Every follower of Jesus Christ should want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But what does that mean? Some see it as an experience marked by speaking in tongues or interpreting them. Others describe it as feeling the Spirit take them over or as being overcome with great joy. Still others talk of being “slain” in the Spirit or perhaps having the ability to prophesy.
But other Christians say they have never had any of these experiences. Many believe that Christians can be filled with the Holy Spirit as they live their day-to-day lives. To them, Richard Wurmbrand (1909–2001), who was repeatedly tortured in a communist prison camp, exemplifies the power of a Spirit-filled life. He told of singing for joy in a cell despite being perpetually cold, sick, and hungry.
According to the Bible, the privilege for every believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit began at Pentecost (acts 2:1–13). As the disciples prayed together, they suddenly heard the sound of rushing wind, saw tongue-like flames, and spoke in languages they had never learned. Three thousand people in Jerusalem turned to Jesus that day. Filled with courage and power, the apostles went around telling others about Christ and performing miracles. Despite persecution, as time went on these Spirit-filled Christians presented such a powerful testimony that even their enemies spoke of them as people who had “turned the world upside down” (acts 17:6).
We would all like to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but most of us don’t experience the same victory, joy, or power that seemed to accompany the presence of the Holy Spirit for these early followers of Jesus. So this leads us to ask, “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?”
Before we discuss what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we need to know who the Holy Spirit is. Some insist that the Holy Spirit is an influence—a power or source of God-given spiritual energy. Others see Him as ghostlike, entering or leaving us at will. Still others picture Him as a kind of cosmic magician, elusive and vague, who drops mysteriously into our lives to make spiritual things happen and then leaves just as quickly as He came.
The Bible makes it clear, however, that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity. He is a person who lives within every Christian.
He Is a Personal Being
The Scriptures give us five clear evidences that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, not a mystic force or strange power.
The Holy Spirit is spoken of as “He.” Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “He.” He promised His disciples: “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He [the Holy Spirit] may abide with you forever” (john 14:16).
The Holy Spirit has intelligence. He knows the “deep things of God” and reveals them to us (1 corinthians 2:10–11). Only a personal being has this kind of intelligence.
The Holy Spirit makes decisions. He gives gifts to the Lord’s people, “distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 corinthians 12:11).
The Holy Spirit has emotions. He feels love (romans 15:30) and grief (ephesians 4:30). A mere “influence” cannot feel emotions.
The Holy Spirit is active. He does things only a being with personality can do. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks (revelation 2:7), intercedes for us in prayer (romans 8:26), teaches (john 14:26), leads (romans 8:14), appoints (acts 20:28), and empowers (acts 1:8).