The Filling Distinguished from other Events
There is another Bible doctrine that some call Spirit baptism. But it is not Spirit baptism. The scriptures never call it a baptism at all. That is the filling of the Spirit. In review, there are three things that are sometimes called Spirit baptism.
The experience of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. This event is not for us and the Bible never teaches us to seek it. In scripture, it is called the baptism with the Holy Ghost, not Spirit baptism.
The placing of believers into Christ by the Spirit at the point of salvation. This is truly Spirit baptism.
The filling of the Holy Ghost. This is not even called a baptism in scripture, though many good people confuse the two.
The Optional Nature of the Filling
Ephesians 5:18 says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” The filling of the Spirit is not the experience of all believers. In other words, you can be saved and not be filled with the Spirit. Else there would be no reason for Paul to command us to be filled with the Spirit. It is not an automatic blessing of believers. You must allow the Holy Spirit to have full control of your life and will. The context of Ephesians 5:18 gives a description of that surrender to the Spirit. For now, you just need to know that it is not the experience of all believers.
The Repetitive Nature of the Filling
The filling of the Spirit may occur many times in the same person. It is not necessarily a one-time event. Acts 2:4-5 says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Here the apostles began to speak with other tongues.
Later, the same apostles are filled again. Acts 4:31 states, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” The same men were again filled with the Holy Ghost. But what is the result of being filled this time? They did not speak in tongues. This time there were not people present from many nations who spoke different languages. There was no need for tongues. In Acts 4:31 they spoke the word of God with boldness. If you are filled with the Holy Ghost today, you will speak the word of God with boldness.
The Filling of the Spirit Illustrated
What is the filling of the Holy Ghost? Think of a house. Think of it as the house where you live. This house is sufficiently large to allow guests to stay with you. Could you have a guest inside your house who did not fill that house? Surely you could. That is simple. Could you then have someone living in that house who did not have access to the entire house? That is, could you tell a visitor that he could live in the house but that certain rooms were off-limits to him? Again, this is certainly possible. This is the way it is with the filling of the Holy Spirit.
If you are saved, the Holy Spirit is in you. It does not matter how cold you are toward God right now. If you are saved, the Holy Spirit is indwelling you. If He is not, then you are not saved. But that does not mean He that has free access to your whole inner man. Think of the parts of your heart as a house with many rooms. Each room contains a different part of your inner man; of who you are. The indwelling of the Spirit without the filling of the Spirit is like this. It would be like bringing someone into your house and saying, “This is your bedroom and you can use the living room, but stay out of the rest of the house. The other rooms are off limits.”
That is how we treat the Holy Spirit many times. We give Him certain areas of our heart or life. We may give Him Sunday morning. He says, “Thanks a lot, but I want all of you. I want all of your heart; all of your life; I want everything about you.” You cannot be filled with the Spirit until you are emptied of self and until you surrender every area of your heart and life to Him.
Seeking for a Feeling
There are people who say they want Spirit baptism or the baptism with the Holy Ghost, but they are talking about the feeling; an experience. They are looking for a spiritual high; a mountain-top experience. They want to brag on their experience. They want to affirm their spirituality. They may be good people and mean good, but they are seeking something that we are not commanded to seek in scripture. They are getting away from the way the Bible speaks.
We must be careful not to get far away from the way the Bible says things. We sometimes use words like rapture or trinity and there is nothing wrong with that. But when we start straying far from scriptural terminology, we start confusing people and then fall into false doctrine. God calls this surrender to the Spirit the filling of the Holy Ghost. That is what you have when you really give you heart to Him. It is not Spirit baptism. You open yourself up to the Lord and say, “Lord, I want you to be in control of everything. I am going to trust you to work in my life right now. I am surrendering all the rooms in my house to your control.”
The Bible says we accept these things by faith. We walk by faith and not by sight (2Corinthians 5:7). That means that when you surrender in your heart to the Holy Spirit for the filling of the Spirit, you must trust He has filled you. You do not wait for the feeling. It is not the feeling of the Holy Spirit, but the FILLING. You say, “Lord, you are in control of my life and heart and I am surrendered to you,” and then you trust Him to lead you. Will He empower you at times? Yes, He will. Might you possibly have spiritual experiences? Yes you might, and there is nothing wrong with certain experiences. But no one can define a particular experience that is not commanded in scripture and then tell everyone else they must have the same experience.
I have had numerous close experiences with God over the years. I am nobody great, but I have had times that God was real to me beyond my ability to express. There were times He dealt with my heart and I have had experiences that have left me changed from what I was before. But you do not hear me preaching my experiences to you. Why? If it is not in the Bible, I may mislead you. I should not require you to have the same experience that I had. I am to preach the Book. Too many men are preaching their experience and making their experience the rule for the Christian life. That is wrong. God’s word is our authority for faith and practice. Only those experiences required in God’s word are required for the believer.
No Need for Another Pentecost
We are not looking for Pentecost again. There is no need. Jesus said that the baptism with the Holy Ghost was coming in a few days (Acts 1:6) and, after it came, Peter said that it had come (Acts 2:33). Do not look for your own Pentecost. That is a selfish desire for a personal experience so you can go around bragging to people: “Oh, look what happened to me!” Forget about it. If you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit. In addition to that, you have already been placed in Jesus Christ. What a wonderful blessing from God!
Need for Water Baptism
Although the Spirit places us into Christ, God never took away water baptism. If you have never followed the Lord in water baptism, you need to be obedient to Him. It is as if the Father says, “I have sent my Son to die on the cross for your sins. He is going to pay the price of your judgment and suffer your hell.” Then you say, “O yes, I have accepted that and taken the gift of eternal life. But I cannot be baptized and be seen as a spectacle before men. That is too much. I cannot do it.” Is that not a bit selfish? Maybe a lot selfish? You need to be obedient to the Lord and follow Him in baptism.
Need to be Filled with the Spirit
The last one is not a baptism. It is the filling of the Spirit. However, if you are a child of God, you are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. You must say, “Lord I am not in charge of my heart and life; you are. I open my heart entirely to you. I will trust by faith that you will take me and use me as you will.” The psalmist (Psalm 139:23-24) came close to this thought when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” What would the Lord have you to do with this message today?