Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure.

Swindol points out in an article that in the Bible “we are never commanded to “Be baptized in the Spirit,” or “Be indwelt by the Spirit” or “Be Gifted,” or “Be Sealed” but here in this verse we are commanded to “Be filled with the Spirit.” Therefore it is something we are to obey. We are never told to ask the Spirit to come into our lives, or to give us anything. The nearest we get to being told to ask the Spirit for anything is when Paul tells us to earnestly desire the higher gifts, which naturally infers that we can ask for them. The main focus in the Bible regarding the Holy Spirit is that we can assume he has been given to us and He has given us gifts, and will teach us. So Peter in the first evangelistic sermon calls for repentance, commands baptism and promises that if they obey they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39).

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

The first thing we must know is we have to have received the Spirit to be filled with the Spirit. Peter’s promise of receiving the gift of the Spirit was to everyone who repents and receives forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:39, “For the promise is for you, and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord calls to himself.” Paul puts it the other way and tells us in Romans 8:9, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” So before you think about what it means to be filled with the Spirit you need to ask yourself, Am I a child of God? John 3:3, “Jesus answered him [Nicodemus] Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Presuming that you are a child of God we can go onto look at what it means to be filled with the Spirit.

The first thing we must do is remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is a person. We need to focus on the person-ness of the Holy Spirit and in doing so steer away from any idea or thought of volume. The filling is a matter of relationship and not of fluid volume.

It is not the fullness of a cup filled, or partially filled with liquid. Too many do see fullness as this and inevitably slip into to talking about the Holy Spirit as an It. The fullness of the Spirit is a relationship. A good example to illustrate the fullness of the Spirit is to think of young lovers. All they can do is talk about this new found love. In this sense they are filled with each other.

Because the Holy Spirit is a person we cannot receive a portion of Him, but we receive His wholeness. We must not allow the idea of a topping up come into our thinking. We never get more of Him – though he inevitably will get more of us.

This too, is why I wince when I read theologians talking about an infilling, as in my understanding, this portrays a voluminous action. I would prefer them to talk about a from-within-filling, almost to overflowing, for the Spirit indwells us as a person and will not leave us, and so does not come as an infilling. To my understanding when we grieve the Spirit or quench Him, He may well withdraw His influence and any awareness of Him we may have but not His indwelling presence. In a simplistic way it is as if he withdraws to the depths of our heart where we are not aware consciously of even our selves.

Jesus give us this picture when talking about the Living water to the Samaritan woman. John 4: 14, “The water I will give him will become in him a spiring of water welling up to Eternal, life.”

Swindol wrote, “Let me remind you that as a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit. You don’t need to pray for him to come into your life. He is already there. He came to reside [live] in you when you were converted, even though you may not have known it.”  Once we have settled on this knowledge that we have the Spirit of God, as a person living in us, then we can ask why does Paul tell us to be filled with the Spirit? (Ephesians 5:18). Because it is a relationship between Him and us, and we can never get more of Him, then it must be he needs more of us.

In John chapters 14 to 16 is the main area of the Bible that we learn what the Spirit’s job is.

  • John 14:15-18. He is another counsellor, like Jesus. He is the Spirit of truth. He teaches us the truth. That is the truth about Jesus.
  • John 14:25-26. He will teach us all things, and reminded the apostles all he had said, so we get the New Testament.
  • John 15:26. He will testify about Jesus. He will bear witness about me and you also will bear witness about me. The witness we share with others is that which the Spirit has already shared with us. It is the Spirit that convinces us about who Jesus is. Do you believe Jesus is the saviour, the Son of God who died for you? You believe that because the Holy Spirit convinced you of this truth. When you share the Gospel believe that the Spirit is working in those you are sharing with to teach them the truth too.
  • John 16:8 He will convince (convict) the world of its sin, and righteousness and judgement and so need for a saviour.
  • John 16:13 He will guide us into all truth: all the truth we need right now to live as he wants us to live. And this truth is all about Jesus.

We can grieve and the Spirit. Remember he is a person and has feelings, as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” But in the context we grieve the Holy Spirit when we bad mouth others, I would especially suggest other Christians. We must hold onto the truth as we see it but we have no right to malign those who do not see the truth as we see it. This grieves the Spirit. All God’s children are sealed in the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. The Spirit indwelling us, He is Himself the seal. We grieve the Spirit when we don’t listen to him when he tries to teach us how to live: Whenever we sin.

Paul said to the Galatians in Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” He gave us life and supports it daily, so we ought to stride out and keep up with him. That is allow him to help us live the lives he wants us to live. This is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. He wants to teach us so we must let Him teach us. How do we do that? Well by allowing for instance him to teach us as he wants to from the Bible.

Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof and for training in righteousness, that the man [and woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” How much time do you put into studying the Bible? Do you ask the Spirit to teach you what it means? Do you do what it is telling you to do? This is fullness of the Spirit: Letting the Spirit teach you how to grow as a child of God.


Read Galatians 5:16-26

  • What does it mean to live by the Spirit? Walk in/by the Spirit as found in verse 16
  • What does it mean to keep in step with the Spirit as in verse 25?
  • How can we be sure we are being led by the Spirit?
  • What is Paul getting at when he tells us to Go on being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18?
  • What is the best gift that the Spirit has given to us?


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Theology Holy SpiritTowards Maturity