What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Sometimes this phrase can be quite confusing for some. Many times the meaning and significance of ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’ are either misunderstood or misapplied. But, it is essential to understand what it means because it will be life-changing for you. Amen.
In Ephesians 5:18, God commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It says “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the life that glorifies God and to use us for His purposes. Ephesians 3:14-18 says “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
So, let us look at two keys to help us understand this passage in Ephesians 5:18 and what it really means to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Firstly, the wrong interpretation of being filled with the Holy Spirit
To rightly understand this passage, we need to begin by understanding what the wrong interpretation of this passage is. Some people suggest that the filling of the Holy Spirit is an emotional experience that takes place at certain times. Yes, emotions may be part of a spirit-filled life, but that is not the sign of being filled with the Spirit, nor is the outcome to have “only” an emotional feeling.
At other times, being filled with the Holy Spirit is called the ‘second blessing’. The “second blessing” is supposed to be a secondary experience following the initial experience of salvation through the Holy Spirit. Those who teach this believe the first baptism happens at the time of conversion and the second after conversion. The second baptism provides power to the believer, and often it is thought that the evidence of this second baptism “must” be accompanied by the gift of tongues.
This teaching is based on the book of Acts, and many view these passages as “prescriptive” to what must always happen rather than “descriptive” passages where the same “outpouring” is experienced by different groups of people. The purpose of these events recorded in the book of Acts is to show that the same Spirit is available to all people, and salvation was not only for the Jews. Acts 11:16 says “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
The first happened to the Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem (Acts 2), the second to a group of believing Samaritans (Acts 8), and the third to a group of believing gentiles (Acts 10). Also, in Acts 19, we see that the disciples in Ephesus were baptised into John’s baptism of repentance, and they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. God sent the Holy Spirit upon the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the same manner. To demonstrate that salvation is for all people, whereby there is a single church and a unified church. Ephesians 4:5 says “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” Amen!
You see, the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity, and if so, when you receive Him at the time of salvation, then you have received Him completely, and all of Him. There is one baptism. You cannot receive part of the Holy Spirit at one point and the remaining portion at other times (this is often depicted by someone pouring out water from a jug into glass). He is a person, you either have Him, or you don’t.
Scripture explains that “every” Christian is the recipient of the Holy Spirit: Romans 8:9 “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
You see, the problem when you start defining that there are two stages of a Holy Spirit baptism for a Christian life, you end up with a two-tiered Christianity. You end up with Christians who have received a second blessing and those who are still at the first stage – first level and second level Christians. Due to this, and the teaching that the second baptism must be accompanied by tongues leaves many without the right understanding and seeking the wrong way of being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. This teaching can have many negative impacts, and we must be careful.
You see, the scripture never commands us to seek a second blessing after salvation. Instead, what scriptures show us is that every spiritual blessing has been given us by God through Jesus Christ. Let us look at some scriptures below.
Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”
Colossians 2:9-10: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”
2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”
John 7:38-39 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Essentially being filled with the Holy Spirit does not mean that you need to receive something you don’t already have. It is not an extra experience you need to seek; instead, it is something you have from the moment of salvation. 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Amen!
Secondly, the right interpretation of being filled with the Holy Spirit
So, what is the correct definition of being filled with the Holy Spirit? Firstly, there is a clear difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit. As discussed in my earlier point, every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. Ephesians 1:13 says “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”
The critical difference to understand here is that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, but not everyone lives a life controlled by the Spirit’s power. Often, this has been described by the saying “believers have all of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit may not have all of them”. To be filled by the Holy Spirit means you must “submit” to Him.
So it is not as though we have part of the Holy Spirit, but you have the all of the Holy Spirit, but the question is how much of the Holy Spirit has you? To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to occupy every part of your life, to guide you, lead you, and for you to yield to Him in everything you do.
When you do this, you allow the Holy Spirit to empower your life to produce the fruit that is pleasing to Him. The result will be your growth in the Lord, and for Christ to use you for the purposes and glory of God. This is where our ultimate joy is in the Lord. It is when we can rejoice amid trouble, we can have peace when there is hopelessness around us, where we can be strengthened in our weaknesses. It is the power of the work of the Holy Spirit in us when we are filled with the Holy Spirit by allowing Him to take over.
When we fail to do this, the result can be the quenching of the Holy Spirit, which means that there is a painful discipline that we can expect from God. Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Our disobedience can grieve the Holy Spirit, and can even be quenched. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says “Do not quench the Spirit.”
Sin hinders the filling of the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a continuous activity, and in-fact we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit as we read in Ephesians 5:18. Instead of being filled with anything else, “be filled with the Holy Spirit”. Only our obedience to God’s commands allows His Spirit freedom to work within us. Amen!
Galatians 5:16-17 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Being filled with the Holy Spirit means you must give yourself to the Holy Spirit moment by moment as a continuous activity. This act of giving yourself entirely to the Holy Spirit allows the Spirit to permeate your life, and dominate you, sanctifying you and bringing glory to God.
So, in conclusion, let us put it all together. To be continuously filled with the Spirit results in victory over sin, resulting in peace and joy in the heart, and submission/humility towards others. To be filled with the Spirit, allows the Holy Spirit to take total control over your life – just as the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians.
To continue to “be filled with” or “be walking in” the Spirit; you must confess your sins to God. Allow the Holy Spirit full control over your life, and by doing so, be filled with the Holy Spirit.