THE FULLNESS IS NOT JUST ABOUT TONGUES
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” Acts 6:3
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…” Eph 5:18
The first point is that the fullness of the Spirit is not about speaking in tongues. Regardless of your theology about tongues, everyone must agree that the fullness of the Spirit is not about tongues based on the above passages. How come? Many assert that the evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues and once you receive your “prayer language,” you can start using it at will. Now, everyone in the early church definitely received that experience and everyone probably had their “prayer language.” However, the apostles were looking for people full of the Holy Spirit. That means there were people speaking in tongues who were not full of the Holy Spirit. Also, Paul later admonishes the Ephesian believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If they were already speaking in tongues (which I believe they were), then what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Just what kind of experience is this fullness of the Spirit? Whatever it is, it is something more than just tongues.
In the Ephesian passage, the word “be filled” is the word ‘pleroo‘ which is from ‘pleres.‘ Pleres means “replete” while pleroo means “to make replete.” Pleres is always translated as “full” rather than “filled,” so I believe a clearer translation of pleroo here is “be full” (without going into Greek verb tenses). Barnabas was described as a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:24), Stephen was described a few times as being full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5, Acts 7:55), and the disciples searched for men that were full of the Holy Spirit to appoint over the food distribution issue. What Paul was saying in this passage is that we should be like these men. We should be full of the Holy Spirit! This is not simply an experience, it is a state we can walk in and one that can be lost, even though some of the gifts might still be functional.
In the church today especially among charismatics and pentecostals, the buzz-word is spirit-filled. If you once had an experience where you spoke in tongues and/ or prophesied, you are said to be spirit-filled. This is a gross trivialization of the term. You may have been spirit-filled, but you’re not necessarily spirit-filled right now even though you may still be talking in tongues. Now someone may say, “but the Holy Spirit is a person and we received all of Him when we received Him so how can we receive more of Him?” This question arises when we place God in our human boxes.
The Holy Spirit is not flesh and blood that comes in discrete quantities like human beings. Also, He is not being cloned into each of us, He is the living breath of God and everyone can receive a measure. The bible says that Jesus received the Spirit without measure. There is a measure of the Spirit which we receive. This is not a wrong concept, it is scriptural. Why can’t we just take the Word for what it says instead of trying to put our own human spin on it? We can be full of the Holy Spirit and we can be half-full of Him. That is His unique feature. He is not a human being so some of the restrictions we place on Him based on our shallow human understanding do not apply at all.
So, what is the fullness of the Spirit? The first time you’re filled with the Spirit is supposed to be the born again experience (i.e. the moment the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer), or at least that was God’s intention in the beginning. It is receiving the fullness of life that God has for you. We will now examine some scriptures.
THE INDWELLING WAS NOT A NEW THING
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
This is where we first see the promise that the Holy Spirit will be in us. However, let me first point out that the “infilling of the Holy Spirit” did not start at Pentecost. The bible says that Mary and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit at one point (Luke 1:35, 41). John the baptist was even filled with the Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15). Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:67). Remember Paul laid hands on some Ephesians and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19) – same experience. If a cup is filled with water, there’s water in the cup. He was in them. The apostle even noted that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets of old (1 Pet 1:11). The Greek word used here (en) is the same word Jesus used when He told the disciples that the Holy Spirit will later be in them as seen in the passage above.
DIFFERENT TERMINOLOGIES, ONE EXPERIENCE
“…If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified…” John 7:37-39
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27
“Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:33
“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32
In John 7, we see the Holy Spirit being given as a result of Jesus being glorified and in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is poured out as a result of Jesus being exalted. In John 15, we see Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to the disciples from the Father and we see the same in Acts 2. John 15 also talks about how the disciples were to be witness (cf. Acts 1:8). Finally, in Acts 5:32, Peter strings together John 7:37-39 (Spirit being given), John 14:15-16 (keep my commandments to receive the Spirit), John 15:26-27 (witnesses) and Acts 1:8 (witnesses). So, the Spirit being given, the Spirit being received, the Spirit being sent is all talking about one event- Pentecost.
Now, in the Acts passage (Acts 19), it says the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. The Holy Spirit came upon the prophets of old and they prophesied. This suggests that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is the same experience as the Spirit coming upon. At baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus (Luke 3:22) and when He left the waters, He was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). Later, He reads the Isaiah passage and says the Spirit is upon me.
Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that the Holy Spirit will be in them. Later, in Acts 1:4, He tells them to wait for the promise of the Father which He had told them before (i.e. in John 14). Then He says they’ll be baptized with the Holy Spirit and that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. On the day of Pentecost, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, but Peter describes the experience as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy which talks about the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all flesh.
So, we see one experience being called different things – baptism of the Spirit, infilling of the Spirit (i.e. the Spirit in), the Spirit upon, promise of the Father, receiving the Spirit, the Spirit being given/ sent etc. It’s tempting to think that all these things are different, but happened at the same time because Pentecost was the first time the Holy Spirit was given, but a quick word search would sufficiently demonstrate that even when the different terms were used later on, they still referred to one event- Pentecost.
THE SPIRIT GIVEN
We saw earlier that the Spirit is given to them that obey God (Acts 5:32). Now, using the same phraseology, the bible says that Simon the sorcerer saw that the Spirit was given (Acts 8:18) by the laying on of hands. In this case the phrase was definitely used to represent the Pentecostal experience therefore confirming our interpretation of the Acts passage as well as the John 7 passage (i.e. the Spirit was not yet given cause Jesus was not yet glorified). Also, remember that He will give us another advocate (John 14:16) and He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Moreover, in Acts 15:8, Peter recounts how God had given the Holy Spirit to the gentiles the same way He gave Him to them (i.e. they spoke in tongues in both case). So the use of that phrase in the scriptures is pretty clear. In light of this, the interpretation of the following scriptures should be clear.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Rom 5:5
“…who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Cor 1:22
“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Cor 5:5
“…in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Eph 1:13-14
“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” 1 John 3:24
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13
It’s important to note that the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee. God does not give lousy collateral. The word used here is from a Hebrew word which is only used in one place in the bible…
And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?” Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Gen 38:17-18
Here we see that a pledge is something tangible to hold onto until the promise is fulfilled. If not for the Pentecost experience, what else possibly qualifies as a pledge? If we have to trust (have faith in absence of evidence) that God has given us a pledge, then there’s no need for a pledge at all. We should just trust God directly for our inheritance. There’s no need for Paul to be making a statement about this pledge business. Think about that!!! But God has given us a pledge, a sure pledge you can see and hear and taste and touch and know. By this we know that we abide in Him…! In other words, the Holy Spirit given to us is the evidence that we abide in Him. It is sad that what was meant as a wonderful pledge has been downgraded to an event called the “indwelling of the Spirit” where there’s really nothing tangible except that you just “believe” it happens.
Don’t get me wrong, if we are commanded to be full of the Spirit, that means we can have the Holy Spirit without being full of Him so we can be assured of our salvation and the indwelling of the Spirit if we believe in Christ and have repented from our sins. Unfortunately though, this is where many Christians are at and it is the reason we live such different lives from the believers of the early church. This is not the pattern set by the apostles and it is certainly not the will of God for us. Don’t settle for less brothers and sisters, contend for the fullness of the Spirit!
RECEIVING THE SPIRIT
In the book of Acts, we see the term used in,
“Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:15
“Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:17
“Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”” Acts 8:19
“Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” Acts 10:47
“He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, we have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”” Acts 19:2
and without exception, all those verses were referring to the same experience as in Pentecost. Acts was written between 63 and 70 AD which is later than most of the epistles so we can assume that the terminology Dr. Luke uses to tell the story are the ones that were commonly known and well established. If we see the same term in other places, there’s very little reason for us to interpret it as something else.
HOW TO RECEIVE
The easiest and, I believe, God’s preferred way to receive is through the laying on of hands by someone who is full of the Holy Spirit. We see it throughout scripture. Nobody else tarried after the apostles because there was always someone to lay hands on the new believers to receive. God even sent Ananias to lay hands on Paul.
There’s a practice where people are told to start speaking even when there’s no utterance. I have very serious concerns about this because while some people eventually receive the real thing, some just make stuff up. The practice was popularized by Smith Wigglesworth who would encourage people to start speaking tongues in the flesh by faith. He was well aware that this was not “it,” and he would “tarry” with these believers until they received the real deal. It’s just like asking someone to walk out of the wheelchair by faith and while they are walking, the power of God overtakes them and they receive their actual healing.
Unfortunately, we live in a microwave generation and nobody even waits to receive the real deal anymore. We are told to say, “ba ka ka” and when we say, “ba ka ka” we are told we have received. This is insanity! Don’t let anyone short-change the gift of God for you. We forget that those that received in the bible not only spoke in tongues, but also prophesied. Since when did the minister take over the Holy Spirit’s job of giving utterance?
Some say that the Holy Spirit is already given and we don’t need to tarry. Well, if you have a minister who is full of the Holy Spirit “prophesy to the breath” on your behalf (i.e. lay hands on you) then we don’t have to wait, we can receive immediately. Also, they won’t have to give you your cue on when to start speaking, you would go off on your own. If there’s no such person close to you, the only way is to tarry. Tarry can mean 1 min, 2 hrs, 3 days or 4 weeks or more, however much time is needed. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. If you’re praying directly for the Spirit, you must be ready to make changes in your life as the Spirit prompts you. If you ignore the Spirit’s promptings and convictions, you will pray for years and never get filled. Basically, the faster you die to your self AND to the world, the faster you will be filled. If there are any areas you need to make restitution, make them.
It is sad that in our day, we no longer know how to leave our gifts at the altar and be reconciled to those who have something against us, and we wonder why we don’t feel the presence of God in our private prayers. Once you have done all that the Spirit has convicted you of, get ready! Cry out to Him day and night, and He will come to you speedily! The key is persevering prayer, constant faith and expectation, and purity of heart. Blessed are they that are pure in heart for they shall see God! The great thing about tarrying is that whatever it took you to get the infilling is what is going to keep you full of the Spirit. In other words, you already know how to stay full of the Spirit. If hands were laid on you, you will also receive the same fullness, but if you ignore the promptings/ conviction of the Holy Spirit or you go back to your normal life, you will leak really fast. Your old way of life didn’t get you filled, and it won’t keep you full. We stay full by abiding in Christ. There’s a constant supply of the Spirit that comes through abiding. That’s how we stay full and bear fruit.
In summary, the initial evidence of being full of the Holy Spirit can be tongues, prophecy, a baptism of divine love etc. Staying full is partly about how much of the Word is in us. In one place (Eph 5:18), it says, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” and in another place (Col 3:16-17) it says, “…let the Word of Christ richly dwell in you, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” Jesus said “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…” This is why the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey the Father. John also later says that, “He that abides in love abides in God,” because Jesus commandments was for us to love. As we abide in love, we receive that constant supply of the Spirit and be. Blessings.