The Spirit Empowers us for Gospel Witness

Jesus’ disciples were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 2:4) Peter was filled with the Spirit in his response to the Jewish leaders. (Acts 4:8) In Acts 4:31, after prayer, the disciples were filled with the Spirit and emboldened in their witness, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” And Paul was filled with the Spirit prior to speaking against Sergius. (Acts 13:9)

In each case, it describes empowerment by the Spirit as the “filling of the Spirit.” This is an often misunderstood term because it sounds like we are getting more of the Spirit somehow, like we are a jar and he is “filling” it.

The idea of the Greek word is completeness (πληρου̂σθε). “To be full with nothing left; to have something entirely.” “Fill” would seem to indicate that when we are filled that we have more of the Holy Spirit than when we are not filled. Or that we can be half full or three quarters full. The Holy Spirit is not a liquid; he is a person. Filling doesn’t mean that he gives us more of himself or that we have more of the Spirit. If we are a Christian, we have all of the Spirit. He indwells us at the moment of our regeneration. The issue with filling is not how much of him do we have, but how much of us does he have?

How can we be “filled” so that we can be empowered? As we surrender our natural fears of men and their opinions to God’s will, our will becomes increasingly aligned with God’s will and the Spirit enables us to speak or love in ways that our natural selves could not do. It is supernatural in the sense that the Spirit is enabling and blessing the service of a sinner. His presence in us means that power is always available. The more we seek God’s purposes to be accomplished and the more his mission values shape our desires, the more control the Spirit exerts in us and the more control he exerts, the more power and blessing he produces.

“The Christian’s life in all its aspects – intellectual and ethical, devotion and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.” (JI Packer)

Presence and power. His presence in us means his power through us; filling is not a one-time thing but rather an ongoing pursuit. I try and pray regularly for the Holy Spirit to fill me. I want that and I need that. I have his presence. I need his power. All Christians do.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address ( on the copied resource.

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