Being filled with the Spirit is not the same as being baptized in the Spirit as we see in Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” There are a few observations we can make from this verse that will also unpack it’s meaning.
- To “be filled” is an act of obedience. The imperative is clear “be filled.”
- There are times Christians are not “filled.” If Paul has to command Christians to be “filled”, than the implication is we can disobey it and not be “filled.”
- Being “filled” is about moral restraint. The contrast of “do not get drunk with wine” suggests the alternative to being “filled” it being out of control and beside yourself. The Christian is to live an orderly, in control of his faculties, governed by the Spirit life. He is to be “filled.”
- To “be filled” is an on-going command for our entire Christian life. The word is in the present tense, which suggests an ongoing action.
So you can see this is not the same as Spirit baptism or indwelling. Those things happen at conversion and do not cease and are out of our control. To “be filled” is something that needs to be repeated and something we manage.
Let me give you a definition of what it means to “be filled.” It is “the unhindered control of the Spirit in the life of the believer.” Being “filled” is being under the influence of the Spirit and not anything or anyone else. else.
We can appreciate this explanation from Chuck Swindoll in Flying Closer to the Flame: “We can indeed agree than in both drunkenness and the fullness of the Spirit two strong influences are at work within us, alcohol in the bloodstream and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. But, whereas excessive alcohol leads to unrestrained and irrational licence, transforming the drunkard into an animal, the fullness of the Spirit leads to restrained and rational moral behavior, transforming the Christian into the image of Christ. Thus, the results of being under the influence of spirits on one hand and of the Holy Spirit of God on the other are totally and utterly different. One makes us like beasts, the other like Christ.” (Flying Closer to the Flame, pgs. 79-80)
For the Christian, one’s filling should be normal and continuous. Read through Acts 6-13 and note the evidences and citations of Christians being full of the Holy Spirit.
Now, you ask, “How do I know if I am filled or how can I fill myself up?” It’s a great question and Paul answers it in the context. Ephesians 5:19-6:9 gives us a working application of what a filled Christian does, thinks and says.
“19 Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (With filling, there is the desire to make music, sing together, celebrate the Lord, etc.) 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (With filling, there is an eagerness of gratitude.) 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (With filling, there is a quickness to humbly serve others.)
“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (With filling for wives, there is a compulsion to submit and honor their husbands.) 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
“25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (With filling for husbands, there is an enabling for husbands to sacrificially love their wives just like Jesus did all of us.) 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. (With filling for husbands, there is a persuasion to give of oneself for the betterment of your wife.) He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:19-33).
And there’s more in the next chapter.
“1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ (With filling, there is a commitment to obey and honor one’s parents.) 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (With filling, there is a pledge to raise children in a graceful way.)
“5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (With filling, there is an initiated desire to work hard, serve faithfully, etc.) 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (With filling, there is an eagerness to be fair to those who work for you.)
The evidence of one’s filling is not miraculous and abnormal as some teach; it is more obvious, normal and objective than that. It is morally provable. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:20-23) are other examples of what a Spirit-filled Christian looks like: loving, joyful, peaceful, long-suffering, gentle, good, faithful, meek, and self-controlled.
The key to growing in holiness is our union with Christ.
We cannot change without Him. The Gospel saves us away from the enslavement and empowerment of sin (Romans 6:2). We clearly will continue to sin (Romans 3:23), but sin is no longer our master (Romans 6:6) when we are in Christ. Our old self has died to that former life.
These truths are critical for our consideration, as it relates to putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Our pursuit of Christlikeness began when Jesus removed the power of sin over our lives.
We cannot do any of this without Him.
As we are in Christ, God can use His Word to affect our change (II Timothy 3:16-17) for the Bible is the only book that can change our nature.
As we are in Christ, God can use prayer to affect our change (Psalm 119), for prayer invites us to commune with an Omnipotent God.
As we are in Christ, God can use trials to affect our change (James 1:2-4), for trials unveil the posture of our heart and refines our character.
As we are in Christ, God can use the rebuke from others to affect our change (Galatians 6:1-2), for rebuke brings out of the darkness that which was hidden.
In short, being in Christ is the key (doctrinally) to us being able to change. This is just one of many reasons we ought to, as Jerry Bridges writes, preach the Gospel to ourselves.
While we may have “come along way” in the fight against discrimination and/or racism in our country, we still have much work to do. Unfortunately, as long as we live in this broken world, there will be the sin of racism.
There will be families that divide over a racially mixed marriage. There will be some employers that won’t hire a racial minority. There will be churches that show preference to people of the same majority skin tone.
Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25).
Satan loves racism, and he wants noting more than to see Christians indulging in it every chance they get.
What can we do about it? Consider the church in Corinth. They were a divided church. They were not on the same page with doctrine and practice, and this became the 1st issue Paul addressed. He gave them a paradigm for how to build unity within the church, and these principles can be universally applied to the sin of racism.
How can you the temptation for racism in your own heart?
First, don’t fight over non-essentials (I Corinthians 1:10). We are going to have differences in opinion and differences in interpretation of Scripture, but one thing we cannot afford to debate or disagree on is the Gospel. We must agree on the essentials. The Gospel is not to be a smorgasbord of doctrine where we pick and choose what to believe or reject. It is a collection of essential truths that cannot and should be divided over. And the Gospel is the power that removes the dividing wall of hostility between us (Ephesians 2:14).
Second, don’t give your loyalty to men (I Corinthians 1:11-12). In the Corinthians case, there were 4 divisions of loyalty: the Paul crowd, the Apollos crowd, the Peter crowd, and the Jesus crowd. And when you have people those kinds of loyalties are not where they should be, you have a divided church. Today, we might have a MacArthur crowd, a Chandler crowd, a Dates crowd, and a Mohler crowd. Being loyal to me is giving man the glory that God deserves and it will divide the church and can promote the sin of racism – especially if we only listen to preachers who share our skin color.
Third, de-value the Gospel (I Corinthians 1:13-17). The Gospel is the antidote to racism. We have racism, because we have rebellion against God. Racism doesn’t exist because of social prejudice; it exists because of sinful hearts. And the only prescription for a sinful, rebellious heart is the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 2:11-14).
Unity is possible. Will take work and maturity. But unity is worth it. If we Christians are divided because of the color of our skin, we will fall; if united, we will represent Christ to the world and win people into His kingdom.
“All three work in perfect unity to rescue the same undeserving sinners. Within the Trinity, there is one saving purpose, one saving plan, and one saving enterprise. Those whom the Father chooses are precisely those whom the Son redeems and those whom the Spirit regenerates. The persons of the Godhead act as one Savior. The Trinity is not fractured in its saving activity. It is not divided in its direction and intent, as if each person of the Godhead seeks to save a different group of sinners. Instead, each member of the Trinity purposes and irresistibly proceeds to save one and the same people—God’s chosen people.”
“The Leading Cause of Death” by Gene Veith (Cranach). The numbers are trending in the right direction, but we are still 42 million short of where we need to be.
“On Preaching the Supper and the Unity of the Church” (9Marks podcast). Some needed corrections regarding the recent comments of Francis Chan on the Lord’s Supper and preaching.
“Reflections on the Life and Death of Our Newborn Granddaughter” by Paul Tautges (Counseling One Another). You might have some tissues nearby when reading this article of how this godly Grandpa process a newborn’s death.
“A Response to Wayne Grudem’s Paper on a Third Reason for Divorce” by Greg Gifford (Biblical Counseling Coalition). Bad exegesis; acceptable conclusion – that is a summary of Grudem’s recent reversal.
“Seven Ways to Sabotage Your Prayer Life” by Greg Morse (Desiring God). Sin, ignoring God’s Word, pride, doubt, unfaithfulness, not learning your wife, and flippancy.
“Two Reasons White Supremacy Is Evil” by Jesse Johnson (The Cripplegate). White supremacy and unity are diametrically opposed to one another.