Spirit Filled

ESV Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Many times Christians will refrain from using the image of the dove for the Holy Spirt since it has been so aggressively adopted by charismatics. But the likeness of the dove is biblical and, therefore, quite permissible. At Jesus’ baptism the simile was featured…

NAS John 1:32 And John bore witness saying, “I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.

Dorothy Sayers, the Christian novelist of the late 19th  – early 20th  century, once wrote of a Japanese convert struggling to grasp the Trinity:  “Honorable Father, very good,” he said to his missionary teacher. “Honorable Son, very good. But Honorable Bird, I do not understand at all.”

Not my style of anecdote, but I believe it effectively gets the point across. To many people, it is safe to say, the Holy Spirit is flat out difficult to comprehend. All one needs to do is research the subject to quickly surmise there is much confusion about the Holy Spirit both in and outside Christianity. It is my studied and observational opinion that the main reason this is so is that most people let emotion or experience be their guide in attempting to fathom the Spirit, instead of the Word of God.

A brief review: The Holy Spirit is God, as much so as the Father or the Son. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God living in us (that is termed “indwelling”; we will discuss indwelling more in a moment). The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Bible.

It is a sad reality there is much confusion in the body of Christ today about the Holy Spirit. A great deal of this problem has to do with the inability to distinguish between the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, especially confusion of the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit. To me, the problem understanding the Holy Spirit is understandable; the misunderstanding the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Spirit is not, Accordingly, though I have titled this blog “Spirit Filled,” Spirit Baptism will be discussed as well.

Telling the difference between the two doctrines is really not that hard. One has to do with salvation; the other the Christian life, sanctification, discipleship. If you study the Bible, it is not that difficult to distinguish between them. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is that unique, imperceptible, unemotional, one-time work of God by which He spiritually places the new believer into the universal, eternal, spiritual body of Christ (metaphorically the “body of Christ” is the church). This happens the moment we were saved. It is never repeated…

ESV 1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

This is the baptism of the Spirit; this is not the filling of the Spirit. They are two entirely different things.

The filling of the Spirit is commanded; the baptism of the Spirit is not commanded. It is sad that this essential fact is dismissed by so many who claim that through Spirit baptism they have been given a “second blessing.” There is no “second blessing” referring to salvation; there is only the blessing of salvation. If your salvation is real, it is complete. We may speak in terms of a second, third, fourth – six thousandth blessing, if we are referring to the blessings God gives us as we obediently live the Christian life, but there is no “second blessing” in the sense of being given more by God after the initial step of faith in the salvational experience…

To be absolutely clear on this because it is so important, allow me to say the same thing with different words and purposeful redundancy: All Christians are baptized by/in/with (scholars disagree with word better translated the Greek preposition – I favor “by”) the Spirit at the moment of salvation. This experience happens once; it is never repeated. On the other hand, not all Christians are automatically Spirit filled when they are saved.

Spirit baptism is concurrent with salvation; Spirit filling is post salvation.

Here is a theological definition of Spirit filling: The filling of the Spirit is the act of God by which He spiritually controls the life of the obedient, surrendered believer. “Obedience,” “surrender” and “submission” are key words in Spirit filling. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Ephesians, the broad context of 5:18 are literally full of imperatives (commands) that call for obedience, surrender, and submission.

If you are a Christian and you are surrendered to God according to His Word, you are Spirit filled. If, however, you are a genuine Christian but you are resistant to God’s will, you have indeed been baptized by the Spirit but you are not filled by the Spirit…

“Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way! Thou art the potter, I am the clay! Mold me and make me After Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded (surrendered) and still.” – Hymn

To be filled by the Spirit is to be yielded to the Spirit…

L.S. CHAFER, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and one of the great theologians of the last 100 years, once was asked to speak at an important banquet. His talk was to close the event.  But because of the banquet’s lengthy list of speakers and singers, the night had already grown late before Dr. Chafer took the dais. Aware of the lateness, Dr. Chafer said he would present but the outline of his message entitled “The Reasonableness of Surrendering Our Lives to God.” Dr. Chafer listed but three points, three reasons why one should surrender his or her life to God. He said, “ (1) He is all wise and knows better than anyone else – including ourselves – what is better for our lives. (2) He is almighty and has the power to accomplish what is best for us. (3) He loves us more than anyone else in the world loves us. Conclusion: Therefore, the most reasonable thing a Christian – or an unbeliever – can do is surrender his or her life to the control of God. That is all that can be said; that is all I shall say; that is all that needs be said.”  And he sat down…

KJV Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

This passage in Romans 12 is very similar to Ephesians 5:18. It is a command, which implies obedience, the sacrifice speaks of surrender and submission.

Spirit baptism is positional. That is, it is that act of God by which the believer is placed into the body of Christ, the church. Whereas Spirit filling is experiential; it is something that comes as a result of something we do, something we must decide to do. It is decisional. “Be filled by the Spirit” is a command; you must decide to obey. Therefore, you yourself determine whether you will be Spirit filled.

Being Spirit filled results in dependence. You could say it’s all about dependence, total dependence on God. That is a wonderful feeling.

The ministries of the Spirit are many. While other ministries of the Holy Spirit such as indwelling, baptism, regenerating, and sealing are non-experiential and occur but once at the moment of salvation, the filling of the Spirit is experiential and also repeated. We should be repeatedly filled throughout every day.

More on indwelling. Being filled by the Spirit is not the same as being indwelt by the Spirit. Probably the most difficult distinction is that between the indwelling and filling of the Spirit. They are closely related but not synonymous. Indwelling, like Sprit baptism, is a one-time happening, occurring, again like Spirit baptism, at salvation. Indwelling is not in itself experiential, while filling relates wholly to experience. Indwelling is the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit within the believer, while the filling of the Spirit has to do with the extent of control of the Spirit over the individual. Indwelling is not active; filling is.  Believers are never exhorted in Scripture to be indwelt, whereas they are exhorted to be filled with or by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). To be filled by the Spirit is a command.

Spirit filling is absolutely essential to living the Christian life. “Essential” means absolutely necessary, indispensable. Essential suggests that which is the very essence or constitution of a thing. If you are not regularly – no, daily – Spirit filled, you cannot claim to be obediently or effectively living the Christian life. Every Christian should be able to say with enthusiasm, “Yes, I am Spirit filled!”

Occasionally when I preached I would begin by asking the congregation, “Are you Spirit filled today?” The question was always met with silence. I understand the reasons for the hesitation to respond, but every Christian should have no problem enthusiastically answering, “Yes!” I followed up my startling question with another question: “If not, why not?” The biblical basis of that question is Ephesians 5:18…

KJV Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Spirit filled is contrasted with being drunk. This is a great insight into the meaning of Spirit filling. When you are drunk you are controlled by alcohol; when you are filled by the Spirit you are controlled by the Spirit. “Filled” means “control” (Greek πληρόω; play-ra-o). The Greek word pictures an empty sail being filled by the wind, an empty net being filled by fish…

ESV Matthew 13:47-48 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.

Or an empty room being filled by an aroma…

NAS John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It is the image of something being pervaded by something else. When we are filled by the Spirit we are pervaded by the Spirit. Pervade means to permeate, to be present throughout.  When we are filled the Spirit is present throughout our being, permeating our being.

To be filled by the Spirit is to be ideally constantly controlled by the Spirit. The verb is a present imperative, a command that is continuous. This means that the filling is to be continual; it must be repeated everyday, you could even say every moment.

“And do not be drunk with wine.” What a deceiver drink is. Alcohol is a perfect symbol of the world and Satan in that it promises pleasure without pain, advantage without cost. Consider the beer commercials on TV. Everyone is young and slim and having the time of his or her life. The beer is poured with bright lights on it and behind it so that it sparkles in a beautiful way.  Nothing is even hinted that there might be a negative side to all this. That is the way the world is: deceptive. That is how Satan is: promises of pleasure, concealment of pain.

ESV 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The Bible offers such beautiful contrasts. There is the world’s way, and then set over against that like while set over against black, is God’s way.

The filling of the Spirit is the same thing, I believe, as walking by the Spirit. Both speak of being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God…

KJV Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Instead of doing something in order to be filled, the believer must think something. Surrender and submission are actions, yes, but they are passive by nature. Filling is a mental attitude. It is a moment by moment decision the believer makes to yield to the control of the Spirit. It isn’t how much of the Spirit the believer has, but instead it is how much of the believer the Spirit has. It is the indwelling Spirit who should be continually controlling the life of the believer. This spiritual control is manifested in the life of the believer through the Word of God.  The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and uses it in the life of the believer to do the work of God.

The key to being filled by the Spirit is to be daily, deeply in the Scriptures…

KJV Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

This interpretation finds validity in the close association with the context of Ephesians 5:18. Notice the almost exact wording of Colossians 3:16 to Ephesians 5:19…

KJV Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

The result in both passages is the same, proving that Spirit filling is directly related to the study of God’s Word. Notice carefully that nowhere do we read in Scripture that the result of filling is ecstatic experience. Nothing is mentioned about speaking in tongues or suddenly having the gift of healing.

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of God’s Word the Bible in the Christian life. In order to be surrendered to God you must know His will. Knowing His will is not accomplished apart from studying the Bible.

I must say a brief word about Old Testament Spirit filling. O.T. believers were, indeed, filled by the Spirit, but that filling was selective; it did not happen to every believer. The Holy Spirit came upon certain believers to enable them to perform certain tasks for God. Sometimes we N.T. believers may not be filled by the Spirit, but there is big difference in the spiritual state of O.T. believers and N.T. believers. This is the word “indwelling” again. Whereas we N.T. believers are permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, O.T. believers were not.  If they were, then Jesus did not need to say what he said in…

NAS John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you (future tense) all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

The Holy Spirit did not come to indwell (live permanently within) believers until after Jesus went to the Cross, arose, and ascended into heaven.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is commanded by God for two reasons: (1) it is essential for the maturity of the believer (1 Cor. 3:1-3), and (2) it is essential for the believer’s service (Acts 4:31; 9:17, 20). Spirit filled Christians are maturing Christians. Spirit filled Christians are serving Christians. Our example is Christ Himself…

NAS Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

I often think that is the most convicting verse for Christians in all of the Bible.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the heart is right, the feet are swift.” When we are surrendered to Christ, when we are Spirit filled, we will be willing even eager to serve…

The bottom line: The main result of being filled by the Spirit (though there are many positive consequences, of course) will be to produce the Fruit of the Spirit (the subject for an upcoming blog)…

KJV Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance:.

When the Holy Spirit controls the life of the believer His fruit will be produced in that life. Being filled by the Spirit will produce Christlikeness. The Fruit of the Spirit is Christlikeness.

Spirit filling is absolutely essential to living the Christian life. You cannot say you are right with God as a Christian until you are surrendered to His will. This is a crucial teaching. Being filled by the Spirit is critical for living the Christian life by God’s standards (regrettably most live the Christian life by their own standards).

A closing thought: We cannot truthfully say we are controlled by the Spirit and at the same time live lives where we are in control of ourselves. To most Christians, Christ is a passenger in the backseat; He is not driving the car. Being filling by the Spirit happens when we give Him the keys.

– Professor Thomas A. Rohm