Bible Question:

What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Bible Answer:

Did you know that either the Holy Spirit can help you live your Christian life or you can hinder His work in your life? The Holy Spirit provides the power to live the Christian life. We can see this in the letter to the Ephesians when the apostle Paul prayed for them.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . . that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man . . . Ephesians 3:14-16 (NASB)

Did you notice that Paul prayed that they would be strengthened with the Holy Spirit? Paul was not praying that they would become Christians (the Holy Spirit would enter into their lives) because they were already Christians. The book of Ephesians was written to people who were already Christians or “saints.”

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus . . . Ephesians 1:1 (NASB)

Paul was asking for the Holy Spirit to strengthen these Christians. The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit is the key to victory over sin or to living a holy life (Galatians 5:16-17). The Holy Spirit is the spiritual power for ministry (1 Corinthians 2:4; 12:7). The Holy Spirit also helps us understand the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 2:20, 27). These are just a few ways in which the Holy Spirit ministers to us and works through us.

How does this happen? It happens when we are “walking in” or are “filled with” the Holy Spirit. There are several passages in the Bible that will help us understand what this means.

Walking In The Spirit

The first passage we will look at is Galatians 5:16-23.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:16-17 (NASB)

Here we are commanded by God to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Holy Spirit is the key to victory over sin – to living a holy life. The key to victory over sin is not self-punishment, doing penance, or mortification of sin. It is not self-help books or going to prolonged counseling sessions. The key to living a holy life as a Christian is to walk in the Spirit. As Christians, we are commanded to walk in the Spirit, since we were already living in the Spirit (Romans 8:3; Galatians 5:25; 1 Peter 4:6).

The Greek word for “walk” in this verse has the idea of continually walking in the Spirit and the Greek word for “carry out” has the idea of accomplishment. That is, if we are constantly walking in the Spirit, the desire of our flesh will not be satisfied. That is a strong statement. Now we need to ask, “What is the desire of the flesh?” The answer is given in the next verses,

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing. . . Galatians 5:19-21 (NASB)

The desire of the flesh is to commit sin. The flesh wants to sin. When we are walking in the Spirit, we will not be constantly sinning. If a Christian is walking in the Spirit, he or she will discover some exciting changes taking place in his/her life. He/she will find that God the Holy Spirit is changing his/her life and the fruit of the Spirit is growing, blossoming, and flourishing.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)

Our flesh wants to sin but the Spirit wants to grow the fruit of righteousness. How does the fruit grow? It grows as we faithfully and constantly walk in the Spirit.

The Greek word for “walk” is peripateo which means “to walk up and down” or “walk about” in the Spirit. It does not mean to walk up and down on the Holy Spirit. It does not mean to walk around the Holy Spirit but “in the Holy Spirit.” Now how do we do that? Do we climb inside the Holy Spirit? If so, how do we do that? No, we cannot climb inside the Spirit but He can come inside of us and start directing us. The easiest way for this to happen is to let the Holy Spirit take control of us.

God’s Will For You

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? Did you know the Bible reveals some things that are His will for us? A very important part of the will of God is to be “controlled by” or to “be filled with” the Holy Spirit.

So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit . . . Ephesians 5:17-18 (NASB)

To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be completely controlled by Him. Notice God’s illustration in this verse. He commands us to not become drunk with wine but to be drunk with the Holy Spirit. To be drunk means that wine has as taken control of our senses. That illustrates the meaning of the Greek word “filled.” It means “to make full, complete.” It was used to refer to someone who was filled full of food. That is what God wants us to be – to be filled full of the Holy Spirit or to be controlled by Him. When we allow this to happen, we will be . . .

. . . speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21 (NASB)

A Spirit filled Christian will have joy in the heart, thankfulness, and humility towards others, or submission. These are the marks of a Spirit filled Christian. The passage does not talk about any other experiences.

A person referring to those who teach that a Christian must always have a happy smile once said, “Where the sun always shines, there is a desert.” That is true. A person without suffering is a shallow Christian. The great saints of the ages have suffered. The great preacher C. Spurgeon suffered greatly with depression between his messages. The saints in Hebrews 11:35-38 suffered great torture. The prophet Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. This passage is talking about melody and joy in the heart and not necessarily on the face. It is also talking about humility on the inside that causes wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), husbands to love their wives Ephesians 5:25-28), children to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), and slaves to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5).

Colossians 3:16-22 is a very interesting passage because it is very close to Ephesians 5:17-6:5.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God . . . Wives, be subject to your husbands . . . Husbands, love your wives . . . Children, be obedient to your parents . . . Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth . . . Colossians 3:16-22 (NASB)

In Ephesians 5:17-18 the list starts with “be filled with the Spirit” and in Colossians the list starts with the “Word of Christ.” In both Ephesians and Colossians we are commanded to do something and then the results which follows are identical. In Ephesians we are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit” and in Colossians we are commanded to dwell richly in the “word of Christ.” Then singing, thankfulness, submission to others follows. Why? Because being filled with the Spirit and spending time in the Word of God go together. One who is filled with the Spirit will “dwell richly” in the Word. The Greek word for “dwell” means to “live in” like a person living in a home. This is an important spiritual insight. It implies that we want to spend as much time as we can reading, meditating on and studying the Bible. The Spirit then uses the Word of God to make us more like Jesus Christ.


Now let us put it all together. To be constantly filled with the Spirit results in victory over sin, peace and joy in the heart, and submission/humility towards others. But in order to be filled with the Spirit, we must ask God to have the Holy Spirit take control of us – “fill us” – just as the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians. You must want to let Him take over your life. It is also important to remember that in order to continue to “be filled with” or “be walking in” the Spirit, you must confess your sins to God the Father every time you realize that you have sinned and ask for the Holy Spirit to take control of your life again. You should also spend as much time in the Bible as you can. This is what it means to live our life in the Spirit of God. I have found that the Holy Spirit has changed my life, given me victory over many sins in life, provided me with peace and joy in my heart and given me a tremendous longing to know Him because I enjoy Him. Come – walk in the Spirit! Just remember that only those who are trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins can be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Suggested Links:

Searching For God
How To Be Filled With The Spirit
Holy Spirit Gives Us Victory Over Sin
What are the signs that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit?
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 1
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 2
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 3