"Filling of the Spirit" in the right-hand column.
This presentation is an appendix in the book, Spiritual Overflow: Knowing and Using Your Gifts.
The Filling of the Spirit
Living in the Spirit and Walking in the Spirit. We began earlier a discussion about the difference between “living in the Spirit” and “walking in the Spirit”. Gal. 5:25 sets up a continuation of this discussion: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” The Interlinear Translation and the NET Bible translate the NIV’s “keep in step with”, as “walk by”. Since we “live” in the Spirit, we should also “walk by” the Spirit. Here is the difference between “living” and “walking”:
1. “Live in (or by) the Spirit” refers to the indwelling of the Spirit, and our being “in Christ”, while He is in us. Once we accept Christ, we are permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit; therefore we “live” in (or by) Him, or have eternal life through Him. We get our spiritual life from Him.This is our eternal position.
2. “Walk by the Spirit” is what we do when we are 1) filled with the Spirit, and are 2) walking by faith in the Spirit.We are walking under the power of the Holy Spirit.This is our temporal condition, when we are in fellowship.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Filling of the Spirit vs.Walking in the Spirit. Here is the difference between these two:
1. “Filling of the Spirit” is the instantaneous occurrence of restoration of fellowship through the honest confession of our sins.We move from control of the flesh to the control of the Spirit, when this happens.
2. “Walking in the Spirit” is the condition of being under the influence of the Spirit...in an ongoing state of “being filled by the Spirit”...whereby sin is controlled and the fruit of the Spirit is produced. Our walk is sustained by faith; the consistency of our walk depends on the level of our faith.
We confess our sins to get them forgiven and restore the influence of the Spirit in our lives. Then we retain that influence by trusting in the resurrection power of Christ, the provision of the Father, and the enablement of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our walk in the Spirit is sustained by faith. And please note: Babies “crawl”; mature believers “walk”. This is more than a single step forward... walking is putting one foot in front of the other, and movingforward. Super believers like Paul can actually “run”, as in “running the good race”.
Faith is the key component in this walk. The more mature we are, the stronger our faith will be, and the longer we will walk in the Spirit before sin halts our progress. Behind faith are all the techniques we have studied for getting closer to God. We have built a long list of these, and have developed a shorthand protocol to encapsulate them. The shorthand terms for all the techniques we have studied that build and sustain faith are these: confession of sins, prayer, study of Scripture, and—basically—enduring God’s training program for building our faith.
What it Means to be Filled or Full. Eph. 5:18 instructs us, as follows: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The term “filled” has to do with the power of something that is in us...to direct us or control us. It is not just filling ourselves up, like drinking a lot of water, but it is the ability of the thing that fills us...to influence us. By saying, “Do not get drunk on wine”, the command is for us not to be controlled by wine. This is an example of something that fills us and controls us.
There can be other things that control us: greed, lust, envy, hatred, anger, pride...and drugs/ alcohol. If any of these, or a myriad of other things, control us, and cause us to sin, we will not be controlled by the Spirit. We will be giving the wheel to that scurrilous character: the flesh. Paul is saying, “Avoid the control of the flesh!” On the other hand, we can be filled with the Spirit, if we qualify (meaning sin is taken care of), at which time the Holy Spirit will control us.
The issue is not getting the Spirit into us, but putting what is already inside of us in charge. Otherwise, the power of the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit, and cause the love of God to flow through us, will be neutralized. If sin takes place, it is certain that the flesh will lead the way, and our decisions, desires, and plans will be driven by tendencies to sin or practice some form of legalism. When we are “filled” continually, which means that we are “walking by the Spirit”, we will fulfill Gal. 5:16-17 (NET), which says the following:
But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another; lest whatever you may will, these things you do.
When we are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, the sinful nature will be under control. But if we sin, the sinful nature is right back in charge, however hard we may try to prevent it. The thing we have to admit is this: We will sin. Sin prevents the control of the Spirit. The only way for the Spirit to control us is for our sin to be removed, and this is done by confession. If you plucked this paragraph out and asked, “Which of our books did this come from?” you would be right to answer, “Every single one of them.” This concept has been repeated many times, because it is at the center of all the resources God provides for us to live the Christian life with meaning and purpose.
Why the Filling of the Spirit is Important. It is vital that we find a way to acquire and sustain the filling of the Spirit. The Spirit gives us the power to do the things that bring glory to God and earn rewards for us in heaven. The Spirit produces love in us, and this translates into an alertness for opportunities to share the gospel, and motivates us to build each other up (contribute to each other’s maturity).
When the Spirit fills us and directs us, we produce “divine good”, as opposed to “fleshly good”, and the character of Christ is put on display. In Gal. 4:19 Paul describes the process of developing that divine character within us, saying, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you....” Paul was agonizing and doting like a new mother over the growth of the Galatians, because he knew that—if they grew and matured—the character of Christ would be formed and shown to the world. The character of Christ is exactly the same thing as the fruit of the Spirit. It begins on the inside through purity and prayer and knowledge and faith, and comes to the outside as love and joy and peace...honest caring for others, and willingness to sacrifice to bring the fruit of spiritual gifts to bear.
For us to achieve the kind maturity that Paul wanted for the Galatians, we will have to rely on the controlling and teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. We are perfected by the Spirit, and not by the flesh. Gal. 5:5-6 describes it this way:
But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love.
The righteousness we expect to see produced (“for which we hope”) comes from waiting and trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This passage should be compared with Heb. 5:11-6:3, which says that we grow by feeding on the Word of God. The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, encased in the Book given as our guide, will bring us to maturity. The key indicator for this maturity is seen in verse 14 in this passage (Heb. 5), which says, “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good and evil.” By learning and applying Scripture, coupled with God’s training program, a believer learns to see what is good and what is evil. Then the “good” can be chosen. This is why sin becomes less of a problem for the mature believer...because 1) he knows what to avoid, and 2) he knows what to confess. With sin reduced and controlled, spiritual production can soar...in the power of the Spirit.
Or we can do it on our own, which is the most common choice. Gal. 1:3 says, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” We will see this again when we study the Law vs. the Spirit.
So we want to be filled with the Spirit to produce the character of Christ, to see the fruit of the Spirit borne in our lives, and to exhibit the righteousness of God in our thoughts and behavior. Gal. 2:20 links this filling with the life of Christ. This verse says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Christian life is designed so that the only real “living” we do is when His life is lived through us. When His life is suppressed (by the “quenching” of the fire of the Holy Spirit), we are “dead”, controlled by the flesh, and living in some form of sin or legalism. But when we are restored by the Spirit, we come alive, body and soul, and good things can happen. Righteousness is achieved by the Holy Spirit when we have confessed and are walking by faith in Him. The life of Christ...the fruit of the Spirit...is the result of our maturity and faith, a product of the Holy Spirit.
The Fruit of the Spirit. Many passages delineate the things produced by the Spirit through the prepared and willing believer. None is quite so compact as Gal. 5:22-23, which says the following: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We could spend a book on each one of these qualities, because they clearly demonstrate the kinds of thoughts and behaviors that line up with God’s standards. These also remind us of our failings and weaknesses, and convince us that we cannot do what only the Spirit can do, and we are much better off to let Him do it. We will revisit the fruit of the Spirit later in this series of studies.
Trying to Boil it All Down...the Spirit and the Flesh. Immature believers can be filled with the Spirit, but their faith is too weak to hold them there. They can be “king on the mountain” for a second, but they will be quickly dislodged by forces more powerful than they are. This pattern is repeated over and over, until they begin to mature through prayerful study and by enduring God’s training program. If they continue, they will spend more and more time walking by the Spirit. That’s the objective.
We have learned quite well that we will be led by the flesh or by the Spirit. We can’t be controlled by both at the same time. This seems odd, because God is so much stronger than our flesh, but remember that God has given us choice, so that the hinge-pin for our walk is not God’s power and sovereignty, but our choosing to use the techniques He has given us. Get this: No spiritual assets operate when we are out of fellowship. Step one for any spiritual event or act is CONFESSION! Ignore this and you will go nowhere. This country is full of believers going nowhere spiritually, because they have not used 1 Jn. 1:9, and are living in either sin...or legalism. Both are opposed to Christ.
We saw that faith is the means for sustaining a walk in the Spirit, once fellowship is restored, and this faith grows with study and training. But weak faith is easily overshadowed by the flesh, and will not sustain us and keep us in fellowship. We are justified by grace through faith at salvation, and we are sanctified in life by God’s mercy through confession, but we will only be sustained in our walk in the Spirit by an ongoing faith. Conclusion: When we are purified, then we can walk in the Spirit...if ourfaith is strong.
Have you noticed that Paul deals in dichotomies...either/or conditions...over and over? We are saved or lost, in fellowship or out, controlled by the Spirit or the flesh, pure or depraved. Many conditions in the Christian life are absolute, meaning that you do or you don’t...you are or you aren’t.
It is interesting how many things that are clearly black or white have been placed onto a gray-scale continuum by short-sighted scholars or pastors, with very few concepts rendered with definition and clarity. Certainly, there are some things that exist in levels or degrees, such as maturity, faith, love, etc. But many of the techniques that produce these variable states are themselves completely polar. We will have much more to say about this when we discuss Law and Grace (or the Law and the Spirit).
We say that to say this: Faith is a variable. It is “strong” to some degree or “weak” to some degree. The thing we must understand is that faith needs nourishment. If it is not nourished, it will not grow, and will eventually collapse in a heap of doubt and fear. Faith will either grow or it will decline. To develop the faith it takes to walk in the Spirit, we have to PUSH forward...taking in and believing the Word, praying, and going through tests and trials. Then we will be doing what Paul
did, as he expressed in Phil. 3:12b, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” and in Phil. 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” It is time, now more than ever in this nation and this world, for us to “press on”...in the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit: Sequence and Consequence Here is a general algorithm for walking in the Spirit:
1. A believer sins, putting the sinful nature in charge.
2. The sinful nature produces sin, legalism, and/or self-dependence in the life of the believer.
3. Divine discipline kicks in and the soul is in anguish, often without knowing why. This goes on until sins are confessed.
4. Upon confession, the control of the Holy Spirit is restored, but the sinful nature is outraged at the loss of his control over the believer.
5. The sinful nature teams up with Satan and the world to plot the overthrow of the Spirit’s control and return the believer to sin (and/or legalism). The believer can be drawn into sin, in which case the power of the Spirit is neutralized. This entire process takes about a nanosecond, but the effects may last a long time.
6. The believer confesses sins again at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, and the Spirit moves back into authority in the heart of the believer.
7. While the believer is filled with the Spirit, he is able to grow spiritually, a process accelerated by the intake of Scripture and the endurance of tests brought on, or allowed, by God.
8. Learning and believing Scripture while in fellowship builds the believer’s faith, which sustains a walk in the Spirit for longer and longer periods of time.
9. The believer’s maturity continues to build by confessing, praying, studying, trusting, and enduring God’s training.This is also aided by edification from other believers.
10.The Holy Spirit produces righteousness through the believer, which reflects the character of Christ...and demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit.
11.Rewards are accumulated in heaven for the believer for acts done under the control of the Spirit.
12.The life of the believer glorifies Christ, satisfies the Holy Spirit, and honors the Father. This is the path we are intended to walk.This is the “walk in the Spirit”.
Added Footnote: John Walvoord provided a thorough and thoughtful study on the filling of the Spirit, and he is credited with many of the following insights. (Endnote 43) In his article, “The Filling of the Spirit”, Walvoord translated Eph. 5:18, as follows: “Keep being filled with the Spirit.”
This tells us that—if we are no longer “keeping” the filling, we will no longer be “filled”. Filling implies the control, or direct influence, of the Spirit, which can come and go. Peter was filled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and then again as he stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8). Paul and Barnabas were filled a number of times, as seen in Acts 9:17; 11:24; and 13:8-52.
Contrast the “filling of the Spirit” in Eph. 5:18 with two conditions: 1) the “quenching” of the Spirit in 1 Thess. 5:19, and 2) the “grieving” of the Spirit in Eph. 4:30. Filling is the opposite of quenching and grieving. So, what is it that quenches or grieves the Spirit? Look at the sins surrounding the command not to grieve the Spirit, as they are laid out in Ephesians 4 and 5. SIN grieves the Spirit! Also, contrast the condition of living in sin, like those shown in these two chapters, with that of “living in the light” in Eph. 5:8.
When we live in sin, we are alienated from the Spirit; on the other hand, cleanliness allows us to have close fellowship with Him. If sin is dominant, something has to change for us to get back into cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Only then will the Spirit be able to produce His fruit through us. (Eph. 5:9-10). But what are the specific mechanics for “returning” after we sin? This is the missing connection, which we must find.
We will sin, for sure, as per 1 John 1:10, 12. The question then becomes, “How can our sin record be cleared?” 1 John 1:9 gives the most succinct statement regarding the cleansing of believers’ sins, saying this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” All we have to do is genuinely repent of the sins we have committed. Name them to God...He will forgive them, and we will be reinstated into fellowship and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Note the contrast between life in the Spirit and a life of sin:
Life in the Spirit: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal. 5:16) Only the Holy Spirit can overpower the sinful nature.
Life of sin: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal. 5:19- 21) If these sins go unconfessed, the Spirit will held at bay.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we will see the “fruit of the Spirit” of Gal. 5:22-23. When we are in sin, we will produce the works of the sinful nature. If we find ourselves in sin (and we will), we must scramble to get our sins confessed to God the Father, so that fellowship and the filling of the Spirit can be restored. Then we will be poised to combat sin through growing faith. (Endnote 43 repeated)