Study 6 FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Francis Dixon
Key Verse: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52)
How vital it is for every Christian to understand the New Testament teaching about the Spirit-filled life! It is because this subject is so neglected and so little understood that many Christians are living on a very low level of Christian experience. Their lives are powerless and joyless and their service produces little real fruit. For the same reason many of our churches are struggling, and the forces of darkness seem to gain ground on every hand. The greatest need of every Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit; let us consider some vital aspects of this important truth.
1. SEVERAL IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT THE SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE
- (1) Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a very definite experience. In Acts 13:52 we read, “the disciples were filled… with the Holy Spirit.” There was nothing vague, indefinite or uncertain about it. They were filled! The experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is so definite that we may know whether or not we have received it. This is by no means the only reference in the Book of Acts to Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit. Compare the following: Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 6:3-5; 9:17; 11:24, and notice God’s command in Ephesians 5:18. Are you obeying it?
- (2) Being filled with the Holy Spirit is more than being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. These disciples of whom we read in Acts 13:52 were certainly indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but more than that, they were filled with the Spirit. Every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit; it is not possible to be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit - look up Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19. When we are born again (John 3:5) the Holy Spirit enters in to abide for ever (John 14:16). It is one thing to have the Holy Spirit residing within us - but it is another thing to have Him filling us - presiding within.
- (3) The fullness of the Holy Spirit is God’s plan and provision for every one of His children. In Acts 13:52 note that “the disciples… were filled with the Holy Spirit” - that is, the ordinary members of the Church. This blessing of the Holy Spirit’s fullness is not only for leaders, ministers, evangelists, or for a kind of ’spiritual aristocracy’, but for every child of God. Notice the word ‘all’ in Acts 2:4, and compare Acts 2:39. The Spirit-filled life is never meant to be an abnormal experience, but in the purpose of God it is to be the normal experience of every one of His children. The fullness of the Spirit is God’s provision for you.
- (4) By implication, to be filled with the Spirit means to be emptied of all that is contrary to His presence. He is the Holy Spirit, and if He is to fill us, then other things that have previously filled us must first be removed. In Acts 13:10 we read of one who was “full of all kinds of deceit and trickery…” ; in verse 45 we read of others who ”were filled with jealousy…” ; and in Acts 5:3, Peter told Ananias that it was because Satan had ’filled’ his heart that he had lied to the Holy Spirit. What is it that is filling us? For the Holy Spirit can never fill us if selfishness, criticism or any other unholy spirit is possessing us. We must give heed to 2 Corinthians 7:1 and 1 John 1:9 and be cleansed if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- (5) When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, certain things will happen. In other words, there will be some evidence of His infilling. In Acts 13:52, the particular mark or characteristic of his infilling was that of joy - but let us notice some other marks also:-
2. SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF A SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE
- (1) There will be great power and effectiveness in witnessing. The primary purpose of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is to make us effective witnesses. Read Acts 13:44-52, and notice how mightily God’s Spirit-filled servants witnessed for Him:-
- (1) See the power and attractiveness of their testifying (verse 44).
- (2) See how much they made of the Word of God (verses 44,46,48 and 49).
- (3) See how bold and fearless they were in the face of bitter opposition (verses 45,46 and 50).
- (4) See how God honoured their preaching with conversions (verse 48).
- (5) See how completely they obeyed the Matthew 28:19-20 command (verse 49).
The first characteristic of a Spirit-filled Christian, then, is that he is a witnessing Christian - look up Acts 1:8.
- (2) There will be discernment, that is, a Spirit-taught understanding of God’s plan and programme. This is brought out in this portion in two ways:-
- (1) In verses 46-47, Paul and Barnabas explained that the Gospel was first given to the Jews, and then (when they rejected it) it was given to the Gentiles. Compare Matthew 15:24; Luke 2:32.
- (2) In verse 51, they acted in complete obedience to the Word of the Lord - look up Luke 10:10-11.
Look up 1 Corinthians 2:14 and notice that it is quite impossible for an unregenerate person to understand the things of the Spirit. The measure in which anyone can understand the things of the Spirit is dependent upon the measure in which they are possessed, or filled, by the Holy Spirit Himself.
- (3) There will be a manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. In Acts 13:52 the particular manifestation was that of joy, but in Galatians 5:22-23 we discover that ”the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The whole of this cluster of fruit will characterise the life of the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit. How we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit - to make us really effective witnesses for our Lord, to impart to us discernment and spiritual understanding, and above all, to make us more like the Lord Jesus!