What is the Biblical Evidence of Being Filled With the Spirit?

by Mike Ratliff

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)

As we have seen, the passage Ephesians 5:18 is a command. The verb forms of “do not get drunk” and “be filled” are both present tense, imperative mood, passive voice. The imperative mood equates to a military command and something the Christian does control. Neither not getting drunk with wine unto debauchery or Spirit-filling are optional, but rather mandatory for Christians. You may ask, “how so?” This is clearly shown to be the will of God in Ephesians 5:17, just one verse earlier, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Never forget my brethren, God would not give us command unless we were being put in charge of carrying out the command, so it’s up to us to obey. 

Since we are being commanded to “be filled” with the Spirit, how can we know if we or any other Christian is? The only place we can look for the answer to something like this is God’s Word. Let’s look first at Acts 6:3.

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3 ESV)

How were the people to recognize these “deacons” as being “full of the Spirit?” What was the evidence? It has to have been the growing of Christlikeness or Christ’s very character in them.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

When these character traits are consistently seen in a believer as they walk through life’s tests and trials, then the Holy Spirit’s control of them will be evident. This fullness of the Spirit will not be exhibited in some emotional outburst or ecstatic experience, but, rather, in a consistent Christlike behavior.

As we saw earlier. the verb construction for πληροῦσθε, which is translated in Ephesians 5:18 as  “be filled,” is present tense, imperative mood, passive voice. The present tense shows a continuing action which is designed to be a continuing reality. Here is the last part of v18 from the Greek, “πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι.” With the verb structure clearly in mind, a literal translation of this would be, “Be being filled in Spirit.” This tells us that we are to be in a constant state of being filled with the Spirit.

As we saw above, this is also a command and God has structured it to be up to us to obey. Other parts of our salvation are totally done by God such as our sealing and our baptism into the Spirit and we see that because those verbs which speak of those things are in aorist tense rather than present tense. Never forget my brethren, those who are filled by the Spirit are filled more or less to the level of their yieldedness to allow the Holy Spirit to take control.

The passive voice part seemed puzzling to me for a while. We are to obey the imperative command, but the filling is actually done by the Holy Spirit and we are the subject of the filling so that makes sense. We allow the Holy Spirit to act upon us and control us. If you are anything like me this whole process of letting go of control while obeying this command of being filled is not natural. As I shared yesterday, when you enter this path, your idols are revealed in a hurry. You find out that you are much more self-protective than you even admitted to yourself. You have not really died to self at all and are still clinging to parts of your life that mean absolutely nothing in eternity. As I evaluate myself on this, I find myself indeed lacking. I also find myself continually in the fire and I know that that is a good thing spiritually because that means God is both cleansing me and working in me to mature me, but when I look at what is revealed by this whole process, I see one who must remain in the Valley of Humiliation for quite some time. God’s Will be done.

Soli Deo Gloria!

18 thoughts on “What is the Biblical Evidence of Being Filled With the Spirit?

  1. I have such a long way to go. This is daily dying to self. I hate how much I still feed my flesh. These are really great teachings. I need this. Gods word is so powerful. I am thankful I belong to Him and He does not leave me to myself.

  2. Amen Mike,
    There is always another never ending layer that gets removed and I get used to that layer being gone and then another gets exposed and removed. With much resisting at times. And even when I seem to finally start to be at peace with the layer being removed, then all of a sudden a resentment at why that had to be removed rises up…it is never ending. But God being full of mercy lets us know He is near and will give us the strength to submit to His cleansing. It is not a natural thing for me either and all I know to do is read His word, trust in His goodness, pray that His will would be done in my life and do what His word says to the best I am able whether I feel like it or not.
    Thanks and have a peaceful night!

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  4. “You find out that you are much more self-protective than you even admitted to yourself.” Ah, yes! I must continually remind myself that what I cling to has no value. It’s a constant, tiring battle, but one I’m willing to fight (albeit my lingering cowardice) because this world is not my/our home! Thank you for your encouraging posts!

  5. Its a constant struggle isn’t it.This exposition is really helpful. Diane you could be describing my walk too! It is good to know that what I go through is normal. I have great difficulty with where the balance is between what we must do and what we must let the Spirit do. Our hearts are so deceptive we cannot often judge our own motives.But slowly he is teaching me, usually when I’m not looking and off guard : ) So I can’t be proud and the glory goes to him.
    I love this passage, I find it so encouraging:

    ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. HE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL; HE WILL SURELY DO IT.’
    ( 1 thess 5 :23-24)

    Thanks all.
    In Christ.
    Fiona

  6. Thanks, Mike, for a very good article, which teaches on a very difficult subject!
    When I was a new Christian, it was hard to get this “filling” explained, and there isn’t much out there even now.
    A word of encouragement:
    Internet witnessing works, and can indeed help people come to the Savior!

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  8. great post, mike. i think too often we (that’s a very vague ‘we’) err far to one side or the other on the issue of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. the Spirit only dwells in the word and acts on me through scripture vs. possessing the Spirit necessitates that i speak in tongues or flail about.

    but i would ask you, mike, how you do address those instances in scripture (acts 10 for one) when the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s filling was indeed speaking in tongues?

  9. James, the speaking in tongues in Acts appears to always be a sign to the Jews that God was working. Those tongues are never gibberish but known languages. Also, look at 1 Corinthians 14:2-39. In these verses, Paul used the singular form of the word translated as tongue “γλῶσσα” when referring to what was counterfeit and always used the plural, “γλωσσαις” when referring to the “known tongues.” The translators of the KJV, for instance, translated the singular form as “tongue” preceding it with “unknown” in italics. That means that the misuse of the tongue speaking was the counterfeit form practiced by the pagans in the gibberish during their “worship.” In any case, a careful exegetical study of that chapter would be very useful to you.

  10. Thanks again Mike – another timely post. We have a backyard neighbour who is a bully – and it would be so easy to show them the same courtesy! Oh, it is SO hard sometimes to turn the other cheek – especially when you can think of 100 ways to “get back at them”! LOL
    Galatians 5:22 HAS TO BE our standard – and when I walk away biting my tongue, I know the Holy Spirit has helped me control that tongue!

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