Study 4 FILLED AFRESH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 4:23-37
The subject of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is so important for every Christian, and we must consider Acts 4:31 very carefully. The operative word in the title is “afresh”, for it is evident that many of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:31 had been present and filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4! That prayer we often pray is quite correct – ‘Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me…’ We should experience fresh fillings of the Spirit all the way through our Christian experience, for only then can we live joyfully, serve powerfully, and glorify God in all that we think, do and say. Let us ask three questions:
1. What is this filling with the Holy Spirit?
- 1. It is a definite experience. Picture the scene: Peter and John had been released from prison and had immediately joined the believers in Jerusalem. After they had “reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them” (verse 23), they held a wonderful prayer meeting, after which “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 31). So, they knew the place, the time and the date when this happened because it was a definite experience; just as it was a definite experience for those present in Acts 2:4, and for Saul in Acts 9:17.
- 2. It is more than His indwelling and His baptism. These believers were already indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He, who had been with them before, had come to indwell them on the Day of Pentecost, according to the Lord’s promise (John 14:16-17); compare Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19. They had also been baptised by the Holy Spirit and had thus been brought into union with Christ (Romans 6:4); compare 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:5. But the baptism and the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a positional matter; it has to do with our standing. The filling with the Holy Spirit is an experimental or experiential matter, so it is true to say that being filled with the Holy Spirit is more than His coming to dwell within us and His baptising us into the body of Christ.
- 3. It is for all believers. We only have to look at the word ‘they’, which occurs three times in verse 31, to be sure of this. Peter and John and the other members of the early Church were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and this gracious infilling and enabling is for every Christian; no Christian can really live the Christian life or serve God effectively without this.
- 4. It is not a once-and-for-all experience. The simple comparison of Acts 2:4 and Acts 4:31 makes this clear. There must, of course, be an initial experience of the infilling, but it would be quite wrong to leave the matter at that. We can never lose the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit because He has come to live with us for ever (John 14:16-17); but when we grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), or quench Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), we may restrict His work through us. Also, we need fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit to fit us for every fresh piece of service that we undertake for the Lord.
- 5. It may be received by faith alone, apart from feelings. This verse suggests the very opposite, because we read that on this occasion “the place where they were meeting was shaken”. Do not be misled by this. After all, the Holy Spirit is sovereign in His work. The essential thing is that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”, and in the same way we should be filled (Ephesians 5:18). Look up 1 John 5:14-15. Make sure you are filled and leave God to decide how the fullness of the Spirit will be seen in your life.
2. How does the filling of the Holy Spirit show itself?
What are the results, evidences, manifestations? How is it seen? Whether the building is shaken or we are moved with deep emotion is not the important thing. What is more important is what follows:
- 1. There was boldness to speak the word of God (verse 31). We find this so hard; it is because we are timid, reticent and fearful; what is the remedy? It is the filling of the Holy Spirit, who gives authority, power and ability to speak the word (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31). It was “the word of God” that they spoke.
- 2. There was unity of heart and purpose (verse 32). Jesus prayed “that all of them may be one” (John 17:21). But it is not humanly possible for several thousand people to be made one; it is only possible by the Holy Spirit’s energy and infilling. Just think of it – they were all so different and there were so many of them, but when they were filled with the Spirit “all the believers were one in heart and mind” – what a miracle!
- 3. There was a recognition of the lordship of Christ. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit they no longer regarded their property as their own (verse 32). What they really said was, ‘All that I am and have is not mine, but His. I am under His sovereignty, His lordship. My loved ones, my house, my money are all His; so I must use these things in the way that He chooses.’
- 4. There was true Christian fellowship and generosity (verse 32) – “they shared everything they had”. As Christians we are brought into a new relationship with God and with one another, and we share in common all God’s provisions. The generosity of these believers showed the reality of their fellowship; they also provided for the poor and needy (verses 34-37), and all this shows us that the filling with the Spirit makes Christians tender-hearted and large-hearted.
- 5. There was beauty in their lives and characters. Verse 33 says that “much grace was upon them all” – compare Psalm 90:17.
3. How does the filling with the Holy Spirit come?
What are the conditions? We could mention the need for cleansing (Psalm 51:10); the need to desire this (John 7:37); and the requirement of faith (Luke 11:13) – but think about the following:
- 1. They were moving along in the will of God. The Lord had commanded them to preach the gospel, and this is what they were doing – compare verses 29, 31 and 33.
- 2. They sought the Lord in earnest, intercessory prayer. It was “after they prayed….” that the blessing came (verse 31).