Filled With The Spirit

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul admonished believers to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” as an essential element of our walk with and work for the Lord. But what exactly does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit”?

Well the Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest gives four things that come through in the Greek that will help us to understand what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

1.    “Be filled with the Spirit” is a command (imperative in the Greek) that God expects us to obey.

It’s a command that is plural in the Greek which means it applies to all Christians—not just to a select few like missionaries, pastors and evangelists.  It’s a command because we can’t begin to do the work God has called us to do without the power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49)

I believe that this is the greatest need in the Church today and the single greatest reason why we are losing the culture war to the devil in America when Jesus clearly promised us that against His Church the gates of hell would not prevail.  It’s because we are trying to do the work of God in our own strength, ingenuity and intelligence and not in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have substituted programs for the power of God and theological degrees for the dynamic of the Holy Spirit.

“If we removed the Holy Spirit from the work of the early church 90% of what they were doing would have come to a stop. If we removed the Holy Spirit from the work of the church today 10% of what is being done would come to a stop.”  A.W. Tozer

2.     In the Greek the verb “filled” is in the present tense and denotes a continuous action—“be continually being filled with the

Now this is important because God never intended us to be reservoirs to “contain” the Holy Spirit, but channels through which the Holy Spirit could flow to a lost and dying world.

John 7:37-39 (NKJV) 
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit…

As we stay in fellowship with the Lord, abiding in Christ through the Word of God, and using our spiritual gifts in ministry we will enjoy a constant flow of the Holy Spirit in and through our life.  Of course sin will sever that fellowship and will dry up that flow of power until we repent and get back into fellowship with the Lord.

3.    In the Greek the verb “filled” is in the passive voice which indicates an action being done to us and not controlled by us.

In other words we do not fill ourselves, the Holy Spirit does the filling but our responsibility is to permit the Spirit to fill us. (Hence the command mentioned in point #1)  The Holy Spirit will never force Himself on us but will fill us as much as we desire or as much as He can depending how much we are already filled with self.  The idea is that of surrender. The degree to which we are emptied of self will be the degree to which the Spirit will be able to fill us with Himself. You simple can’t fill an eight ounce glass with eight ounces of water if it already contains six ounces of dirt!

4.     In the Greek the word “filled” expresses the idea of being “controlled by”.

a. Luke 4:28-29 (NKJV) 
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

It means that “they were controlled by wrath” and for that reason tried to kill Jesus.

b. Acts 13:45 (NKJV) 
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.  “The Jews were filled with envy” (Acts 13:45) means that the Jews were controlled by envy and opposed the ministry of Paul and Barnabas.

c. John 16:6 (NKJV) 
But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

Because Jesus was going away the disciples were being consumed and controlled by sorrow. To be “filled with the Spirit” means to be constantly controlled by the Spirit in our mind, our will, our emotions, and of course in our actions.

Listen, at the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts—in all of our hearts as Christians. (Romans 8:9)  But just because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer doesn’t mean that He automatically controls every believer.  One of the reasons why the Holy Spirit has so little control over so many Christians is because they think He works automatically in their lives.

And so they’re waiting on Him to work but He is waiting on them to surrender. (Galatians 5:25)

Just as the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell us until we invited Jesus into our hearts, so too the Holy Spirit will not control us until we yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and surrender our will, emotions and actions to the control of the Holy Spirit over our lives. I think that this is one of the great problems facing the church in America—too many Christians are trying to control the Holy Spirit instead of allowing themselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.

I think a prime example of this was Jacob. Jacob knew the Lord and yet he had a hard time surrendering his will and actions to the Lord. Finally after years of living a self-controlled life the Lord met him one night and “wrestled” with Jacob (Genesis 32). The result was that the Lord literally crippled Jacob to change him from “Jacob” (self-willed and self-dependant) to “Israel” (governed or controlled by God).

Learn a lesson from Jacob’s life. God doesn’t want to have to lead your life through painful circumstances. Instead He wants you to be in such close fellowship with Him that when He directs you in subtle ways you will instantly follow where He is leading your life.

I think the words of the Psalmist apply here–

“The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD.” (Psalm 32:8-10)

May the Lord richly bless you as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil