What Does It Mean to Be “Filled With the Spirit”?

H. B. Charles, Jr.
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Are you filled with the Spirit? Ask any random Christian this question, and there is no telling what kind of answer you will get. The answer may be full of assurance or the response may range anywhere from ignorance to fear, speculation, fanaticism, or indifference.

The filling of the Spirit is one of the most controversial, divisive, and misunderstood ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers. Why is there so much confusion about Spirit-infilling? The problem is twofold. It is the double cause of confusion in any matter of Christian thinking or living: no teaching and wrong teaching. In this chapter, however, I do not want to argue doctrinal theories about being filled with the Spirit. I want to make the point that you must be filled with the Spirit to offer true worship.

“If you are in Christ, you do not need the Holy Spirit to fall on you. He lives within you!”

Before we go any further, let me clarify a common misconception. Spirit-infilling is not about getting more of the Spirit. When Christ saves you, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart immediately, completely, and permanently. Paul wrote, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9b).

If you are in Christ, you do not need the Holy Spirit to fall on you. He lives within you! Yet there is a difference between Spirit-indwelling and Spirit-infilling. Imagine buying a brand-new car with all the bells and whistles, but you have to push it around in neutral because you cannot figure out how to start the vehicle. This is how many Christians live, worship, and minister—in their own wisdom, energy, and resources. You will not get far like that. The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills. It does not have to be that way. You can live in the power of what A. Louis Patterson called “the indwelling presence of the Life-Giver King.” But you must be filled with the Spirit.

Many New Testament passages mention being filled with the Spirit. Only one passage explains it. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

The verse begins with a prohibition against drunkenness. Literally, Paul says, “Stop getting drunk with wine.” This command means what it says. Christians should not get drunk. Drunkenness contradicts our Christian walk, work, and witness. How does one avoid, resist, or overcome such debauchery?

Be filled with the Spirit.
Stay filled with the Spirit.
Keep being filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit is not some spiritual intoxication.

Sure, a drunk person is under the influence. And so is a Spirit-filled Christian. But the two realities are antithetical (Acts 2:14– 15). An intoxicated person loses control of himself. But the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). Let me say it another way. Alcohol is a depressant; Spirit-infilling is a stimulant. Being filled with the Spirit enables you to live obediently, worship sincerely, and serve faithfully.

For Further Reading:

On Worship

by H. B. Charles, Jr.

What does it mean to worship—especially in spirit and truth? Christians hear the word “worship” a lot. From singing hymns and...

book cover for On Worship