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Spirit Filling


It’s important to understand there’s two different Greek words to speak of the Spirit’s filling.

This gets muddy in English, which plays into why so much confusion has come about.

We often translate these terms as “full” or “filled.”

So the temptation’s to think these are always speaking of the same two realities/experiences of the Spirit in the NT.

This can get a bit technical, but these two works work in a technical way.

Πίμπλημι  - ("pimplami") This speaks of a very special empowerment, and for a particular task. This is a similar work of the Spirit like He did with His OT “anointing” or “coming upon” a person.

A common result of this kind of filling is a great work of God.

This word is almost always associated with a word ministry (i.e., someone speaking something). In other words, it’s not speaking of miracles, healings, etc.

Luke 1:15, Future looking to the Lord.

Luke 1:41, note what Elizabeth does.

Luke 1:67, note what Zacharias does.

Acts 2:4.

Acts 4:8.

All of these plus many others all speak of a unique work of the Spirit through a person.

They are special fillings.  Not normative for the believer.

They are not only for the Church.  In the O.T. we see this very frequently as well. (Language of “come upon”).

Numbers 24:2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. (He did not believe nor follow God!)

Judges 3:10 "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. (Othniel)

Judges 14:6 "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily . . . .” (Samson)

Again, in the bible this filling is undefined as to its duration.  It can be for a moment or for a lifetime. It depends upon what the purpose is.  

As we mentioned, for David, the Spirit came up on him to do the task of being King.

He knew that without the Spirit he couldn’t truly rule God’s people and God’s nation.

What’s interesting, here, is that this type of filling is completely under the sovereign control of God. 

He determines if/when this occurs. 

He doesn't do it in reaction to anything, but from the center of His own will and pleasure.

So there’s nothing a person can do to “get it.” It has everything to do with a person accomplishing a very unique purpose of God. It is never for “self.” (Perhaps worth noting that none of the gifts are ever for ourselves and our edification.)

It’s never, therefore, something we’re to seek. We can humbly ask God for a special working of the Spirit during times of evangelism, preaching, etc., but it’s not something we’re commanded to pursue or seek.

πλήρης - ("pla-ras") This speaks of being under the control of the Spirit. It’s walking in accordance to the revealed will of God. (Important qualification: as it’s revealed in Spirit-inspired Word.)


Acts 6:3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”

Acs 6:5 “The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.”

Acts 15:32, et al.

A definitive passage on how this term works is Eph. 5:18ff.

“Filled” here is the verbal form of πλήρης, πληρόω.  (It’s a present, passive imperative).

Present tense is speaking of a consistent controlling of the Spirit.

Passive means that it is done to you, not something you do yourself.

It is a command.

This is a parallel form making a distinction between drunkenness and filling.

It’s not telling us to have that special power of God come upon us.  It’s not telling us to be baptized with (or indwelled by) the Spirit.

Rather, there’s an incredibly tight connection between this filling of the Spirit, and walking in accordance to the revealed will of God.

We can very clearly see this with the sister passage in Col. 3:16ff.

[Walk through the “subjecting” verses in Eph. 5:18ff. Then do the same with Col. 3:16ff.].

Rejoice in the provision of God’s Spirit. He’s not left us to ourselves.

So rejoice in both the intimate presence and power of God via His Spirit.

The only thing we’ve been commanded to do in light of the three ministries of the Spirit (Baptism, Indwelling, and Filling), is to be filled by the Spirit. That’s it.

And as we’ve seen, this filling is intimately connected with the word of God.

It’s seeking to orient every moment of your life in accord to what God has revealed to us through His Spirit-inspired Word.

Nothing mystical. It’s not sexy.

If the Spirit indwells you, you have a new desire. Your desire is to please God by walking in obedience to His Word.

He’s given us everything we need to do this, now it’s just a matter of submitting our lives and new desires to this.


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