The Filling of the Spirit
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
Lecture: The Filling of the Spirit
This is the 23th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
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I. Situations and References to the Filling of the Holy Spirit
A. Filling for Special Ministry Tasks
This lecture is about the filling and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is not as much controversy on this as there is on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are actually three different kinds of fillings talked about in Scripture. One of them is filling for special ministry tasks, where God has something he needs doing and so we get a filling for that task. This comes up in a number of different places and one of them is Numbers 24:1 concerning Balaam, a corrupt prophet. The Holy Spirit came upon him and he spoke a powerful messianic prophecy. Then we have Judges 6:34, the story of Gileon and the Midianite oppression. We see that the angel of the Lord came upon Gileon to lead the armies of Abiezrites, Manasseh and others against the Midianites. In 1st Samuel 10 Samuel takes a flash of oil and pours it on Saul’s head who will become the first king of Israel, saying, ‘has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?’ Then in verse 6 it says that the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.’ I think the Spirit of the Lord has anointed Saul for the office of being King of Israel. Filling and anointing seems to be the same thing here. And that is what happens but of course we know that it didn’t work out very well. Later we see Saul among the prophets prophesying along with them. Then later in Chapter 15 Saul sins are rejected again by the Lord because of his lying. This is confirmed in chapter 16 when God spoke to Samuel and then we get the calling of David. Interestingly in verse 14, it says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and he was given a harmful spirit from the Lord that tormented him. So I think this anointing can come and go and this filling can come and go as well in the New Testament. I don’t think it is talking about indwelling here. But I do think there is an anointing for special service.
In Acts 13 Paul is with Barnabas in Cyprus along with Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul. There was also a sorcerer by the name of Elymas. Now Elymas tried to oppose them and even tried to turn the proconsul form the faith. Paul who was filled with the Holy Spirit blinded him. I think the Holy Spirit comes upon Paul for a specific moment and in that moment he speaks prophetically to Elymas. So anointing comes with special purposes and tasks for ministry.
B. A Basic Personality Characteristic
A second kind of filling we find in the Bible is a basic personality characteristic. We see when Jesus was Baptized the Holy Spirit comes upon him and he serves the rest of his life in ministry. In Acts 6 where they are selecting deacons of people who are full of faith and the Holy Spirit. This is not somebody who is anointed for a special task, but these people have a characteristic, full of the Spirit and having wisdom and faith. This is a basic personality characteristic that comes with the Holy Spirit already within us. In chapter 11, we find Barabbas and he is described as a good man full of the Holy Spirit in faith. This is a basic personality. So we have filling for a special ministry, we have basic characteristics and these may be the same or they may be different. Key teaching passages are in Ephesians 5 where it talks about the work of the New Covenant. In verse 18, it says not to get drunk on wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father. This filling of the Holy Spirit is a command here in Ephesians 5:18. If translated literally, it is to keep on being filled. It is an ongoing type of thing. It is passive as you are being filled and it is a present tense, it’s ongoing. So here we have a commanding that we should keep on being filled and this is similar to Galatians 5 where it says that we should keep on walking in the Spirit. Now the question is, just how dramatic is it and how common is the drama? This is a point of difference between many of the groups of Christians. So when the Holy Spirit comes, what is it going to look like and people vary on this. But a fundamental point is when the Holy Spirit comes, there is a character change, a filling that enables us to do ministry with an empowering and there is a command for us to seek that which keeps on doing that.
II. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The key passage on the gifts of the Holy Spirit is 1st Corinthians 12:1. Verse 1 starts out, now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. In the original, the word ‘gifts’ is not there; it should only be translated ‘spirituals’. So literally, we would say something about concerning spirituals or matters of the Spirit. So spiritual gifts is not correct, it is spirituals. In much of contemporary evangelicalism, the basic idea of spiritual gifts for Christians is something like being Spiderman. So we have the divine Spiderman bite and boom we get some new power that enables us to go swinging between spiritual buildings. This is the understanding of what most people have of spiritual gifts. So from this perspective, gifts are a supernatural endowment from the Holy Spirit that comes at or after conversion. So this is a fairly standard definition. So the Holy Spirit will come down and bite you like Spiderman and you will have this new power and then you can do what you want. We have built into that term, a meaning, which I don’t think is biblical. You see this in a number of ways, especially that between spiritual gifts and natural talent. Some say that one has the natural talent of administration while others says that one has the spiritual gift of administration and they are different, but I don’t think that is what it is saying. When I think of spirit gifts and look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit and look at the word ‘gifts’, it is a divine endowment of a special ability or service upon each member of the body of Christ. This is Wayne Gruden’s definition and I agree with that definition.
We see in verse 4 that there are different kinds of gifts. I think these are abilities and we find those like in Romans 12:7 for service, for serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. I think these are personal abilities. As far as prophesying, this is the work of the Holy Spirit and that which only believers will do. So the gifts mentioned in 1st Corinthians are actually different kinds of abilities, but with the same Spirit. I think of those people who make computers work have a great gift because they understand these things. What about other technologies, plumbers for example, have a great gift? There is one Holy Spirit that uses these abilities. In 1st Corinthians 12:5, there are different kinds of services, but the same Lord; and there are many varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. We could translate this to be different kinds of ministries. These ministries are the sort of things we see back in Ephesians 4 to equip the saints, he gave apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. So I think these services are ministries and there are different ones. These ministries are all from the same Lord. From verse 7 we are given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. This is in a moment gifting from the Spirit such as a message of wisdom and some have a message of knowledge. There are gifts of healings and miracles and prophecy, all are spontaneous manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the moment.
I think what is being said is that the Holy Spirit works in many different ways, where you have ability by the Holy Spirit. Whatever your ability is, use it for Jesus. It is not that you get a supernatural gift of that ability, yet the Holy Spirit will empower you and direct that ability and guide you in how to use it for the purposes of Jesus. If you have a manifestation of the Spirit, this could be a prompting of the Spirit to do something that you usually don’t do. So I think this is what 1st Corinthians 12 is talking about. If you have an ability and there is no difference here between gift and natural talent. If you have a ministry, do it for Jesus. A ministry can be that of the church, mission or even secular work. And if in the moment the Spirit manifests an idea in some way, just remember that diversity is for the mutual up building of the body of the church.
So are spiritual gifts a supernatural endowment after conversion or is it a natural ability or a manifestation of the moment or is it an anointing for service of office? So how many gifts are there? Some think there is a biblical list of nine or eleven or more, but I think that Paul is listing a wide variety. He has selected some examples out of a much broader list. The gift of prayer is an amazing powerful gift but never listed as a gift in Scripture. I am a bit hostile to the idea of lists of gifts; many simply assume that there is a list which in itself is limiting. You discover you gifts simply by asking yourself what you are gook at and what you like doing, etc. and those that further the work of Jesus Christ. Gifts are not necessarily miraculous and I don’t think there is a difference between talent and gift. There are things that are clearly supernatural gifts. And 1st Corinthians 14 tells us to seek the higher gifts. We may do things for the work of Jesus and we may not be gifted in the things that we do but we do them because we love God.