The burden of this article is that we would know what it means to be Spirit-filled. It is imperative as a New Testament Church of Jesus Christ that we have youth, middle age, and older people who have their lives under the control of the Holy Spirit.
It is always encouraging to hear the testimony of an individual, how the Holy Spirit has been working in his life. It is equally discouraging when those who profess to have their lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ fail to express the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
We must understand that fruit such as rebellion against parents or church authority, failure to get along with our fellowmen, shady business deals, gossiping etc. are not fruit of the Spirit, but are of "another spirit". In the minds of some people, being filled with the Holy Spirit means to speak in tongues, to experience feelings of wild ecstasy, or to be slain in the Spirit.
Sometimes people with these experiences confront us to make us feel we do not know what it is to be filled with the Spirit. Unless we are settled in our minds on what it means to be filled with the Spirit, we can become confused and unsettled with these so-called Spirit-filled miracles. Once we are unsettled, the devil has a foothold from which he can work.
The purpose of this article is not to unsettle any who has the Holy Spirit within them, but rather to confirm in our minds what the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit and what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
The story is told of a Christian named John who died in a nursing home some years ago. Those who took care of John considered him a Spirit-filled man. During the last two years of his life as cancer ravaged his body, his joy was irrepressible. He told everyone he met about Jesus Christ.
John asked the aides to wheel him into rooms where people were discouraged and depressed. His testimonies led many fellow residents to the Lord. After he could no longer be placed in a wheelchair, he talked to people who came into his room. He radiated such joy that they could not help but feel they were in the presence of a Spirit-filled man.
Certainly as we compare the testimony of John to those who profess feelings of wild ecstasy, being slain in the Spirit, or the ability to speak in tongues, should there be a question as to which individuals knew what it meant to be Spirit filled? Being slain in the Spirit (which means to suddenly fall down and go into a trance) is not implied anywhere in the Bible, neither are feelings of wild ecstasy. The Holy Spirit is rather referred to as a Comforter that leads
and guides us into all truth.
As for speaking in tongues, Paul commanded Christians to "Forbid not to speak in tongues" (1Cor 14:39). Paul also said "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding that by my voice I might teach others also than ten thousand word in an unknown tongue" (1Cor 14:19). "If any man speak in an unknown tongue let it be by two or the most by three, and that by course and let one interpret. But, if there be no interpreter let him keep silence in the church" (1Cor 14:27,28). "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1Cor 14:40). The above verses seem to be violated in most tongue speaking churches.
We must be convinced that the Holy Spirit will never do anything, which would violate what is taught in the Word of God. In light of this, we should have a clear understanding on how we should relate to all Bible commandments.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is God and He is the third person in the Trinity. God is a Spirit (John 4:24a). In the account of Ananias and Sapphira, Peter first told Ananias that he had lied to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3). In the following verse, (v4) Peter said he lied to God. This would confirm that the Holy Spirit is God and that the Trinity work together as one. Matthew 28:19 also gives confirmation that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son in the formula for baptism.
The Holy Spirit is also a person. He is not a force or a strange power. The Holy Spirit is spoken of as He. "I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
The following points show the personality of the Holy Spirit and what His work is:
1. The Holy Spirit has intelligence. "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things yea the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man save the Spirit of man which is in him. Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1Cor 2:9-11).
2. The Holy Spirit makes decisions. In 1 Cor 12:4-11, it is clear that the giving of gifts is the work of the Holy Spirit. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." The Holy Spirit decides who to give certain gifts to so that everyone working together can be as one body, thus making it very efficient in achieving the work that Jesus wants the church to fulfill.
3. The Holy Spirit has emotions. He can be grieved. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph 4:30).
4. The Holy Spirit speaks. "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the church" (Rev. 2:7)
5. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Rev. 2:7 says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
6. The Holy Spirit will teach us, especially as we apply ourselves to studying the Word of God (which was inspired by the Holy Spirit) and remain faithful in obeying it. "But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
7. The Holy Spirit will lead us. "For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God they are the Sons of God" (Rom 8:14). "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak and he will shew you all things" (John 16:13). Certainly, someone who is guiding and showing the way is a leader.
8. The Holy Ghost directs in the appointing of leaders in the church, which is similar to the giving of gifts. "Take head therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
9. The Holy Spirit gives needed power to the believer. "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
10. The Holy Spirit has a part in the regeneration of the believer. "Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
11. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. "Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor 6:9). "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (1 Cor 3:16).
12. The Holy Spirit fills the believer's hearts with the love of God. "And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom 5:5).
13. The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin. "And when he is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).
14. The Holy Spirit confirms the children of God in their Christian experience. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom 8:16).
15. The Holy Spirit has part in the sanctification of the believer. Paul said, "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable being sanctified by the Holy Ghost" (Rom 15:16).
16. The Holy Spirit is the power through whom the Holy Scriptures were given. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture... came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet 1:20,21).
As we consider all that the Holy Spirit does for a person, the question then comes, "Who can be filled with the Holy Spirit?" John 3:1-8 gives the account of Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night. Jesus was very clear with him that a person must be born again or he will not see the kingdom of heaven. Jesus also says in verse 5, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."
These verses imply that being born again, and being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and His initial dwelling in our heart happen at the time of conversion.
We know that the Bible is clear that all sin must be confessed if we want to enter into the kingdom of heaven. "If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1Jo 1:9). Once our sin is forgiven and we are cleansed the Holy Spirit will come, dwell, and give that person the power to live in victory. Romans 8 also brings out the fact that either we are walking after the flesh or after the Spirit. If we are walking after the flesh, the Holy Spirit will not dwell in us but rather will be convicting us of sin. When we yield our lives to Jesus and confess our sin, we are then walking after the Spirit.
Next, let us look at some of the essentials for the continual filling of the Spirit. We looked at the first step of conversion we need to take to have the Holy Spirit dwell in us. But more needs to be done if we want His presence to stay with us.
First, our life must be Christ centered. Jesus Christ must be the focal point of our thoughts and aspirations. In all that we do, we must be conscious of Christ's example and what His will is for us. This is pleasing to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:13-14, "Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak, and he will shew you things to come He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and shew it unto you."
These verses caution us about not putting more emphasis on the Holy Spirit than we do on obedience to Jesus Christ and His commandments. The Holy Spirit is here to magnify Jesus, not himself.
Second, we must study the Word of God. We noticed earlier the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit. If we want the Holy Spirit to continue to dwell in us, we must certainly listen to what He has to say in His Word. "All scripture is given by inspirtation of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2Ti 3:16,17). We have all that we need in the Word of God. It has all the instruction that we need to live a victorious life. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Ti 2:1).
Third, we must submit ourselves and obey what is taught in the Word of God. It seems clear the Holy Spirit will not dwell in the life of someone who willfully disobeys that which He inspired men to write. One good test to see if our lives are exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit is to read chapters in the Bible like Ephesians 4,5,6; Colossians 3; Galatians 5. Which fruit best describes our daily living? Being filled with the Spirit will be evident in the way we conduct our lives. Another test could be how much are we willing to witness for Christ? Remember, the Holy Spirit is also the One who empowers us for Christian service. The writer has found in his own life that witnessing is essential to continue to have the assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit is also the One who bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. If we pass up opportunities to witness for Christ, we are denying the power available to us.
My prayer is that we would continue to have Christ and His example the focal point of our life. Study and obey the Word of God so that when our life on earth is ended we would hear those welcome words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."
- Chambersburg, PA