Across the wide spectrum of Christian belief the phrase “filled with the Spirit” is interpreted differently by different groups. In Paul’s writings on spiritual gifts he says “we know in part” and “we see only a reflection.” In the same chapter however his primary directive is that love should guide all our relationships in the body of Christ.
by Russell Young
There is a common understanding that the believer needs to keep being filled with the Spirit. That is, that he is much like a container from which the Spirit can be consumed and which, consequently, needs to be replenished. This concept is error! The filling of the Spirit needs to be considered in another light.
The Spirit is a person. He provides the enlightenment, leading, and power for victory over the devil, the flesh, and the world. He does not come to a person in fragments or pieces, but in full. Peter wrote, “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV) If he has given us everything we need, we need nothing more. This understanding is contrary to the understanding that the believer needs more and must seek more.
To be filled with the Spirit means to be emptied of all else—to be emptied of self and the interests of the natural spirit.
When the “body of death” (Rom 7:24), or that causes death, has been crucified or put to death, it has no more interest in sinful practices—it is dead. Consequently, the natural spirit holds no power; only the Holy Spirit remains. “Put to death, therefore, whatever remains of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5 NIV) When the natural spirit and its interest have been defeated, the believer has become filled with the Holy Spirit. To accomplish this filling, the believer needs to constantly put to death his or her earthly interests and the demands of the flesh. This is a matter of the will
Believers should not require any more of the Spirit. In fact, they cannot get any more of the Spirit. They need to appropriate what they have been given. Certainly, it is possible for God to affect those around us, and indeed, the circumstances of our lives to accomplish his purposes (Rom 8:28), but more of the Spirit is not required. It is not without reason that Christ told the believer to carry his cross so that he might crucify himself as his own interests and natural spirit start to emerge once again. The believer’s prayer should not be to seek more of the Spirit but to seek less of self, and even death to self. (Rom 8:13; Mt 16:25) They already possess the completeness of the Spirit and need no more.
The believer’s old self was pledged to have been crucified with Christ when he or she was baptized so that the body that causes sin should be done away with, that they should no longer be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died has been freed from temptation to sin and from its practice.
When Paul told the Ephesians “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph 5:18 NIV) he was admonishing them to be consumed with the Spirit, to will the Spirit’s sovereign right to their lives, and to put to death their natural interests and any inclination to consume too much wine.
Paul taught that the Spirit was poured out generously on us. (Titus 3:5─6) It is a human tendency to cast responsibility on another. The thinking that I just need more of the Spirit so that I can do all of the wonderful things that God would have me do is an attempt to excuse ourselves of our own failings and to demand more of God. To ask God for more of his Spirit in times of “praise” is a hollow effort to glorify ourselves by implying that we are waiting for his grace and his power so that we might serve him. Again, we already have all that is needed to live the life that is expected of us, but that life can only happen as death to ungodly interests is realized and interest is taken in agenda.
Either the heart of God is sought or the natural life; it cannot be both. Each person needs to determine their own level of commitment and to accept the consequences that accompany our decisions. The believer is to work out his own salvation with fear (terror) and trembling. (Philippians 2: 12) A self-righteous demand for more of the Spirit is a confession of our own defeat unless it is accompanied by an honest petition seeking death to self and victory over the flesh.
Check out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514 $17.99 US
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