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How to be Filled With the Spirit

The most blessed possession anyone can have (i.e. eternal life) is offered to all today as a gift of God’s grace.  It’s offered freely to be received by faith.  God gives the believer life.  He “…has quickened us together with Christ…And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:5&6) That is a lot of togetherness in Christ.  The next verse goes on to tell us what God’s purpose for it all is: “that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace and kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” God is looking forward to demonstrating to men and angels the exceeding riches of his grace.  All that we have as believers, we have it: 

In Christ,

By His grace,

And through faith in the working through His Word.

“For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

Salvation from the penalty of sin by Christ’s redeeming work on our behalf is a wonderful thing in itself.  But that is just the beginning of the blessedness that the believer has by God’s grace.  That is just the induction to the blessed life that we know as eternal life.  Salvation is but the start of the working of God in the believer. Most believers never proceed much beyond this rudimentary knowledge in their understanding.  Therefore, God says, “…Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18).  Understanding and doing the will of God is here associated with being filled with the Spirit.

To be filled with the Spirit is probably (or at least ought to be) the most sought after concept found in the scripture.  It is also among the most misunderstood concepts found in the Word of God.  There are abundant misconceptions on what it is to be filled with the Spirit. The misconceptions abound largely because people go to the second chapter of Acts and conclude that the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon all flesh as described there is or the norm for Christianity today.  There, in Acts 2, being filled with the Spirit was an automatic experience for the believers involved.  Also, it was involved with miraculous phenomenon; notably speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4).

Yet when we consider our text in Ephesians 5:18, we find that being filled with the Spirit is presented not as an automatic experience but as a goal that believers are admonished to achieve. Also, it is a goal that is within the reach of every believer.

We note also from the Ephesians passage the effect that being filled with the Spirit has on the believer.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 5:19 & 20).

 As we study this passage in Ephesians further, we find that being filled with the Spirit affects every aspect of the believer’s interpersonal relationships and his attitudes towards duties and the filling of God given roles.  It produces a harmonious relationship of wives toward husbands and husbands toward wives; of children toward parents and parents toward children, of employees toward employers and vice versa.  Truly then we see the importance and the great benefit for believers to be filled with the Spirit.

Comparing scripture with scripture of Ephesians 5 with Colossians 3, we find something most interesting.  There in Colossians 3, we find the identical effect presented:

“…Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” 

The passage goes on to talk about the same positive effect in the interpersonal relationships of husbands toward wives and vice versa; of children toward parents and vice versa, of employers toward employees and vice versa.  However, the cause that produced this effect in Colossians chapter 3 is “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom…” Being “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5 is a cause that produces the same effect as “letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” does in Colossians 3.  It is therefore simple logic: If a=”C” and b=”C” then a=”B.” Specifically, since being filled with the Spirit produces the same results as letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly does, we now understand that to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit.

As we come to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, the one to whom God gave our instructions for the dispensation of the Grace of God, we find that the Holy Spirit is the active agent of God working in the world today.  The salvation that God the Father planned, and God the Son accomplished, the Holy Spirit ministers.  The Holy Spirit does this through the lives of people through the written Word. 

Now then, we understand how one can be filled with the Spirit—by letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. Consider this admonition that we might appropriate the wonderful desired results in our interpersonal relationships. First consider exactly what the Word of Christ is.  Obviously, one could say “the Word of Christ” is the Bible.  And truly, the Bible is the Word of Christ.  The pages of scripture from cover to cover present His character and His personality as well as the sufferings that He endured for us and the glory that was, is, and shall be His.  Our Lord tells the religious leaders of Israel to: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”  To the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27). 

As we study the Old Testament we see Jesus Christ as the unstated subject and author for

“The testimony of Jesus as the Spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). It is as Peter told the house of Cornelius: “To him gave all the prophets witness” (Acts 10:43).  All of the Old Testament prophets spoke of a salvation that would center in Jesus Christ.  Peter speaks of this in I Peter 1:10-12, “of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when, it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which we now reported unto you by them that now preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven…”  Peter here speaks of a salvation that was spoken by the prophets that involved the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, likewise “was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied. saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us [i.e. Israel] in the house of his servant David; As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we [Israel] should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.”

We see so far in all that we have looked at, that the prophets’ presentation of Jesus Christ pertains to a salvation of Israel.  He is Israel’s Messiah (Matthew 16:16) as we see Him in prophecy.  However, when we come to that portion of scripture that we know as the Pauline epistles, we find the “Word of Christ” to be far more to us than simply being Israel’s Messiah. 

The word for “word” in Colossians 3:16 is the word that we get our English “logic” from.  It is a reference to a logical concept of Christ put into words on the pages of scripture.  God has revealed a concept of Christ in Paul’s epistles that is different from the concept presented in scripture either before or after them.  Paul describes the concept of Christ as He is presented in the prophets as knowing Christ  “after the flesh…” (2 Cor. 5:16).  That term simply points to the fact that the prophets spoke of Christ as the king who would reign on a physical throne on the earth over a physical kingdom through the nation of Israel.  But, the fact that the concept of Christ, as presented to us in Paul’s epistles is different than what went before, is evident by Paul’s statement “…when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I should preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me;…” (Galatians 1:15-17).  This is a revelation of Jesus Christ that predates in time the revelation of Jesus Christ in glory as John writes of Him in the Revelation (Rev. 1:1) or Peter (I Peter 1:13).  This revelation is “…The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.” (Romans 16:25). And this revelation is unique to the Pauline epistles for it is through him that the Lord revealed it (Ephesians 3:1-3). This revelation of Jesus Christ describes the Lord Jesus as the head (Colossians 1:18) over (and together with) the church which is His body (Ephesians 1:22) so as to form “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15); the new creature of II Corthinians 5:17.  That entire body of doctrine that Paul refers to in Romans 16:25 and Ephesians 3:3 is what he refers to in Colossians 3:16 as “The Word Of Christ”.  It describes that most blessed and special relationship whereby each believer is joined to Jesus Christ as “members of his body and his flesh and of his bones.”  It spiritually is a relationship to Jesus Christ that is so close and so tight that, as we walk by faith in His Word (i.e. the Word of Christ—the mystery), Christ lives His life out through the believer.

The “Word of Christ” is then a set of instructions contained in Paul’s epistles. This information enables the believer to think the way Christ thinks, to see the world the way Christ sees the world, to have the sonship spirit that Christ has, and to understand God’s plan and purpose for man as Christ understands.  In short, we have the mind of Christ. (I Cor. 2:16)  As the believer saturates his heart and mind with the Word of God, bases his decisions in the pathways of life from the Word, and stands on the truth of the Word, he is filled with the Spirit.  The Word of God and the Spirit of God are inseparable.  The Word of God never works apart from the Spirit of God, nor does the Spirit of God work apart from the Word of God.  The believer can not be filled with the Word of God apart from studying the Word of God.  God works in us in three sequential steps:

Step One– God makes us a new creature when we individually believe the gospel that Christ died for our sins and paid the debt in full.

Step Two– God instructs us from His Word, the Bible. This is done by God as the believer receives the Word of God “…not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1Thes 2:13)

Step Three– The Spirit of God leads the believer: “For as many as are led of the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:13)  But, God can not lead someone until He has instructed Him from His Word. And, He can not instruct someone until He has made that person a new creature for “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Cor.2:14)

Now let’s consider the admonition of Colossians 3:16 further.  Note that is says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The word “let” implies to us that yieldedness on our part is necessary.  God does not save anyone against that person’s will.  He does not justify us against our will.  Rather, He offers eternal life as a gift to all but imparts that gift only to those who respond in faith.  So too, God will not make a believer faithful against the believer’s will.  Rather, He presents His will to us and waits on us to conform our will to His will as He has revealed it to us in the Pauline epistles.  As we do humbly yield to the will of God as revealed in the word of God rightly divided, the indwelling Spirit of God then takes the written Word of God and produces the life of Christ in the believer.  The believer is then filled with the Spirit as long as he/she so lives out the Word of God.  The Word of Christ is thus:

· The Word of Life (Philippians 12:16) because it produces the life of Christ in the believer.

· The Word of His Grace (Acts 14:3; 20:32) because it is truly “good news” to the believer that God deals with us on the basis of grace today in the Dispensation of grace.

· The Word of Truth (Ephesians 1:13) because nothing more needs to be said.

· The Word of Promise (Romans 9:8) because it presents the promise of God that will never fail.

· The Word of the Truth of the Gospel (Col. 1:25) because it is the good news of the hope laid up for us in heaven.

· The Word of Faith (Romans 10:8) because our faith can rest in the faithfulness of God.

· The Word of Reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:19) because, in it God is acting to reconcile us, His one time enemies, to Himself.

· The Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16) because it presents Christ to the world the way God wants Him presented today.

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