The Spirit-filled life is commanded by God. The apostle Paul wrote, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit: (Eph. 5:18). It is clear that Christians are expected to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is not optional; it is obligatory.
We are never commanded to be indwell, sealed, or baptized with the Holy Spirit. Every saved person is indwelt (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), sealed (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30), and baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). These experiences need not be sought by any child of God. Hearing and believing God’s Word and receiving Jesus Christ are all that one needs in order to be indwelt, sealed and baptized with the Spirit. These ministries of the Spirit are linked with our position in Christ. That is what God did for us the moment we believed.
But we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. The verb ‘be filled’ in the original text of Ephesians 5:18 is in the present tense, meaning continuous action. It can be translated ‘keep being filled’. Christians are exhorted to have the fullness of the Spirit, to pursue it at all times.
In the early days of the church, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Later those same Christians experienced another filling (Acts 4:31). Paul was filled with the Spirit shortly after his conversion (Acts 9:17); years later he was filled with the Spirit again (Acts 13:9). Here we learn that the filling of the Spirit is a repeated experience. This was never the case with the Spirit’s ministries of indwelling, sealing, or baptism, for these occur once only in every believer, never needing to be repeated. It is a sad reflection on the spiritual state of many Christians that they are regenerated, indwelt, sealed, and baptized, but not filled with the Holy Spirit.
What is meant by being “filled with the Spirit”? The clue to the correct understanding of being filled with the spirit is in the text where the command is given – “And be not drink with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”. There is both contrast and comparison between drunkenness and being filled with the Spirit. The analogy appears not less than three times in the New Testament (Luke 1:15; Acts 2:4,13; Eph. 5:18).
The comparison between drunkenness and being filled with the Spirit is in the matter of control. A drunken person is under the control of alcohol will think, speak, and act in ways not natural when sober. A Christian who is filled with the Spirit will think, speak, and act in ways not natural when he or she is controlled by the flesh. Thus a Spirit-filled life is simply a Spirit-controlled life. Our English word filled is the translation of several different words in the original text. However, the idea of being controlled seems to dominate.
When our Lord performed His miracle of healing the man with palsy, we read, “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today” (Lk. 5:26). The sight of paralytics was a common one, but what was uncommon was the instantaneous cure of a paralytic. At the sight of the miracle they were controlled by fear.
What must we do to let the Holy Spirit keep filling us? Below is an excerpt from RBC Ministries on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Be Christ-centred. Jesus Christ must be the focal point of our thoughts and aspirations. In all we do, we must be conscious of following His example and doing His will. When we are Christ-centred, we are pleasing the Holy Spirit because that’s what He wants us to do. In fact, Jesus said, “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you”(John 16:14). The Holy Spirit derives great pleasure from seeing us cooperate with Him in glorifying Christ. He keeps Himself out of the limelight so that Christ may be honoured. He views us as partners with Him in glorifying Christ.
Be in the Word. The Christian who wants to be Spirit-filled should be spending time in God’s Word. His mind must be filled with its truths that Bible passages automatically come to mind when he encounters the situations of life. The importance of the Bible in the Spirit-filled life was demonstrated by the Lord Jesus in His encounter with Satan at the beginning of His ministry. Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when He entered into the wilderness for testing (Luke 4:1-2). In response to each of Satan’s temptations, our Lord answered by quoting the Scriptures. If you want to be a Spirit-filled Christian, you must give the Bible ample room in your life by reading it, studying it and reflecting on it. The Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself.
Be submissive. A person who keeps letting the Holy Spirit fill him will consciously, continuously, and voluntarily place himself under God’s influence or control. No, he doesn’t lose self-control. In fact, he exercises far more self-control than a person who does not possess the Holy Spirit. When a Christian submits to God, he is freed from slavery to the sinful habits and drives that once controlled him. The Holy Spirit can keep filling you when you place yourself under the authority of the Bible, when you humbly confess your sins, and when you submit to others as an expression of your love for God.
Be confident. When you have centred your life on Jesus, when you are in the Word and it is in you, and when you have submitted to the Spirit’s leading, you can know that you have done your part. After doing that, you can be absolutely sure that God has done His part. He has responded to you by filling you with His Spirit. This confidence will help you live day-by-day in the assurance that you are Spirit-filled. It also produces spiritual victory over temptation and sin.