“The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” ~AW Tozer

I had a mentor who liked to use the catechetical method—to entrap me, I thought, because he was good at microanalyzing things. One day, smiling, he asked, “What is the difference between being filled with the Spirit and being baptized in the Spirit?”

We were both Pentecostal and had heard the two phrases used interchangeably, so I thought he was playing with my head. But, no, he was serious.

“If I hold a glass under a fountain,” he explained, “I can fill it with water; but if I leave it there long enough, the water will spill over and baptize the glass. Being filled with the Spirit is having the Spirit inside you. Being baptized in the Spirit is having the Spirit inside, outside, and all over you.” In other words, you are enveloped in the Spirit, you move in the Spirit, you are guided by the Spirit, you operate in the Spirit, you are awash in the Spirit.

Now, knowing the Full Gospel experientially, some Pentecostals refuse to allow non-Pentecostals, such as Dwight L Moody, for instance, to appropriate to themselves the phrase “filled with the Spirit”: they will censor it. Because someone might assume that the user was claiming the Pentecostal experience, when he didn’t have it. I don’t know what experience Moody had (he died before Azusa Street). I know he associated with persons open to the Pentecostal experience, like Andrew Murray; but I don’t know if Moody spoke in tongues. However, if he used the phrase of himself, then I see no reason to alter his language. He obviously had an experience that he defined as being “filled with the Spirit.”

The Bible says, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwell in you. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (8:14). So, every Christian, to some extent, has the indwelling Spirit of God as Jesus foretold. “The Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit, “shall be in you” (John 14:17). That is the Spirit’s house or abode: the body of the believer. “You are the temple of God … the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Whether or not the believer is “filled” may be a different question. However, since the Bible commands, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), he should be “filled,” don’t you think?

On the Day of Pentecost “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where” the 120 were assembled and waiting (Acts 2:2), and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:4).

On the occasion of this initial outpouring, being “filled with the Holy Spirit” was accompanied by speaking in tongues or glossolalia. On other occasions in the Book of Acts, persons spoke with tongues: eg, at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:46) and in Ephesus (19:6). On many occasions today Pentecostals and Charismatics still speak with tongues. Tongues have not ceased and will not cease, until “that which is perfect is come” (1 Corinthians 13:10), meaning heaven.

(By way of explanation, however, Pentecostals do not equate or confuse speaking in tongues with salvation, and neither should you. Salvation is one experience. Water Baptism is another. For some Methodist and some Holiness groups, sanctification is another. Being filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit is yet another. Pentecostals do not require believers or candidates for church membership to speak in tongues as a test of salvation.)

On other occasions, in the Book of Acts, being “filled with the Spirit” often refers to empowerment or boldness. Jesus had told the disciples, “You will receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you” (1:8). He had breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

“One of the special marks of the Holy Spirit in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness.” ~AB Simpson

After the Day of Pentecost, Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8)—energized or enthused with the Spirit—was bold in his encounter with the chief priests and elders: the Sanhedrin. Afterward, when Peter related to the church what had happened, the congregation entered into concert prayer. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness” (4:31).

After his Damascus Road experience, Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (9:17), or filled with holy boldness. Nothing is said of his speaking in tongues at the time he was filled, though we assume he did, because, to Pentecostals, that is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; and we know that Paul later wrote, “I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). In an incident resembling Peter’s encounter with the chief priests and rulers (Acts 4:8) and with Simon the Sorcerer (8:9-24), Paul, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (13:9)—energized or enthused with the Spirit—was bold in his encounter with Elymas the Sorcerer.

At Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas, the church’s first two missionaries, “waxed bold” (13:46), preached the Word, shook off the dust of their feet when they were rejected, and came to Iconium “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (13:52).

That other spirits and other things, having nothing to do with glossolalia, can also fill the heart suggests “filled with the Spirit” does not necessarily mean speaking in tongues (though it may). Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (5:3). The Sadducees “were filled with indignation” (5:17). The Ephesians were “filled with confusion” (19:29). A reprobate mind is “filled with all unrighteousness” (Romans 1:29).

Those “filled with the Spirit,” by contrast, experience joy, peace, and hope “through the power of the Holy Spirit,” being “full of goodness,” “filled with knowledge” (Romans 15:13, 14), “filled with all the fullness of God” and “power” (Ephesians 3:19, 20), “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11), and “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

The indwelling Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22, 23). He gifts the saints in prophecy, faith, ministry, teaching, exhortation (Romans 12:6-8), wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation (1 Corinthians 12:8-10), apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues (12:28-31), again, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers (Ephesians 4:11) “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (4:12).

Baptism is a New Testament word that usually refers to being baptized in water; but, occasionally, to being “baptized in the Spirit.” When Jesus told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they “be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), He informed them: “John truly baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). John the Baptist had prophesied that this same Jesus whom he had baptized in water would afterward baptize others with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). This is the term we Pentecostals prefer: the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

When the Spirit comes in His fullness, He sweeps over the soul in demonstration of power. The Spirit-baptized believer is enveloped in the Spirit, moved by the Spirit, guided by the Spirit, operated by the Spirit, and awash in the Spirit. With hands lifted high, the Spirit-baptized one honors and magnifies the Lord of glory, he shouts the high praises of God, he speaks in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance, he may interpret tongues or prophesy, he may run or dance in the Spirit (something different from what is done in the natural), sing in the Spirit, or be slain in the Spirit. But “all things are done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

“We need, men so possessed by the Spirit of God that God can think His thoughts through our minds, that He can plan His will through our actions, that He can direct His strategy of world evangelization through His Church.” ~Alan Redpath

Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee

Photo Credit


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.