Summary: A Biblical understanding of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as observed from the Text of Scripture.


Acts 2:1-21

Text: Acts 2:4a

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, or being full of the Holy Spirit, or being baptized by or in the Holy Spirit are phrases that mean different things to different people in the Christian community. This message is designed to deal with this matter from the Biblical perspective. Often these phrases are the focus of some theological applications that are not necessarily Biblical. Hopefully in this message these will be as carefully avoided as is possible.

That which makes the Christian life truly experiential, that which gives us the ability to live in this world with confidence, is that the essence of the Christian life is that the very life of God Himself is restored into human experience and we are equipped and empowered by the Hoy Spirit.

The Day of Pentecost, which is the historic event to which Acts 2 is in reference, was an annual festival, one of several in the Jewish calendar. In the Old Testament this is known as the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of First Fruits. It was like a Jewish Thanksgiving that came at the end of the barley harvest. In the

New Testament it became known as Pentecost because it is a Greek word referring to 50 days after the Passover. Jesus was crucified the day before the Passover. Seven weeks and one day after Easter Sunday came the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. This was the day the Holy Spirit was poured out and made available to every person who recognized that Jesus had died for their sins, was raised again for their redemption, confessed their sins, and placed their trust and confidence in and reliance upon Him.

When we read the rest of Acts 2, we notice immediately there were outward phenomena that took place as the Holy Spirit came upon that band of 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room. There was a sound like a rushing, mighty wind. There was also that which appeared like flames of fire upon each of them. Finally each of them went out into Jerusalem and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ in at least 15 different languages. Each of these phenomena could occupy an entire sermon, but this message deals with only the next statement: They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The rest of the story goes on to describe the impact on the city of Jerusalem, the neighboring areas of Judea and Samaria, and the rest of the world.

I heard a story about a grandmother who had been in a conversation with her four-year old granddaughter. They were talking about God. The little girl asked her grandmother: “Is God lonely?” The grandmother tried to gather some profound thoughts together and form an answer the child could easily grasp. The little girl quickly answered her own question. “Well, I know He has a Son, and He has that bird He sends down on people.” She was referring of course, to the day when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a “dove” descended upon Him. The “dove” has become the symbol of the Holy Spirit. He is a Person, and is the subject of this message. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

What does it mean “to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” Jesus had told His disciples that the Holy Spirit was with them but that He would come to fill them. Now everyone who is a born again Christian has the Holy Spirit. But being “filled” with the Holy Spirit is quite another thing. It is when the Holy Spirit has all there is of a person that He then dominates the personality and determines the behavior of the individual. That is what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

It is one thing to “have” the Holy Spirit, and it is quite another thing to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear that when a person is born again, he or she has the Holy Spirit. Hear the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:9 where he says: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” It is possible to have received the Holy Spirit and walked as a Christian for many years, but it is quite another thing to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” and live in the fullness of His power and grace, as He dominates the personality and determines the behavior.

This phrase, “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Spirit” occurs 15 times in the New Testament. Fourteen of them are found in either the Gospel of Luke or in the Book of Acts, both written by Luke, the historian, the observer. Four of these are before the Day of Pentecost as Dr. Luke records about John the Baptist being “filled with the Holy Spirit” in his mother’s womb, and also his mother Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke states also that Zacharias, father of John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and Jesus Himself was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (See Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1 for these references.) Those are the four references prior to Pentecost to being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” After Pentecost there are 11 times this phase occurs, 10 of them in the Book of Acts, and one of them in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. We know that Dr. Luke authored the Gospel bearing his name, as well as the Book of Acts. Luke then, is responsible for 14 of the 15 times that the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit,” or a closely related phrases “full of the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Spirit” are found in the New Testament. It is this physician/historian, writing as an observer of things that were happening who was responsible to give to us the only valid explanation for what actually happened on the Day of Pentecost.

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