Believers receive the Holy Spirit when they receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior through faith (Eph 1:13). Biblical events always portray that the Holy Spirit comes or falls on people when they receive Him for the first time (Act 2:2-4; Act 2:38; Act 10:44; Act 19:2-6; Eph 1:13). The only historical event that appears to record a second filling by the Holy Spirit, is found in Acts 4:
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. (Acts 4:31 ESV, emphasis added)
Here we have an example in the New Covenant where believers were apparently “re-filled” with the Holy Spirit… Or were they?
The very first outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit occurred when the 120 believers were assembled together in the upper room in Jerusalem and the tongues of fire appeared above their heads. From that day on the Holy Spirit would live and manifest from inside them. The same pattern occurs in the lives of believers today: The Holy Spirit falls on a person at salvation and thereafter abides within. He doesn’t leave the temple of our bodies ever again after that – to be without the Holy Spirit would mean that a person has lost their salvation.
You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God’s Spirit, who lives in you. People who don’t have the Spirit of Christ in them don’t belong to him. (Rom 8:9 CEV, emphasis added)
Back to Acts 4:31, the Greek word used for “filled” in this passage has actually been translated in very diverse ways throughout the New Testament, such as “accomplished”, “full”, “completed”, “become”, to be “overcome” by something, to be “filled”, etc. It all depends on the context:
And when eight days were fulfilled to circumcise the child… (Luk 2:21a, MKJV, emphasis added)
When the people in the meeting place heard Jesus say this, they became so angry [filled with anger]… (Luk 4:28 CEV, emphasis and annotations added)
And all the city was filled with confusion. (Act 19:29a LITV, emphasis added)
With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people… (Act 4:8 MSG, emphasis added)
The Acts 4 event has been used and abused by a myriad of people to get believers to “wait” on God for “more” of the Holy Spirit. The notion that “waiting on the Lord” and outcries for outpourings of the Spirit will eventually bring about Revival, has bred a powerless, passive generation of believers.
If all the money and time that has been spent on so called “revival meetings” has instead been poured into taking the gospel to the streets, the world would have been a different place. The enemy wants us on our faces, pleading with God for something that has already been completed in Christ and is preventing us from taking the gospel to the world. What do we have to show for all the years of crying out for revival, the breaking down of strongholds in the atmosphere and endless meetings to beg God for mercy?
When we understand that God lives in us and that we are ONE spirit with Him, all sorts of beliefs will go out the door, like praying for open heavens, asking God to show up in meetings, looking for signs and manifestations to believe that God is really moving among us, etc. People will begin to realise that everything they will ever need to grow, live, do miracles, succeed and know the truth is already inside them!
By this we are not refuting God’s omnipotence, but to think that we can achieve a greater measure of being spirit filled borders on superstition. God gave us the entire Holy Spirit, not just the little toe or the bottom or top half.
God is omnipresent and powerful, but people very conveniently externalise His presence to dodge the responsibility and acknowledgement that all the help they will ever need is already fully present inside them. There is no “greater measure” of being spirit filled required:
For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power. (Col 2:9-10 MKJV, emphasis and annotations added)
John the Baptist
What clenches the fact that the Acts 4 event does not refer to a second filling with the Holy Spirit, is the use of the same Greek word to describe what happened to John the Baptist:
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall neither drink wine nor strong drink. And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. (Luk 1:15 MKJV, emphasis added)
pletho (play’-tho, pleh’-o)
A prolonged form of a primary word pleo (which appears only as an alternate in certain tenses and in the reduplicated form of pimple mi to “fill” (literally or figuratively [imbue, influence, supply]); specifically to fulfil (time): – accomplish, full (. . . come), furnish.
John the Baptist was the last prophet who operated under the Old Covenant. The promised Holy Spirit would only be poured out at Pentecost, which was long after John had died. Therefore to interpret this verse to mean that John the Baptist was continually filled with the Holy Spirit is incorrect, because Jesus was the first man to walk the earth fully Spirit filled!
As we saw a little earlier, the Greek word for “filled” can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the context. Luke 1:15 (above) should therefore be interpreted in the sense that John was overcome by or convinced of the Holy Spirit. The same applies to the believers in Acts 4:31 and Peter in Acts 4:8 (above) – since they had already been filled by the Holy Spirit previously, in both these instances they simply came under the power of the Spirit who already lived inside them!
The well known verse in Ephesians 5 can be interpreted in exactly the same way:
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18 MKJV, emphasis added)
This verse simply provokes us to give ourselves over to the influence of the Holy Spirit inside us!
Being “Baptized” with the Holy Spirit
There is also no Biblical evidence to support the doctrine that being baptized with the Holy Spirit means something different than being filled with the Holy Spirit, yet a clear distinction has been made in the past between these two so-called different events. It is widely believed that after being filled with the Spirit, a believer also needs to be baptized in the Spirit to be able to operate in the gifts.
This manmade doctrine creates the notion that the full measure of the Holy Spirit which is given to a believer at salvation (Col 2:10) is not enough and that the heavens have to be bombarded with pleas for God to send down “more” of His Spirit. Why on earth would God not give us the WHOLE Holy Spirit in the first place? If He did not even spare His own Son, why would He hold back with the Holy Spirit? In any case, how can a person (the Holy Spirit) only be partially present?
Another interesting practice in the modern church world is to ask God for more anointing, as though it were something that could be measured in certain “levels”. Let’s look at the Greek meaning of the word:
From G5548; an unguent or smearing, that is, (figuratively) the special endowment (“chrism”) of the Holy Spirit: – anointing, unction.
Only in two verses in the entire Bible (1 John 2:27 and Acts 10:38) is the word “anointing” used in the context where it refers to a supernatural enabling or endowment. In all the other cases it either refers to being smeared with oil or to somebody’s position or function, such as being called “God’s anointed”. Yet countless doctrines have been formulated to somehow try and lure God’s presence and “anointing” into buildings and meetings all over the world. Wouldn’t it be incredible if people started using what they already have for a change?
In 1 John 2:27 where it talks about the supernatural endowment, it says “the anointing which you received from Him abides in you” – so much for asking for more anointing or saying that the anointing can “lift”.
The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Garment
The incident when the woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus’ garment and He felt power “leave” Him (Mark 5:25-34), is often used as an argument that Christians need to be “recharged” with new or fresh anointing after they had ministered to other people. The problem with this view is that it treats the Holy Spirit like petrol again, as though He can “run out”. A PERSON cannot run out! He is the ultimate, endless, infinite source of life. There is no limit to His capacity and He doesn’t have a tank that can run empty.
A good picture of this is when the prophet Elisha had the widow pour oil from her small jar into the other containers. The oil kept on pouring and pouring until there were no more jars left to fill. Only then did the oil in the small jar run out (2 King 4:1-7). When we minister the Spirit to other people, we are pouring from an endless supply which will continue to pour out until we run out of people to minister to, which of course will only be when we die. And even then our spirits will still remain fused to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:17).
It’s Not Just Semantics
Having people pray for something which they think they don’t have yet, contributes to a mindset of insufficiency and creates the idea that if we can get focused or serious enough, God will honor our efforts with His presence. What’s interesting is that the same tactic is employed by mediums and psychics to conjure up evil spirits. People have fasted, shouted, cried, sacrificed and prayed for hours and days on end for God to “come” when all the while He was right there with them.
It’s time to come to terms with New Covenant realities. It’s time the church realised how powerful she is. It’s time we started understanding the meaning of Immanuel: God with us.