On Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.
- In Part I we saw that it’s not referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
- In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues.
- In Part III we saw that it doesn’t refer to “being baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
In this post we’ll talk about what else it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean experiencing something emotionally.
Jesus is the actual baptizer with the Holy Spirit: John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water…but He who is coming after me…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). At Pentecost the people were confused asking, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12). Peter explained Jesus ascended to heaven and “poured” out the Holy Spirit: “[Jesus] being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
Some people believe being “filled with” or “baptized with the Holy Spirit” refers to an emotional or mountaintop experience that takes place at some point in time, or that sort of comes-and-goes throughout the Christian life: you might feel it one day but not the next. This isn’t true and it leads to some serious problems – like most obviously – pursuing something that’s not biblical.
When people’s beliefs are based more on feelings and emotions (than the truth of Scripture), they can be left asking: “Why don’t I feel like I did previously?” When I believed the baptism with the Holy Spirit was an experience taking place after conversion I prayed for it numerous times, had people lay hands on me to receive it, and was left asking, “Was I supposed to feel something? How do I know if I received it? Have I really received it? If not, why not?”
It can lead to discouragement when people feel like they can’t receive something they believe God has for them, and this can be especially painful when people believe they aren’t receiving something God wanted to give to other believers. People are left asking, “Is something wrong with me? Do I not have enough faith?” or even worse questions like, “Does God not love me enough? Maybe I’m not really saved?”
The worst situation – which took place with a friend of mine – is when people start asking, “Is Christianity real, or is it just made-up stories about people’s supposed experiences?”
The truth is “being filled with the Spirit” is a day-to-day, even moment-by-moment surrendering of our lives to the Spirit, and not something built on experiences and emotions. It’s compared with wine in verse 18, not because it feels like being intoxicated, but because wine has the potential to influence people and so does the Holy Spirit. John MacArthur said, “The filling of the Spirit is not some ecstatic or emotional experience, but a steady controlling of the life by obedience to the truth of God’s Word.”