Be filled and continue to be filled
The apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:18 that we are filled with the Spirit. Therefore, I want to try to answer two questions today: What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? And, how can we be filled with the Spirit? I think it might help you to follow me if I tell you at the outset where I am going. So I’ll start with my conclusions and then give biblical support. I think being filled with the Spirit means, basically, having great joy in God. And since the Bible teaches that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), it also means there will be power in this joy for overcoming besetting sins and for boldness in witness.
But, basically, it means radiant joy, because the Spirit who fills us is the Spirit of joy that flows between God the Father and God the Son because of the delight they have in each other. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity and to love God the Father and God the Son with the very love with which they love each other. And then, in answer to the second question, the way to be filled with the Spirit is by trusting that the God of hope really reigns — that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29) — and that he runs the world for you and for all who trust his word. In believing that, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.
What Does ‘Baptize in the Holy Spirit’ Mean?
The phrase “baptize in (or with) the Holy Spirit” was apparently coined by John the Baptist. All four of our gospels record that he said, “I have baptized you with water, but he (i.e., Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The only two writers in the New Testament who refer elsewhere to the phrase “baptize with the Spirit” are Luke in the book of Acts, and Paul in 1 Corinthians. Luke refers to it twice, quoting John each time (Acts 1:5; 11:16), and Paul refers to it once (1 Corinthians 12:13). But I don’t think Paul and Luke use this phrase to refer to the same thing. For Paul, it is virtually identical to regeneration or new birth (conversion). For Luke, it is essentially the same as being filled with the Spirit and refers to that first introductory experience of this fullness.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–3)
Jesus promises in chapter 1 that they will be baptized by the Spirit, and Luke describes the fulfilment of that promise in chapter 2 in terms of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Yet we know from Acts 11:15–17 that Luke does see Pentecost as a baptism with the Spirit. He reports there how Peter described his preaching to the Gentiles, in Cornelius’s house:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?
So this later outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles (in Acts 10:44) is equated with the first Pentecostal outpouring, and both are explained as a baptism with the Spirit. Therefore, Luke sees what happened at Pentecost as both a baptism with the Spirit and a filling with the Spirit. Since Luke refers later on to the disciples being filled again (Acts 4:8, 31; 13:4), but never refers to them as being baptized again with the Spirit, it seems to me that for Luke “baptism with the Spirit” refers to that initial filling by the Spirit after a person trusts in Christ.
I don’t think Luke equates “baptism by the Spirit” with regeneration as Paul does. That would mean that all the apostles, who, with God’s help, had confessed Jesus to be the Christ (Luke 9:20; Matthew 16:17) and had seen him alive after his resurrection and had their minds opened by him to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), were in fact dead in trespasses and sins and enslaved to the flesh during all their time with Jesus and up till Pentecost morning.
So let's be filled, and continue to be filled that others might see God at work in us.