God does not want us to live the Christian life in our own strength. Ephesians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Do not be drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit.” Four essential truths come from this little verse in God’s Word:
1. The filling is commanded. God does not give suggestions like, “Hey, if you get some time, you might want to consider being filled with the Spirit.” It’s a command—“be filled”—and because God commands it, it is possible. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to be indwelt or baptized or sealed with the Spirit because those things happen to us at conversion, but we are commanded to “be filled.”
2. The filling is passive. Remember your English grammar class? We do not perform the filling. We are the object that is being acted upon. God is the implied source of the filling. He does the filling when we ask Him. We cannot do it for ourselves.
3. The filling is for everyone. You can’t see this in the English text, but in Greek the command is plural: “All of you be filled with the Spirit.” This filling is for every believer. This is not for the spiritually elite, or for certain people who have had certain experiences. This is for all of God’s children—it’s for you.
4. The filling is not permanent. The Greek here is continuous, “Keep on being filled.” We are to be filled continuously, day by day, over and over again. Never in the New Testament do you see a believer baptized by the Holy Spirit more than once. However, you do see multiple fillings. Peter was filled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and then he was filled again when defending himself before the Jewish leaders (Acts 4:8). Paul was filled at his conversion (Acts 9:17), but then he was filled again when preaching on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:9). There’s one baptism at conversion but many fillings.
So, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? A good many years ago, I was playing softball with our church team. On that particular occasion I played second base. One of the opposing players hit a hard grounder in my direction and I bent down to field the ball. For whatever reason, that ball took a bad hop and fired up over my extended glove and struck me in the groin. Talk about pain! I fell on the ground. I was filled with pain.
I also know what it means to be filled with joy. The day I married Lucy, I remember seeing my beautiful bride coming up the aisle to meet me. It maxed my joy meter—or so I thought until our kids were born. I missed the birth of our oldest son because I was on board a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea. Though our youngest son is forty two years old, I can still remember the moment he came into the world, and I held him the first time. If you have ever experienced that, you know what it means to be filled with joy.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is very similar to being filled with pain or joy. It means to be overcome by a power greater than yourself—to be controlled by it. That’s probably why the most common biblical illustration for the filling of the Holy Spirit is drunkenness (compare Luke 1:15 and Acts 2:4, 13-18).
When people get drunk, they don’t act like themselves anymore. They say things that amuse or amaze or anger others because they have no control over their tongues. If the police pull them over and tell them to walk a yellow line, they can’t do it because they have no control of their bodies. Ask them a simple question, and you will not get a clear answer because they have no control over their minds. Drunk people can also lose control of their emotions. They can become fearful and paranoid and angry and silly.
We should not be controlled by wine because it can be excessive. Instead, we should be controlled by the Spirit, because you can’t get enough of that; you can’t be too filled with the Spirit. We must yield control of our lives to the Holy Spirit in the way that a drunkard yields control of his life to alcohol.
This is where true life is: allowing the Spirit to control our every thought, action, and attitude. May you experience this “filling” of the Spirit even today as you live your life for Christ.
—- Pastor Steve