Summary: 5th in Take a Hike: Walking in the Spirit series. This is about being filled with the Spirit - what happens at salvation, and what needs to continue happening.
Ephesians 5:15-18 – Filled to the Brim
(NOTE: This is a revamp of a previous message of mine called "Would You Like a Refill?", with (I think) a better understanding of the topic. It’s also blatantly Wesleyan/Arminian.)
Author Jamie Buckingham once visited a dam on the Columbia River. He’d always thought that the water spilling over the top provided the power, not realizing that it was just froth, that deep within turbines and generators transformed the power of tons and tons of water to electricity—quietly, without notice, not like the flashy froth on top.
That’s what walking in the Spirit is like. It’s not about the stuff that bubbles over. It’s about what happens on the inside. Tonight we are looking at what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s read.
Now, I know that tonite’s discussion will be at times debatable. We’ve got different theological camps here, and that’s fine. My goal is to share what I see in the Word, at the same time not to drive a wedge between us, and then to help us live for Jesus more effectively.
Well, if we are speaking about being filled with the Holy Spirit, we must first define some terms. What is our relationship to the Holy Spirit? As Christians, how are we connected to the Holy Spirit? The Bible says that when we initially ask Jesus to forgive us and lead us, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and lives inside us. The Bible also calls this the baptism by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor.12:13: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Now, just to clarify: the word “by” could also be translated “with” or “in”. Which means, this verse could mean that we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, baptized with the Holy Spirit, or baptized in the Holy Spirit. Each of these words fits in other passages in the NT.
Whatever word it means, it describes what happens to us at salvation. It means that we have been immersed, that is, baptized, in what God has for us. This means we have gotten a dose of His power, His grace, His mercy, His holiness, His purity, His love. We have, as Peter says, tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
Now, there are different schools of thought on this. One group would say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happened once, at Pentecost, for all time. It was collective, for the church, and it becomes personal when someone joins a church or when a person is baptized. Another group would say that it is part and parcel of salvation. It happens at salvation, but nothing more is ever needed again, that this baptism is enough for all time. Another group would say that yes, it happens at salvation, but it continues to be improved upon with time. It happens to each person when they give their lives to Christ, but it continues to work throughout the rest of their lives.
But another group would say there is more, too. Wesleyans believe in what we call a second work of grace. Some would call it a baptism in the Holy Spirit. They would say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens at salvation, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit happens sometime after that.
Personally, I think that’s quibbling over details. You see, any kind of connection between baptism and the Holy Spirit – whether it be “in” or “with” or “by” – drops out of usage in the NT after Pentecost, with the one exception of the 1 Corinthians 12 passage I already read. Well, technically, Jesus is quoted in Acts 11:16: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”, but that’s a quote from before Pentecost.
You see, after Pentecost, people didn’t talk so much about being baptized with or in the Spirit. They talked more about being filled with the Spirit. It’s almost as if the NT uses the word “baptism” to emphasize the moment it happens, and the word “fullness” to emphasize the ongoing-ness of it. Baptism means the instant it happens. Fullness means that its effects keep going on and on.
Now, I know that many Christians disagree over this issue. Some believe that the phrase “second work of grace” isn’t really true. Some would believe that once you are saved, once you really are born of the Spirit, once you really give your heart to Him, that’s all. You need to live it, you need to be true to it, but that’s all there is.
Wesleyans would say that there is another decision to be made, even after salvation. At salvation, you come to be forgiven. At this second part, you come to be cleansed. The first time you give Him your sins. The second time you give Him your heart. We call this “sanctification”. Or the “second blessing” or “second work of grace”.