WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The subject of filling of the Holy Spirit is of paramount importance for two very pertinent reasons. First, it is imperative for attaining Christ likeness or spiritual maturity. Paul admonishes the Corinthian believers as being fleshly (life controlled by the flesh) and the antidote to it is life controlled by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Second, it is imperative for effective service. Acts 4:31 illustrates the relationship between filling and service. As a matter of fact, it was the filling of the Spirit that enabled the believers to speak the word of God with boldness. When Paul was filled with the Spirit he immediately began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9:17, 20).
This subject however has been a bone of contention and a center of confusion over the years. Christian Scholars and believers of different camps interpret it along different lines. In the light of this, it calls for in-depth study of the Scripture so as to have right understanding of this subject as to its meaning, timing, conditions, and consequences.
The meaning of ‘Being Filled’
A proper meaning or definition of the filling of the Spirit appears in Ephesians 5:18: “And be not drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit”. Two observations from this text help establish its meaning. One, the Greek word for filling (plerousthe) means ‘control’ or ‘total domination’. Two, the analogy between drunkenness and Spirit-filling provides the idea of total control. Both drunk and spiritual persons under the influence of either liquor or the Spirit do things unnatural to them. They lose their self-control and abandon themselves to the influence of either liquor or Spirit. So by being filled with the Spirit mean life entirely controlled, governed, and dominated no longer by self but by the Holy Spirit and God’s word.
The Timing of Filling
How often does a person need to be filled? The answer to this question is found in the same verse Eph. 5:18 in the verb for it is in the present tense which indicates filling is a repeated experience. A Christian must be filled and filled and filled again because sin breaks the control of the Spirit and also new areas of life come to light which need to be brought under the control of the Spirit. The apostles were filled again and again (Acts 2:4; 4:31). Filling is not a one-time experience but rather a repeated event.
The Condition for Spirit Filling
What are the conditions for being filled? There is a myth surrounding this that filling comes in answer to some sort of tarring or agonizing prayer. But in New Testament, no example is seen of believers praying for the filling of the Spirit after the day of Pentecost. However, there are conditions to be filled by the Spirit.
First, the condition is a dedicated life in which one gives his life to God for His will to be done through it. There must be continual dedication and commitment to keep on doing the will of God (Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2). Second, it requires confession of sin (1 John 1:9). Third, Spirit-filling is experienced when one does not grieve the Spirit. What is it that grieves the Spirit? The answer is sin, specifically sins of speech in the immediate context of Ephesians 4:30. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit and sin will prevent the believer from being filled with the Spirit. Fourth, Spirit filling is experienced when one does not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). How does this happen? When believers pour cold water on the fire of ministry they quench the Spirit. The Spirit’s ministry is not to be hindered. Fifth, Spirit filling is a life of dependence on the Spirit and His power rather than self and old nature. (Gal. 5: 16)
The Results of being filled
What are the results of being filled? That speaking in tongue is an evidence of being filled is but a myth and not a norm. While there are several examples found in Acts in favor, there are examples of people not speaking in tongue even after being filled. As such, speaking in tongue as evidence of being filled in the Spirit cannot be a standard. What then are the results of being filled? There are several characteristics of being filled with the Spirit. The first is Christlikeness or bearing the fruit of the Spirit enumerated in Galatians chapter 5. The second is worship and praise-singing and being thankful (Eph. 5:18). The third is submission to one another (Eph. 5:21). Spirit control affects all the relationships of life so that proper harmony will be experienced between husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees. The fourth is the being receptive to the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-13; John 16:12-16). The fifth is being used effectively for the service of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:17-22) and boldly witness for Christ (Acts 4:8-14, 31; 9:17-20). The sixth is to show dedication to God and nonconformity to the world (Rom. 12:1-2).