The fullness of the Holy Spirit is a continuous appropriation of a continuous supply from Jesus Christ Himself. It is a moment-by-moment faith in a moment-by-moment cleansing. The moment I begin to believe, that moment I begin to receive, and as long as I go on believing, I go on receiving. Paul promises this ongoing transformation occurring in our lives as a result of the Spirit’s ministry, saying, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Let us look at some examples in the Scriptures where we see the Holy Spirit at work. First, in Luke 1:34, we see the immaculate conception of the Lord Jesus in the womb of Mary, who is incredulous at the announcement by the angel. The angel has just told her that she will bear a son. She says, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” The angel replies that the Holy Spirit “will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Then the angel recalls the situation of Elizabeth, whose story appears in the beginning of Luke 1. Elizabeth has been barren for some time, and yet the Lord provides them with a son who comes to be known as John the Baptist. (See Luke 1:7) The angel promises Mary, “With God, nothing is impossible!” (Luke 1:37) Hearing this, Mary accepts the word from the angel, knowing that it comes from the Lord. She says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” This consecration through the Holy Spirit’s work results in the birthing of the Christ, our Lord Jesus.
A second instance occurs in Luke as well, when Jesus speaks of the Spirit in Luke 11:13. Jesus says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” In the verses preceding this, Jesus is postulating a hypothetical situation where, if a child asks his father for bread or fish or eggs, the father will certainly not give him a stone, a serpent, or a scorpion in response to his request. In the original language, Luke 11:13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will give a Holy Spirit - without the definite article. Scholars say that when the article ‘the’ is present, it refers to the Holy Spirit Himself, or His Person. However, when the article ‘the’ is absent, it supposedly refers to His power. So we see from this incident and word usage that the asking and receiving of the Spirit and its powerful work in a believer’s life are far more important than these worldly goods.
Let us look at other instances in Scripture where the Holy Spirit’s power is at work. In 2 Samuel 18, we read the story of Joab, the commander of David’s army, David’s son Absalom, an Ethiopian Cushite and Ahimaaz, a messenger, the son of Zadok the high priest. Absalom has been killed, and the Cushite is sent to bear the news to David, while Ahimaaz follows him and outruns him with the same news for David. Ahimaaz is clearly known for his swiftness of foot. Upon arrival, David asks him, “Is Absalom safe?” He replies, “I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was.” (2 Samuel 18:29) The Cushite, an Ethiopian had been commanded, to “go tell the king what you have seen,” which is Absalom’s death. When he arrives, David asks again the same question: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The Cushite answers, “May the enemies of my lord the king be as that young man.” This message through the Holy Spirit’s working so moved the king that he retreats into an isolated place and laments over his son’s death. He cries, “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
In Acts, we see that Paul is anointed by the Spirit before he enters his ministry by Ananias (See Acts 9:17) Six times in Acts the disciples are filled with the Spirit. Peter, after he gives his famous sermon in Acts 2, sees three thousand spirit-filled souls come to believe. (Acts 2:31) Let us look at the Scriptures for the effects or marks of being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Acts 3, we see a lame man healed by Peter and John. Through the power of the Holy Spirit given to them. (See Acts 3:1-10) Then in Acts 4, we see that the disciples pray to the Lord for power – power to heal, to perform signs and wonders, and for boldness. After their prayer, the place was shaken, and the disciples were filled with the Spirit. (See Acts 4:27-35) Then in Acts 5:42, we see the disciples “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” daily in the temple, despite being arrested, put on trial, and subject to persecution for doing so. These were men that were truly filled with the Holy Spirit, with zeal and passion for teaching the Word of God!
God promises to give the power to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring, Christ-exalting, and fruitful life. He will give us power in our private and public life; in the prayer room and the pulpit. If we look at the example of the disciples, before the disciples could become true witnesses they had to wait for the promise of the Father, which was the Holy Spirit. Before this occurred, before they would be endowed with power to live and witness for Christ, the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 1:8) Jesus instructs them, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) From this we know that the power of the Holy Spirit is important and indispensable in the believer’s life, because it is a real spiritual force. John’s Gospel continually recognizes this through mentioning the Holy Spirit’s work. He mentions the indwelling, the upspringing, and the outflowing of the Spirit. (See John 3:5-8 and 4:14) In John 7:37-39, he says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
We should also consider Paul’s teaching about the filling of the Spirit in Ephesians 5. Paul’s method described here is being emptied first, then being filled, rather than filled first and then emptied. This is important given the context here. Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus commanding them to stop doing certain things, and start doing others. This means they should be emptied first of those wrong things, and be filled next with those ‘right’ things, like the Spirit! Then the “fruits of the Spirit” will come naturally once they are filled with the Spirit. He presents these fruits in Galatians 5: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Paul also instructs us that the power of the Spirit will help believers “walk in Him” and so defeat the desires of the flesh. (See Galatians 5:16-18) We see this power of the Holy Spirit to help believers walk in Him in the Old Testament as well. For example, when the Spirit comes upon Moses in Exodus 7, the plagues come upon Egypt and he possesses the power to destroy men’s lives. (See Exodus 7:14-25) Elijah displays the power of the Spirit when he asks that fire come down from heaven if he is a man of God, and indeed fire comes down from heaven and consumes the king’s fifty men – quite a shocking episode! (See 2 Kings 1:10-13) Again with Joshua, there is apparent power of the Holy Spirit, who appears to him as the “commander of the Lord’s army” when he marches around Jericho and the city falls into his hands without military conquest. (See Joshua 5:13-15 and Joshua 6)
By contrast, when the Spirit comes upon the Son of Man, He gives His life for the sins of the world. And when the Spirit comes into a believer, He makes Christ dearer, Heaven nearer, and the Word of God clearer! Let us remember the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 1, who cries out to the Lord for the living water of the Holy Spirit that we have previously mentioned. He exclaims, “Blessed is the man…He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)