The Filling of the Holy Spirit

What is Being Filled with the Holy Spirit?

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). Many Christians have different ideas about the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, the fullness of the Holy Spirit was sometimes associated with cloven tongues of fire, shaking buildings, rushing winds, and people speaking in other languages or doing miracles. At other times, people were filled with the Holy Spirit and none of these things happened.

According to the Bible, there appear to be two evidences that a person is indeed filled with the Spirit:

  1. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit have unique spiritual power in leading others to faith in Christ (Acts 1:8).
  2. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit have a divine enablement to fulfill their social roles and responsibilities, particularly in family and working relationships (Eph. 5:18-6:9).

Most Christians readily recognize their need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to become more effective in evangelism and be all they should be in their family. The apostle Paul urged the Christians at Ephesus, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). But the steps to being filled with the Holy Spirit were summarized by Jesus when He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (heart) shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

The four steps to being filled with the Holy Spirit are:

  1. desire (thirst)
  2. repentance of all known sin in your life (come to me)
  3. receiving God’s offer of the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (drink)
  4. acting on the basis of faith in the Word of God (He who believes in me).

At Pentecost

What does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Ghost?” After the 120 believers had spent ten days praying, meeting in obedience to Christ’s command (Luke 24:49), they received the baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit promised by Christ (John 14:16-18; Acts 1:8). Following this baptism, they were “all filled.” Paul, in Ephesians 5: 18, says to be filled with the Spirit. The word “filled” here, and in Acts 2:4, means “to be influenced by.”

The RYRIE STUDY BIBLE notes concerning Ephesians 5:18 say: “…Paul has taught in this epistle that all believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they believe (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30); but are not filled, since this depends on yieldedness to God’s will (5:17). ‘Filling’ describes an experience that can be repeated (Acts 2:4-8).”

Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Baptism by the Holy Spirit is not manifested by speaking in other tongues (languages). Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 that all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit, that each believer is given different “gifts” by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:4-11), and that no single gift is for every believer (I Corinthians 12:29-30).

“Filling” has nothing to do with the manifestation of “tongues.” Being filled by the Holy Spirit is not getting more of Him, but Him getting more of the believer! Many times the disciples “were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55, 9:17, 11:24, 13:9, 13:52), yet there was no mention of tongues (other languages) being spoken.

Losing The Filling of the Holy Spirit

Unlike the Holy Spirit’s ministries to the believer in regeneration, baptism, indwelling, and sealing, His filling can be lost due to disobedience (sin). The filling of the Holy Spirit may (and should) be instantly regained by first knowing God’s means of forgiveness and cleansing: the blood of Christ (I John 1:7); and secondly, by knowing God’s method of forgiveness and cleansing: the confession of the Christian (I John 1:9).

In summary, the “filling of the Holy Spirit” is not a feeling or an emotional experience, but rather, the yielding (abandoning) of the believer’s life to the Lord.


The following two tabs change content below.
Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

Latest posts by Dr. Elmer Towns (see all)