Be Filled with the Spirit

Pentecost was a once-for-all, unique, redemptive-historical, unrepeatable act of the Risen-Ascended Christ in sending forth His Spirit (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:5; 2:33-36). Pentecost was the coming of Christ to His Church as the life-giving Spirit at a new stage of redemptive-history (Acts 2:33-36; cf. 1 Cor. 15:45). Pentecost can be no more repeated than the death and resurrection of Christ can be a repeatable event. Pentecost and the first few stages or phases of the event that are recorded in Acts is not a paradigm for all believers to experience individually, but a pattern to note how the Spirit was poured out upon the Body of Christ in redemptive-history by the Risen-Ascended Christ and spread from Israel to the nations.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Dr. Luke’s important stress throughout the Book of Acts is on how the apostolic gospel spreads from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem to Israel on the Day of Pentecost to the nations, or “to the ends of the earth” as the Old Testament prophets foretold (Psa. 2:8; 22:27; 72:8; Isa. 2:2-5; 5:26; 45:22; 52:10; cf. Acts 28:28:31). The events recorded in Acts 8, 10-11, and 19 are “extensions,” “expansions,” or “stages” of the once-for-all Day of Pentecost through the foundational ministry of the apostles: “…Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets…the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:18-22).

The Apostles, the newly reformed, reconstituted Israel received the promised gift of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, then they were used as Christ’s instruments of blessings to give the life-giving blessings of the Spirit to the believing remnant in Jerusalem, then to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (even Old Covenant believers who had not heard of the full work of Jesus and the Spirit heard the complete news of redemption, and received the Spirit (see Ephesians 18:24-19:5). The Book of Acts emphasizes that because of Pentecost, the Church is the Body of Christ made up of Jews, Gentiles, slave, free, male, female, and all are one in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:26-29). The blessings made to Abraham have now gone to the nations; Abraham has become more fully the “Father of many nations” (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; Gal. 3:14, 16, 29).

Now believers who receive Christ, receive the fullness of His Spirit, and are baptized in the Spirit upon conversion or regeneration.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).

We must make clear that the baptism of the Spirit takes place for each member at the time of being incorporated into the one body of Christ, at the time of saving inclusion within the covenant community in regeneration, and not at some time subsequent to that saving incorporation. Christ baptizes all believers with the fullness of His Spirit through faith. All believers are sealed unto the day of redemption by Christ’s Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). All believers are the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22) and the temple of God in which the Spirit and Glory of God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16). Dr. Sinclair Ferguson writes that “…Pentecost (or the Acts as a whole) provides us not with a two-stage paradigm for personal experience of the Spirit, but rather that at the point of faith we participate individually in the effect of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.”

There are importance applications and implications for believers today.[1] Dr. Richard Gaffin makes an important distinction between understanding the eschatological dimension of Pentecost that was once-and-for-all (historia salutis, an event in the history of salvation) and the individual-experiential dimension (ordo salutis, the order we receive the blessings of redemption) that we continue to enjoy as Christians united to Jesus Christ. To think more about the individual-experiential, ongoing dimension of Pentecost in the believers’ lives, let us think particularly about the signs on the Day of Pentecost and what they symbolize for Christians as the work of the Spirit in us because of what Christ has accomplished.

Although the signs and wonders of Pentecost have passed away, the meaning of the signs have not. On the Day of Pentecost there was wind, or the very “breathing” of the life of God into His body (cf. Ezek. 37:5-9), there was the light of fire that rested above the disciples’ heads (Mal. 3:2-3; Exo. 3:2; Heb. 12:28-29), and there were the languages that they spoke to God and one another (Acts 2:1-4). What are the meanings behind the signs that we should understand as Christians today?

Life (Wind/Breath): God gives believers His life in the Spirit in our union with Christ. This is the full and abundant New Covenant life that was not possible until Jesus Christ had fully completed His work of sinners in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. In Christ, by the Spirit, the Father makes us alive (Eph. 2:1-10). He breathes into us His life to live for Him, and to live abundantly and joyfully in the Spirit (cf. John 20:21-23). “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11; also Rom. 8:2, 6, 10). This life is given to believers to live for Christ in union with Christ. This is abundant life that is nourished by the reservoir of grace found in Christ; apart from Christ we can do nothing, produce nothing living and good to the glory of God (John 1:16-18; 15:1ff; Rom. 8:5-11).

Light (Fire): God gives us light to purify us, to consume our dross, but to also enlighten our minds to the truths of Scripture (Eph. 1:18; Heb. 6:4; 10:32). God gives light to warm our hearts to know more deeply His love for us in Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19). The Apostle Paul prays for believers to have illumination by the Spirit to know who they are in Christ, to experience the deep love of God the Father found in Christ Jesus through the Spirit in our inner being (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21).

Language (Tongues): While the languages of Pentecost as signs and wonders to testify to a new epoch of redemptive-history were necessary in the transitional time between the Old and New Covenants, they are no longer necessary now as the complete, inspired Scriptures have been written and given to God’s people. But what these languages pointed to are still important to us. The two important aspects of these Spirit-given languages were for worship and witness. The worship of God in Spirit and truth through transformed hearts (John 4:24; Jer. 31:31-34; cf. 1 Cor. 14:1-5), and the witness within the community in building one another up in the truths of Scripture, and the witness to the world in the good news of salvation.

We see the glorious use of these Spirit-given “love” languages particularly in the Apostle Paul’s writings. Paul often stresses to speak to one another to encourage and especially to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, 25-32, 1 Cor. 12:7; 14:5; cf. Acts 9:31). Isn’t encouraging, humble, holy, honest speech a wonderful and glorious working of God’s Spirit?! The Apostle Paul refers to the ongoing work of the Spirit and the implications of Pentecost in the believers’ life not as a second blessing, but as a continual need to seek to be filled with the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul teaches the churches to be “filled with the Spirit”, which can also be said as being filled with God’s Word. The Spirit works so closely in and through the Word of God that it is important to note this.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Eph. 5:18-20). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:16-17).

In both of these important passages, we see the “love” languages given by the Spirit for true worship of God (“…Giving thanks always and for everything…” “…With thankfulness in your hearts to God…”) and to witness (“…Addressing one another in [Scripture]…singing and making melody…” “…Teaching and admonishing one another…”).

So let us as a family at KCPC, united to Jesus Christ by faith, seek to be filled with the Spirit of God because we have received the baptism and full immersion in the Spirit in our union with Jesus Christ by faith!

We should remember that the Spirit of God’s presence is not known first and foremost through a feeling (although feelings should and do accompany). The Spirit of God’s presence is known first and foremost from His blessed fruit and His holy effects on one’s life (Gal. 5:16-25; cf. John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”). What are the blessed fruits and holy effects of the Spirit in your life? In the life of your family? In our congregation at KCPC? These fruits and effects of Christ’s Spirit will reveal Christ’s life in us to others, causing us to hate the sin that remains in us, and to desire more holiness (Christ-likeness) (Rom. 7:11-25); to desire humility in our worship to God and service to one another, and to cultivate honesty before God and others. These fruits and effects of Christ’s Spirit will be seen in our learning to walk as Jesus walked (imperfectly, yet sincerely by His Spirit):

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call…

Let us pray to be filled with the Spirit, and learn some helpful hints as to how from Dr. John Harvey.


Helpful Hints on how to be filled with the Spirit of God (by John Harvey)[2]

  1. Make certain that your heart is wholly (sincerely) devoted to God (Deut. 6:5; 11:11-13; 30:6; Psa. 31:23; 111:1; 116:1; 119:2, 10, 34, 69, 145; Jer. 24:7; Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Jo. 5:21).
  2. Determine not to compromise your walk with God (Psa. 119:1-8; Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:-10, 14-15).
  3. Be sensitive to and repentant over sin (Psa. 130; 139: 23-24; 1 Jo. 1:8-2:2; 2 Cor. 7:10-11).
  4. Be faithful in the little things (Matt. 25:14-23).
  5. Remember who gets the glory! (Rom. 11:33-36; Psa. 115:1).
  6. Devote yourselves to prayer (Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18-20).
  7. Keep your eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).


For Further Reading and Study

Intermediate: A Theology of the Holy Spirit – Frederick Dale Bruner / Beginner: Anointed with the Spirit and Power: The Holy Spirit’s Empowering Presence (Explorations in Biblical Theology) – John Harvey / Intermediate: Perspectives on Pentecost – Richard Gaffin, Jr. / Intermediate: The Holy Spirit – John Owen / Advanced: The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology) – Sinclair B. Ferguson

[1] As Dr. Ferguson writes: “…While Pentecost is also once for all time in character, implications of the baptism of the Spirit which took place on that occasion overflow the banks of that Day and flow on, down through the centuries. Just as the blood of Christ cleanses men and women from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9), so the Spirit flows from the riven side of Christ on Pentecost into Jerusalem, and from there spreads throughout Judea, gathering momentum on to Samaria and indeed to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).”

[2] Remember that while these are helpful hints, and they are biblical, we must nevertheless always remember the sovereignty of God in His Spirit’s working (cf. John 3:3-8). Though there are ways we can prepare, and seek God, we must always be willing to wait upon the LORD. But seek Him we must because of both the command and the privilege! Amen.