Study 9 FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Key Verse: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)
There is no greater need in the life of a Christian than that there should be a full understanding of the New Testament teaching about the Spirit-filled life. Because this subject is so neglected and so little understood many Christians are living on a very low level of Christian experience. Their lives are powerless, defeated and joyless and their service is ineffective and productive of little real fruit. For the same reason many of our churches are struggling, and the forces of darkness seem to be gaining ground on every hand. The greatest need of every Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and in this study we will consider some vital aspects of this important truth.
1. Notice that our key-verse tells us several important things 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 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 and whether or not we are living in the enjoyment of 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 and 31; 6:3-5; 9:17; 11:24. Now look up God’s command in Ephesians 5:18. Are you obeying that command?
- 2. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is more than being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. These disciples in Acts 13:52 were 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 to have Him – look up Romans 8:9, and compare 1 Corinthians 6:19. When we are born again (John 3:5) the Holy Spirit comes in to abide for ever (John 14:16). But it is one thing to have the Holy Spirit residing within us, and it is another to have Him presiding within us. A vessel may contain a substance and yet not be filled. In the same way, though a Christian has the Holy Spirit it does not follow that He fills his heart and life.
- 3. The fulness 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 rank and file members of the Church. The Holy Spirit’s fulness is not only for leaders, ministers, evangelists or any spiritual aristocracy; it is for every child of God. Notice the word “all” in Acts 2:4, and compare Acts 2:39. The Spirit-filled life is not meant to be an abnormal experience; in the purpose of God it is to be the normal experience of every Christian. The fulness 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 the temple of our personality, other things which 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 filling us? For the Holy Spirit can never fill us if jealousy, 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 on the ground of 1 John 1:7, if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- 5. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit certain things will happen. 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. Notice the characteristics of a Spirit-filled Christian
- 1. The first characteristic of the Spirit-filled life is 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. There was power and attractiveness in their testifying – verse 44.
- 2. They made much of the Word of God – verses 44, 46, 48 and 49.
- 3. They were bold and fearless in face of bitter opposition – verses 45, 46 and 50.
- 4. God honoured their preaching with conversions – verse 48.
- 5. They completely 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. The second characteristic of the Spirit-filled life is discernment, a Spirit-taught understanding of God’s plan and programme. This is brought out clearly in this portion of scripture in two ways:
- 1. In verses 46-47, Paul and Barnabas explained that the gospel was first given to the Jews, and then, when rejected by them, it was given to the Gentiles. Thus, they understood God’s dispensational plan – compare Matthew 15:24 and 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; and remember that the measure in which anyone will understand the things of the Spirit is dependent upon the measure in which he is possessed, or filled, by the Holy Spirit Himself.
- 3. The third characteristic of the Spirit-filled life is a manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. In Acts 13:52 the particular manifestation was that of joy, but by reference to Galatians 5:22-23 we discover that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and the whole of this cluster of fruit will characterise the life of the Christian who is truly filled with the Holy Spirit.
We all 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!