Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
On several occasions the New Testament designates people as “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What does this involve? What did people do when they were filled with the Holy Spirit? How did they get that way?
The purpose of this paper is to examine the New Testament teaching on being filled with the Holy Spirit. We shall briefly survey what it means to be filled or full. We shall explore what light these concepts shed on what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We shall examine what Spirit-filled people in the first century A.D. did. Then we shall consider some results of being filled with the Holy Spirit and some factors involved in becoming filled with the Holy Spirit. Finally we shall mention insights on the topic by some early Alliance leaders.
I. What It Means to Be Filled
A. The terms and their basic meanings
In New Testament Greek only two words with their cognates that mean to fill, to fulfill, to complete are used in association with the Holy Spirit: pleroo and pimplemi.1 Both words are flexible enough to designate several kinds of fillings.
B. Their usage in the New Testament
Both words mean to finish, complete, fulfill.2 Both words refer to a filling with something physical, such as fish, fragrance or wine.3 Both words describe unbelievers as filled with, i.e., characterized by, certain negative qualities (e.g., Romans 1:29).4
Both words picture believers as filled with, i.e., characterized by, certain positive qualities.5
The verb pleroo described Christians as “full of goodness” and “complete in knowledge” (“full of all knowledge,” ASV) and thus “competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14). Paul asked God “to fill Christians with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” in order to live God-pleasing and fruitful lives (Colossians 1:9-10). He prayed that Christians would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11). Jesus urged His disciples to obey Him so that their joy would be complete (John 15:11). Jesus (John 17:13) and Paul (Romans 15:13) prayed that Christians would be filled with joy and peace so that they would overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were pictured as filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). Paul was “greatly encouraged” (“full of comfort,” 2 Corinthians 7:4, ASV).
The verb pimplemi pictured the witnesses of Jesus’ healing a paralytic as “filled with awe” because of the remarkable miracle they had observed (Luke 5:26). It described a similar reaction to Peter’s healing a cripplethe people “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:10).
It is important to note that these qualities characterized the people who were filled with them. This is a significant point to consider in discussing being filled with the Holy Spirit. People filled with the Holy Spirit are characterized by some of His qualities.
In spite of the brevity of the previous survey, a thorough study of the New Testament data would show that the word families associated with pleroo and pimplemi cover the same range of meanings. They appear to be virtually synonymous.6 Thus they can plausibly be understood to convey similar meanings when referring to Spirit-filling.
II. What It Means to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
Every Christian has a personal relationship with the divine Person, the Holy Spirit. This is the result of several of His operations which will be mentioned briefly in order to suggest their relationship to His filling.
1. The Holy Spirit’s regenerative work: Regeneration is the act by God that causes the new birth to occur, thereby imparting eternal life. It occurs simultaneously with saving faith. The New Testament describes regenerated believers as born of the Spirit and as saved through the renewal of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). His regenerating work initiates an ongoing relationship with believers. It is the basis for His future ministries to Christians.
2. The Holy Spirit’s baptizing work: There is only one New Testament text that states the nature of the Holy Spirit’s baptizing work. That is Paul’s statement: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13a). The aorist tense of baptizo and the words, “we all,” clearly label this baptism as a past event involving all Christians. Since it has already happened to all Christians, it evidently occurred at their conversion. The passive voice of baptizo and the instrumental dative (en eni pneumati, “by one spirit”) identify the Holy Spirit as the One who caused this event to occur. The phrase, eis en soma, “into one body,” indicates the result of this baptism.
For Paul, baptism by the Holy Spirit involves His placing new believers into the body of which Jesus Christ is the Head (Ephesians 5:23). This is doubtless the occasion for His defining each member’s function within the body of Christ by the distribution of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:5-31). This baptism, also designated as being baptized into Christ, brings new believers into union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-10; Galatians 3:27), for they are members of His body.
By its effect of placing new believers into the body of Christ, baptism by the Holy Spirit puts them into a position that enables them to access spiritual power. But it does not, in itself, activate that power. Only members of the body of Christ have the benefit of the Holy Spirit’s other ministries to believers.
3. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling of Christians:7 Since the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is a benefit of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ, He lives within all who have been justified (Romans 5:5). His presence is a gift to Christians received at the time of their conversion (1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:5). Thus the Holy Spirit lives within all Christians and only in them (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6). In fact, anyone who lacks His presence is unsaved (Romans 8:9; Jude 19).
Paul pictured Christians as the temple of the Holy Spirit, a vivid image of His living within them (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20 cf. Ephesians 2:19-22). As the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, the temple is holy because He is holy. Thus Christians, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, are also to be holy.
The indwelling Holy Spirit brings God’s presence into the lives of believers. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that God applies the power that produces life (i.e., spiritual vitality) within Christians, enabling them to stand firm in Christ and to develop a holy lifestyle (Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
Only those regenerated, baptized and indwelt by the Holy Spirit are in a position to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
B. The Holy Spirit’s control
There is an analogy between being filled with a quality or feeling and being filled with the Person of the Holy Spirit.8 When described as filled, a person is dominated or characterized by the quality or Person that does the filling.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit involves an expansion and intensification of the impact of His indwelling presence. It is to have His presence saturate one’s being with His qualities of godliness in life and power in ministry. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is for Him to advance His presence and power within one to the full extent that He desires.9 It is for Him to take possession of the believer’s mind, thereby controlling his disposition and guiding him.10 By means of this controlling influence, the Holy Spirit “moves the one who is filled into a new course of action and produces a new kind of life.”11
C. The believer’s yieldedness
What the Holy Spirit accomplishes within a believer does not depend upon how much of the Holy Spirit a believer has received. Since every believer has received the Person of the Holy Spirit who lives within him and relates to him, no believer has received only a portion of the Holy Spirit, for He is indivisible.
What the Holy Spirit accomplishes within a believer depends upon how much of the believer He controls, i.e., the extent to which the believer is yielded to His influence.12 Since the extent of a believer’s yieldedness varies, the extent of the Holy Spirit’s control also varies. This is the basis for Pache’s conclusion that God desires to increasingly possess more of us (i.e., of each believer).13 As we surrender more control to the Holy Spirit, we experience spiritual growth and progressive victory over sin.14 To maximize the Holy Spirit’s influence, believers need to be completely open to His leading.15
J.D. Pentecost observed:
There are two aspects of being filled with the Holy Spirit: (1) His personal guidance and provision of power, and (2) the believer’s response of complete openness and yieldedness to His leading. These indicate the divine and human factors in the filling.
D. Continuing condition and special empowerment
Does being filled with the Holy Spirit involve a continuing condition of yieldedness to the Holy Spirit’s influence or His periodic empowering for special needs in ministry? Some have suggested that being full of the Spirit designates the former and that being filled with the Spirit depicts the latter.17 Nevertheless, this is not always the case, for Stephen was described as full of the Holy Spirit in Acts 6:3, 5, evidently indicating this continuing condition. Yet later he was again pictured as full of the Holy Spirit in 7:55, which involved a special empowering.18 Christians were also described as empowered in ministry by a filling of the Holy Spirit (e.g., 4:8, 31).19 Yet the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit evidently indicates an ongoing condition (Ephesians 5:18, plerousthe).
The picture described here is of certain Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit as a continuing condition while intermittently empowered by Him for ministry. I would suggest that these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive (i.e., that these fillings combine the continuing condition with the special empowering), although one may, in a given text, be more prominently in view than the other. Being full of the Holy Spirit as a continuing spiritual condition does not preclude special fillings that empower the believer for ministry or for handling especially difficult situations. Nevertheless, the special empowerments occur in the context of the ongoing spiritual condition.
III. The Command to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
The text in which this command is found is, of course, Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
A. The context
In his perceptive article, Chip Anderson well described the context for this command.
B. “Do not get drunk on wine”
Leading into the key command is a prohibition against excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages.21 This prohibition is appropriate, because alcohol depresses the centers in the brain that affect self-control, wisdom, discrimination, judgment and the ability to assess.22 It also produces the unpleasantness of a hangover.
Along with other sins, drunkenness is a standard feature of an unregenerate lifestyle (1 Peter 4:3).23 Wicked drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Drunkenness is among the sins that Christians are explicitly told to avoid (Romans 13:13). Christians, as sons of the light, are to avoid getting drunk and they are to maintain self-control (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8). They are not even to associate with a drunkard who claims to be a Christian (1 Corinthians 5:11). Drunkenness is incompatible with being Spirit-filled or even with basic Christian living.24
C. “which is debauchery”
Drunkenness, as an example of asotia, is pictured as debauchery, dissipation, profligacy.25 It also depicts the excess, wastefulness and riotous living that dissipated the wealth of the prodigal son.26 Such overindulgence in alcoholic drink is harmful to both the drinker and to others.27 The term, asotia, “is broadly descriptive of moral degeneracy, laxity, and recklessness of conduct.”28
The syntactical structure of Ephesians 5:18 consists of two present imperatives (methyskesthe, plerousthe) and two instrumental datives (oino, en pneumati).29 The adversative conjunction, alla (but, instead, nevertheless) indicates a contrast between the two imperatives.30
The contrast here is one element in the broader contrast mentioned in the preceding context. This broad contrast was described as between the old self and the new self (Ephesians 4:22-23), between darkness and light (5:8-14), between unwise (asophol) and wise (sophol) living (5:15-17).31 In 5:18 the contrast is between yielding to the controlling effects of excessive alcoholic consumption and yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit.32 Each produces its characteristic lifestyle. One might express the contrast in this way: Do not be filled with alcoholic spirits, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.33
E. “Be filled with the Spirit”
The verb plerousthe (be filled) is a present passive imperative. As an imperative, it is a command that all Christians have a duty to obey.34 The verb in the present tense indicates a continuing, ongoing action or a series of repeatable actions.35 The passive voice depicts believers as yielding to what the Holy Spirit will accomplish in and through them.36
Anderson observed that the texts in Ephesians (1:10, 22c-23; 3:19; 4:10, 13) in which Paul used pleroo / pleroma reflect one theme: “God’s ultimate purpose in Christ and the relationship of the believer to that purpose.”37 Thus believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit who operates “through the activity of the risen and exalted Christ.”38 Anderson suggested the following contextual interpretation of Ephesians 5:12-21:
Anderson went on to state:
There is an analogy between the Spirit-filled Christian and the wine-filled drunkard to the extent that both make self-comfort subservient to their respective goals. John Goodwin described being filled with the Spirit as a sort of spiritual drunkenness.41 As drunkards are often insensitive to danger, pain and even beatings, Spirit-filled people are little bothered by worldly troubles.42
Being filled with the Holy Spirit affects the entire range of the believer’s experience. Yet it does not involve His absolute control, for Christians continue to be capable of sinning. The Holy Spirit does not remove the believer’s self-control, but does enhance the use of his intelligence.43 Nevertheless, He does exercise a powerful influence over believers whom He fills.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit includes power for wisdom, worship and ministry.44 The Holy Spirit “moves the one who is filled into a new and spiritually improved lifestyle.”45 This marvelous power is accessed by yielding to the Holy Spirit as the primary controlling influence in the believer’s life.
IV. Effects of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
A. Christian character
1. Strong spiritual interests: The indwelling Holy Spirit develops Christians’ spiritual interests, but it is Spirit-filled individuals who are so saturated with the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence that His agenda becomes theirs, for they “have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). This mind-set involves them in spiritual matters. As a result, they are not greatly distracted by the annoyances and difficulties brought about by the hostile environment of the world.46
2. Submissiveness: After urging Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul described such people as yielding to each other in ways that produce harmony in the most basic human relationships, including those of marriage, family and employment (Ephesians. 5:21-6:9).47 Although the indwelling Holy Spirit does affect Christian attitudes in these basic relationships, His impact upon Spirit-filled Christians substantially increases the quality of these relationships within the Christian community. Perhaps this is why Paul’s exhortations concerning these relationships immediately followed his command to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
3. Fruit of the Spirit: Since Christians have the Holy Spirit living within them, they are to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:5), to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25) and to bear the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit (5:22-23). Since the word fruit (karpos) is singular, it has a collective connotation. Thus it covers the entire list of ethical qualities described as His fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). When Christians are Spirit-filled, they are controlled by the Holy Spirit who thoroughly develops and makes conspicuous these attitudes and qualities within them.48
B. Christian worship
1. Music: For Paul, one manifestation of being Spirit-filled was the consistent and ongoing quality of worship. He noted two aspects of the musical element in the Spirit-filled Ephesian worship. Christians were to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”; Paul also told them to “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). These two types of musical expressions covered both external and internal aspects of worship, conveying the genuine joy and priorities of Spirit-filled Christians.
2. Thankful attitude: Paul described Spirit-filled Christians as “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20). This attitude of thanksgiving is to saturate their music.49 To be thankful to God for everything is a refreshing contrast to the chronic complainers that permeate our population. Perhaps this is why this attitude is a consistently conspicuous quality of those who are Spirit-filled.50 It reveals their God-centered perspective.
C. Christian ministry
Believers filled with the Holy Spirit expressed that influence in various ways. All New Testament references to people as actually filled with or full of the Holy Spirit are found in the two Lukan writings. Let us survey these texts and observe what happened when people were filled with the Holy Spirit.
1. Before Pentecost: In three texts Luke used pimplemi to picture ministries prior to the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, uttered a prophecy concerning the virgin Mary and her Baby (Luke 1:41-45). Zechariah the priest, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied concerning the prophetic ministry of his son, John the Baptist (1:67-79). An angel informed Zechariah that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, enabling him to have his prophetic ministry that would turn people to the Lord (1:15-17).
Jesus, full (pleres) of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert for His confrontation with the devil (4:1-13).
2. Supernatural events leading to conversions:
a. Speaking in tongues: On the day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to speak in other tongues (Acts 2:4).51 They declared the wonders of God in several languages (2:8-11). This led to Peter’s Pentecost sermon (2:14-40) that resulted in about 3,000 conversions (2:41), clearly another manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power.52
b. Miracles: Early Christians were told to select seven men to take over the apostolic task of distributing food to the poor within their church (6:1-4). To handle the disputes that had developed within this ministry, these men had to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom (6:3).53 One of these men, Stephen, was described as full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (6:5).54 The Holy Spirit displayed His power through these men, producing a rapidly growing number of disciples in Jerusalem including many priests (6:7). As a result of being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen was also pictured as full of God’s grace and power, enabling him to enhance his ministry by doing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people (6:8).55 Although not explicitly stated here, the pattern in the Book of Acts was often for miraculous signs and effective evangelism to occur in conjunction with each other. Alarmed, the Jews developed powerful opposition, but were unable to overcome the wisdom of the Spirit-filled Stephen (6:9-10).
c. A heavenly vision: After being brought to trial on trumped-up charges of blasphemy (6:11-14), Stephen presented an impassioned summary of Hebrew history that did more to condemn and enrage the Sanhedrin than to aid his defense (7:2-53). Then, full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (7:55).56 Still full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen, even as he was dying, interceded for his enemies, asking God not to hold their sin against them (7:60).57 Although Saul witnessed and approved these events at the time (8:1), he was later converted. Stephen’s martyrdom may have been a factor in preparing him for that change.
3. Evangelism: Peter’s healing of a cripple provided him with another opportunity to preach the gospel (3:1-26). As a result, the total number of men who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ grew to about 5,000 (4:4). Jewish opposition brought about the arrest of Peter and John who had to defend themselves before the Jewish authorities (4:1-7). On this occasion Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel to the hostile Jewish leaders (4:8-12).60 Although there was no indication of any conversion occurring then, the text noted the Jewish concern about the continuing spread of the gospel among the people (4:17).
With the Jewish opposition against their evangelism increasing, the Christians gathered together to pray specifically for boldness in their presenting God’s Word and for God’s healing and miraculous power to be activated (4:23-30). God answered their prayer by filling them with the Holy Spirit, thereby providing His means of fulfilling both requests (4:31).61 As a result, they did speak the word of God boldly and continued their healing ministry (4:31; 5:12). As Schippers observed, “The filling is not an end in itself, but the condition for speaking with boldness in the missionary situation.”62
The church in Antioch had a thriving evangelistic ministry, even extending their outreach to Gentileswith many people believing and turning to the Lord (11:19-21). Sent from Jerusalem to investigate the situation, Barnabas approved and encouraged them to be true to the Lord (11:22-23). In this context, Barnabas was described as “full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (11:24).63 Again the text states that many people were brought to the Lord (11:24). As a man full of the Holy Spirit, Barnabas clearly supported and doubtless participated in their outreach. His being full of the Holy Spirit may also have produced his gracious and generous character that prompted him to bring Paul to minister to the church at Antioch (11:25-26), and to sell his land to produce funds for distribution to the Christian poor (4:32-37).
During his first missionary journey Paul preached the gospel at Pisidian Antioch (13:1-47). His message was generally rejected by the Jews, but among the Gentiles “all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (13:48). Furthermore, “the word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (13:49). Jewish opposition managed to expel Paul and Barnabas from the region (13:50-51). Nevertheless, the Christians “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (13:52).64 Their fullness was evidently linked to their ministry, both previously in Pisidian Antioch and following in Iconium (14:1-7).
D. Summary of the New Testament data
Our survey of the New Testament data leads us to three conclusions.
1. Manifestations of being Spirit-filled were quite varied. The Book of Acts describes Spirit-filled people as speaking in tongues, performing miracles, proclaiming the gospel and being gracious. Yet they did not necessarily do all of these things at any given time. Nor did any one of these occur every time someone was described as filled with the Holy Spirit. This means that there is no one manifestation that must occur every time that one is filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit thus cannot be limited to only one manifestation.
2. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is closely connected to ministryespecially proclaiming the Word of God. At no time after Pentecost are Christians pictured as seeking or praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Rather, they were filled with the Holy Spirit in connection with their ministryespecially that of evangelism. Any spiritual power involved in this filling was bestowed in a context of and for the purpose of Christian service. Thus an important aspect of being filled with the Holy Spirit is a divine empowering for a specific situation in a specific ministry. As such, it will not necessarily be permanent.
3. The terms designating being filled with the Holy Spirit convey the same meaning. When associated with the Holy Spirit, the usage of pleroo and pomplemi indicates that these words and their cognates have the same range of meanings. They are virtually equivalent terms. There is thus no observable difference in meaning between pleroo and pimplemi when designating a person as filled with the Holy Spirit.65 Nor is there any noticeable difference between being full of or filled with the Holy Spirit. These expressions are clearly and consistently connected with Christian ministries.
V. Conditions for Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
A. The lack of explicit New Testament texts
In discussions on being filled with the Holy Spirit, people invariably ask, “How do we get filled with the Holy Spirit? What are the conditions for it?” These are reasonable and practical questions.
Yet, curiously, there is no New Testament exhortation that explicitly identifies a condition for being filled with the Holy Spirit! The New Testament writers did not even mention a condition for that filling.
Nevertheless, the various books on the Holy Spirit present several conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit. These include self-examination (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 11:28), recognizing one’s spiritual emptiness, desiring and seeking to be filled (John 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 12:31), asking in prayer to be filled (Luke 11:13) and believing that you are filled (Romans 14:23; Galatians. 3:1-5, 14).66 None of these New Testament texts cited is relevant to being filled with the Holy Spirit. They involve either receiving the Holy Spirit or some spiritual issue that does not directly involve the Holy Spirit at all.
In the absence of viable New Testament proof texts, one may find conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit only by drawing some reasonable inferences. This is somewhat precarious, for it is not clear how many or what conditions we should infer. Nevertheless, here are a few suggestions.
B. Inferred conditions
1. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). The Greek verb rendered “grieve” is a present active imperative form of lupeo. It means to grieve, wound, cause pain, produce remorse or insult.67 The ongoing pattern of inconsistency between faith professed and contradictory actions insults God’s righteousness and brings distressing pain to Him.68 Especially grievous to God is the behavior mentioned in the context, including falsehood (4:25), sinful anger (4:26), stealing (4:28), unwholesome conversation (4:29), bitterness, rage, brawling, slander and every form of malice (4:31)sins that disrupt the fellowship of the church.69
What grieves the Holy Spirit must be broader than what is mentioned in the context; the presence of any sin grieves Him, since it is contrary to His holy nature.70 Since the Holy Spirit finds it necessary to convict the Christian of his sin and press him to deal with it, He will not fill him until that has been done.71 The remedy to grieving the Holy Spirit and suffering the disruption of His fellowship is for the Christian to confess his sins and be cleansed by Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9). The more the Christian appreciates that cleansing and the more he loves God, the more strongly motivated he will be to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit.72
2. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Greek verb translated “put out the fire” is a present active imperative form of sbennumi. It is evidently equivalent to an order to stop doing what they were doing.73 Literally, sbennumi means to extinguish a fire, but in its figurative sense it means to quench, stifle, suppress.74
In the context it is prophecy as an expression of the Holy Spirit’s activity that is not to be contemptuously suppressed.75 Yet the principle of quenching the Holy Spirit was not limited to prophecy.76 More broadly, it involves resisting His will, inevitably stifling His guiding influence.77 Such resistance severely hampers His filling, since a basic quality of being filled with the Holy Spirit is being controlled by Him. The exhortation not to put out the Spirit’s fire is to yield to His guiding influence, following His lead (Romans 8:14).78
The relationship between grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit is not entirely clear.79 The Spirit is grieved by sinful behavior that violates His holy standard and thus brings Him pain. His fire is put out or quenched by resistance to His will that hinders His influence. The one involves issues of morality; the other, issues of guidance. Yet there may be some overlap in these categories that prevents making an absolute distinction. In both exhortations the key response for the believer is to yield to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading.
3. “Live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). The verb, peripateite, is a present active imperative, picturing continuous action. Meaning “to walk,” it often conveys the figurative idea, “to live.”80
By its very nature walking involves dependence upon the strength of one’s legs and the strength of the surface to hold one’s weight. Similarly, walking or living by the Spirit involves one’s dependence upon the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who lives within.81 Believers need the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in order to follow the path that God has set for themin both their lives and ministries.
4. Be involved in ministry. Our survey of the New Testament data on being filled with the Holy Spirit made clear its close relationship to ministry, for virtually every reference to that filling occurred in a context of ministryoften evangelism. Spirit-filling was thus not intended to produce a special spiritual status. Rather, it was a divine equipping for service.
5. What is the place of these inferred conditions? It is not entirely clear whether these are conditions for or results of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Strong spiritual interests, a holy lifestyle, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, submissiveness to God and involvement in ministry have been previously mentioned as results of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Which comes firstthe Holy Spirit’s working within the believer or the believer’s turning to Him? Is the believer’s yieldedness to the Holy Spirit in the spiritual and moral realms the result of His working or a condition for it? Is the believer’s involvement in Christian ministry the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit or a condition for it?
Paradoxically, both may be involved, for they may involve a symbiotic relationship in which the Spirit’s working and the believer’s yieldedness are linked by a two-directional flow.
Thus the Spirit’s initiative and the believer’s response are both involved. These inferred conditions may define the nature of the desired response by believers, but they will not occur without the Holy Spirit’s involvement. What the Holy Spirit achieves will be limited by the believer’s response.
This would seem to leave the question of conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit in a sort of limbo that is less than satisfactory. Yet we have ventured beyond explicit New Testament statements, for the New Testament does not even state that there are such conditions. It simply leaves us with its descriptions of people filled with the Spirit and the command to us to be so filled.
VI. Being Filled with the Holy Spirit in Early Alliance Literature, with Special Attention on A.B. Simpson
The teaching of early Alliance leaders on this topic was generally similar to what has just been presented. Their terminology, however, was somewhat different, for Simpson was more concerned with the content of the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit than with developing a precise theological terminology to describe it.82
Like some of his contemporaries, Simpson recognized that the provisions for holiness and empowering were the results of Christ’s completed work.83 These provisions included sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.84
The relationships among receiving the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit are not entirely clear in early Alliance literature. At times these terms are used almost interchangeably; at other times subtle distinctions among them were recognized.
Simpson described the baptism of the Holy Spirit as “the coming of the Holy Ghost personally to abide in the heart forever” and as “a definite experience in which we receive the Spirit Himself.”85 Thus, for Simpson, it is the baptism or receiving of the Holy Spirit that begins His indwelling of Christians. Yet he also understood the baptism of the Holy Spirit to refer to subsequent fillings with the Spirit after one’s initial reception of Him.86
For Simpson, there is a difference between having the Spirit within and being filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives within every regenerate person. Yet it is very different for the Christian who yields to Him, surrendering his life to His control.87 Being filled involves a substantial increase in the Holy Spirit’s influence.
Yet he also considered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to involve this complete surrender, thereby entering into God’s full provision for holy living.88 In connection with the Holy Spirit, Simpson used baptism and filling as virtually synonymous terms.89 Although I believe that there is a sound exegetical basis for distinguishing between these terms, in that they picture different operations of the Holy Spirit, I find that my understanding of what is involved in being filled with the Holy Spirit is not significantly different from Simpson’sonly I would not describe that filling as a baptism.
Harry L. Turner, president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1954 to 1960, observed that Paul’s command to be filled with the Holy Spirit indicated that Christians have a responsibility to be so filled (Ephesians 5:18). He also noted that the passive voice pointed to the Holy Spirit as the One who will do it.90 My conclusions are similar.
Simpson understood being filled (or baptized) with the Holy Spirit as an empowering especially for producing a holy lifestyle. He perceived it as providing power not merely for service, but “for personal holiness and life.”91 Simpson wrote:
In the 1906 Conference for Prayer and Counsel Respecting Uniformity in the Testimony and Teaching of the Alliance, Simpson and his associates listed the following as the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: power for service, personal holiness, victory over the world and sin, the indwelling of Christ, sanctification, growth in grace and the deeper filling of the Holy Spirit.93 Most of these items relate to the Christian’s life in Christ, especially its spiritual aspects.
Simpson and his colleagues also recognized power for service as an important consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.94 Yet their “not merely power for service” suggests that they rejected a merely utilitarian view of that power which enabled them to do great things in ministry.95 Simpson understood that “what believers did flowed from their inner character.”96 Thus their holiness of life is essential for their effectiveness in service. For him, this power comes directly from the Holy Spirit who enables the yielded Christian to achieve God’s purposes.97
Turner also surveyed the references in Acts that described people as filled with the Holy Spirit, noting how this filling affected their ministries.98 He suggested that on those occasions when Spirit-filled people spoke in tongues, it is not clear whether all of them did (Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:5-7).99 He also suggested that when people were described as filled or full of the Holy Spirit on two or more occasions, it is not clear whether these were additional fillings or additional manifestations of the original filling.100 (Acts 4:8, 31; 6:5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:52). Turner also suggested that there were many more Christians filled with the Holy Spirit than those specifically mentioned in the Book of Acts.101
Turner correctly concluded that there is no one manifestation that necessarily occurs with every filling with the Holy Spirit.102 For him, to demand one single universal manifestation that occurs every time is to doubt God.103 He rightly noted that the primary manifestation of being filled with the Holy Spirit is “intensified missionary zeal and power.”104
Simpson presented several conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit which I have summarized in five statements:105
Simpson’s conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit are not connected to any New Testament text directly dealing with this matter. The texts that he did mention involved either receiving the Holy Spirit or some other spiritual matter not directly related to filling.106
My problem with his conditions is the same as my problem with the conditions that I suggested. In the absence of explicit statements on this matter in the New Testament, both sets of conditions involve sets of inferences. Although partially different from mine, Simpson’s conditions are not unreasonable. Nevertheless, in the absence of relevant New Testament data, neither he nor I can prove that one set of conditions is preferable to the other.
My conclusions on the importance and need for being filled with the Holy Spirit are similar to those of Simpson and his associates. Simpson did place more emphasis on how this filling results in holiness of life, while I stressed more the resulting power for ministry. Nevertheless, my discussion included the theme of holiness while Simpson and Turner recognized the result of power for service. If there is a slight difference, it is one of emphasis rather than substance.
We briefly surveyed the usage of pleroo and pimplemi, two virtually synonymous Greek words that mean “to fill.” When filled by a quality, one is characterized by that quality. We mentioned two Pauline texts that speak of the fullness of God or the fullness of Christ.
We have found that being filled with the Holy Spirit involves a controlling influence by the Holy Spirit over the believer and the believer’s yieldedness to the Holy Spirit. This filling is both an ongoing condition and a series of special empowerments.
The two commands of Ephesians 5:18 contrasted the prohibition of drunkenness with the exhortation to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The latter is part of the Christian’s responsibility which involves a continuous yielding to the Holy Spirit. It is part of God’s program to fulfill His redemptive purpose through the risen and exalted Christ.
The results of being filled with the Holy Spirit include how Christians function in their character, worship and ministries. In their character they have strong spiritual interests, an attitude of submissiveness to God and bear the fruit of the Spirit. They are drawn to a more intimate relationship to God through His influence. In their worship they present God-centered musical communications to Him and to each other. They also express continually an attitude of thanksgiving to God for everything. In their ministries Spirit-filled Christians in the New Testament period spoke in tongues, miraculously healed people, saw a vision of God’s glory, and on one occasion, Paul pronounced a curse of blindness. In each case these astonishing events led to conversions. Manifestations of being Spirit-filled were varied, but were especially often associated with ministry. The most frequently cited ministry for Spirit-filled Christians was evangelism.
There are no explicit New Testament texts stating any conditions for being filled with the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, four inferred conditions were discussed: (1) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit; (2) Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; (3) Live by the Spirit; (4) Be involved in ministry.
Since these are also results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not clear whether they should be considered effects of or conditions for that filling. There may well be a symbiotic relationship between them with a two-directional flow.
Nevertheless, the New Testament does teach that Christians are filled and should continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
We surveyed the theme of being filled with the Holy Spirit in some early Alliance literature, especially Simpson. We found that my conclusions were generally consistent with theirs.107
In view of some looseness in the handling of pneumatological terminology in early Alliance literature, there are some variations in how the Holy Spirit’s reception, baptism and filling were understood. Although my handling of these terms is more precise, I share their recognition of the primary significance of being filled with the Holy Spirit in providing power for both holiness of life and effective ministry.
1 R. Schippers, “Fullness: Pleroo,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols.), ed. Colin Brown, translated, with additions and revisions, from Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), vol. 1, 733-741, hereafter cited as NIDNTT. Gerhard Delling, “Pimplemi, Empimplemi,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968), 6, 128-131; Gerhard Delling, “pleres,” 6, 283-311, hereafter cited as TDNT.
2 Both words indicate the completion of a task or a period of time (e.g. Acts 12:25; Luke 1:23). The verb, pleroo depicts the fulfillment of the righteous requirements of the Law (e.g. Romans 8:4). Both words picture the fulfillment of prophecy (e.g., Matthew 2:15; Luke 21:22).
3 The verb, pleroo, pictures a net as filled with fish (Matthew 13:48) and a house as filled with the fragrance of perfume (John 12:3). The verb pimplemi depicts boats full of fish (Luke 5:7) and a sponge filled with wine vinegar (Matthew 27:48).
4 Both words describe unbelievers as furious (“filled with wrath,” ASV) at the preaching of Paul and Jesus (Acts 19:28; Luke 4:28).
5 Only two texts use pleroo to designate believers as filled with a negative quality. Satan filled Ananias’ heart with the intent to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3)with disastrous results. Jesus observed that because He had informed His disciples that He was soon to die, they were filled with grief (John 16:6).
6 Nevertheless, see Delling, TDNT 6, 130-131, for the idea of a distinction between them. For him, pimplemi indicates satisfaction.
7 The New Testament also pictures God as living within Christians who are thus “the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). It also describes Christ in Christians as their “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
8 Paul prayed for Christians to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). He described a purpose of certain spiritual gifts as to enable the body of Christ to attain “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is significant that, as with regeneration and indwelling, the terminology of fullness is applied to the Father and to the Son as well as to the Holy Spirit.
9 John Goodwin, A Being Filled With the Spirit (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1867), 11-12, hereafter cited as BFWS.
10 Ronald N. Mayers, “The Infilling of the Holy Spirit,” Reformed Review 28, Spring, 1975, 157, hereafter cited as IHS; Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: 1975), 149, hereafter cited as BHS.
11 J. Dwight Pentecost, The Divine Comforter: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1963), 158, hereafter cited as DC.
12 John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (Findlay, OH: Dunham. 1958), 192, hereafter cited as HS; Rene Pache, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Chicago: Moody, 1954), 118, hereafter cited as PWHS.
13 Pache, PWHS, 129.
14 Ibid., 130-131.
15 Goodwin, BFWS, 11-12.
16 Pentecost, DC, 157; Similarly, Walvoord, HS, 192, described this filling as what the Holy Spirit accomplished in the believer who is yielded to Him.
17 Green, BHS 149, 172; Leon Morris, Spirit of the Living God (London: Inter Varsity, 1960), 89, hereafter cited as SLG; Pentecost, DC, 156.
18 D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work: An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18-6:9 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), 44-46, hereafter cited as LSMHW, found elements of both ideas in Acts 7:55.
19 Here the Greek verb was a form of pimplemi.
20 Chip Anderson “Rethinking ‘Be Filled With the Spirit’: Ephesians 5:18 and the Purpose of Ephesians,” Evangelical Journal 7 (1989), 5, hereafter cited as EJ.
21 Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians New International Commentary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 379, hereafter cited as ECPE, identified Proverbs 23:31a, LXX, as the source of this quoted prohibition.
22 Lloyd-Jones, LSMHW, 15.
23 Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., “The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (1979), 249-257, hereafter cited as BS, argued that the background for Ephesians 5:18 was the cult of Dionysius or Bacchus, the god of wine. Since this cult was widespread, it is possible that it had participants in Ephesus. Nevertheless, as Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, (Waco, TX: Word, 1990), 343, hereafter cited WBCE, pointed out, this is unlikely, for there is no evidence of any such misbehavior within the Ephesian church (as there was in Corinth). Drunkenness in Ephesus may be plausibly understood as another example of a problem that has plagued many societies.
24 Goodwin, BFWS, 23; Dennis Leggett, “Be Filled With the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18,” Paraclete 23, Fall (1989), 10-11, hereafter cited as P.
25 Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 119, hereafter cited as GELNTOECL.
26 Mayers, IHS, 158. Bruce, ECPE, 379, noted that the cognate adverb, asotos pictured the lifestyle of the prodigal son in Luke 15:13. So also Lincoln, WBCE, 344.
27 Bruce, ECPE, 379.
28 Herbert G. Miller, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Skeffington and Son, 1899), 281, hereafter cited as CSPEE.
29 Rogers, BS, 256.
30 Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, GELNTOECL, 37.
31 Lincoln, WBCE, 343.
32 Pentecost, DC 159; Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, (Chicago: Moody, 1965), 93-94, hereafter cited as HS.
33 Rogers, BS, 256, argued that since being filled with the Holy Spirit involved a supernatural filling, it would be logical to infer a supernatural filling of the wine god, Bacchus, through drinking wine. Nevertheless, the evidence does not require us to be that explicit. See Lincoln, WBCE, 343.
34 Goodwin, BFWS, 15; Mayers, IHS, 157.
35 Mayers, IHS, 344.
36 Mayers, IHS, 157; Anderson, EJ, 62, renders it, “Let yourselves be filled. . . .”
37 Anderson, EJ, 63.
40 Ibid., 64.
41 Goodwin, BFWS, 233-234. Lincoln, WBCE, 344 cited Philo (De Ebr., 146-148) as making a similar analogy between the characteristics of drunkenness and being possessed by God. Lincoln also noted the confusion between Spirit-filled people at Pentecost with drunks (Acts 2:4, 13, 15).
42 Goodwin, BFWS, 233-234, thoroughly developed this intriguing analogy, probably more than is warranted, for there is a significant difference between enslavement of a habit-forming drug and conscious yielding to the Holy Spirit’s influence. Furthermore, part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is self-control, a quality that the drunkard lacks. Nevertheless, that there is some validity in this analogy is indicated by Paul’s contrast.
43 Bruce, ECPE, 380.
44 Lincoln, WBCE, 345.
45 Pentecost, DC, 158.
46 Goodwin, BFWS, 233-234. See my prior discussion of an analogy between the Spirit-filled Christian and the wine-filled drunkard.
47 Ryrie, HS, 102.
48 Tim La Haye, Spirit-Controlled Temperament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1966), 58, hereafter cited as SCT; Wick Broomall, The Holy Spirit: A Scriptural Study of His Person and Work (New York: American Tract Society, 1940), 181-183.
49 The exhortation to express thanksgiving in music was even more clearly stated in Colossians 3:16-17.
50 Pache, PWHS, 134.
51 The Greek word translated “filled” is ekplesthesan, from pimplemi.
52 LaHaye, SCT, 60.
53 The Greek word translated “full” is plereis.
57 Pache, PWHS, 134.
58 Plesthes from pimplemi.
59 Plestheis from pimplemi.
61 Eplesthesan from pimplemi.
62 Schippers, NIDNTT, 739.
65 Lukan texts describing the charismatic power of Spirit-filled people in ministry often use a form of pimplemi. (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31, 9:17; 13:9). Nevertheless, this aspect is not absent from the pleroo family, for these terms picture Stephen as full of the Spirit in the context of a charismatically powerful ministry of evangelism and miraculous signs (Acts 6:3-8) and as seeing a revelatory vision of the ascended Christ that prompted him to pray for his enemies to be forgiven even as they were killing him (Acts 7:55). They also depict Barnabas and the disciples as full or filled with the Holy Spirit in a context of evangelistic ministry (Acts 11:24; 13:52).
66 e.g., LaHaye, SCT, 63, 66; Mayers, IHS, 161; Pache, PWHS, 120.
67 James F. Holladay, Jr., “Ephesians 4:30: Do Not Grieve the Spirit,” Review and Expositor 94 (1997), 84, hereafter cited as EDNGHS; Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, GELNTOECL, 482-483.
68 Holladay, EDNGHS, 84.
69 Ibid., 85.
70 Walvoord, HS, 200.
71 Pentecost, DC, 159; Goodwin, BFWS, 19, suggested that the grieving of the Holy Spirit will diminish His activity within Christians much as grief diminishes human energy. His relative inactivity produces spiritual deadness (Goodwin, 269).
72 Halladay, EDNGHS, 86.
73 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), 175-176, hereafter cited as FSET; Ryrie, HS, 95; But see F.F. Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Waco, TX: Word, 1982), 125, hereafter cited as WBCT, for the view that it means to habitually avoid doing thisnot to stop doing it.
74 Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, GELNTOECL, 752.
75 Bruce, WBCT, 125; Goodwin BFWS, 279.
76 Morris, FSET, 175.
77 Walvoord, HS, 197.
78 Ibid., 199.
79 Morris, SLG, 98, does not consider quenching to differ much from grieving since both involve conduct contrary to the Holy Spirit’s will.
80 Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, GELNTOECL, 654-655, describes it as referring figuratively to the “walk of life.”
81 Walvoord, HS, 204; cf. Goodwin, BFWS, 257.
82 Richard Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1993), 117.
83 Ibid., 77ff.
85 A.B. Simpson, “The Baptism with the Spirit,” The Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly (30 Sept., 1892), 120; “Phases and Phrases of the Deeper Life, Living Truths (Oct., 1902), 181. Both quotations were cited in Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
86 Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 117.
87 Leona Frances Choy, “Albert Benjamin Simpson” in Powerlines: What Great Evangelicals Believed about the Holy Spirit, 1850-1930 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1990), 237.
88 Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 103.
89 Ibid., 116. Harry L. Turner, The Voice of the Spirit (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., n.d.), 137. Turner considered baptism of the Spirit and filling with the Spirit to be two distinct doctrines, but did not state what the distinction is. He was more concerned with the Holy Spirit’s impact than the terms describing it.
90 Turner, The Voice of the Spirit, 132-133.
91 Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 55.
92 Ibid., 104-105. Here Simpson’s listing a deeper filling of the Holy Spirit as a result of His baptism indicates a distinction between filling and baptism. Yet it is not clear what that distinction is. Nevertheless, the characteristics and effects of both appear to be the same in Simpson’s thought. Simpson, The Holy Spirit, vol. 2, 95-96, also included joy and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21-22).
93 A.B. Simpson, The Holy Spirit or Power From on High Vol. 2 (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1896), 79.
94 Ibid., 89, described one of the functions of the Holy Spirit’s power is to enable Christians to render effective service.
95 Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 127.
97 Ibid., 127-128.
98 Turner, The Voice of the Spirit, 122-130.
99 Ibid., 127, 129, 130. Although these texts are not quite explicit on this point, they do convey the impression that all of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit on those three specific occasions did speak in tongues.
100 Ibid., 127, 129. Although none of these texts is explicit on this point, the statement that one was filled with the Holy Spirit on a specific occasion implies a new and fresh filling (Acts 4:8, 31; 13:52). The references to people as full of the Holy Spirit on various occasions (Acts 6:5; 7:55; 11:24) are less clear. Nevertheless, I am inclined to interpret them the same way.
101 Ibid., 123-124. Although plausible, his conclusion provides no data for our guidance.
102 Ibid., 140, 142.
103 Ibid., 140.
104 Ibid., 142-144. See also Choy, Powerlines, 260.
105 A.B. Simpson, “Filled with the Spirit,” reprinted in The Best of A.B. Simpson, compiled by Keith M. Bailey (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1987), 41-45; Gilbertson, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 114-115; Simpson, The Holy Spirit, vol. 2, 97-98.
106 In fairness to Simpson, he did not always clearly distinguish among the Holy Spirit’s reception, baptism and filling.
107 These conclusions are also consistent with the current Alliance Statement of Faith which reads: “It is the will of God that each believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified wholly, being separated from sin and the world and fully dedicated to the will of God, thereby receiving power for holy living and effective service.”
Listening to God for Life and Ministry, David John Smith
Being Filled with the Holy Spirit, Eldon Woodcock
Contextualization: The Continuing Search for Relevance, Richard Pease
Elio Cuccaro, Ph. D., Editor
©2006 by K. Neill Foster