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What Is the Filling of the Spirit?

What is the filling of the Spirit? This article attempts to concisely answer to this question from the NT as it describes those who were full of or filled with the Spirit.

Luke and Acts describe many who were filled with the Spirit for the purpose of speaking the Word of God. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit even from his mother’s womb for his prophetic ministry (Luke 1:15; cf. 1:16–17). Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit to bless Mary as the mother of her Lord (Luke 1:41; cf. 1:42–45). Zechariah was filled with the Spirit to prophesy about his son John (Luke 1:67; cf. 1:68–79). Peter was filled with the Spirit to boldly defend the gospel (Acts 4:8; cf. 4:13). Paul was filled with the Spirit to proclaim the gospel just days after his conversion (Acts 9:17; cf. 9:20–21).

Being filled with the Spirit to speak the word of God could apply to multiple people at once. The believers at Pentecost were filled with the Spirit to speak of the mighty works of God in recognizable languages other than their own (Acts 2:4; cf. 2:5–11). Believers were filled with the Spirit to speak God’s Word with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Being filled with the Spirit could also involve the Spirit’s power for miracles. Paul was filled with the Spirit and smote the magician Elymas with blindness (Acts 13:9; cf. 13:11).

Sometimes being full of the Spirit involved both proclamation and miracles. Jesus was full of the Spirit and thus went about teaching and doing miracles (Luke 4:1; cf. 4:14–15, 18–19, 36). Stephen was full of grace, power, and wisdom to do miracles and powerfully defend the gospel by the Spirit (Acts 6:8, 10). He was again full of the Spirit to see Jesus in heaven and said as much just before being martyred (Acts 7:55).

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Being full of the Spirit could involve one’s godly character as well. Being full of the Spirit went along with having faith, a good reputation, and wisdom necessary for ministry as deacons (Acts 6:3, 5). Barnabas was full of the Spirit and faith and thus a good man who exhorted believers to remain faithful to the Lord (Acts 11:23–24). Though persecuted, Paul and Barnabas were filled with joy and the Spirit (Acts 13:52). In his own writings, Paul speaks of being filled with the Spirit only once, commands believers to be so, and does so in a context that indicates the command means to walk carefully as Christians, especially as one relates to other Christians (Eph 5:18; cf. 5:15–21).

While Luke describes prophetic and miraculous phenomena that took place by being full of or filled with the Spirit (phenomena that I as a cessationist believe are no longer available today), he also speaks of being filled with the Spirit for the purpose of godly living. Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit, and living godly lives shows that we are obeying the command to be filled with the Spirit today.

David Huffstutler

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.

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