There is a great deal of debate, and what I believe is confusion, about the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the believer. Probably one of the central verses in any discussion of the Spirit is Ephesians 5:18. Paul writes:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…
There is a good deal of confusion over what this passage actually means. Some have said that we are like empty vessels that need to be filled with more and more of the Holy Spirit. Others make a case that it is more the idea of letting the Spirit of God take control of our lives. Still others say that being filled with the Spirit is similar to being filled with joy or peace or anger. It is a way of saying that you are characterized in a certain way, in this case by life in the Spirit.
In this post, I want to start by stating what I think we can quickly conclude “being filled with the Spirit” is not. It is not getting more of the Holy Spirit.
Why do I believe this? Because the Holy Spirit is a person, not an object. You either have him or you do not. You cannot divide him up into pieces (e.g. first you get his arm, then his leg, now his foot, etc.).
Also, Scripture tells us that when a person is born again, he/she receives the Holy Spirit. Paul just finished saying as much earlier in Ephesians in 1:13-14:
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Paul also tells us in Romans 8:9 that anyone who does not have the Spirit does not belong to Christ.
To be saved (i.e. born again) is to have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who is a person, not an object. You either have him or you do not.
So, whatever “be filled with the Spirit” means, it does not mean that you get more of the Holy Spirit in your life. It must mean something else. I will get to that in my next post. Stay with me…