In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.“
This is a profound passage that raises a massively important question: What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
I can think of few more important questions. After all, if we are filled with the Spirit it means that God himself, the Holy Spirit, dwells in us.
Ponder that reality with me for just a moment. God. Dwelling. In. Us.
It’s absolutely mind-boggling. The almighty God, the King of Kings, the One who holds the universe in his hand, dwelling within us.
But what exactly does this mean? How are we to understand this command to be filled with the Spirit?
Let’s look a little more at what scripture has to say.
Be Filled With The Spirit: A Present Reality
There are some Christians who teach that being filled with the Spirit is a second experience that happens after you’re born again. In other words, you’re born again but you don’t have the power of Holy Spirit.
In their opinion, being filled with the Spirit is something that happens after you’re born again.
And while I certainly respect those who believe this way, I also believe that they are incorrect in their interpretation.
Scripture never speaks of two types of Christians – those who have been filled with the Spirit and those who haven’t. Scripture doesn’t have a caste system, with those who have been filled with the Spirit at the top and those who haven’t at the bottom.
Rather, Scripture says that all who have believed in Christ have been filled with the Spirit.
This why Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that we all are temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit dwelled in the temple in the Old Testament, so the Holy Spirit now fills us, making us temples to the living God. Paul doesn’t make any distinctions when he speaks about being a temple of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are temples.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Did you catch that? It says that all who were baptized into the body of Christ were made to drink of one Spirit. When someone believes in Christ, they are joined to his body and are filled with the Spirit.
This isn’t a second experience that happens after you’re born again. Being filled with the Spirit happens the moment you truly believe in Christ for salvation.
This reality should deeply encourage us. If you are a believer in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you in all his fullness. You don’t need to seek out some sort of mystical experience to have the Holy Spirit. Rather, God lavishly pours out his Spirit to all who call on his name.
Right now, the Holy Spirit is giving you the power to overcome sin. The Holy Spirit is working in you to help you fight against sinful desires and temptations.
As it says in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Right now, the Holy Spirit is interceding for you, asking the Father to give you all that you need to follow hard after him.
As Paul says in Romans 8:27, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Isn’t this good news? Aren’t you glad that you are filled with the Spirit? Aren’t you grateful that, despite all your sins and weaknesses, the Holy Spirit dwells in you?
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you are filled with the Spirit, and that should give you great joy.
Be Filled With The Spirit: An Ongoing Need
What’s interesting as you read through the Bible is that it talks about being filled with the Spirit in both the past and present tense.
We were filled with the Spirit when we placed our trust in Christ.
But we also must continually be filled with the Spirit. Again, to quote Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
This command is in the present tense. In other words, even though we’ve already been filled with the Spirit, there is a sense in which me must also be continually refilled with the Spirit.
Now, to be clear, I don’t mean that somehow the Holy Spirit “empties” out of us. It’s not like the Spirit leaves us or deserts us. We’re not like leaky buckets that the Holy Spirit slowly drains out of. No, we’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit.
But there’s also a very real sense in which we need to be constantly experiencing renewal in the Holy Spirit.
We get a sense of this in Acts 4:31. The disciples had already been filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And yet it says that the disciples were once again filled with the Holy Spirit:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem helpfully says this:
…it is appropriate to understand filling with the Holy Spirit not as a one-time event but as en event that can occur over and over again in a Christian’s life. It may involve a momentary empowering for a specific ministry…but it also may refer to a long-term characteristic of a person’s life.
This is really important for us to get. It has massive implications for our lives.
It is the Holy Spirit who…
- Empowers us to be holy
- Enables us to fight sin
- Convicts us of sin and righteousness
- Strengthens us for the work of ministry
- Gives us spiritual gifts to use in his service
Put simply, we desperately need the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are going to live in a manner that pleases God, we need to be regularly filled with the Holy Spirit.
Are you starting to get the picture?
Even though we’ve been filled with the Spirit, we need to regularly and consistently be refreshed, renewed, and refilled with the Holy Spirit. If this doesn’t happen, we won’t be able to follow God effectively.
Asking For The Holy Spirit
All of this raises a hugely important question: how do we be filled with the Spirit on a regular basis?
Fortunately, it’s not particularly complicated.
If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you simply need to ask your good Father.
In Luke 11:13, Jesus put it this way: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
This is such good news. We don’t have to twist God’s arm in order to get him to fill us with the Spirit. We don’t need to perform any rituals or do any good works. We simply need to ask God to give us the Holy Spirit.
Because our Father is infinitely good and generous, he loves to give the Holy Spirit to his children. He loves to fill and refill those who ask him for the Spirit.
Do you want more of the Holy Spirit in your life? Don’t overthink it. Simply say, “Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit today. Please give me all that I need to live a life that is pleasing and honoring to you.”
God delights to answer that prayer. If you ask him, he will fill you.