Bro. Stewart has in his employ a young man who professes to have been recently converted to Christ. Of course, none of us can judge the man’s heart, but it sounds as though he might have been converted to the Holy Spirit rather than to Christ. Because of this man, over the last couple of weeks, Bro. James has been asking me questions about the Holy Spirit and particularly, the subject of the Spirit’s filling. These questions have put the Spirit high on my mental activity list, and this has prompted both of our messages today. As a refresher course, let’s consider once again what the Bible says about the filling of the Holy Spirit. And just as I returned to this subject through questions, let me begin by asking you a number of questions.
For example, when the Lord Jesus was nearing His crucifixion what did He tell the disciples He would do in order to bless them in His absence? He authorized a more intense ministry of the Spirit. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless.” “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 shall shew it unto you.”
In that light, how much will we ever know of the Lord without the guidance of the Holy Spirit? How practical is the Bible without the blessing of the Holy Spirit? From what you have seen, does every Christian know the Bible as well as every other Christian? Does each Christian possess the same peace and comfort as every other Christian? Do all Christians display the same abundance of the gifts of the Spirit? How do you explain that in the light of the fact that every Christian is equally indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
What is the most important ingredient to a successful, sin-free, godly walk before the Lord? Galatians 5:16 – “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Was the Book of Galatians written primarily to Christians or non-Christians? If every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit why does Paul tell the Galatian Christians to walk in the Spirit? Although every Christian is equally indwelt by the Spirit, not every Christian is submissive to the Spirit. What do we call this varying degree of submissiveness to and direction from the Holy Spirit? We call it “the filling of the Spirit.”
There are fourteen references to being filled with the Spirit in the New Testament.
I am going to read them, and as I do, I’d like you to notice several things: First, whatever this filling is, it is different from what many – or most — Christians possess. And second, this filling is almost always related to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, or His power, or some other special manifestation of His grace.
Luke 1 – “The angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.” “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.” “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied.” Luke 4 – “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil.”
The Book of Acts. Acts 2 – “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Acts 4 – “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them….”
Verse 31 – “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 6:3 – “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
Acts 7:55 – “But (Stephen), being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Acts 9 – “Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
Acts 11:24 – Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.”
Acts 13:9 – “But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”
The last reference to this filling is in the scripture where we started – Ephesians 5:18 – “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”
Using these verses let’s try to define what this filling really is. In those scriptures which describe Christians filled with the Spirit, were any of those people inert? Were they filled with the Spirit in order to help them sleep better – did they sit on their hands? When they were filled with the Spirit, did those Christians do only things which were common or ordinary? How many of them did miraculous things? Could we say those who were Spirit-filled became channels of the Spirit or of the blessings of the Spirit? Did they all do the same kinds of things when they were Spirit-filled?
In the light of these things, here, I think, is the definition of the filling of the Spirit. It is to be blessed of the Spirit in such a way as to become a conduit of the power of God. On the human side, it is to be surrendered to Him in such a way as to become His special tool. Not every Christian is willing to be used of the Lord in whatever way the Spirit desires. And not every Christian is filled with the Spirit all of the time.
Consider some of the apparent conditions for the filling of the Spirit.
At least one scripture exhorts, and even commands, the Christian to be filled with the Spirit. What does this tell us about our responsibility or participation in this filling? What does this suggest might be the duration of this filling? It is certainly not permanent. So is it possible to be a Christian without being filled with the Spirit? Can a Christian be in the perfect will of God who is not filled with the Spirit? Only once have I ever been personally asked, “Are you filled with the Spirit.” Is this a proper or appropriate question to ask? Is it a politically correct question to ask? What if I asked each of you this question right now? Could we say that being filled with the Spirit is something we should frequently, consciously consider?
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” In the original Greek of this verse, the tense of the verb, “be filled” is present imperative. It means that it could be translated “keep being filled.” In other words, when the saint of God is doing the proper thing, then the Spirit will continue to do His thing. And it could be said that only as the Christian experiences the fullness of the Spirit that he is going to have an on-going and useful ministry for the Lord?
What would you guess is the will of God for all His children: to be filled or not to be filled? Do you mean that if we are not filled with the Spirit, it’s our fault? All right then, what must we do in order to be filled with the Spirit? The Lord wants us to be Spirit-filled, and if we are not it’s because of us and not because of the Spirit.
So the first thing is to have a willingness to be used of God. Of course that is something that every child of God possesses. Right? (Not hardly.) If most of us have this willingness then why aren’t we filled and being used of the Lord? Perhaps it’s because our willingness is more passive than active. When was the last time that you told the Lord that you were totally surrendered to His use? When was the last time that you told Him that you were available to do whatever He asked? When was the last time that you specifically asked the Lord to fill you with the Spirit? Ideally, that should have been sometime in the last few hours. It should be something that each child of God does every day. Having said that, how often do we read of these sorts of things in the Bible?
Consider Paul’s exhortation to walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 – “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:15 – “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” What does this mean? Wherein is the ability to walk in the Spirit? Does this mean that we will be perfectly successful in perfectly staying in the will of the Lord? What does this have to do with “practical sanctification”?
Two aspects of being filled with the Spirit are negative. I Thessalonians 5:19 – “Quench not the Spirit.” What is it to quench something? (To suppress or stifle.) What is it to quench the Spirit? Could we say that this boils down to a lack of willingness to do the will of the Lord? How much does Romans 6:13 teach us about this subject? “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
What is Paul’s meaning when he says, “yield yourselves unto God”? What does he mean in those verses where he says “present” yourselves to the Lord? Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In presenting ourselves to God, we are surrendering to Him and making ourselves available to Him. In being conformed to this world, we are quenching the Spirit rendering ourselves unfit for service. Who is the supreme illustration of surrender to God the Father? (Christ Jesus.) Has the Lord Jesus every quenched the Spirit?
Ephesians 4:30 – “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Generally speaking how many things are there that might grieve the Spirit? (One – sin.) In that the Spirit is infinitely holy, how much sin in our lives does it take to grieve Him? What generally eventually follows the grieving of the Spirit? What do we have to do to remedy the grief of the Spirit?
Results of the Filling of the Spirit.
Holiness – Sanctification. Is it possible to be holy through the strength of the flesh? How important is the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit to our sanctification?
Teaching. As the Lord Jesus neared the cross He promised the coming of the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. And one of the specific things that He mentioned was the teaching ministry of the Spirit. John 16:12-15 – “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 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 shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” If spiritual things are not learned through natural abilities, why aren’t all Christians equally knowledgeable in the things of God? When God’s people are filled with the Spirit, they are enabled to learn whatever the Lord has for them.
Guidance. The Bible tells us not to do this or that, and it directs us in a general way, but there are thousands of things that come up in our lives about which the Bible has nothing specific to say. When the child of God is filled with the Spirit, he will have the leadership that he needs to make good choices.
Assurance. Does a person have to have assurance in order to be a child of God? Do you suppose that the Lord wants to keep His children in the dark about their souls? That is the wish of Catholicism and other false religions. Romans 8:14-16 – “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Can someone who is grieving the Holy Spirit, expect the testimony of the Lord about his salvation? Why might we say that to be filled with the Spirit guarantees our assurance?
Worship. How important is the filling of the Spirit to true worship? Ephesians 5:18-20 – “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Prayer. Romans 8:26 – “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.”
And, of course, then we come to Service which opens up into a whole series of messages.