Saturday, February 10, 2007
‘Being Filled With the Spirit’
I’ve recently met more cessationalist views of the work of the Holy Spirit as presented in the charismata in the New Testament. They have often run along the lines of: ‘charismatic theology, however ‘reformed,’ is unbiblical, inconsistent with revelation, and ecclesiastically dangerous.’ I attempt in these next few posts to present a very brief and humble biblical argument for the continuance of charismata ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church today. This post shall focus on the idea of being ‘filled with the Spirit’ as presented throughout the New Testament.
To clarify: I do not believe in ‘second-baptism’ or ‘second-blessing’ experiences, otherwise known as a subsequent baptism of/in the Holy Spirit resulting in tongue speaking. To be filled with the Spirit is only twice linked to Holy Spirit Baptism; that is at initial conversion, or on the day of Pentecost. The former happens once, the latter has happened once.
Being filled with the Spirit in the New Testament has several forms. One of the most obviously agreeable is that being filled with the Spirit is a trait of the Godly believer. Such as Stephan (Acts 6:3-5; 7:55), Barnabas (Acts 11:24), the disciples (Acts 13:52), and Jesus Himself (Luke 4:1). However other New Testament uses of being ‘filled with the Spirit’ refers to the special empowering of an individual or a Church for a particular ministry.
This second use is obviously more debated. Let me set out why I believe this to be a genuine filling of the Spirit in the New Testament from some Scripture passages.
Acts 9. Paul after his dramatic conversion is filled with the Holy Spirit (v.17) to prepare him for his coming ministry. Note, Paul is again ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ to speak to Elymas in Acts 13:9.
Luke 1. John the Baptist is filled with the Spirit from Birth (vv.15-17) for his lifetime of ministry. Further, believing Elizabeth is ‘filled with the Spirit’ when her Baby, John jumped in her womb (v.41). Zechariah is also ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ as he prophesied (v.67).
Acts 4. Peter is full of the Spirit from Pentecost, and is already a Jesus-chosen believer and so full of the Holy Spirit (Cf. John 20:22), and yet here he is ‘filled with the Spirit’ (v.8) to speak to the Rulers. Furthermore, all the believers were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ to such an extent the meeting place was shaken (v.31).
Therefore I conclude that being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ is also something according to the New Testament that happens post-conversion as an empowering unto a form of ministry. The big question however is to what extent does this apply to the wider Church outside the apostolic era?
I argue that several Pauline texts show us his desire for the believing Churches to whom he ministers to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And unless we jump though hermeneutical hoops, should be applied to the wider Church today. I shall again set out briefly my beliefs for this through some scripture passages.
Ephesians 5. Paul instructs the Church not to be ‘drunk with wine’ but ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (v.18). Some observations:
First, we would apply not to be drunk from the pulpit and I assume I hope that we would apply Paul’s alternative ‘to be filled with the Spirit’ also; i.e. deriving our application directly from the text. However, note that this is teaching the Church of assumed believers to be filled with the Spirit post conversion.
Second, in this case, the Spirit’s manifestation in the Church once filled is in ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks to the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (vv.19-21). This surely is the marks of a healthy and Christ-centred New Testament Church? If so then it depends on teaching a congregation to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’
Third, this filling (v.18) is directly linked to the ideal Church practice (vv.19-21) in such a way that suggests the heart overflowing into praise and submission comes from a filling of the Spirit in the hearts of converted believers who are already full of the Holy Spirit. Being continually filled is what prompts and empowers ideal church practice of praise and submission.
Forth, and perhaps should be first, is that ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (v.18) is not just a good idea, but a biblical, Pauline, inspired command to those already fully filled.
1. Thess. 4. The continual giving of the Spirit is linked to the continual perusal of holiness and purity. The Greek tense would seem to affirm a present continuous work of the giving of the Spirit ‘into’ (eis) the believer. In this text, it would seem that a continual receiving of the Spirit is a divinely necessary provision to fight sexual immorality and preserve the individual holiness of the already Spirit-filled believer. And so we apply to our Churches, fight sexual immorality and seek holiness by the continual grace-gift of being continually filled with the Spirit.
Galatians 3. The Galatians had received the Spirit (v.2) and the supply of that Spirit is directly linked to the working of miracles within the Church (v.5). So the miracles done among the Galatians was the direct result of them receiving the Spirit. The Spirit in Galatians 3 is accompanied by the working of miracles in the Church. So two things; first, Those who received the Spirit are continually supplied in the Spirit post originally filling (vv.2-5). Second, there seems to be a direct link between the receiving of the Spirit, and the workings of miracles in the Church. Applying this, Paul encourages the Galatians to continue in the Spirit in which they began in, and this is the same Spirit which works miracles. So if we take this application from the text, when we apply seeking a salvation through grace sustained faith and not works, we should not turn a blind eye to the Spirits supply manifested in the working of miracles in our Churches. (N.b. ‘the working of miracles and biblical discernment’ will be a post to follow).
I conclude from these texts alone(note, there are others, not least 1 Cor. 12 and 14) that a believer who is filled to burst with the Holy Spirit from conversion can be continually filled so-to-speak with the Holy Spirit beyond limit. Further this is a divine command which results in ideal Church practice, in Godly worship, in personal holiness, in assurance of faith, and in the working of miracles in the Church. To be filled with the Spirit according to the New Testament refers to the once filled at conversion and the continual filling throughout life in the flesh and in the body of the Church. This is not only a ‘good idea’ but a command which must be heeded to seek the fullness of obedience in Church ministry and individual holiness and Christlikeness.
You will notice that I haven’t given a theology of what subsequent being filled with the Spirit ‘looks like.’ This will be for another time, the focus of this post is to show evidence for a continual filling of the Spirit post conversion which is not second-baptism. However a couple of things are clear; first, being filled is tangible and outside simple cognitive practice. Second, it results in a physical change of the person(s). Third, it is Christ-centred and as such leads to His praise, submission, and longing to be more like Him. Forth, it cannot be concluded from these texts that it is limited to what happens when you read Scripture, i.e. Being continually filled probably does not equal in full, reading your Bible more, or more prayerfully. (However this certainly has a part to play in being continually filled).
Thanks for reading this basic outline of my theology on being ‘Filled with the Spirit’ as I see it presented in the New Testament! I aim to post more on this topic to show I feel I am consistently both reformed and charismatic in my beliefs and practices and how I see both interrelating in Scripture. Subsequent posts should include Old Testament evidence for being continually filled with the Spirit; An outline of Spiritual Gifts and their use; biblical obedience to the full use of the body and the charismata; biblical discernment and various gifts.
God bless! And may you be continually filled with the Spirit and empowered unto every good work prepared for you to do!