What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

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Many people talk about the need to be filled with the Spirit. This is understandable because it is a biblical concept. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Some make this refer to an experience limited to a select few whereas others ignore its importance completely. What does it mean? In we have this straightforward command, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit“. The word “filled” in this verse means “to make full” in the sense of permeation or control. The idea is that the believer’s life is to be under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. This control leads to conduct that is in conformity to the word of God (cf. ). Let us consider four features concerning the notion of being filled with the Spirit.

Unlike other references to filling (the sovereign fillings in Luke-Acts), the filling in is a command. The implication of this is very serious – to not be filled with the Holy Spirit is disobedience. Furthermore, because this is a command, it is clear that this ought not to be confused with the baptism (; ; ; ; ; and ), sealing (; ) or indwelling ministry (; ; ) of the Holy Spirit. All of those take place once and for all at the beginning of every believer’s salvation and then have ongoing effects. Nowhere in the Scriptures is the believer commanded to receive the baptism with the Spirit, or to be sealed with the Spirit, or indwelt by the Spirit. However, to “filled with the Sprit” is a command.

Secondly, this filling is to be ongoing. In the Greek it is in the present tense indicating that the Christian is to be continually filled. The filling with the Holy Spirit cannot be pinpointed to one super spiritual experience you had in your Christian walk – it is to be an ongoing reality. This filling is to be a daily focus and priority of the Christian.

Thirdly, this type of filling is not limited to a select few! It is not exclusive and only given for those who carry out special tasks. This command (“be filled with the Spirit“) is in the plural indicating that it is for all believers. For this reason, all Christians who read this text are commanded to obey it. Regardless of who you are, if you are a believer this command is for you!

Finally, this filling of the Holy Spirit is in the passive voice. This indicates that believers can’t fill themselves. To be filled with the Spirit does not come by means of your own abilities or achievements. It comes from the Holy Spirit.

So then, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? In summary here is a basic definition: the filling of the Holy Spirit refers to the Spirit of God, controlling the people of God with the purpose of obeying the word of God. This command is required of all God’s people and is to be an ongoing practice. How does a believer experience such a filling? I will answer that question in my next post.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 11:16

16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

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. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

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Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.