Be Filled by the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

18 And do not become drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled by the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

What does it mean for a Christian to be “filled” by the Holy Spirit? In my translation above the preposition “by” renders the Greek word ἐν (en), “in, with, by, among, at, on, when, to, as, for, through, while, within, of, about, into, because, during, throughout, before, under.” Why did I render it as “by” instead of “with?” As Louis Sperry Chafer said, “It is not a matter of acquiring more of the Spirit, but rather of the Spirit of God acquiring all of the individual.”1 The believer who is Spirit-filled is influenced by the Spirit and nothing else while those who are not, are more influenced by the temporal. To be filled by the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else set on spiritual things and spiritual growth. 

In the New Testament there are cases where individuals were recognized as being Spirit-filled such as the “deacons” of Acts 6:3. What was the evidence that the Church saw that made it known to them that these men were Spirit-filled? It was Christlikeness of character which is given to us in Galatians 5:22-23, “ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη χαρὰ εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία χρηστότης ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις πραΰτης ἐγκράτεια· κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος.” Or, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is not a law.” When people see the evidence of such character present in a Christian’s life, they are witnessing the Holy Spirit’s control over them.

Going back to Ephesians 5:18, here is the Greek, “καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι”. The construction of the Greek verb for “filled” (πληροῦσθε) tells us how to understand what the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is teaching us here. To best understand how to become Spirit-filled let us start with the grammatical structure Paul used. The verb πληροῦσθε is in present tense, which shows a continuous action. In other words, Spirit-filling is designed to be a continuing reality. We are to be in the state of constantly being filled by the Spirit. Also, the verb is in the imperative mood, which indicates a military command and something we control. Spirit filling is not optional, but rather mandatory. As Ephesians 5:17 declares, this is the will of God. Lastly, the verb is in the passive voice. What does that mean? The Christian is the subject being acted upon. We allow the Holy Spirit to act upon us and control us. Let us each day renew our yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria. 

1Louis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, Revised Edition, 1974, p. 115.

12 thoughts on “Be Filled by the Spirit

  1. “It is not a mater of acquiring more of the Spirit, but rather of the Spirit of God acquiring all of the individual.” That is the money quote, my brother. So much error in the cult of experience that seeks after the false “second baptism” would be avoided if Christians would be satisfied with God’s actual revelation in His Word. Period. Almost as if He told us not to add or take away from it :-)

  2. “When people see the evidence of such character present in a Christian’s life, they are witnessing the Holy Spirit’s control over them.”

    Since several months we have been visited by a young US ARMY captain at our congregation. He’s a bit younger than myself, but shows that same evidence of the Holy Spirit controlling his behaviour and character in all his words and actions, which is very rare for a person his age. He’s a very humble christian.

    I hang with him often, as it is a good thing to learn from mature believers.

    Good stuff Mike!

  3. It’s such a great joy to actually see the fruit of the Spirit. I’m so attracted to other Christians who have the same fruit. It’s lush and beautiful.
    When I catch a glimpse of it in my life of the evidence of love, peace, joy, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control it reassures me that I am indeed a Child of God. There’s no way an unbeliever could produce such fruit since it originates from our Heavenly Father. The MAIN fruit is JOY!..

    Manfred I hope I haven’t misunderstood you but are you saying that (all experiences) are cultic? There is biblical experiences that Christians do enjoy since we do have the Holy Spirit whom we have intimacy with. Jesus is a REAL, living dynamic Person. And if we don’t have this then we are simply missing out on the greatest part of a Christian’s life.

  4. Mike, it’s nice to see you quoting Chafer. Let’s get you back to your dispensational roots! :)

    Linda, while joy — and all of the fruits — are important, would not love be the main fruit? Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35). And Paul said, “Love works no ill to his neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10, Galatians 5:14).

  5. That’s a great question Carol and something to think on. I would say the predominate emotion is JOY. Unbelievers don’t have JOY. They’ve never experienced joy. They may say they have but they really don’t know what Joy really is.And sure they’ve experienced happiness and pleasure but this is not the same thing as joy.

    Jesus said in John 15:10-11 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

    I think the reason why I say it’s the predominant fruit firstly is from an article I read awhile back and also it is because whenever I AM walking in the Spirit or I am filled with the Holy Spirit -JOY always becomes the one major fruit that stands out. It is the MAIN fruit I notice when I AM truly filled because I become so submissive and full of HIS joy in giving Jesus Christ all the glory and honor.. It follows obedience to him as we are IN his LOVE. Yes I also notice that I fall deeply in love with Jesus and how glorious he is, but it’s always that JOY that sets apart for me the genuine from the counterfeit…

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