The Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit
As Christians, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without Him, our witness will be powerless and our Christian lives nothing but a burden. We might have learning, talent, and eloquence, but without the Spirit, we cannot experience life as God intended for us to. We will not have the assurance of salvation and will not know the joy that comes from serving our Lord. We will be Christians in name only, and a Christian in name only is not really a Christian at all.
Jesus, however, wants us to live life to its fullest. He wants to give us life as it is meant to be—a life that is fulfilling and meaningful because it is rooted in the Source of all life: Jesus Christ. He is the Creator of all life, and the only way to eternal life. “ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ ” (John 14:6, NKJV). This fullness is possible only by being joined to Him, and this can happen only through the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives.
This week we will study what the Bible says about the baptism of the Spirit and what it means to be filled with Him. We will also look at some evidence that testifies that we are, indeed, filled with the Spirit.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, February 4.
In the New Testament, there are only seven passages that speak about being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Four of those passages go back to John the Baptist and point to Pentecost. Here the Holy Spirit was given to usher in the beginning of “the last days” of salvation history.
John, however, in contrast to the other Gospels, does not use the future tense when speaking about the baptism of the Spirit. Instead, he uses a present participle, indicating that this is something that has continuing validity (see John 1:33). The same tense is used by John just a few verses earlier in John 1:29, when he talks about another important work of Jesus: the taking away of the sins of the world. The ministry of Jesus consists in taking away our sins and in giving us the Holy Spirit. This twofold experience is also reported in Acts 2:38. After their eyes were opened to Christ, the disciples received both: forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. The same experience is reported about the believers in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10:43, 44 and later in Acts 11:16. Water baptism is known as the baptism of repentance (Acts 19:4). When we repent of sin and are baptized in the name of Jesus, we also receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:28–39).
In the New Testament, the receiving of the Holy Spirit and baptism belong together. They signal our new birth. In baptism we are identified with Christ, and Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can live in His power and proclaim the good news. The baptism of the Spirit is no second work of grace at a later stage in life that some associate with miraculous gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul does not have in mind the unique experience at Pentecost but rather the experience of all believers. He states that by one Spirit we all are baptized into one body, and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Paul emphasizes unity. The word all is crucial. Paul connects the initiation of all believers into the body of Christ with the baptism of the Spirit.
Once we are baptized and belong to Christ, we should live in the power of the Spirit. For this to happen we have to be filled with the Spirit. There are numerous references in the New Testament where people are filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9). The apostle Paul uses the word filling to say that a person has submitted completely to God and is open to the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit so that God’s own work can be accomplished in the person’s life.
If we yield to the influence of alcohol, our walk, talk, and thoughts will be affected negatively. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we yield every part of our life to His transforming influence with the result that our walk, talk, and thoughts will reflect Jesus.
While the Spirit is given by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2) and is received through faith (Gal. 3:14) at our baptism (Titus 3:5, 6), we need to seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit every day. We can’t live off a powerful experience that we had last year or last month or even yesterday. We need the infilling of God’s Spirit each day, for each day brings its own challenges.
In the Greek of Acts 13:52, the term filled with the Spirit is in the imperfect tense, signifying continuous action. It literally means: “being [continuously] filled.” Being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time event. It is something that we should seek and receive every day. This filling has to be repeated so that every part of our lives is filled with His presence, and so we are empowered to live as we should.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not so much mean that we possess more of Him but that He possesses more of us. Only when we commit all aspects of our life to the Spirit every day can He use us to God’s glory.
“I wish to impress upon you the fact that those who have Jesus abiding in the heart by faith, have actually received the Holy Spirit. Every individual who receives Jesus as his personal Saviour, just as surely receives the Holy Spirit to be his Counselor, Sanctifier, Guide, and Witness.”—Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 71.
God’s Word points to certain conditions needed for the Spirit to abide in us. We will look at some important ones during the next two days.
One condition for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Hearing the Word of God arouses our conscience and can lead us to an awareness of our true sinfulness and lost condition. True repentance is more than just feeling sorry for the dire consequences of our sins. It is a thorough change of heart and mind so that we see sin for what it really is: an ugly evil and rebellion against God. The only way that we can experience true repentance is to be touched by the love of God: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4, NASB).
Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as His representative. In faith we receive the promised gift. But if we doubt God’s promise and do not trust His Word, we are like a double-minded person and cannot expect to receive anything from God. Faith is more than intellectual assent. It is putting our lives on the line, trusting that God will keep His Word and not let us down, regardless of what happens.
God is not reluctant to give us the Spirit. God is good and benevolent, more than we can be even to our own children. Our persistent intercession does not change His mind. Our prayer changes us and brings us into God’s presence. Prayer doesn’t bring God down to us but brings us up to Him. Our prayers simply reveal our determination, and they prepare us for the gift.
Then, as now, the Holy Spirit is granted to all who obey God. In the Bible, love and obedience go hand in hand, and true faith is expressed in obedience. If we trust God with all our hearts, we will obey His commandments. Jesus said: “ ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word’ ” (John 14:23, NASB). Obedience is a choice leading to a lifestyle that follows God’s will as expressed in His law. We must continue in obedience if we want to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord (Luke 6:46). In 1 John 2:4, 5 we are told that “the one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (NASB). Those are strong words. From John we also know that “the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24, NASB). When we do what God has commanded, we will have peace of mind.
The fire of the Holy Spirit cannot keep burning in our lives when we are worldly minded. The Holy Spirit reacts very sensitively to the existence of all sin and worldliness in our lives. Therefore we need to keep ourselves in the love of God and be connected with God through prayer so that we will shun all impurity and display a spirit of power, love, and discipline (2 Tim. 1:6, 7). Only through a close and fierce battle with self can we become the kind of people we should be. Of course, we can’t do it ourselves; the battle comes down to our choice of either surrendering our wills to the prompting of the Holy Spirit or allowing the flesh to dominate. The choice is ours.
“There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 250, 251. How can you apply these words to your own spiritual life?
The life of a person who does not live in the Spirit is radically different from the life and values of a person who is filled with the Spirit.
|Self-Centered Person||Spirit-Controlled Person|
|Desires what is sinful and displeasing to God||Desires what is spiritual and pleasing to God|
|Is controlled by sinful passions||Is controlled by the Spirit|
|Misuses his/her freedom and gets enslaved in sin||Is set free from the bondage of sin and is called to freedom in Christ|
|Is disobedient to God’s will||Is obedient to God’s will|
|Is self-indulgent||Is self-sacrificing|
|Displays the fruit of sin||Displays the fruit of the Spirit|
|Does not recognize the need for forgiveness and is boastful of self||Recognizes the need for forgiveness and praises Jesus for what He has done|
The life of a person who is filled with God’s Spirit is characterized by a loving obedience to God’s law and a gentle spirit of compassion for others (see 2 Cor. 5:14, NASB). Having been renewed in our minds and thinking and having received new hearts and a new outlook on life, our values and behavior will change. We want to live no longer in our own strength but in submission to the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:3).
We cannot transform ourselves. We possess no real power to change ourselves, for sin is too deeply ingrained in us. The renewing energy must come from God. The change from within can be successful only through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. No mere external change, such as correcting this or that bad habit, makes us Christians. The change has to come from a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit.
This is the work of a lifetime, a work that will have its up and downs, but a work that God promises to do in us if we surrender to Him, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6, NKJV).
Further Thought: It is only natural for a person to seek control of one’s life. We normally depend on our own efforts to achieve all that we can. While many people spend their lives in a quest for control, others have an unhealthy fear of losing control. This human dilemma finds an answer only in God. He wants you to give Him, Your Creator and Redeemer, full control. He knows and loves you as nobody else can. This opens the door for Him to work in your life. By choosing to submit your will to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, you will have His supernatural peace and boundless opportunities to be a blessing to others. But we need the desire for this power in our lives. God doesn’t force Himself on any of us. To be moral beings, we need to be free beings. And to be truly free in Christ, we need a sense of abandonment (that of wanting to abandon our old sinful and fallen ways) and a sense of abiding (that of abiding in the power of the Holy Spirit). To be truly free, we must be truly surrendered to the control of the Holy Spirit. But there is no contradiction here. Our freedom is found in liberation from the condemnation and power of sin, which always enslaves us and always leads to death. Instead, by surrendering to the Lord and making way for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not only are we no longer condemned (see Rom. 8:1), but we live a life where we “do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (NKJV). That’s the only true freedom that we, as sinful and fallen beings, can ever know.