What exactly does being filled with the Spirit mean? And what evidence is there that we are? Will we have “supernatural” power, or just behave differently – even act oddly? There are any number of ideas concerning the consequences of a Spirit-filled life, my purpose here not being to answer every question raised by those sometimes conflicting ideas but to examine this topic from a very basic perspective. What does the Bible specifically say about our receipt of the Holy Spirit and the benefits of being so filled?

Paul told the Corinthian Church that there would indeed be “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit in their lives, not particularly meant for personal use and never as a divisive force but, “…for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 All would be the work of the same Spirit, given to each individual as God saw fit; a few indeed benefiting the individual, all bringing glory to God and edifying His church. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 & Romans 12:3-8) One of the more controversial and distracting “proofs” of Holy Spirit indwelling, according to some, being speaking in tongues; mentioned the first time and obviously referring to the languages listed in Acts 2:4 – the “tongues” spoken by these unlearned Galileans used as proof of their international message and the Spirit’s involvement in this new mission to the world. Paul’s reference to speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:1-33 is somewhat vague and filled with words of caution. Perhaps the divisive nature of this gift already being felt. (See verses 4,12 & 18) Paul’s major concern being that he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, he who prophesies – or preaches – edifying the church; which Paul greatly preferred. (See also 2 Peter 1:20,21)

So how do we receive the Holy Spirit and the gifts that follow in its wake? The Bible being very precise in its description of the “outpouring” of God’s Spirit on men (Joel 2:28 & Acts 2:17), noting its initial fulfillment in the church era in Acts 2:1-4 as well as its consequences; those receiving the “tongues of fire” becoming bold, passionate and empowered to be and do what and who they had struggled to be up to this point. (See Acts 6:10; 8:29; 10:19 for more examples of the Holy Spirit’s continued involvement in the lives of Christ’s disciples.) Peter listing the simple, limited requirements for receipt of this powerful ally in the first Christian sermon preached in the streets of Jerusalem. “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 Grace and faith ushering in salvation (Ephesians 2:5) and God’s Spirit into our lives (Galatians 3:14), allowing us to approach God’s throne with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) as sons and heirs of his kingdom. (Galatians 4:6,7) The Spirit then working in us and through us to redeem and sanctify us to a higher purpose. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

So how does he “speak” to us and to what purpose are we being led to by him? Jesus assured his disciples shortly before his trial and execution that he would, “…ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16 Further asserting that this, “…Counselor, the Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 Even revealing to us what is yet to come. (John 16:13 See also Matthew 10:19,20 & Luke 12:11,12) And then he spoke to the issue of mission and ministry. “When the Counselor comes… the Spirit of truth… will testify about me. And you also must testify,…” John 15:26,27 Paul later characterizing his – and our – function in Christ as Ambassadors, our ministry one of reconciliation; “…as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

By virtue then of the Holy Spirit taking up residence within us, we as individuals become it’s “temple” (1 Corinthians 6:19) as well as members of the corporate church (Acts 20:28); with responsibilities in both instances. As such, we become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), no longer living according to the sinful nature and its desires but according to the Spirit’s leading and its desires. (Romans 8:5) The Holy Spirit communicating to us our acceptance as God’s children (Rom.8:16) and helping us when we are at a loss as to what to even pray for – let alone what we should do; interceding for us, “…with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit…”and responds accordingly. Romans 8:26,27 (See also Ephesians 2:18) Paul further assuring us in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that, “…the Lord is the Spirit,…” and that where he is there is freedom of conscience as well as freedom from sin; victory over temptation and evil being ours as a result of our using “the sword of the Spirit” – God’s word. (Ephesians 6:17) Paul also warning us of the danger of grieving the Holy Spirit or putting out its fire through neglect, ignorance and misuse. (Ephesians 4:30 & 1 Thessalonians 5:19) John cautioning us to, “…test the spirits to see whether they are from God,…”; as many false prophets are “out there” teaching false doctrine about Christ and his involvement in our lives. The key to identifying a legitimate message from on high being the messenger’s acceptance of Jesus as God’s son, sent by him to save us from our sin and then becoming Lord of our lives. (1 John 4:1,2)

Let us therefore seek, as Elisha of old, a double-portion of the spirit his predecessor Elijah so obviously possessed (2 Kings 2:9), to use for the glory of God and the advancement of His church; resisting our natural inclination to stubbornness – demanding our own way and ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not only to our own hurt and harm – but of those following our example. (Acts 7:51-53) Relying then on “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” through word and deed, our faith will be built up and spread abroad as we experience what, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived… (but) which God has revealed to us by His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-10