Our blessed Lord when He was on His way to Calvary promised the disciples He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell His own, and to abide with them forever (John 14:16-17). The promise, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17), marks a dispensational difference. Until Pentecost the Holy Spirit was with these disciples; after Pentecost, He was in them.
When we trust Christ, the Holy Spirit enters and indwells us. The truth of Scripture is clear and undeniable. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit. This is not only a truth to be believed, but a fact to be enjoyed and practised. Herein lies our only hope of holy living, our only hope of gaining spiritual knowledge, and certainly, our only hope of effective service. Although He is in every believer, it is all too possible, as 1 Corinthians 6:19 states, to live as not relying on Him, which results in bringing shame rather than glory on Him whose name we bear.
The ideal standard of Christian living can only be attained when we realize that the Holy Spirit is a Person whose presence we claim by faith. He gives guidance in the practical matters of life and conduct, using the Word of God to reveal God’s will. The Scriptures teach how the Christian should live, and the Spirit of God supplies the power to live for the glory of God.
Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit, but not every Christian is filled with, that is, controlled by, the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Spirit comes by yielding to Christ. “To yield” is a family concept, children should yield lovingly to the wishes of their parents; in like manner, our yielding to Christ is the action not of compulsion but of love.
The command in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit,” is as binding on the believer as the command, “Be not drunk with wine.” This filling is God’s purpose for every Christian, for the husband and the wife in the home (Vv. 22-25), for the servant and the master (Eph. 6:5), and for the child and the parent (Eph. 6:1-4). In the filling of the Spirit rests the possibility of being filled with spiritual knowledge, of doing all for Christ, and of being morally like Christ. The experience is not a once for all but a daily surrender to the Lordship of Christ. God’s will is that the Spirit of God may have complete control and not be confined to any particular sphere of our lives.
The Book of the Acts records for us the possibilities of the Spirit-filled life. There are four men of importance in this Book of whom it is stated that they were filled with the Holy Spirit; Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, and Paul. The interesting results of their being filled demonstrate the secret of power in the Christian life. The first example, as stated, is Peter (Acts 4:8).
Power to Witness for Christ
Peter empowered because he was filled with the spirit, along with John preached a crucified and risen Saviour. They were threatened; public opinion was stirred to open hostility against them; and they were considered “unlearned and ignorant men” (4:13). This in itself proves that it is unnecessary to have a scholarly education to be a power for God. The secret of their power is evident in the fact, “They had been with Jesus” (V. 13). Whether young or old, may the power of the Spirit be felt in our lives in a practical way. If we are going to witness effectively for Christ, we must be “filled with the Spirit.”
As suggested, the second example before us in the Book of the Acts, is Stephen (Chap. 6:5).
Power to Suffer for Christ
“They chose Stephen a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” The evidences of his being “filled with the Spirit” are seen in his defence recorded in chapter seven. What wisdom is manifested in his approach to his accusers! No wonder it is said, “They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10).
The power of the Spirit is confirmed by Stephen’s bold testimony of the dealings of God with the nation, and by his calmness and forgiving grace as fanatics grinding their teeth pounded him with stones. “They stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Chap. 7:59). The Spirit of God gave him power to suffer for his loyalty to Christ. After Stephen, the next example before us is Barnabas who similarly was “filled with the Spirit” (Chap. 11:24).
Power for Soul Winning
It is said of Barnabas, “He was a good man.” His goodness was the product of faith and the filling of the Holy Spirit. His generosity in parting with his property to assist needy saints (Acts 4:36-37), and his sympathy in assisting Saul the new convert were also “the fruit of the Spirit.” As a result of his Spirit-filled life “a great multitude believed and turned to the Lord.” The Spirit of the Lord gave him power to be an effective soul winner. Finally, after these three wonderful characters, we come to the Apostle Paul; he, too, was “filled with the Spirit” (Chap. 13:9).
Power Over Satan
In Acts chapter 13, the filling of the Holy Spirit is connected with satanic opposition. Satan uses Elymas the sorcerer to hinder the work of God. Paul, being “filled with the Spirit,” was empowered to detect the sin of this evil man and to inflict just punishment upon him. The result was he triumphed over the devil, and proved the Gospel to be “the power of God unto salvation.” “The deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” “The Spirit in power creates His instruments; adapts them for His work; and sends them forth in His own energy. Moreover, He sustains by His power in the midst of all circumstances, whatever they may be” (J.N.D.).
Are there any other four things which we would covet more than these? Do we not long above all things to witness for Christ, to suffer for Christ, win others to Christ, and conquer Satan? These are some of the privileges and victories within the reach of young believers as well as more mature Christians. To enjoy experimentally spiritual power in our service for the Best of all Masters, the Lord Jesus, we need to heed the exhortation. “Be filled with the Spirit.”