What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit?”

In certain Christian circles being filled with the Holy Spirit is a very important step in a person’s spiritual development. Though not all churches define “Spirit filled” in the same way, all Christians are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. “And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be ye filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

Being filled with the Spirit cannot mean certain things. Filling with the Spirit is not the same as having the Holy Spirit. Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at salvation. (Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:5) The Holy Spirit is the seal of the believer’s salvation, securing the Christian unto heaven. (Ephesians 1:13-14) Those who do not have the Spirit are not saved. (Romans 8:9)

The filling of the Spirit is not the baptism of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” The baptism of the Spirit takes place at salvation when the Holy Spirit places the believer into the body of Christ, the universal church.

The filling of the Spirit is a not a second work of God that happens to the Christian after salvation through which the Christian receives extra power, more grace or special gifting. The New Testament does not teach that the Christian is to expect a later, special moving of the Spirit.

The filling of the Spirit is explained by Colossians 3, the parallel passage to Ephesians 5. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you with all wisdom.” The filling of the Spirit is the same as the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly. When the Word of God fills the heart and rules the life then it is dwelling richly within the person. Likewise, being Spirit filled is being ruled by the Word. The filling of the Spirit is a yielding control of the life to the Spirit of God. It is being under the direction of the Spirit of God. The direction of the Spirit is found in the Word of God. Being filled with the Spirit ought to be the normal pattern of the Christian life.

Ephesians 5:18 contrasts being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit. He that is full of wine is under the influence of alcohol. His behavior and attitudes are changed because of the alcohol. Likewise, the Spirit filled Christian’s actions and attitudes will be radically changed because of the control of the Spirit. The Spirit filled Christian will sing for the edification of others and the praise of God. He will give thanks to the Lord. He will submit to others. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

The filling of the Spirit is the supernatural power of God to obey the Word of God. The filling of the Spirit is not a measure of having more of the Spirit, but the measure of the Christian’s increasing obedience to the Spirit’s working by the Word of God.

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