What Does It Mean to Be Filled to Overflowing with the Holy Spirit?

Awakening to the Holy SpiritNote from Randy: Scripture tells us it is God’s will that we be filled with and controlled by His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-18). What does that mean? My friend Kurt Nelson explains more in this excerpt from his book Awakening to the Holy Spirit: Person, Presence, Power, Purpose in Our Lives. As I mentioned on my blog before, most of us know far less about the Holy Spirit than the Father and the Son, but we need to see Him and His work with new wonder and appreciation. I highly recommend this booklet!

In Ephesians 5:18, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers with a command, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit (NASB)”. The phrase “be filled with the Spirit” is a present, plural, passive imperative, meaning that God commands (not an option!) you, me, and all believers to continuously go on being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a must! It is essential. It is a constant. And we cannot do it ourselves!

By faith, we must continuously depend upon the divine Person of the Holy Spirit to be filled to the full, fully supplied, or as it were, overflowing, with the indwelling Spirit of God. This filling or overflow of the Spirit is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He proclaimed, “‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:38-39).

Since we are commanded to continuously go on being filled with the Holy Spirit, this clearly implies that we may choose to obey (or disobey) this command. Obviously, sinning against, grieving, or quenching the Spirit will significantly, if not completely, hinder the powerful flow of the ministry of the Holy Spirit through our lives. On the positive side, what can we do to increase or enhance the overflow of the Spirit’s work through our lives? The short answer is to simply pray daily and continuously ask God to fill us to overflowing with the Person, presence, power, and ministries of the Holy Spirit!

My friend and longtime associate at East-West, Dr. Joe Wall, recently reminded me that according to Scripture, there are two primary ways in which the Holy Spirit fills us. First, the Holy Spirit supernaturally fills us with wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge of God’s will.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives … .” (Colossians 1:9)

The Spirit also fills our lives and our speech with praise, worship, and thanksgiving to God.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(-Ephesians 5:18-20)

These passages both contain the Greek word pleroo, which means that the entirety of our lives should be constantly filled and overflowing with the supernatural character of God.

Second, the Holy Spirit also fills us with supernatural power for ministry, most notably for the proclamation and advancement of the gospel as we see in Acts 2:4 (miraculously speaking in unknown languages), Acts 4:8 (Peter preaching boldly before the Sanhedrin), and Acts 4:31 (believers speaking the Word of God boldly). These verses contain the Greek word pletho, which carries the meaning of our being filled with supernatural power for ministry. Both types of filling are a result of the supernatural indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, and both are the result of our trust in, obedience to, and reliance upon God to fill and use us.

In Luke’s Gospel, one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. In response, Jesus taught them what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, followed by a parable that encourages greater boldness (shameless audacity) in prayer with an exhortation to repeatedly “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” (Matthew 7:7). Jesus compares the relative goodness of human fathers to the absolute and perfect goodness of God, our Heavenly Father, when He says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

The clear message here is that the great gift that our Father delights to give to all of His children is the Holy Spirit “to those who ask Him!” Since all born-again believers already have the Holy Spirit permanently indwelling them, the prayer we should pray every day is to ask God to so fill us with His Holy Spirit that we are overflowing with His supernatural presence, power, gifts, and fruits, so that “rivers of living water” will flow through our lives to bless and serve those around us on a daily basis (John 7:38).

“The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” —A.W. Tozer

Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

As President and Chief Executive Officer of East-West Ministries, Kurt Nelson provides leadership and oversight to all worldwide ministry endeavors in the countries in which East-West currently operates. He is also the author of Awakening to the Holy Spirit: Person, Presence, Power, Purpose in Our Lives.