What does "filled with the Spirit" mean?
How do I get the Holy Spirit?
Just who is the Holy Spirit?
The words for "spirit" in both Old Testament Hebrew (rûach) and New Testament Greek (pneúma) mean "breath" (or sometimes "wind"). So a description of the Holy Spirit (or "Holy Ghost") begins by calling Him the "Breath of God." God's breath contains and conveys the very life and light and Person of God.
But God's Spirit is more than part of God's Person; the Holy Spirit is also His own Person, with His own unique personality, separate from God the Father or God the Son (Jesus Christ). The Holy Spirit is also called the "Spirit of Wisdom" (Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17-18), and He appears to be one and the same with God's Wisdom as personified in the book of Proverbs (compare Genesis 1:2 and Proverbs 8:25-31). And God's Wisdom is absolutely distinct from the "wisdom" generally recognized by the world (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 & 3:19).
"I, wisdom, dwell with prudence …
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, I have strength."
~ Proverbs 8:12,14 (NKJV)
When God expresses Himself, His purposes, and His glory (light), it might be compared to a movie. God the Father is Producer and Author. Jesus is onscreen as the visible and vocal representation of all the Father wishes to make known. The Holy Spirit might be likened to the director and those hundreds of behind-the-scenes roles—roles seen only in the credits, but without whom nothing significant would be accomplished.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. / … / And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
~ Genesis 1:2 / 2:7 (NKJV)
The Spirit of God was known and recognized before the time of Jesus. (He is mentioned in the Old Testament about a hundred times, including the phrase "Holy Spirit" three times—Psalm 51:11, Isaiah 63:10-11.) Introduced in the second verse of the Bible, the breath (Spirit) of God imparts physical life to humans in a manner that sets us apart from animals (Isaiah 31:3). God's Spirit goes on to interact with humans on God's behalf throughout the Old Testament, often coming "upon" a person, occasionally being "in" a person, and in at least two instances the Holy Spirit "filled" people (Joshua and the tabernacle artisans).
The change found in the New Testament is that instead of His Holy Spirit being given by God to selective people or on specific occasions, God now gives the Holy Spirit to all people who have put faith in Jesus and made Him the Lord of their lives. (See "What is Born Again.") While the most visible and extraordinary display of the Holy Spirit was on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Jesus also gave His Spirit to His disciples in person:
So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
~ John 20:21-22 (NKJV)
When the New Testament mentions the Holy Spirit (about 250 times), it speaks of Him in terms such as wind (John 3:8, Acts 2:1-2), water (John 4:13-14 & 7:37-39), or fire (Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3). In nature, these elements have no specific shape, but take on the shape of the place they fill, each one moving as if with a life of its own. So it is with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also called an anointing (as with oil—Matthew 25:3-4, 1 John 2:20), because He must be given from above, not called down from below. Whether He brings inspiration (like air), cleansing and revival (like water), purging (like fire), or healing (like oil), the Holy Spirit brings God's breath and life into the places given to Him.
"Being filled with the Spirit is not us getting more of God, but God getting more of us."
~ Dean Stewart
If we continue to use the above movie analogy (albeit imperfectly), then the role of the Holy Spirit has not changed. Jesus has exited the scene. His people have entered the stage, and we are now the expression of God, His glory (light), and His purposes. The Holy Spirit still directs, counsels, clothes, equips, and empowers us—from the inside, unseen except in the spiritual fruit we produce.
A final important note: the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are very distinct. The fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) is evidence of His saving presence in a believer's life, and is distinct from the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11), each of which is given to individuals differently—no specific gift being proof of salvation.
(4) "To you, O men, I call …
(6) Listen, for I will speak of excellent things …
(12) "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence …
(14) Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, I have strength.…
(22) "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way …
(30) I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
(31) Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.
(35) … whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the LORD;
(36) But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death."
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Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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