What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes, “Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” Is being filled with the Spirit only reserved for a few select Christians, or is the verse applicable to all Christians? While the Bible teaches one receives the Holy Spirit at salvation (Eph. 1:13), there are those who contend we must beg and plead with God to fill us with His Spirit. Is that so?
Let us examine the Ephesians 5:18. The Greek word Paul uses for “filled” is from the word pleroo (πληρόω), meaning to “make full, to fill up, to fill to the full.” Three insights regarding Paul’s usage of the verb pleroo. (1) It is in the present tense, implying that we are to be continuously filled with the Spirit; it is not a onetime act or a onetime experience. (2) The word “filled” is an imperative, which means it is a command. Being an imperative (a command) means that we have the choice to obey to either allow or not allow being filled with the Spirit from happening in our lives. Being filled with the Spirit is an imperative necessity. (3)Also, the word “filled” is in the passive voice, which means being filled is not something we can do to ourselves but is something that God does in the Christian…we do the yielding (our part), the Lord does the filling (His part).
Putting together all that is contained in the Greek word “filled,” we are commanded to be continually yielded to the Lord to allow the process of the Spirit to work and flow in and through our daily lives. Again, we do the yielding, He does the filling. A Spirit-filled Christian is one who sustains union and a yielded relationship with Jesus Christ.
Paul in contrast urges the Christian not to yield one’s self to alcohol and be brought under its influence, but instead continuously (daily) yield one’s life to the Lord whereby His Spirit can daily influence our lives. The Christian doesn’t have to beg and plead for the Lord to fill one with His Spirit; one must daily yield and make themselves available for His Spirit to fill and influence our lives. We must understand that the Holy Spirit will only fill the individual who is yielded and makes themselves available to Him. Only our obedience to God’s commands allows the Spirit freedom to work within us.
A.W. Tozer says it well, “One of the strange things about God is that He will come in as far as we allow Him. I have often said that a Christian is as full of the Holy Spirit as he wants to be. We can beg to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can talk about it, but until we are willing to empty ourselves, we will never have the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God will fill as much of us as we allow Him to fill” (Tozer, The Crucified Life, Bethany House Publishers, 2011, 28).
When as Christians we live in deliberate disobedience to the Lord, we will not experience the fullness of the Spirit’s working and His power in and through us. So, let us daily be continually yielded and living our lives under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.