“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)
We are born again through faith in Jesus Christ. As soon as a we accept Christ as Saviour the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our lives, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). But that is not the end of the matter, we must be repeatedly filled with the Spirit of God throughout our lives. This is the way it was with the early church, therefore it should not be any different today.
Pentecost and beyond
On the day of Pentecost, the 120 followers of Jesus were filled with the Spirit. “And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). The Apostle Peter, who was originally filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, was again filled as he stood before the religious leaders. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel ….” (Acts 4:8). Later when Peter joined the other disciples for a prayer meeting we read, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). In this event, those who had been filled with the Spirit at Pentecost were filled a second time. Peter, who had been so filled twice before, was filled a third time. It is very clear that being filled with the Holy Spirit was not meant to be a one-off event.
Indwelt and filled
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same as being baptised in the Spirit. This fact can be clearly seen in the instruction given in Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” The ‘filling’ of the Holy Spirit is entirely a different matter from the ‘indwelling’ of the Holy Spirit. Only those who have through the new birth been indwelt by the Holy Spirit can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Ephesian believers were initially indwelt by the Holy Spirit, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14) were commanded to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is a separate and continuous work of the Holy Spirit. The experience of some believers throughout the church age fits perfectly with the parable of the ten virgins. All the ten had lamps with oil with in the lamps, but only the five wise virgins possessed an extra supply of oil for filling their lamps (see Matthew 25:1-13). This infers that all believers are in possession of the indwelling Holy Spirit, but not everyone is filled with the Holy Spirit.
The command to “be filled with the Spirit” is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing condition. It can be translated “Be being filled with the Spirit” or as the Amplified Bible says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” This indicates that this blessing is for every day life and the believer is to be repeatedly filled with the Spirit. This is a command rather than a description. It only becomes a personal reality to those who obey.
A believer has to unconditionally submit and yield to the Word of God taught by the Holy Spirit indwelling him. This will cost us everything because it involves denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Christ, and losing one’s life for His sake. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
Prepared for the Kingdom
The Lord is omniscient and He knows everyone and all things. Yet in the parable of the ten virgins, the Lord plainly declared that He did not know those on the outside of the shut gate. A similar statement is found in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” “I never knew you“ and “I know you not” refer to the lack of preparation of many believers to meet the Lord. The type of knowledge mentioned here, is gained through experience, that is, through one’s personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, by hearing His voice, keeping His commandments and following Him day by day. The apostle Paul mentions this type of knowledge when he wrote, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:10-14).
There is a widespread ignorance concerning the glorious return of our Lord and the coming Kingdom amongst Christians. They may know much about the details of His return, but it does not affect their lives to any great extent. Multitudes of believers will stand before the Lord at His judgement seat in the same condition as the foolish virgins.
A believer is sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the time of his salvation. A believer must progressively be filled with the Holy Spirit by yielding to the Word of God so that he can become worthy to enter into the coming glorious kingdom of Christ. Let us, therefore, spend time at the feet of our Lord, study, understand and obey His word as taught and brought to remembrance by the indwelling Spirit and always yield to Him and continually be filled with the Spirit and thereby becoming worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Christ. “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).