As I read the Scriptures, so much of the Christian life comes down to one thing – following the Spirit. I believe it is a biblical imperative to be filled with the Spirit, powerless living being neither attractive, productive or pleasing to God. Jesus said it was for our good that He was going away so that He could send the Spirit. If we fail to receive and be empowered by the Spirit, I fear that we dishonor Jesus’ words and grieve the Spirit Himself. The following article is my attempt at processing the various means by which God fills us with His Holy Spirit. It is my prayer that this post will assist you in understanding the need and means by which we receive this precious Person into our lives.
Acts 2:33b says “[Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and poured out what you now see and hear.”
The first and primary way that one is filled with the Spirit is to receive it from the Father. Ultimately, it is God’s Sovereign choice wether or not to pour out the Spirit. That said, we must remember that God eagerly gives us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him (Luke 11:13). In truth, the Father’s willingness to give us the Spirit is the primary method by which one is filled with the Spirit. Every other instance listed below falls under the umbrella of God’s willingness.
The second method of filling that we should address is Jesus “pouring out” the Spirit upon His followers. The Scriptures are replete with this image. John the Baptizer says “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” Mark 1:8. The verse above from Acts states that Jesus poured out the Spirit and John 15:26 says that Jesus will send the Spirit to us from the Father. Here we see the mutual submission of the Godhead to one another.
We would be remiss if we did not consider the person of the Spirit in this process. The Spirit is given and sent, but Holy Spirit is also a person, with likes and dislikes and a will of His own. There are at least 20 instances in the Bible where “the Spirit of the LORD” comes upon someone. We can infer that the Spirit was sent by the Father for this purpose, but it is just as correct to think that the Holy Spirit, in Sovereign choice, came upon His servants of His own will and volition to fulfill a specific purpose.
The fourth method of filling I see in the Scriptures is through baptism. At Pentecost, when the multitudes are ready to respond, Peter instructs them to “repent and be baptized…and you will receive the Holy Spirit,” Acts 2:38. It is certainly the Biblical expectation of the New Testament that water baptism and Holy Spirit (or Power) baptism would happen at the same time. We know from Acts 19:1-7 that it is possible to be baptized for repentance and not receive the Spirit and power, but that was viewed as an abnormality to be quickly remedied rather than the norm.
In Acts 8, Philip the Evangelist is ministering in Samaria. A large number of people come to believe, but they did not receive the Spirit like the believers in Jerusalem. In an attempt to troubleshoot (notice that it is the expectation of Philip that when someone comes to faith they will experience the baptism of the Spirit and the activation of the gifts), Philip calls in the Apostles Peter and John. The Apostles prayed and placed their hands upon the believers and they received the Spirit immediately.
Moving quickly to Acts 10, Peter is commissioned to preach the Gospel to a Gentile named Cornelius. Peter begins to preach the Gospel and “while Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message,” Acts 10:44. We know that the preaching of the Word is powerful, living and active – it also appears that God can move through the Gospel message to baptize people with the Spirit.
The last method I would like to discuss is worship and prayer. When the Holy Spirit originally fell on the Apostles at Pentecost, they were worshipping and praying. It has been the experience of many believers, especially in the Vineyard Movement, that the Holy Spirit is especially active during times of worship.
It goes against the witness of Scripture to suggest that there is a fail-proof “formula” for how one becomes “filled with the Spirit.” As stated above, we must rely upon God’s goodness and His desire to give good gifts to His children. Those gifts come in a variety of ways, but they are ultimately His desire. It is a biblical imperative to “receive the Spirit” (John 20:22), so we must ask and keep on asking until we receive power from on high. And we must live lives that make us available to God and His desire to fill us – lives of personal and corporate worship and prayer, hearing and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Name of Jesus, receiving the baptism of the Spirit and the laying on of hands from our elders and leaders. And we must continually trust that it is God’s desire to fill us full to overflowing with His Spirit so that we can accomplish His purposes upon the Earth. Amen.