Summary: Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a daily command and not a suggestion. It is not about emotions but about obedience
FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Why is it that so many Christians feel there is something missing in their spiritual life? We read the NT accounts of believers and feel that our faith is just not that exciting, why? We read about the Holy Spirit coming upon individual believers and groups of believers with such power that they were able to make a dramatic impact on the community around them – then we look at our own lives and the life of our church and think – where did it all go wrong for me (us)? This morning if you feel that spiritually things have gone a bit flat or that you have lost that initial excitement and joy of the Lord Jesus then this is for you. Over the past number of weeks we have been looking at what the Bible teaches us about the Holy Spirit. This morning we are going to see what the Bible has to teach us concerning being filled with the Holy Spirit.
At the start of this sermon let me once again say that the Holy Spirit is a person. When we speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit we do not mean that the Holy Spirit is some sort of liquid that is poured into some empty vessel (which is us). Nor is the Holy Spirit some ‘force’ or ‘power’ like electricity which we get plugged into and filled with power. To use any of those terms is to affirm wrong ideas concerning what is meant by the phrase ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit.’ We must at all times remember the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity who brings us into a relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son.
The first thing I want to do this morning is to clear away some generally accepted but Biblically wrong teaching concerning being filled with the Holy Spirit. I have deliberately chosen the phrase ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ and not ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ The latter generally has been taught for years in many churches as a second experience of the Holy Spirit which is accompanied with speaking in tongues. However it is interesting to note that 1 Corinthians 12.10 teaches us that God does not give the gift of tongues to everyone. Therefore it cannot be the mark of someone who has been ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit.’ Secondly those passages in Acts which have been used to support this teaching are in fact historically unique. Let me explain quickly.
Acts 2 The Day of Pentecost – is the fulfilling of the promise of Christ of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and the church in Jerusalem. It is the fulfilment of the promise made to Joel that God would pour out His Spirit upon His people. It is also important for us to recognise that the disciples had become believers in Christ before Pentecost whereas we are post-Pentecost believers.
Acts 8.12-17 Is the extension of the work of the Holy Spirit to the church in Samaria. In verse 16 it simply says the Spirit had not yet come to them – this was a divine decision. It was also to confirm the authority of the apostles in the gentile church.
Acts 19.1-6 the coming of the Holy Spirit on the believers at Ephesus was the fulfilment of the extension of the work of the Holy Spirit to the ends of the earth. Once again historically it was the affirming and establishing of the authority of the apostles in the wider church.
In each of these cases the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believers was accompanied by the laying on of the hands of the apostles and speaking in tongues. Each is a unique historical event and not a pattern for all individuals or all churches through history.
Turn with me now to Ephesians 5.18-21 and let us see what we are taught here about being filled with the Holy Spirit. As always let us get the context correct. Ephesians 4.17-5.18 is a passage of practical nature. The key teaching lies in the command that believers are to ‘lay aside the old self’ and ‘put on the new self, which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4.22-23). Then we come to 5.18 READ.
Verse 18 Paul begins by stating a negative – ‘do not be drunk on wine.’ This may seem a strange command to give to a church but all around them at Ephesus were pagan shrines and temples. Much of pagan worship involved excess alcohol to the point where people lost control and indulged in all sorts of debauchery. Paul does not want them to give themselves over to something which takes over their minds and their actions. He wants them to function normally. We should take heed there. Paul is saying that their worship is to be different from the carnal chaotic worship of the pagans. Instead he writes ‘be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ The Greek verb for ‘be filled’ is ‘pleroo’ and in this context it is according to the scholars – imperative, passive, present continuous. Which means that ‘pleroo’ is a command for them to obey, and not a suggestion that they might like to take on board. ‘Pleroo’ is in the passive voice which means the Holy Spirit takes the initiative and comes upon the believers. ‘Pleroo’ is in the present continuous tense which means that it is an ongoing command and something which is to be a daily occurrence in the life of the believer. Paul commands them to be filled to completeness right where they are at that present moment. This is no casual statement by Paul but an exhortation which he expects the believers at Ephesus, and us, to obey. The believer’s part is to surrender his or her life to the filling of the Holy Spirit, which comes by faith.