Be Filled with the Spirit

It was 1998, and I was a worshipper at the large Pentecostal church in Leeds. I was taught, and believed, that each Christian was to entitled receive a ‘second blessing’, a baptism in the Holy Spirit. A number of people prayed for me, and kept on praying, urging me to speak in tongues. Despite seeking it, nothing of that sort happened, but I did have an experience that brought me closer to the Lord, temporarily.

I believe my understanding was mistaken on two counts. I now consider that I was baptised with the Holy Spirit at my conversion. Water baptism is a one-off event, usually occurring at the beginning of one’s life (if you’re a paedo baptist), or the beginning of your Christian life (if you’re a credo baptist). Presumably, therefore, Spirit baptism is also a one-off event, and it happens early on. So early, in fact, that it is seemingly instantaneous with being saved. In Mark 1:8, John proclaims “I indeed baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit”. John is speaking to people who have repented and received his baptism. Here ‘baptism with the Holy Spirit’ is synonymous with receiving salvation.

I believe that I was filled with the Holy Spirit that night. I felt so content in Christ and I loved my Saviour more than I felt I’d loved Him for a long time. I remember skipping home, so great was my joy. ‘Filling’ with the Spirit happens on a number of occasions in scripture. The apostle Paul was filled at least twice- one just before his baptism and again in Acts 13:9.

My second error was the belief that tongues was the evidence of Spirit baptism or even filling. At a recent Bible Study, the following verse was quoted:

Ezekiel 36:27: And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

This is what I read in my Bible when I returned home that Sunday evening in 1998. Being filled with the Spirit is not about drawing attention to oneself, appearing superior or specially gifted. It’s about giving glory to God by loving Him more and me less, and being empowered for holy living. 

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul writes: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. Just as I can choose to avoid much wine, so I might seek the filling of the Spirit. We are leaky vessels, and we are wont to need topping up and rededicating. Therefore, you who were baptised with the Holy Spirit, seek more of Him, be filled with Him, be full of Him. In so doing, we shall share Stephen’s gaze, if not his death:

‘But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not lead one to keep talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Neither does the Holy Spirit lead us to talk about Himself- but, like Stephen, to gaze more on Christ and His inordinate, captivating beauty.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay