The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit’s Fullness
Dr. David Clifford is currently engaged in international Bible teaching and presently makes his home in Plantation, Florida This is his eleventh study in his series on the Holy Spirit.
Christians can be baptized, sealed, indwelt and anointed with the Holy Spirit; they can possess the gift of the Spirit and the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts, and yet not be FILLED with the Spirit. The command to be filled with the Spirit is the only command there is in relation to the Spirit and the believer and the benedictions He bestows; therefore, the subject must be studied carefully and sincerely.
We have seen that the baptism and the fullness are not interchangeable terms or blessings. It would be wrong to try to deny godly people their testimony of an experience of the Spirit which, according to themselves and others, has changed their lives, but we must of necessity, to save confusion, call the blessing by the right Scriptural name. A contrast between these two blessings is here shown:
· The baptism of the Spirit is in relation to the Body of Christ, the Church.
The fullness of the Spirit is in relation to the indwelling of Christ in the individual.
· The baptism of the Spirit is initially historical.
The fullness of the Spirit is experiential.
· The baptism of the Spirit is concerning every believer being in the Body of Christ.
The fullness of the Spirit is concerning the control of the Spirit in every part of the being.
· The baptism of the Spirit is never commanded or sought after.
The fullness of the Spirit is commanded and sought by faith.
· The baptism of the Spirit is an initial work at regeneration.
The fullness of the Spirit is to be a continual experience.
· The baptism of the Spirit is known to all who believe.
The fullness of the Spirit is often unknown by believers.
· The baptism of the Spirit includes even those who are carnal.
The fullness of the Spirit refers to those who are spiritual.
The command to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) reveals that it is a real possibility to have every department of our being in His control. The command is clear and the example of the disciples and apostles outstanding. A study of the Acts of the Apostles will show their experiences of His fullness.
The command is not to receive the Holy Spirit, nor is it to receive more of the Spirit, for He is a Person and cannot be partitioned and divided, but it is to have every part of one’s being under His control. “Open every avenue of the soul to the One you already possess” (Andrew Murray). It is possible, therefore, to be filled with the Spirit at the very commencement of the Christian life. There is no need, and for us no command, to wait. Saul of Tarsus immediately after his conversion not only had his sight restored and was obedient to believer’s baptism, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17) .
A Continual Process
Literally, the command is “be being filled.” It is a continual process, but any process must have a commencement, and the commencement may be a real crisis. It is possible, therefore, to lose the blessing if one does not continue to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit-filled life is the birthright of every believer (compare Acts 2:4 and 38-39), and it is the Christian’s greatest need, greatest responsibility and greatest privilege. The Spirit was given to every believer to possess him completely, so that the will of God may be performed in and through every department of his life.
“He who is spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:15) has the same meaning, so also Galatians 6:1, “Ye who are spiritual,” i.e. Spirit-controlled or filled. “Filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) must suggest being immersed into God’s fullness, the result of which will be that His Spirit will fill all of one’s life. “Put on the new man … (where) Christ is all in all” (Colossians 3:10, 11) is a command which means the same, for Christ by His indwelling Spirit will become everything to the believer.
Being filled with the Spirit of Christ is God’s norm for His people, and when this is not enjoyed, as a day by day continual practice, the Holy Spirit must be grieved. In the text in Ephesians 5 there is a contrast between being drunk with wine and filled with the Spirit (v. 18). Strong drink may bring an elation which is false, but the Spirit’s fullness will bring a spiritual elation to God’s glory and the believer’s good.
Perhaps it goes without saying that there is no substitute for the fullness of the Spirit. Organization and committees, intellectualism or emotionalism; existentialism, philosophy or even enthusiasm, will all fall short of God’s requirements of His own. He Himself has made the provision to meet our need and fulfill His purpose, and this can only be done by His own gracious Spirit within, taking full control.
We read of our Lord that He was “anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and how He went about doing good (Acts 10:38). He was willing to go where the Father sent Him: “Thou hast sent me.” He was willing to do what the Father gave Him to do: “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” He was willing to be what the Father wanted Him to be: “He made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7, KJV) or, “He emptied Himself”; and any obedient Christian can enter into the fullness if he is thus abandoned to God, and to His will. Absolute ceasing from his own efforts and absolute surrender to the Lord’s will, together with absolute repentance for all known sin, should proceed a claiming of the fullness by faith.
Characteristics And Evidences
The results of the fullness of the Spirit in the life are enumerated for us in the same chapter where the command is (Ephesians 5). Things begin to happen in the believer’s heart; there is melody and giving of thanks. Things begin to happen in the church; there is submission. Things begin to happen in the home; there is love and the obedience of children. Things begin to happen in the business; there is obedience from the servants and fairness from the masters.
According to the Lord Jesus one of the first evidences of the Spirit’s control will be that Christ Himself will be manifested in the life: “He will bear witness of Me” (John 15:26), and “He shall glorify Me” (John 16:12-14). The quality of life produced in the life of the individual will be real Christian character … the ninefold fruit of the Spirit, together, form the character of the Saviour. There will be normal spiritual growth because the Spirit leads into all truth and leads His own into mature son-ship (see Romans 8:14).
In connection with the six other blessings of the Spirit mentioned in the earlier study, evidence of the filling of the Spirit will flow in the following manner:
· THE GIFT. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there will be a manifestation of the possession of His unction in powerful witness.
· THE INDWELLING. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there is sure to be manifestation of the life of Jesus in his mortal flesh.
· THE SEAL. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there will be a manifestation that He is the Lord’s property, that he is not his own.
· THE ANOINTING. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there will be a manifestation that His is already equipped and anointed for any service.
· THE BAPTISM. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there will be a manifestation of his oneness with all true believers who form part of the same Body.
· THE EARNEST. If the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit there will be a manifestation that he is enjoying a foretaste of the glory yet to be revealed.
The Fullness In The Book Of Acts
A careful study of the Acts of the Apostles with the thought of the fullness of the Spirit in mind will become quite revealing. Whichever blessing was needed by the apostles as they witnessed, suffered and laboured for the Lord, they most certainly received that blessing from God, when they were filled with the Spirit. The Spirit’s full control brought them all that they needed in any given situation. They were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and boldness (4:8 and 20, also verse 31). Stephen was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5), and with the Holy Spirit and dying grace later (7:55 and 60). “They were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (having suffered persecution, 13:50-52). Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and authority (13:9). Wisdom and utterance were both given in other situations, but only together with the Spirit’s fullness.
If a man is filled with the Holy Spirit he will not necessarily be excited and noisy. It is a life of quiet calm and confidence (Isaiah 30:15). Nor is it that he has reached a state of sinless perfection, or the eradication of the old nature (1 John 1:8, 10). It does not mean that a man is forever after, free from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), and it certainly cannot be that he has reached a stage where further growth is unnecessary (2 Peter 3:18).