Perhaps no area of teaching is in more need of clarification than the filling of the Holy Spirit as taught in Ephesians 5:18. It is not uncommon for me to have questions, particularly from young people, who have run into teachings about the Holy Spirit they have never heard before. They have been encouraged by a teacher or church to have an experience with the Spirit that will make them more complete Christians with a more powerful work of the Spirit in their lives. Not only are they confused thinking they need something more to be complete, but they are encouraged to seek an emotional experience that ignores what a true relationship with the Holy Spirit involves. I am always concerned with people who promote exciting experiences rather than practical Christianity. It’s the latter we need more because it is excellent and profitable for everyone, see Titus 3:1-8.
The first thing we need to understand is that the command be filled with the Holy Spirit is the only command given to Christians in their relationship with the Spirit. All other ministries of the Spirit such as indwelling, baptizing and sealing were accomplished at salvation and are complete. Because we have an old nature and can act in the flesh apart from the Spirit, it is the filling (or controlling) of the Spirit we constantly need to seek. That’s why the present tense is so important which means be being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the constant control of the Holy Spirit that is needed so that we can counteract the deeds of the flesh and live pleasing to God.
The Bible teaches that there are three conditions we must meet to live daily with the Spirit’s control. It is these conditions that should absorb us in relation to the Holy Spirit. The first is dedication. Halfhearted Christianity can never be pleasing to the Holy Spirit and so can never be powerful Christianity. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, Do not quench the Spirit. Quench means to subdue or resist and the opposite is yielding or being dedicated. This really is nothing less than settling the Lordship issue. We decide that we are no longer ours but instead offer our bodies as living sacrifices, Romans 12:1-2. We live with the attitude not my will, but thine be done, Mark 14:36.
The second is obedience. We are to keep in step with the Spirit which means obeying His guidance and leading, Galatians 5:25. This is dedication put to practical experience by obeying the direction of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. Jesus said we are to obey everything He has commanded us, Matthew 28:20. His commands are in the Scriptures so being doers of the Word is essential to be filled with the Spirit, James 1:22.
The third is cleansing. Ephesians 4:30 counsels us do not grieve the Spirit. Sin is what grieves the Holy Spirit, vv. 31-32. So when we disobey we are resisting the Lordship of Christ thru disobedience. A grieved Spirit is a Spirit that is hindered and sorrowed over our behavior. Experiencing His conviction we must admit our sin; confess it; and forsake it, 1 John 1:8-10. When we do our dedication and obedience are renewed adjusting us properly to the Holy Spirit so He can control us once again. It’s really about relationship isn’t it? It’s about living in proper relationship to the Spirit rather than somehow getting more of Him or having an instantaneous experience with Him outside of conversion. It’s not us getting more of Him; it’s Him getting more of us.
Your friend, needing His control, Pastor Brian (:-}).