Q – My question is: would you elaborate on Luke 1:5-46 and Ephesians 1:3-13, as far as the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit? Please consider:
1. Being Filled with the Spirit, and
2. Being sealed with the Spirit.
Jim – Sure I will! 🙂
This is a very good question because there is a fair bit of confusion concerning the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, particularly in light of recent Word of Faith and Pentecostal preaching that divides the Spirit’s attributes into separate categories and activities. But, as we’ll see, it’s not that complicated.
Let’s start with your citations and the notion of being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1 has to do with the birth of John the Baptist. The key verse reads:
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
Then, John’s mother was similarly filled:
“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:41-42)
Then, John’s father was filled:
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:67-68)
The next place in the New Testament where we read of the Spirit filling people is in Acts 2:2-4:
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Then Peter stood to speak to the assembly at Jerusalem, having already been filled:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel…” (Acts 4:8)
Later, after John and Peter had been imprisoned and released, they returned to their own company and told what God had done among them. They praised the Lord and recounted His redemptive acts.
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
When Paul started his ministry, he underwent a similar infilling:
“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17-18)
Paul used the language of filling when adjuring the Ephesians to curb their drinking –
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18)
And, those are all the references to the filling of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. So, let me make several observations.
The word “filled” is a translation of the Greek word “pletho” and it does mean “to fill, to fulfill, to accomplish, to furnish or to make full.” It’s not a particularly spiritual word; it’s used of a great many things.
For instance, the same term is used when the followers of Jesus ate the fishes and loaves “and were filled” (Mat. 14:20). When Jesus was on the cross, they “filled” a sponge with vinegar (Mat. 27:48). The Sadducees were “filled” with indignation (Acts 5:17). When Peter was fishing, his ship was “filled” with fish (Luke 5:7). When the man was healed of his palsy, the local folk were “filled” with fear and awe (Luke 5:26). In the parable of the wedding feast, the goodman wanted his house “filled” with guests (Luke 14:23). The prodigal son fained that he would have “filled” his belly with the husks that the swine ate (Luke 15:16). Mary’s ointment “filled” the house with a sweet odor (John 12:3). And, Paul adjured his readers to be “filled” with the fruits of righteousness (Phil 1:11).
So, you can see that the word has a very wide usage. And, it has a very simple meaning. When the Spirit of God indwells a person, it “fills” that person in the same manner that liquid fills a sponge or people fill a room. Basically, it means that God takes up residence inside a person.
Now, while this is absolutely a miraculous act of God – intentionally sending His Spirit to particular people – the reaction of those newly-filled people varies. Some, like John the Baptist’s parents, prophesied concerning God’s Son. Others spoke in various languages in order to spread the gospel among scattered Jews. Others believed and were baptized. Others praised God or spoke more boldly concerning Him. And, that’s an important realization. The common Pentecostal notion that “speaking in tongues” is the true evidence of being filled with the Spirit simply is not borne out in Scripture. Several gifts or strengths are listed as evidence of the Spirit’s indwelling; whatever was appropriate and necessary under the circumstances.
So, that’s the first point. In the second place, we need to recognize the difference between how the Spirit operated under the Old Covenant and how it operates under the New. Throughout the Old Testament we find that God’s Spirit was external to men and women. When it did influence people, it is often spoken of as being “on” them. For instance, Moses proclaimed:
“Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29)
It also came upon Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (Judges 11:29), Samson (Judges 14:6), Azariah (2 Chron. 15:1), Jahaziel (2 Chron. 20:14) and Zecheriah (2 Chron. 24:20), to name a few.
But, the Spirit of God was not permanent is such cases. Sometimes the Spirit of God would rest on someone for a while and then be removed. For instance, King Saul prophesied when the Spirit was upon him (1 Samuel 10:10). But, the Spirit was taken from him (1 Samuel 16:14). The Spirit of God speaks in the Old Covenant. It works through men. But, it is always separate from men.
God’s holy presence filled the Holiest Place, or the Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. After Solomon built a temple for God, the smoke of God’s presence filled the temple. But, common men and women were never able to enter the holiest place or commune with God. When God’s presence was on Mt. Sinai the people were instructed to stay back. When the presence was in the temple, only the high priest could enter, only once a year, dressed accordingly and carrying sacrificial blood. But, the Spirit of God did not take up permanent dwelling in any building or any person.
However, prior to His passion, Christ told His apostles:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-18)
That was an enormous shift that is easy to read by and not notice. For the first time in human history, Jesus announced that after His death and resurrection there would be a new move of the Spirit, which the world was incapable of receiving. The world neither knows nor sees the Spirit of God. But, the apostles would know it because it would dwell with them and IN them. God’s Spirit would take up residence inside certain individuals.
Consequently, the apostle Paul picked up this idea and announced:
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Rom 8:9)
According to Paul, having the Holy Spirit living IN you is the determinate proof that you belong to Christ. That’s why he would conclude:
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11)
So, a huge paradigm shift has occurred. Before Calvary the Spirit of God dwelt only in the temple and common men and women were kept from entering into His presence. However, after Calvary the Spirit of God never again appeared in the temple. Instead, it indwelt individual people, making them the temple of God and drawing them near to the Holiest Place in Heaven. These verses define Paul’s theology in this regard –
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17)
“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:16)
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22)
So, I said all that to say this: to be filled with the Holy Spirit simply means that the Spirit of God has taken up residence and abides within a person. The function of the Spirit is to bring to mind the things of Christ, to draw the person toward God and to confirm the things of God in the heart and mind of the indwelt individual. Along the way, the Spirit will produce the fruit of righteousness and whatever gifts are necessary for the accomplishment of God’s purpose in that person’s life and for the edification of the church body.
Now, once that has happened – once God has sent His Spirit to indwell a person – can that Spirit be lost? Can it leave? Can it give up and go find a new host? Will God withdraw it?
That’s where being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit comes into play. The sealing of the Holy Spirit appears only three times in Scripture. Here are all three references:
“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor 1:20-22)
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:13-14)
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:29-30)
In all three verses, the word “sealed” is a form of the Greek word “sphragizo,” which means, “to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation.” And, you can see that from the context. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is referred to as the guarantee of our salvation and the surety of our inheritance until the day of our ultimate redemption. That’s very clear, concise language.
One of the reasons I am convinced of our eternal security is because of Paul’s language concerning the sealing of the Holy Spirit. He went to great effort to assure his readers that once the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside an individual, that person is securely marked and preserved by the King who bought them. So, we can be assured of our Heavenly estate because we have the seal of the Spirit within us, which is empowered by God’s own limitless might.
So to summarize, we are “filled” with the Holy Spirit at some point in our lives. That is the beginning of our conversion to faith in Christ. God, having determined to save us, sends His Spirit to take up residence within us. Once we are filled, the Spirit will never leave us and never forsake us. Consequently, the very fact that the Spirit lives within us acts as a “seal” of protection and security to guarantee that everything God has intended for us will surely come to pass.
We are converted, drawn, conformed and secured when God determines to place His Spirit within us.
I hope that helps a bit. Thanks for asking. Never be afraid to forward your questions. I may not always be able to answer them immediately, but I’ll get to them all eventually. 🙂
Yours in Him,