The discussion about the filling of the Holy Spirit, is nothing if not controversial. There are those who make this the linchpin of the church, while other run from it and steer clear of any discussion about it. To attain some biblical understanding of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we will look at three questions. Question #1: Is the infilling of the Spirit distinct from simply believing? Question #2: What is the evidence of the infilling of the Spirit? Question #3: What does the infilling of the Holy Spirit do?
Question #1: Is the infilling of the Spirit distinct from simply believing?
In other words, is the salvation experience different form the filling of the Holy Spirit? Some argue that it is the same thing, basing their belief on 1 Cor 12:3 which states we cannot believe without the Holy Spirit. While it is true that one cannot believe without the Holy Spirit and all believers have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), the filling of the Holy Spirit is distinct from belief. Seven scriptures back up this point:
- Acts 1:4-5; 8: The disciples were already believers but they were told to wait on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 4:31: The disciples were already followers of Christ and had even already been baptized in the Holy Spirit, but here they are filled again.
- Ephesians 5:18: Literally, Paul writes “be being filled” with the Holy Spirit. It is an ongoing receiving of the Holy Spirit, not an one-time event.
- Acts 6:3: The seven deacons were to be good men and full of wisdom. They were to also be full of the Holy Spirit. Evidently, it is possible to be a good man and full of wisdom and a follower of God and not be full of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 8:12-16: The believers in Samaria had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, only in the name of Jesus.
- Acts 19:1-2: When Paul encountered the disciples at Corinth, he sensed something was missing.
- Luke 11:13: All we need to do is ask the Father for the Spirit’s filling. You wouldn’t even be a disciple without the Spirit. This must mean that the asking for the filling is something different.
Therefore, it is possible to believe in Jesus and yet be spiritually empty, living on natural power, the natural mind, and natural resources.
Question #2: What is the evidence of the infilling of the Spirit?
Many church traditions have argued that that tongues is the sign of the Spirit’s filling. This is based on the fact that Acts 2, 10 and 19 record that those filled with the Spirit spoke in tongues. While speaking in tongues is great, if it is used as the sign, it will result in negative consequences. A “two class” Christianity develops. There are other passages that mention the filling of the Spirit that do not result in the speaking in tongues (Acts 4, 8,9, Luke 1 and many others). Tongues are not a sign, besides Paul argues that all don’t speak in tongues in 1 Cor. 12.
What then is the sign? Wrong question. When we ask this question we are looking for a hierarchy of spirituality so that we can judge people and make ourselves feel better. A better question is …
Question #3: What does the infilling of the Holy Spirit do?
Hide Extended Summary
- It brings supernatural Kingdom fire. In Luke 3:16, John states that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is the fire of passion, conviction, overwhelming love for God, hunger for truth and vision for God’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit instills an internal burning that caused the people of God do go after the impossible, to step out in faith and follow God at His word.
- It brings supernatural Kingdom Power. Acts 1:8 states that the filling of the Holy Spirit will bring power to proclaim truth, and be a bold witness to the ends of the earth. This power will provide supernatural gifts to fulfill this calling in ways that man cannot do alone.