This might be one of the most controversial questions in the church. Ask one hundred people what it means to “be filled with the Spirit” and you’ll probably receive almost as many different answers. Unfortunately, for some people church background determines their response more than Scripture. For a period of time I believed being Spirit filled looked more like what I’d been told than what the Bible actually taught.
So what does the Bible say it means to be filled with the Spirit?
Being filled with the Spirit means producing the fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These two verses identify what the Holy Spirit produces in a person’s life. If people claim to be filled with the Spirit, there should be plenty of these fruit evident.
Unfortunately, when some people claim to be filled with the Spirit there are manifestations that look more like the works of the flesh. Disorderly occurrences such as laughing in the Spirit, being slain or drunk in the Spirit, excessive crying, screaming, dancing, or violent shaking are a few of the supposed evidences of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. What these demonstrations do is make people ask, “Are [they] of [their] mind?” (1 Corinthians 14:23).
Being filled with the Spirit means looking like Jesus
Colossians 1:19 & 2:9 For it pleased the Father in [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell…in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Jesus possessed the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He was the most Spirit-filled Person to walk the earth. He reveals what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit. Conversely, it would seem to be impossible for someone to engage in behavior or activity unseen in Christ’s life and claim it’s part of being filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit means yielding to the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.
It might sound odd to compare drunkenness with being filled with the Spirit, but Paul’s point can be summed up with the word “influence.” People who are driving drunk are “driving under the influence.” Just as alcohol has the potential to influence, so does the Holy Spirit. People filled with the Spirit should be those most yielded to, or submitted to, the Holy Spirit’s influence.
Two closing thoughts…
- John the Baptist said, “God does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). This means no believer receives more or less of the Holy Spirit than other believers. God isn’t stingy with some and extra generous with others. When people claim to have more of the Holy Spirit than others they’re showing a pride and ignorance of Scripture.
- Jesus said, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). This looked forward to the availability of the Holy Spirit at conversion, simply by asking in faith to be saved. The Holy Spirit is not reserved only for the ultra-spiritual or mature Christians. God is pleased to seal each believer with His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5).
- What comes to mind when you hear the words “filled with the Spirit”?
- Have you had bad experiences with people teaching – or demonstrating – something contrary to Scripture?