Baptism by the Holy Spirit
Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
This study is a major overhaul of The Filling of the Holy Spirit, a study written in support of the Association of Messianic Congregations' statement on the filling of the Holy Spirit that was first published in its web-based magazine, the Shofar.
THE AMC STATEMENT* ON THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY
The body of Messiah began at Shavuot (Pentecost) with the baptism of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Yeshua. Membership in the body is based solely on faith in Messiah.
THE AMC STATEMENT* ON THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe that the filling of the Holy Spirit is the ongoing process of God to which we yield whereby He
sanctifies us (sets apart) and brings forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:13-14; Galatians 5:22-23) *Full AMC Statement
There are many ministries of the Holy Spirit toward the believer. Each is distinct from the others and has its own specific name and function in conformity with scriptural use. These differences and distinctions must be firmly established in our understanding to maintain biblical accuracy for our own sake and for the sake of those we communicate with.
There are two categories of ministries of the Spirit toward believers in the Church Age: those ministered to the believer at the moment of salvation, and those available to him during the entirety of his Christian walk. Two ministries of the Spirit that are often confused are Spirit baptism (baptism by the Holy Spirit) and Spirit-filling (the filling of the Holy Spirit), both of which are often thought of as identical and defined as that ministry by which the Spirit especially empowers some, whether it be at the moment of their salvation or subsequent to it. We'll take a close look at each in this study.
Spirit baptism, or Baptism in, by or of the Holy Spirit is that ministry of the Spirit which places the believer into Christ and into His body at the moment of salvation.
1 Corinthians 12:13 shows that it places him into His body:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks,
whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:13 ~
By the inclusion of the word all, Paul indicated that everyone in the Corinthian congregation, from babes in the faith to the most mature, had been baptized by the Spirit into Messiah's body. Of necessity, then, Paul's declaration shows that every believer is baptized by the Spirit at the moment of salvation, which contradicts the belief that Spirit baptism may occur subsequent to salvation. This will be addressed.
Spirit baptism is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
~ Ephesians 4:4-6 ~
Among believers, baptism is defined in three ways, though only two are valid. They are water baptism, Spirit baptism
as defined above, and Spirit baptism as defined as a second work of the Spirit that occurs only for some believers and may occur subsequent to the moment of salvation. Which of these baptisms
does the one baptism of the passage refer
Note how one baptism in the passage is in the context of one Lord, one faith . . . one God and Father of all. All four are of an actual and spiritual nature and are relevant to all believers, not just some.
That eliminates two of the baptisms, leaving only one that is not foreign to the context, but is defined by it: Spirit baptism as defined as that ministry of the Spirit which places the believer into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation. Spirit baptism as defined above and by the context is the true or actual baptism of which water baptism is merely symbolic; and Scripture lends no support whatever to the belief that Spirit baptism, or baptism by the Holy Spirit, is a work that may occur subsequent to the moment of salvation and is experienced only by some.
Spirit baptism not only includes baptism into Christ's body, but into Christ Himself:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3)
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27).
Spirit baptism also places the believer into Christ's death, burial and resurrection. Two verses show this.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
~ Rom 6:3-4 ~
having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith
in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
~ Colossians 2:12 ~
Galatians 3:27-28 also refers to Spirit baptism, and shows that we who were baptized into Christ were also made one in Him by virtue of that baptism:
27: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
~ Galatians 3:27-28 ~
Another feature of Spirit baptism is that it is a permanent baptism in that it seals the believer into Christ and His body for the day of redemption, which is the resurrection or translation of the body at the rapture: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). It is because Spirit baptism is a permanent baptism, Scripture never exhorts us to be baptized by the Holy Spirit - because we already have been at the moment of salvation. This is in stark contrast to Ephesians 5:18, in which the believer is exhorted - not to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, but to be filled with the Spirit.
In addition, inasmuch as Spirit baptism determines our permanent position in Messiah and His body, it cannot increase or decrease as can levels of empowerment. It is also strictly a Church Age phenomenon as Messiah's body began to form on the Day of Pentecost.
To expand our definition of Spirit Baptism:
Spirit baptism, or Baptism in, by or of the Holy Spirit, is that Church Age ministry of the Spirit which permanently places all believers, at the moment of their salvation, into Christ, His body, His death, burial and resurrection, thus making them one in the Spirit. The "level" of a believer's Spirit baptism
remains steady, and never increases or decreases.
I have, thus far, shown a commonly held definition of Spirit baptism or baptism by the Holy Spirit to be invalid, given much attention to distinguishing between
water baptism, which is symbolic, and Spirit baptism, which is the actual baptism, and that several passages often taken to refer to water baptism actually refer to Spirit baptism. I have also
shown that Spirit baptism is not a second work apart from the work of salvation, but is the very mechanism by which God saves, placing the believer into sinless, guiltless, righteous Christ
Himself. There is a work of the Spirit that is for the purpose of empowerment and growth, and this will be addressed immediately.
Spirit Filling in a Nutshell
In contrast to Spirit baptism, which places the believer into Christ and His body, Spirit filling has to do with empowerment and growth. Also in contrast to Spirit baptism, which is attained by the believer only once, Spirit filling is available to the believer throughout his walk. Some, if not all, believers are filled with the Spirit at the moment of their conversion, as was Paul (Acts 9:17). There may be an initial filling for all believers at the moment of salvation. The apostles were both baptized and filled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:2-5 and 2:4) - the apostles may have been indwelt by the Spirit prior to Pentecost (John 20:22), but not baptized, as Acts 1:5 was spoken prior to His ascension, and 5-9 shows that their baptism would occur at some point after His ascension. Also in contrast to Spirit baptism, the level of the believer's filling may increase or decrease repeatedly. It is for that reason that Scripture exhorts the believer to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), but never encourages him to be Spirit-baptized or baptized by the Holy Spirit because he already has been, and that fact never changes. This nutshell shall be opened up immediately and examined in detail.
One other ministry of the Spirit needs to be addressed, that of indwelling. Like Spirit baptism, indwelling is a ministry of the Spirit toward the believer at the moment of salvation (as are also regeneration, sealing and anointing).
Jesus told His disciples,
16. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,
that He may be with you forever; 17. that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with
you and will be in you.
The Spirit was with them, but not yet in them. According to John 7:38-39, the indwelling of the Spirit was to begin after the Son was glorified, that is, ascended into
38. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" 39. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
~ John 7:38-39 ~
The indwelling began at Pentecost, ten days after His ascension, and has been a ministry of the Spirit toward all
believers from that day.
The indwelling Spirit may be compared to the fountains of the great deep in the days of Noah which, when broken up by God, in combination with the floodgates of the sky, flooded the earth (Genesis 7:11); and the Spirit filled believer may be compared to the flooded earth. All believers have the fountains of the great deep within them and are urged to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) unto full flooding.
In preparation for answering that question, we'll make brief comments on the Hebrew and the Greek, look at all passages having to do with being filled by the Spirit, and then make some observations.
The Hebrew word used specifically in reference to Spirit-filling is מַלֵּא, ma-LAY, a verb. Strong renders it "to fill" or "to be full of." It appears in:
1. Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2. "See, I have called by name
Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3. "I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of
craftsmanship, 4. to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5. and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work
in all kinds of craftsmanship.
Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, "See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 31. "And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship . . . .
"Three different Greek words are used, and all translated by the English word 'to fill' or 'to be
filled.'"1 They appear in:
Luke 1:15: For he [John the Baptizer] will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.
Luke 1:41, in which Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit to pronounce a great blessing upon Mary.
Luke 1:67: And his [John's] father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit to prophesy of the ministry of Jesus, pronounce a blessing upon Him and worship God.
Luke 4:1: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for the purpose of overcoming Satan's temptations.
Acts 2:4: On the Day of Pentecost, 4. they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Acts 4:8: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly of Jesus and the culpability in Jesus' crucifixion of his listeners, who had recently arrested him and were now challenging him.
Acts 4:31: And when they [Peter and his companions] had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Acts 6:3: Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this
task [of fairly administering the daily serving of food].
Acts 6:5, in which Stephen, one of the seven men chosen in verse 3, is described as being full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 7:55: But being full of the Holy Spirit,
he [Stephen] gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the
right hand of God;
Acts 9:17: So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
22. The news about them reached the ears of the church at
Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24. for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers
were brought to the Lord. 25. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26. and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church
and taught considerable numbers. . . . 29. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren
living in Judea. 30. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
~ Acts 11:22-30 ~
Acts 13:9-11: 10. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him [Elymas], 10. and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud. . . . 11. you will be blind and not see the sun for a time."
Acts 13:52: And the disciples were continually filled
with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.
a. The most striking observation is that being filled with the Spirit is to be empowered, equipped and guided by God for service unto Him. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. It is the filling of the Spirit that equips us for the accomplishment of these good works.
Gleaning from the above, individuals are variously shown to have been equipped by the filling of the Spirit for wisdom, understanding, knowledge, boldness, and power - for the following tasks and privileges: artistry, craftsmanship, pronouncing blessings, prophesying, overcoming temptations, testifying and evangelizing in languages unknown to the speakers, testifying and evangelizing in the face of opposition, reporting on spiritual matters, administering practical matters, being entrusted with the delivery of contributions, seeing heavenly visions, encouraging the brethren, calling others into ministry, the working of miracles, being filled with joy, and worshiping God.
b. Not all believers are filled with the Spirit. This is seen in Ephesians 5:18, where Paul exhorted the Ephesians to
be filled with the Spirit, and also in Acts 6:3, where the brethren were exhorted to select seven men who were full of the Spirit.
c. Ephesians 5:18 makes it plain that God desires for all believers to be filled with the Spirit, and urges them to do so through Paul.
d. Being filled with the Spirit can be an abiding state for New Testament believers, as is seen in Acts 6:3 and 5, 11:24 and Ephesians 5:18.
e. Filling was a phenomenon that occurred under the Dispensation of the Law as well as under the Dispensation of Grace, which began at Pentecost. Bezalel, Elizabeth, Zacharias and John the Baptizer were filled under the Dispensation of the Law.
f. Nowhere were Israelites under the Law encouraged to be filled with the Spirit. God sovereignly chose and filled a small handful of them to be filled for special tasks.
g. Scripture emphasizes the sovereign filling of certain individuals for the carrying out of particular tasks or the meeting of certain challenges in both Testaments. In the Old Testament, Bezalel was filled with the Spirit and thereby equipped with artistic design and craftsmanship for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-5). In the New, Ryrie notes that the Greek phrase used in certain passages "highlights the event of being filled rather than the resultant state of fullness"2. These "event" passages and others that emphasize the filling of certain chosen individuals for special purposes show the following: John was filled to serve as a prophet and be the forerunner and identifier of Messiah (Luke 1:15-16); Elizabeth was filled to bless Mary (Luke 1:41); Zacharias, to prophesy of Jesus' ministry and bless God (Luke 1:67); the apostles, to preach to the multitude on the Day of Pentecost and be equipped for their foundational ministries (Acts 1:26; 2:4); Peter, to speak to the rulers, elders and scribes who challenged him (Acts 4:8); Peter and his companions, to speak God's Word boldly after having been beaten, threatened and warned to not do so (4:29-31); Paul, for his pioneering role as "apostle to the Gentiles" and providing much of the New Testament (Acts 9:17), and again in Acts 13:9, for his judgment of Elymas.
h. Some were filled for special tasks from the earliest possible moments. John the Baptizer was filled from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15-16); the apostles were filled on the Day Pentecost (Acts 1:26; 2:4); Paul was filled from the moment of his conversion (Acts 9:17).
i. Certain individuals are shown to have already been filled, and then filled again when faithfully meeting new challenges. Peter was filled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), again in his confrontation with the rulers, elders and scribes (Acts 4:8), and again after the prayer for boldness (Acts 4:31). Paul was filled at his conversion (Acts 9:17), again for his judgment of Elymas (Acts 13:9), and again after preaching faithfully in Antioch-Pisidia (13:52).
Summing Up Again
In consideration of the above, to be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit, that is, to be led and empowered by Him. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul exhorted, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. According to Dr. Enns, "The meaning of 'filled' (Gk. plerousthe) is 'control.'"3 Just as alcohol imbibed to the point of drunkenness controls a person, so does the Spirit when He is allowed to fill the believer. The passage implies that a believer may have the Spirit, thus enabling him to be empowered to a degree, yet not filled to his capacity. Paul urged the Ephesian believers to be filled to capacity with the Spirit.
In the broader context of Ephesians 5:18 (verses 15-33), being filled with the Spirit is associated with living carefully, wisely,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil (verse 16); being strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (verse 16); with understanding the Lord's
will; with speaking godly things and singing godly songs to one another and to the Lord; with thanksgiving to the Lord; with subjection to one another in the fear of the Lord; with wives being
subject to their husbands as unto the Lord; with husbands loving their wives as Messiah loved His body of believers; and with subjection of the body of believers to Messiah. Based on John
16:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 - 3:2, it may be reasoned that Spirit-filling maximizes the degree to which the Spirit teaches spiritual truth to a believer and enables him to apply it in life
situations. In Romans 15:13, it is associated with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound
in hope. In Philippians 2:1-4, it is the basis for spiritual fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Spirit transforms us into the Lord's image from glory to glory. Many of these points are made, implied or illustrated in other passages, as well, such as Acts 1:8, Romans
15:19, 2 Corinthians 3:2-6, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 1:11 and 3:3, Colossians 1:9 and I Thessalonians 1:5. Also in the context of the Ephesians passage, the believer who is not filled with
the Spirit is vulnerable to the opposite in every point, falling into the same libertine and destructive frame of mind as drunkenness. Some of Strong's and Thayer's definitions of the Greek word
for dissipation are: excess, riot, an abandoned, dissolute life, profligacy.
To be filled with the Spirit is to be sanctified unto progressive holiness of spirit and daily walk and unto personal growth in Him in every way; and to be equipped, guided and empowered for the Lord's service and honor.
Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he
filled* it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink (Matthew
27:48). As a sponge may be soaked and dripping with a liquid, so may the believer be filled with the
* πλήθω, pletho, one of the Greek words used in reference to Spirit-filling.
Inasmuch as filling is associated with power for service and spiritual growth, and that Paul urged the Ephesians, be filled with the Spirit (5:18), one must do as Paul urged in Romans 12:1-2:
1. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2. And do not be
conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and
Verse 1 speaks of the dedication of one's body for the Lord's service, and verse 2, the dedication of one's very spirit for the purpose of sanctification. It is a dedication of one's entire person, body and soul. If a believer so dedicates himself, he will be filled to capacity with the Spirit.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum illuminates the Greek:
Romans 12:1 encourages believers to present your bodies a living sacrifice as an act of an initial dedication. The word present is in the aorist tense, which emphasizes that there must be a one-time presentation of the body. Romans 12:2 teaches that a believer should then live a continuously separated life, allowing himself to be continuously transformed [Greek present tense], and not conformed to the world.4
Spirit filling does not make the believer an automaton in the Lord's service. Verse 2 makes it clear that he must continually exercise his will to live the life of service he dedicated himself to.
The same thought is found in Romans 6:12-13:
12. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13. and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
The ultimate example of the dedicated life is presented to us in 1 Peter 2:21-24:
21. For you have been called for this purpose, since Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22. WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23. and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24. and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
When a believer so dedicates himself to the Lord for service and sanctification, he becomes filled by the Spirit that he may live just that kind of life.
The question is, Which Person or Persons of the Triune God fills the believer with the Spirit?
The issue: The Greek phrase en pneumati, which is found in be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and other passages, is variously translated "in, with, by, or through the Spirit," depending on context and translation. Dr. Ryrie notes these other verses in which en pneumati appears:
Ephesians 2:22: in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit;
Ephesians 3:5: it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Ephesians 6:18: pray at all times in the Spirit;
Colossians 1:8: he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
He then asks, "Does it mean [filled] with the Spirit or by the Spirit?" and concludes, "The case can mean either or both." He then proceeds to answer our question: "The Spirit is the Agent who fills us with Himself."5
1. A Deeper Look at Ephesians 5:18
The literal meaning of be filled with the Spirit is "keep on being filled with the Spirit." The tense in the Greek "emphasizes continuous and repeated action."6 As we saw above concerning Romans 2, this means that the believer must continually and repeatedly exercise his will to do those things that the Lord requires of him both inwardly and outwardly. He must respond positively as the Lord shows him attitudes, viewpoints and activities he is to drop, new areas of sanctification he is walk in, and new ministerial challenges he is to meet. In so responding, his capacity for filling expands as new areas of his life open up for the Lord, and the Spirit fills Him afresh to the level of his increased capacity. Inversely, if a believer slacks in his dedication or otherwise gives in to sin, he will become less than full of the Spirit; but if he repents, fullness will be restored. If he becomes totally rebellious against the things of God, it is conceivable that he will completely lose his filling, though not his salvation or Spirit baptism. (See the author's study, Eternal Security). He will be like the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32: totally rebellious, but a son, nevertheless.
Scripture provides three terse exhortations, two negative and one positive, which, if followed, enable the believer to continually be filled with the
a. The Two Negative Exhortations
1) Ephesians 4:30: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This is not to be taken figuratively. The Spirit is a Person, and can literally be grieved. The Ephesians 4 context makes it clear that grieving the Spirit is caused by sinning. Some of the specific sins mentioned are lying, anger, stealing, sloth, speaking unwholesome words. If one is to retain his filling, he must not sin.
2) 1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not quench the Spirit. Quenching the Spirit is a specific kind of sin; and inasmuch as it is a sin, quenching the Spirit also grieves Him.
"Quench" is used of quenching a fire in Matthew 12:20, Ephesians 6:16 and Hebrews 11:34; and inasmuch as fire is a symbol of the Spirit (Exodus 3:2 and 13:21, Matthew 3:11, Acts 2:3), and 1 Thessalonians 5:20 exhorts, do not despise prophetic utterances, one may conclude that quenching the Spirit refers to the stifling or suppression of one's own spiritual gift or the gifts of others. If one is to be filled with the Spirit, he must not stifle or suppress his own spiritual gift or the gifts of others: he must not quench the Spirit.
The exhortation to not quench the spirit is addressed to all of the members of the church at Thessalonica (1:1-2), and is in the plural. All the members of the congregation were to be careful to heed the exhortation when they gathered together for worship. In application, pastors, the entire eldership, and other spiritual leaders must be especially careful here: They can either stifle the spiritual flames in their congregations, evangelistic teams or other ministry groups, or fan them.
b. The One Positive Exhortation
Galatians 5:16: Walk in the Spirit (pneuma), and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The majority of translators and commentators hold that pneuma refers to the Holy Spirit; a minority, the saved human spirit. The exhortation, though, militates toward walking in the Holy Spirit, for walking in the Holy Spirit cannot mean anything other than a holy walk, but walking in the human spirit apart from the Holy Spirit cannot mean anything other than spiritual disaster.
If one walks in the Spirit, he will neither quench nor grieve Him. To walk in the Spirit is to avoid all that Scripture exhorts us to avoid and to embrace all that it exhorts us to embrace. Chafer points out, "Walking in the Spirit is a command in the present tense, that is, a Christian should keep on walking by the Spirit."7 It follows plainly that if one keeps on walking in the Spirit he will keep on being filled.
Being Spirit-filled is not the same as being spiritually mature. A newborn baby may be perfectly healthy, yet physically immature. Proper nutrition and exercise over a period of years will bring him into physical maturity. Similarly, a brand new believer might be Spirit-filled, but he is certainly not spiritually mature no matter how refined his personality or accomplished he may be in other areas of life. He needs to feed on the Word of God (1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 10:3, Hebrews 5:14), apply his Bible knowledge to his daily walk (Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12), and be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18) in order to mature.
One who is Spirit-filled is not necessarily spiritually mature; but being Spirit-filled hastens spiritual growth unto maturity.
One of the words translated miracles is dunamis, which Strong renders as "force; specifically miraculous power." Special power is released by God for the working of a miracle.
Some in Scripture who were filled with the Spirit performed miracles of healing and judgment; yet, it does not follow that if one is Spirit-filled he will necessarily be called of God to perform a miracle. The effecting of healings and miracles are spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12): The Spirit distributes them sovereignly as He chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11), and He distributes them at the moment of one's salvation irregardless of how mature or Spirit-filled the believer may turn out to be (Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11, 1 Peter 4:10). Therefore, no dedicated, mature, Spirit-filled believer need fret if he is not used to perform a miracle.
In Charismatic congregations, members are urged to decisively dedicate themselves to the Lord's service and be empowered for that service through baptism by the Holy Spirit; and those who so dedicate themselves are so empowered. However, what really happens is that they are filled with the Spirit, not baptized by Him.
This writer knows two men who, by their testimony, lived rather lifeless Christian lives for more than twenty years and then received this filling thinking that they were being baptized by the Spirit, and their lives were permanently set on fire for the Lord. One became the pastor of a rather dead Episcopal church and brought it to life. Another led hundreds, perhaps thousands, to the Lord, including this writer, and has discipled many of them into lives of zealous, dedicated service.
Sad to say, due to the confounding of the two ministries of the Spirit combined with misunderstandings of certain Bible situations involving Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues, these fillings in Charismatic settings are necessarily accompanied by erroneous teaching and unbiblical practice. In addition, the emphasis is often more on power and spectacle than on service to the Lord that the power enables, more on bedazzlement than worship: Now Herod was very glad when he saw Yeshua; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by Him (Luke 23:8). Healings and miracles, yes, as the Lord wills; but with proper emphases, proportion and focus.
So what's a little error if it causes people to be set on fire for the Lord? Truth mixed with error is like a mirror smeared with
mud - and error muddies the mirror through which we already see the Lord dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). It also corrupts the image of Jesus we present to each other and to the world. Furthermore,
error begets error begets error ad infinitum, and aberrations in doctrine and practice are thus progressively compounded.
On the opposite extreme are congregations who do not teach on the need for dedication nor urge their members to be filled with the Spirit, and their pews are filled with relatively lifeless believers. Indeed, it is often difficult to tell who is saved among them!
There is a healthy, middle ground - the biblical ground - that many congregations have struck. They teach on the need for dedicated lives and challenge their members to decisively dedicate themselves to the Lord for sanctification and service, and thereby be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). That is the healthy middle ground - doctrinally. However, on the practical side, all too many of these congregations do not take the works of power seriously enough, but toy with them. For example, they might pray for healings because it is part of the program, but in unbelief and without fervency (James 5:16: The fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful in its working), and see no results. Healthy doctrinal ground must be accompanied by healthy biblical practice: They must pray aggressively and full of faith - yes, even outside the protective walls of their sanctuaries as Peter and John prayed for the man at the Gate Beautiful (Acts 3:1-8), and they may see similar results.
Therefore, let congregational leaders exhort their flocks to live dedicated lives, be filled with the Spirit, and follow up with healthy, Spirit-filled, faith-filled practice. And to whom it may concern, Be filled with the Spirit. No need to wait until you are in your congregation. Dedicate yourself now - and follow up with action!
* If you were blessed by this study, please consider linking to it. Thank you. *
Footnotes and Recommended Reading
1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 066: The Ministries of the Holy Spirit, pdf, (ariel.org: Ariel Ministries Digital Press, 1985, 2005), 31-32.
2. Charles Ryrie, Dr., Basic Theology, (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991), 376.
3. Paul P. Enns, Dr., The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 278.
4. Fruchtenbaum, op. cit., 33.
5. Ryrie, op. cit., 377.
6. Fruchtenbaum, op. cit.
7. Louis Sperry Chafer, Dr., Major Bible Themes, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1926), 121.