced by the Spirit than others. Some are so influenced that their very words are God-breathed and their writings are scripture.
Some are so influenced they can see Jesus in heaven as they’re being stoned to death.
Some are so influenced that they address one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. That’s what the text says. We ignore it, but that’s it says. “Addressing” in Eph 5:19 is a participle modifying “be filled.” It says what happens if you’re truly filled with the Spirit.
And so we worry about a cappella (furthest thing from Paul’s mind when he wrote this passage) when he’s really talking about being filled (another water metaphor!) with the Spirit — so much so that we sing!! It’s not a command to sing. It’s a command to be filled with the Spirit — so that we’ll sing.
When we try singing while denying the Spirit in us, we violate this passage. It’s not the presence of guitars that concerns Paul. It’s the absence of the filling with the Spirit.