Just who are the ‘Spirit-filled’ people? This is a commonly term used to refer to people who have had a Holy Spirit experience or have spoken in tongues at some stage.

Let’s examine the New Testament. The apostolic writer, Luke, is the one writer who consistently uses the phrase “filled with the Spirit”. Following its use in the Old Testament, Luke wants to show how Jesus and the new covenant believers are all typically like the prophets and dynamic men and women of God in the former times and now behave as possessed of the Holy Spirit. Not just the famous ones but all.

Luke in both his Gospel and Acts also writes about people “filled with wrath”, “filled with anger”, “filled with fear”, “filled with jealousy”, “filled with wisdom”, “filled with madness”, “filled with indignation”, “filled with envy”, “filled with joy”, “filled with confusion”, etc. It’s obvious Luke is using this language to describe people who are exhibiting such behaviours to an intense degree. So for Luke, someone behaving in a clearly powerful and Spirit-led manner can often, but not always, be described as “filled with the Spirit”. I don’t know any believers who live constantly, permanently, according to this description. Do you?

So, in Luke’s usage, it seems “filled with the Spirit” is a description of a person’s dynamic spiritually anointed state, not a badge, not a spiritual stage, not a constant state necessarily. We find in Acts the same persons are described as “filled with the Spirit” on several occasions (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 4:31; 6:5; 7:55, etc). Seems to be an endue-ment and not a constant endowment.

Referring to yourself as ‘spirit-filled’ can sound to many like arrogance, upping yourself. Big-noting. Super-spiritual. It also suggests a ‘them-and us’, a dividing up of brothers and sisters into two groups from a human point of view.

So we need to be humble and refrain from calling ourselves “Spirit-filled”. We need to have God’s approval and not the approval of others (John 5:44). Clearly there are times when we are not “filled with the Spirit” to use Luke’s terminology. For example when you are asleep!

So how do the apostles approach this?

Paul describes spiritual people with terms like “you who have received the Spirit”, “the saints”, “the mature”, “Spirit led”, “walking in the Spirit” and “living in the Spirit”. Yes, I hear you, there’s Ephesians 5:18 do not be filled with wine, but filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. That’s a bit different to Luke’s usage of the term, right?

Of course, we should continually seek to be “in the Spirit” in the way the apostolic writers describe. Paul exhorts young Timothy not to neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders (1 Tim 4:14) and in his later letter (2 Tim 1:6-7) he reminds Timothy to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Surely he is here referring back to the anointing Timothy had received when he received the Holy Spirit much earlier. Timothy needed to reignite the fire that was already within him.

Peter describes switched-on believers as royal priests, people of God’s possession, partakers of the divine nature.

John describes active, spiritual people as: walking in the light, anointed, Spirit taught, born of God, having received the Spirit, children of God, overcomers, in the Spirit.

“Spirit filled churches” an often used phrase in charismatic/Pentecostal circles, just doesn’t make sense—there are no such groups described as such by the New Testament writers. Seems like a bit of marketing, don’t you think?

6 responses to “WHO ARE THE SPIRIT-FILLED?

  1. Yes I do agree Ian. I’m sure that the terminology “spirit filled Christian” was well intended to discriminate between someone who spoke in tongues and someone who didn’t but it certainly is rather discriminatory and not at all helpful today. Especially as tongues speaking is often no sign of character. I’m sure that much more is accomplished through love, as Paul was at pains to point out. Bless you, Phil


    • Thanks Phil–I appreciate your comments. Of course we could discuss the gracious gift of God in giving us freely the priceless facility of speaking in tongues and the amazing effects upon the sincere and humble believer. The Lord has not left us as orphans.


  2. Richard Morris

    One of the best explanations I have read and I have read many

    Derek Tidball writes similarly about spiritual gifts. They are gifts and can come and go. Do I have the gift of…? Well maybe yes at this time through the Spirit for this ministry on this occasion…I may not tomorrow. Thanks Ian


  3. Sally Butler

    Hi Ian, this was great thanks. I was talking with some fellow believers recently and they mentioned that in some instances where people were ‘filled with the spirit’ during a xtian gathering, they saw ‘gold dust’ on their palms and they found precious jewels. These jewels upon being taken to a jeweller for inspection were described by him as unusually perfect!
    I haven’t searched the scriptures to verify this but don’t recall anything like it- I would value your opinion on it, thanks


    • Thank you Sally. I far as I am aware, there is no precedent in the New Testament for anything like the ‘gold dust’ phenomena. Of course God Almighty can do whatever sovereign act he wills, except when that involves us His followers when he seeks our willing partnership. And as if the Lord would provide such ‘perfect’ samples so that people could even think of taking them to a jeweller!


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