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Baptism With and Being Filled By the Holy Spirit

Both describe being controlled by him, from different perspectives

As discussed on the last page, baptism or immersion in the Holy Spirit is being so fully under the control of the Spirit, as viewed from outside the person, that nothing else any longer appears to have any control. The corresponding truth, viewed from inside each individual, is the observation in Acts 2:4 that, when the tongues of fire descended, they were "filled" with the Holy Spirit. Here, the Greek word is pletho, in passive tense, meaning to be mentally completely filled with or brought under the full influence of something external, in this case, the Holy Spirit. This word is seen again in Acts 4:8, where it is stated that, instead of defending himself at his trial before the Sanhedrin, Peter preached to them fearlessly because he was "filled" with the Holy Spirit. Similarly, after Peter and John had been threatened and released, the whole church prayed for boldness and for miraculous signs, and, as a result of this prayer, "the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31. In Acts 9:17, Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit when Ananias lays hands on him, and the result is that he regains his sight and, within a few days, is found preaching Jesus boldly. In Acts 13:9, Paul, "filled" with the Holy Spirit, speaks blindness upon Elymas the sorcerer, who had been opposing his witness to the Roman proconsul. In all of these cases, people were filled with — internally brought under the influence of — the Holy Spirit, with the outward effect that they totally lost their fear and did their work boldly.

In several passages a somewhat different word is translated "filled," however. This word, pleroo, also carries the idea to supply, to furnish or empower, to fulfill or to make complete. It is used to refer to our relationship the Holy Spirit specifically only once, in the command in Ephesians 5:18:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit...

Here, the effect of being drunk with (and therefore controlled by) wine is explicitly compared to that of being filled with the Spirit. Recall also that, on the day of Pentecost, Peter had to assure the crowd that the disciples, who were glorifying God in tongues, were not drunk, as they appeared to some to be. Acts 2:15. The word pleroo, moreover, is not used to refer to the Holy Spirit only. In Acts 5:3, for example, Peter asks the lying Ananias how it is that satan had so "filled" his heart that he had lied to the Holy Spirit. In this passage, the clear emphasis is on control, the force that drove Ananias. Similarly, in Philippians 1:11, Paul prayed that a church would be "filled with the fruits of righteousness", and Colossians 1:9-10 contains a prayer that another group would be filled with the knowledge of God's will that they "might walk worthy of the Lord." Ephesians 3:19 contains Paul's prayer that the Ephesian believers, having first understood by experience the depth of God's love, might be "filled with all the fullness (pleroma, a related noun) of God." It is this same fullness of God which dwelt bodily in Jesus, the Son who did not come to do his own will but the will of him who sent him and does only what he sees his Father doing. John 5:19-20, 6:38; Colossians 1:19. Thus, with the Son of God, as with us, the real issue involved in the "filling" of the Holy Spirit was control. Once we are controlled by (filled with) the Spirit, boldness and power follow.

NEXT PAGE: Indwelling, Sealing, and Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2003, 2010 Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman

Further explanations

Baptism With and Being Filled By the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit compared with sealing or indwelling by him

The promised gift of the Holy Spirit

Other pages on this site

Historical digression: Early Pentecostals, Spirit baptism and the Wesleyan second blessing

Was tongues in evidence in every instance of Spirit baptism in Acts?

Speaking in Unknown Tongues, and Other Issues

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