“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52

There is much misunderstanding concerning the doctrine and practical nature of the filling of the Holy Spirit. On one hand, there are many Christians who claim that the filling of the Holy Spirit is a special anointing with the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. On the other hand, Christians who do not believe in a “second work of grace” tend to settle down into a form of Christianity that forgets the significance of the Holy Spirit’s influence on their lives. There must be a middle course since that is where the Bible directs the careful student of the Word.

There are two verbs and one noun that are translated “filled” in the Bible. The first is pimplemi. It appears in Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; and 13:9. Luke employs the word on the occasion of Christ’s miracle of healing the paralytic in Luke 5:26: “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today!’” You can imagine the mix of emotions and the fixation of thought on what the crowd had seen. Concerning this word Thayer says, “What wholly takes possession of the mind is said to fill it.”

This captivation of the mind and heart is what is being alluded to in Acts 2:4. At the birthday of the Church, the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on Pentecost, just as promised by our Lord. Acts 2:4 reveals, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Later we read, in Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel….’” By Luke’s use of this word in Acts we are treated to the fact that the filling of the Holy Spirit is His captivating the heart and mind of believers, equipping them in their Gospel witness.

The second verb translated filling is pleroo. It appears in John 16:5f, “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” The idea behind the word is similar to the first; it means to pervade, or take possession of. Just as after viewing the Lord’s healing of the paralytic when all the crowd could not stop fixing the mind and heart on what they had seen, so here the very thought of Jesus leaving the disciples caused their heart to fix upon the sorrow that filled their minds and hearts.

Our text from Acts 13:52 uses this word to describe the heart and mind condition of the believers. Controversy was stirring and Paul and Barnabas were booted out of the city of Antioch. Persecution of the saints was on the rise. And the response of the saints? It was to fill their heart and mind with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Joy and the Holy Spirit pervaded them and filled their thoughts!

Ephesians 5:15ff uses this word when it says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs….” As one can readily see, the passage is not about some sort of second work of grace one must wait for, rather it is a call to action in light of the shortness of time and to immediately behave wisely in the face of an evil world. The believer is not to wile away his time in a self-medicated stupor, but rather to fill his mind and heart with Spirit-led thoughts and desires, and to fill his day with Spirit-led decisions, all the while speaking forth in word and song, praises to the Most High!

The noun version of filled is pleres, often translated full. It appears in Luke 4:1, Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; and 11:29. In Acts 6 there is the calling of the first deacons. They were men full of the Holy Spirit. Stephen (Acts 7:55), was of course, among them. The men were thoroughly permeated by the Holy Spirit just as with faith. God Himself was in control, and all around them knew it.

The Holy Spirit exerts His influence upon the individual. He does not do so in the form of filling like we would fill a bucket. Instead, His filling is more akin to the idea of being full and satisfied, like with Thanksgiving Day and the joy of fellowship and family. The Holy Spirit is a person rather than a thing. Being filled with the Spirit is living under the control exerted by the Holy Spirit. Essentially, His filling is His controlling the volition, reason, emotion, and actions of the submissive believer. A Spirit-filled saint is an obedient saint who lives in conformity to the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit’s role is to suppress your old man’s (sin nature) desire for control, to exert His influences on you toward godliness, and to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in you. In order for this work to succeed you must actively pursue His leadership, live in conscious dependence upon Him, and lean upon Him for guidance and power in your spiritual life. Trust and obey.