9 - FILLING OF THE SPIRIT

FILLING OF THE SPIRIT
 
CHAPTER 9 

FILLING OF THE SPIRIT

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is a reality that is true in the life of every child of God regardless of spiritual condition or exercise. A subject that is of equal or greater importance that has a significant effect on the practical life and effective testimony of every saint naturally follows. That is the subject of the filling of the Holy Spirit. It is a subject that is clearly associated with God’s great purpose for the Christian today; that is, His purpose and desire is  that every believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit cannot be emphasized too strongly, nor can we make too much of its importance toward every believer.  Failure to know the filling of the Spirit  is our fault, it is never through a lack of God’s purpose or through any inability on His part to bring it about.

In a previous chapter we looked at the filling of the Spirit with regard to Old Testament saints. There we saw that the filling in their case was a matter separate from indwelling, for they were filled but were never indwelt in the sense of New Testament experience. But in the present age, that filling is the outcome and purposed result of the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell every saint. Filling of believers in the Old Testament was true at times even though they did not experience the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit. Filling involved His effective control over them to accomplish through His power the work or to fulfill the office to which God had called them. It is clearly God’s purpose that every particular detail of His work toward men and through men should be accomplished by the Spirit of God working through human instruments. For this working to be true, certain conditions must be met by the believer, particularly in this present day.

We must distinguish between the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and the ‘filling of the Spirit’. Even though these expressions  have been confused in the minds of many believers, we can see clear distinctions between them. The first truth has to do with an event that occurred once for all in the history of the church into which every believer is brought upon conversion. The baptism of the Spirit resulted in the formation of the Body of Christ, with the individual believer being brought into the effect of it; because of this, there is no individual command connected with it. We are never commanded to be ‘baptized in the Spirit’, but we are commanded to be ‘filled with the Spirit’. That baptism is unrepeatable, but the filling can and is often repeated in the life of a Christian. The baptism in the Spirit will be considered in a later chapter.

PURPOSE OF THE FILLING

What is the purpose of men being filled with the Spirit of God? A careful examination of the recorded events of filling in Acts makes it clear that it is not for self-gratification or for any purpose primarily directed toward the individual himself. Without doubt there will be definite results seen in the life and character of that believer, but the purpose of filling is not related to one’s self. God’s purpose was that filling might be seen in actions that would uphold the testimony concerning His Son and that would carry out His work toward others.

We read that disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit first in Acts 2:4. While the baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred only once and on that day alone, we find the same disciples later being filled again (Acts 4:8,31). So, rather than being a condition that is permanent, we see that it is one that can and must be renewed.

Why were they filled with the Spirit? On this occasion, as well as on others, the purpose can be seen from the activity that resulted. When they were filled on this occasion, they were enabled by God to declare before those people who were present the “wonderful works of God” (2:11). On that occasion Peter stood up with the eleven and boldly proclaimed the sin of the nation against Christ and exposed their guilt of having crucified their Messiah. He appealed to the prophecy of Joel to show those present that the event taking place was the kind of thing that was prophesied long ago (not the fulfillment of it, but of a similar character). He proclaimed the resurrection of their rejected Messiah as a result of which, having “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The fulfillment of the Lord’s  promise in Acts 1:4-5 endued them with power to publicly proclaim to the enemies of Christ the message that God wanted them to hear and which produced wondrous results in salvation. Peter, in particular, was given power to do something in which he had failed only shortly before when he denied the Lord. The enabling power for this public proclamation came because he was indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit.

We find that this filling was associated with other wonderful, Christ-honoring results in the following chapters. The boldness of Peter in Acts 4:8 to speak to the Jewish leaders and to charge them with their rejection of the Lord Jesus came from this filling, and the result in verse 31 likewise was boldness to speak the word of God. Filling of the Spirit results in determination and ability to honor Christ, even amidst the active opposition of men who have rejected Him. This power was also manifested in their changed attitude toward personal possessions  (v.32) and in the resulting ability to witness in word and life.  They were  affected  so much  that their entire purpose centered on exalting Christ without any consideration of self and selfish interests. There was increased unity and sacrificial giving among them that resulted in the Word of God abounding with power toward those who were looking on from without, so that even as a result of judgment in Acts 5, “believers were the more added to the Lord” (5:13).

When we read of the men chosen for the responsible work of distributing to the material needs of the saints, those who were chosen were “full of the Holy Ghost” (6:3). Even for this activity, one that might be considered outside the realm that would require such spiritual conditions, it is clear that this qualification was important. Are there not those circumstances that call for more than business sense and integrity to properly discharge even physical responsibilities toward the saints? “Spirituality did not dispense with business ability but it took precedence over it in Jerusalem and in the men who handled what undoubtedly was a delicate situation. . .In point of fact, there is no part of assembly life that can be regarded as secular and demanding ‘business’ treatment only” (S.Jardine). The Spirit’s control displayed itself particularly in Stephen as he was used of God in a public witness through which he powerfully refuted the arguments of men that they were infuriated. The public and powerful testimony of Stephen, even in his martyrdom, brought results that honored Christ and turned others, including  Saul, unto the blessing of salvation in Christ. At his death, Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost (7:55) and received power to testify to the exalted position of the Lord Jesus at God’s right hand.

When considering these references, we cannot omit the marvelous conversion of Saul the Pharisee in Acts 9. Ananias, sent of the Lord, delivered the message to Saul concerning God’s purpose for him,  and in keeping with that great work and his own broken will, he was to be “filled  with  the  Holy Ghost”  (9:17).  His  life  as a chosen vessel for God’s purposes was to be marked by the control of the Holy Spirit, so that he might be the means of bringing the witness of Christ before those in far-off places.

Other references could be considered, but summing them all up, it seems that the purpose of this filling is to give power for needed testimony, a power beyond the normal ability of the individual. It is not natural ability that is needed in the spiritual sphere; it is spiritual enabling that is required. Without this power, there cannot be any positive results according to God’s will. This filling results in honor to Christ as He is exalted through that service, and there will be results as God works through that human instrument for His glory.

It seems true as well that there were times that we might call ‘emergency fillings’ when there was a special need of the moment that called for a particular enablement of the Spirit of God. These are in contrast with what is to be the normal spiritual state of the child of God. We often look on being filled with the Spirit as something abnormal or out of the ordinary for a believer. It shouldn’t be! The problem is that for us, we are in an abnormal condition much of the time, being carnal or fleshly, and we are satisfied with something less than what God intends. This should be looked at as the ideally normal condition for every believer.

We have an example of the normal state that should exist in every believer when we look at Barnabas (Acts 11:24). He is described as being “a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” He displayed maturity of Christian character and showed himself to be one whom the assembly could fully trust as they sent him unto Antioch to investigate and report on the work being done in that place. We should not wonder that later, in Acts 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit separated him and Paul for the work for which He had called him. In his early life and  service, he had shown himself  to be fully qualified for a work demanding the power of God.

MEANING OF THE FILLING

The filling of the Spirit is nothing less than the Spirit of God having complete control over the life of the believer. It is the result of the voluntary, spiritually-exercised yielding of mind, heart, and will, including the entire being, to His use and direction. In the passage having to do with this subject directly (Eph.5:18), it is not hard to see that it is presented in a way that at least suggests a contrast with drunkenness. Both the filling and drunkenness are states in which one is controlled by a substance that affects one’s behavior markedly. The demoniac of Gadara was possessed of the evil spirit that controlled his life in a harmful way (Mark 5:1-15); he was not exhibiting his normal behavior under that condition, but was doing things that showed super-human ability. Again we read of Ananias and Saphira, in their deceptive conduct before the assembly (Acts 5), that their hearts were filled  by Satan so that they did this evil deed. He had exerted control over them to cause them to act in a way contrary to how they should have behaved.

We see only One Who was completely filled with the Holy Spirit without reservation and without interruption, and that is the Lord Jesus (Luke 4:1). As a result of this filling, He was driven (Mark 1:12) by the Spirit into the wilderness, and then He returned in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). Every word He spoke and every deed He performed manifested that in a Perfect Man, the complete will and purpose of the Holy Spirit of God was being expressed.

These examples help us see that the filling of the Spirit occurs when His control is allowed, and because of that filling, the individual is enabled to act or work in a way beyond his natural capability. We could say that “spirituality” is to be equated with “the filling of the Spirit.” However, though we do know that to some extent there are  varying degrees of spirituality, the ideal condition is for one to be controlled, empowered, and used by the Holy Spirit of God. 

COMMAND FOR FILLING  (Eph.5:18)

Only in one place are we given direct teaching that instructs the believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Eph.5:18, we find an express prohibition, “be not drunk with wine” followed by a direct obligation, “be filled with the Spirit.”   The command in this case, for such it is since it is found in the imperative, is for all believers to pay heed to and to be exercised toward. It is in the present tense, indicating that this is to be the continuing condition of the life of the child of God. Then it is passive, meaning that if we allow it to be true, the Spirit will do the filling and have control of our lives. We might read it this way, “allow yourselves to be continually filled with the Spirit.” This seems to be linked with the previous verse, where we are instructed to understand “what the will of the Lord is.” In view of the need in this present day of testimony, with its opposition and with the weakness of the human instrument, an understanding of the will of the Lord would make us realize the necessity for this filling.

In his writings, Charles Finney says, “He who neglects to obey the command to be filled with the Spirit, is as guilty of breaking the command of God, as he who steals, or curses, or commits adultery. His guilt is as great as the authority of God is great, Who commands us to be filled. His guilt is equivalent to all the good he might do if he were filled with the Spirit.”

CONDITIONS FOR FILLING

Many books have been written giving conditions that the believer must meet in order to be filled with the Spirit. Charismatics or Pentecostals teach that this filling must be asked for, prayed for and waited for in order to take place. Usually they are confusing the aspect of “filling” with the “baptism.” In addition, they are making a mistake in their use of certain Scriptures such as Luke 11:13, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” and Acts 1:4, “wait for the promise of  the Father...”  The filling of the Spirit does not depend on one praying for it. God desires all believers to be filled with the Spirit, so it is most unnecessary for us to ask Him to do something He wants to do. He is not withholding His blessing until we persuade Him to give it. Rather, for this filling to take place, what we need is to make the way open for the Spirit to do what He desires to do.

Would it not be true that this filling is usually dependent on certain conditions existing in the believer? First we must judge self and sin with honest confession before God. We should all realize that the greatest hindrance to the control of the Holy Spirit is self, the flesh, with its natural desires and tendencies that make allowances for sin in its various forms. Then as well, there must be a yielded condition of heart and mind, a willingness to be controlled by the Spirit and not by self. It requires willing obedience of the heart toward the Word of God as known and understood by the enlightening work of the Spirit. Then there needs to be an exercise of soul that longs for, and in some measure realizes, the need for the personal realization of this condition. Not a longing in the sense of wanting something for what I will get from it for selfish purposes, but because of what it will bring to God and how it can be used of Him. When these conditions are true, the Spirit of God will be free to control and give power to be useful for God and His work.

JUDGMENT OF SELF AND SIN, CONFESSION

Control by the Spirit cannot be possible if the heart and life of the believer is defiled by unconfessed sin. In fact, a Scripture that seems to bear on this truth most closely is Eph.4:30, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” To grieve the Holy Spirit is to allow sin in the life, sin that He is seeking to expose and bring conviction of, so that it might be confessed and forsaken. There are sins listed in the verses in context with that command that without question would grieve the Holy Spirit. Corrupt language (foul, disgusting and worthless language) will grieve the Holy Spirit. Such language from a believer is contrary to the very character and work of the indwelling Spirit. It is the very opposite to what He would produce, that “which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Language used indicates the thoughts and attitudes of the heart; our speech is the most accurate indicator of our spiritual condition. There are sins of language that need to be confessed in many cases, sometimes using the tongue for criticism and harsh words. In fact, in verse 31 we have such uses listed, “evil speaking.” How often we have sensed the grieving of the Spirit when in a moment of carelessness, our tongues have uttered words that we knew were not because of His leading or consistent with His holy character!

There are other sins in the context as well, and these are also sins, it seems, that many Christians do not even think of as being sin. Bitterness (or a harsh spirit and attitude toward others), wrath, anger, clamor (or an attitude of strife that can rise up in our hearts) are also sins that need to be confessed. But certainly we cannot limit the list to the sins listed here. Any sin, any deed that we know the Spirit would not prompt us to do, any violation of the teaching of the Word of God, any wrong use of the faculties that God has given us must be recognized and judged as sin, for us to know the spiritual condition that allows the control and filling of the Spirit.

There are other aspects of sin that often go unnoticed, but are matters that hinder the work of the Holy Spirit was much as others. One group of these consists of those sins that are acts and attitudes having to do with self. Little do many realize that anything of self is really sin and needs to be faced and confessed. Self-pity is often overlooked, but upon what grounds can we justify feeling sorry for ourselves, our circumstances, our lack of opportunities, etc.? Self-will is not always recognized as sin, but it is surely sin as much as any other vile act of the flesh. Self-confidence is a genuine problem for many believers, and one who is in that condition does not realize his need to depend on the Spirit of God for His power. Self is an inveterate  enemy and must be recognized and dealt with as much as any other sin. It often becomes a question of WHO will govern the life? WHO will control the person? It cannot be both the Spirit and the individual. For true spirituality to exist, the Spirit must control.

God has made full provision for all sin in the believer. He has made no provision for our excuses or unwillingness to acknowledge sin honestly and to confess it. Yet God has ways of dealing with His own if they do not acknowledge their sins. Even in the Old Testament this was true; David could attest to the misery of soul and fruitlessness of life that accompanied his sin (Psalm 32). Many a Christian has experienced the sadness of heart and emptiness of soul that made him realize that something was wrong, and the result of that realization was that he made a full confession of the matter before the Lord. We are not suggesting we must have a life of constant self-examination in a sense that would result in over-occupation with self. That would be defeating and frustrating! We are sure that God by His Spirit and through His Word will bring to the mind of any believer any sin they have committed if they are willing to respond to the truth He would present.

God’s only provision for sin is for us to simply and honestly confess it to Him.   With certainty,  I John 1:9  tells us  that  “If we confess our sins,   He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In this lovely epistle dealing with relationships in God’s family and maintenance of spiritual communion, we have the Divine remedy for sin in the life. That remedy is in my being honest before God, willingly acknowledging the sin committed. That confession results in the blessedness of knowing that a full cleansing has been and is the result of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus shed at Calvary for my sins. We know of those who have tried to produce deep sorrow in themselves, over-emphasizing their feelings and trying to produce a condition that seems to go beyond what God expects for forgiveness. Then there are those who emphasize asking God to forgive them, but confession is far different from asking for forgiveness. The one is a Scriptural act of fully agreeing with God about my sin; the other is an act that is unbelief, for it is asking God to do something He has already promised to do.

Sometimes we read that the believer should keep “short accounts with God” but it is much better to keep no accounts with God. Much better than trying to remember sins and confess them in prayer at the end of the day would be to simply confess them at the moment we are aware of them, and then fellowship with God can be resumed and enjoyed.

Sensitivity to sin in any form that results in confession of it to God is vital for the filling of the Spirit.

YIELDEDNESS

Perhaps the truth of yieldedness is found in its principle in I Thess. 5:19. Although the context properly deals with the assembly gatherings and the manifestation of the Spirit’s work and ministry to the company, in its principle it is true for the individual as well. Quenching the Spirit can result from not allowing Him the control He wants to exercise in my life. It has the thought of “putting out a fire,” and when the believer is not yielded to His control and exercised in that way, he is limiting and hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

The Spirit of God indwells the believer, even as one might live in your home as a guest. That guest is present and has access to a certain portion of your home and your life. However, he is limited to certain areas allowed to him at your discretion and desire.  He would not be exercising full control until the entire home is opened to his access so that everything is willingly subjected to his control, with the result that he is directing, arranging, and accomplishing all as He alone desires it.  In a similar way, the Spirit must wait until the Christian finally learns that his life is fruitless and empty of purpose, that there is not the joy and effective testimony resulting in honor to Christ that there ought to be. When he is finally willing to yield all control of his life to the Spirit, He can control, or fill, that believer.

Romans 12:1-2 is often quoted and its truth is often emphasized. But it is not until we find out that this condition is absolutely vital for true Christian living that we can carry it out and realize its effect. To “present” our bodies a living sacrifice is the same as fully yielding them with all they have and are to Him. It is recognizing that “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (I Cor.6:19-20). It is the attitude of Paul in Gal.2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It is the practical result of realizing the truth expressed in Romans 6. To know and reckon on the fact that I have died with Christ and have been raised to walk in newness of life will change one’s attitude toward self and toward life completely, and it will result in willing devotion of all to God. It will make me realize that Christ is entitled to receive full allegiance and service from the heart.

It is in that context that we read we are to “yield yourselves to God” (Rom.6:13). We must learn that to experience the filling of the Spirit we must be willing and yielded, seeking not our own will, but allowing God to control our life by His Spirit and for His own glory.

OBEDIENCE OF HEART TO THE WORD OF GOD

Closely allied with yieldedness to God is an attitude of willing obedience to the Word of God. That is not to say that we will ever be able to completely and without fail obey all the Word of God. That would be the desire of our hearts, but we are certain that not one of us ever attains to it. However, to “keep His commandments” (I John 2:3) involves an attitude of heart that desires to be obedient to that Word through reverence and devotion to our Lord. Knowing and willful rejection of certain truths and an unwillingness to seek to carry them out will hinder any spiritual progress for the Christian. It should be the desire of every Christian to bring joy to his Heavenly Father and to do His will. The Spirit produces that desire in our soul, and if we allow that desire to control our thinking, we will be constantly seeking to do what is His will.

The Lord told His disciples that keeping His commandments was an evidence of their love for Him (John 14:15). We read that it shows that we know Him (I John 2:3). It is the mark of exercised souls that the Word of God has a prominent place in their thinking. They love its truths, they feed their souls on it, and it is manifested in their lives in practical reality and Christian character. Truths of the Word of God are not theoretical facts that can be stored away to be repeated on certain occasions when needed. Rather they are vital principles and revealed truths from God that are given so that our lives might be molded by them and made more conformable to His will (II Cor. 3:18). This desire for the Word of God to be worked out in practical living is most essential for the filling of the Spirit. It is the distinctive mark of all those saints who have lived  their lives with an evident exercise of heart to be pleasing to their Lord. Their lives have displayed practical godliness that is honoring to His blessed Name and which has been effective to minister blessing to others.

EXERCISE OF SOUL AND SPIRIT

It may be that the previous required conditions are summarized by this one, namely, spiritual exercise and personal desire to realize the fullness of all that God intends should be true for the individual believer. This spiritual exercise results in one not being satisfied with anything less than the personal realization of that work the Spirit of God has been sent to do. It results in a longing of soul that produces a careful attitude toward sin in that there is sensitivity to it and an awareness of its awful consequences. Exercise of soul makes the believer seek the mind of God in His Word, and with deepest reverence for it, he manifests diligence to carry it out in his life. That condition of heart produces a deep desire to be obedient to the Lord and His word without questioning or making excuses. Exercise is the sum total of the heart-workings of a soul longing for God and all He would produce in the life. The Psalmist knew something of this deep desire in Psalm 42:1-2, where we read,  “so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” That which is so precious to God must become precious to us if we are to truly experience its full reality in our souls and lives.

Hudson Taylor said, “The Holy Spirit enters the heart, in His fulness, that can boast of nothing but an aching void. Maybe, no ecstasy, no rushing mighty wind, no fiery baptism, but nevertheless, ‘the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple.’ It is not striving after faith, but resting in the Faithful One!” This man knew much of this reality, and proved its power in his life.

RESULTS OF FILLING WITH THE SPIRIT

The results of being filled with the Spirit are many, including what we will consider in a future chapter, namely, the production of the fruit of the Spirit in the life (Gal.5:22-23). The full development of that fruit will only be seen as the conditions for filling exist in the Christian.  Fruit will be seen in some measure simply because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.; it is inevitable that there will be some manifestation of His holy Presence within, but that fruit will only be in its limited expression and not as God desires to have it.

Verses following the command to be filled in Eph. 5:18 give some results of that filling. In verse 19, the first result is that there will be a constant flow of worship and praise with full joy in the heart. This is linked with uninterrupted enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord. Communion in the spiritual sphere is linked with reverence, making one marvel at the grace of God and the wonder of Himself, thus producing a spirit of worship as we are occupied with our God. True worship is a spiritual attitude and activity (John 4:23-24), and it is the highest activity that can engage the redeemed soul. Many can express truths in prayer, and through a knowledge of Scripture, speak great truths concerning God without knowing anything of spiritual activity. Only as we are in a proper spiritual condition and the Holy Spirit is directing and controlling can there be true worship as God desires it.

In Eph.5:20 we are told there will be an attitude of thankfulness. We will be thankful for salvation, but more than that, we will be constantly exhibiting a spirit that fully appreciates what we are now receiving.  That will also accompany the constant recognition that all we have has been received from God; we have nothing to boast in  of ourselves. God will receive our thanksgiving in contrast to an unthankful world. (Rom.1:21, II Tim.3:2).

Again we find in Eph.5:21 that there will be submission, the meekness and lowliness of mind that was seen in Christ. In fact, in Phil.2:5, where we read of the Perfect Example of submission and humility, it is there for the purpose of correcting the saints and producing in them (and us) the attitude that God desires. A truly spiritual man will display a warm-hearted subjection to the will of God as well as to others according to that will. As we have seen in the examples in Acts when the disciples were filled with the Spirit, other results were seen in their boldness to testify for Christ in a way honoring to Him. Those results will be seen in us also, and they will make us effective and useful for God. There will be the necessary power to be used as an instrument in His hand to bring blessing to others. True Christian service is the result of spiritual power realized when the Spirit of God is allowed to accomplish what is according to His will in the individual child of God. Anything short of this is not truly as it should be, nor is it what it could be. May God exercise each of our hearts in view of our own responsibility so that conditions needed for this filling may be maintained in our lives for God.

We have read that  the Kurku, a hill tribe in India of some 98,000 people, have as their supreme desire and objective in life to be filled with demons. When filled, they believe, their lives will be immune to attack or harm from the evil forces. Oh yes, they believe in God, a good spirit, who created the world and created them. But he does them no harm, so they worship the evil spirits,  desiring for them to take  control of their lives.  But what  would  happen if  the  same  desire  were  true  for  God’s people who profess to know Christ as Saviour and Lord?   If this desire  is so important to these misguided people, why is it not more our desire and purpose to be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God? Think what would result in the lives of those so yielded!

“Thy Spirit has shown God’s deep purpose to be

To empty, then fill us with glory like Thee;

And now Thou dost wait-Thy full joy to impart

For that day of espousals-the joy of Thy heart.”