THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (20)
The Holy Spirit
The Infilling of the Holy Spirit
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:19)
In recent studies we have been exploring our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He has regenerated us, imparting new life, which results in His indwelling. He assures us that we belong to the family of God, constantly witnessing to our hearts of God’s grace in our lives. He sanctifies us, creating holy desires and inclinations within our hearts. He also infills us, generating the power whereby we can serve God and be fruitful believers in a corrupt world.
The terminology with respect to the infilling of the Holy Spirit is most common in the New Testament. As the following examples illustrate:
“…he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)
“Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 9:17)
These examples certainly show that the infilling of the Holy Spirit endues Christians with great power and equips believers for service. When writing to the Ephesians Paul shows that this doctrine is for all Christians in the New Testament age.
It is clear that this text is not solely a message about the Spirit of God and His relationship to us. Paul is also issuing a warning with regard to the dangers of alcohol. The juxtaposition of wine with the infilling of the Spirit shows that one is evil while the other is good. Where the world celebrates with alcohol, that drives the partaker to wild excesses, the Christian enjoys the power of the Spirit of God. Alcohol is an addictive substance , driving in the worst cases, the drinker to despair and death. In the best possible sense the Christian should be addicted to the Holy Ghost, craving each and every day His infilling. This study poses a challenging question that we need to take to heart:
Have we a thirst for the power of the Holy Ghost?
1: The Command
It is evident that the Apostle Paul is presenting a command to the Ephesian Christians and indeed to all of us. The infilling of the Spirit is not ‘an optional extra’ in Christian living. If the Christian is to be compared to a car, this infilling is not to be compared to a heated windscreen or the latest in audio technology. Rather this spiritual power is more like the fuel for the journey. Without the infilling of the Holy Ghost we don’t even get out of the garage to fulfil God’s purpose in our lives. This is why the command is so severe and uncompromising – “…be ye filled with the Spirit”.
It is clear that the receiving of the Holy Ghost’s infilling is something in which we are actively engaged. The Christian is alive, therefore he or she is able then, with the assistance of the indwelling Spirit, to seek after this endowment. Yet we must be reminded that the infilling of the Holy Ghost is always God’s gift to give, not ours to earn:
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ… (2nd Corinthians 5:18)
“…according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;” (Titus 3:5-6)
The ministry of the Holy Ghost is then a gift granted by the Father on account of the person and work of Christ on our behalf. We are wholly dependent on His grace that we might be filled with the Spirit.
How can then we can obey this command and be filled? By doing what the drunkard does – we drink. The Lord expressed this simply with three words – ‘asking, seeking, knocking’. He did so with reference to the work of the Holy Ghost:
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)
Those who fulfil this command are obedient in their asking. This obedience will flow out into all other aspects of life. Therefore the ‘Spirit Filled’ Christian is an obedient individual, who faithfully attends the means of grace (The Word, Prayer and The Sacraments), who hates sin and strives after holiness.
We are not to be mistaken into thinking that this infilling is a once in a lifetime experience. Nor are we to imagine that special experiences that other Christians speak of are to sought by everyone. The Scriptures nowhere teach what the infilling of the Spirit feels like for each person. Thomas Manton taught that Christ was the only man who was filled perfectly with the Holy Ghost, and we must concur. Therefore our ‘infillings’ will only ever be partial, therefore we must seek this infilling every day. The infilling is a blessing we can also lose as we observe in a later study. Therefore we all have a duty to consider this command carefully.
2: The Control
The comparison with alcohol shows us that the Christian is infilled with the Holy Ghost is one who is under the influence of the Spirit. We should be so ‘intoxicated’ with the Holy Ghost that society around will take note that we have been with Jesus. What then are the marks of a Christian under the influence of the Holy Ghost?
A Understanding of God’s will (v17)
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
B Joyful in worship (v19)
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
C Humility in fellowship (v21)
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
D Wives that obey (v22)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
E Husbands that love (v25)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
F Children that honour (6:1)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
G Fathers that respect and nurture (6:4)
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
H Servants that work (6:5-8)
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
I Masters that are fair (6:9)
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
G Soldiers that stand firm (6:10)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
H Congregations who pray (6:18)
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
I Preachers who are bold (6:19)
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,