Summary: The filling of the Spirit yields a disciplined spiritual life.
True Spirituality Series
Filled with the Spirit
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
It hasn’t happened in a while, but I’ve done it before. I’ve ran out of gas. Years ago, I can remember more than once coasting into a gas station just as I ran out of gas. A year or so before we moved here I ran out of gas on the East-West Toll Way just west of Chicago. I knew I was low on gas. I fully intended to fill up before I headed back from a meeting about a forty-five minute drive from home. But I forgot. Not until I was out on the six lane expressway in the middle of traffic and my car started to sputter, did I remember my gas. Too late! I managed to coast to the side of the road. No gas. No cell phone. I hadn’t a clue what I would do next.
No sooner had the car rolled to a stop than my guardian angel pulled in behind me. He was in the form of a big white toll way emergency truck. I didn’t even have to get out of my car. I explained my problem. The driver put five gallons of gas in my car, gave me a voucher and an envelope to mail in my payment for the gas and sent me on my way.
That’s a good picture to keep in the back of our minds as we explore this text. The human soul doesn’t work well on empty. Some of us have tried. The solution to an empty soul is to “be filled with the Spirit.” I want to ask and answer two questions that are bound up in this text: What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? How does it happen? Both questions are important.
First, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? The short answer—to be filled with the Spirit means to be filled with God. That’s what Paul had prayed for a couple of chapters earlier. Remember that benediction we have used so often to close our services, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more ….” That’s the end of Ephesians 3. The prayer comes just before that, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (3:15-19).
Understanding this phrase “be filled with the Spirit” requires that we get a handle on two terms. First is the term SPIRIT. A lot of folk are confused by the Bible’s talk about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Make no mistake, we only worship one God. But this God has chosen to reveal himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are God. All are the same God only viewed from slightly different perspectives. The Father emphasizes the power and authority of God. The Son reveals God in human form. The creator visited this planet in the person of Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son. The Spirit demonstrates the nearness of God. In the Spirit, God reaches into our lives invisibly, yet powerfully and personally. The Spirit of God is not new. But after Jesus came, the Spirit began a new kind of work.
In the Old Testament God promised that someday, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isa. 44:3). Or as Ezekiel put it, “ I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27).
That’s what Jesus said he came to make happen. On the night before the cross, Jesus told his disciples that something new was about to take place. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:5-7). Earlier Jesus made this startling statement, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” In the next verse, John adds this word of explanation, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:38-39).