“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Acts 6:3b)
How specifically does Christ enable us to overcome, to grow, to succeed? How does He enable us to have a pattern of success in place of the old pattern of failure? Does He displace our personalities with His? The beauty and glory of God’s victory in our humanity is that He does not by-pass or replace us. Rather, He renews the new person after the likeness of God Himself (Col 3:10). As we shall see, this renewing work is primarily accomplished through the various means of grace that God provides, in the use of which we cooperate with Him.
But because God in us is not an impersonal resident force or influence in our lives but a person, the new life is one of delightful personal companionship. Like a good friend, His presence does wonderful things for us. He comforts us when we are discouraged and sensitizes our moral judgment through giving us understanding of His Book. His very presence galvanizes our will when we are weak; His counsel clarifies issues when we are confused. He works within us to change our thought patterns and outside us to control our circumstances for our long-term good.
Scripture speaks of each member of the Trinity living in us, but because the agent for effecting God’s purposes in this world is the Holy Spirit, most of the teaching in the New Testament on normal Christian living focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit. The person who is in covenant relationship with God is said to have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, to have been born of the Spirit, to be indwelt by the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and to have been sealed by the Spirit. Of all these analogies, the most common is the idea of being filled with the Spirit. What does this picture language mean literally?
A tank may be empty, half-full, or full, and some Bible teachers refer to the filling of the Holy Spirit almost in such material terms. But we speak of a person, not a force, much less a liquid. Others use physical/figurative ideas similar to being full-blooded genetically or full of alcohol in their system and may be so affected by it that they have little control over themselves. This notion is better than the material concepts of fullness and has the advantage of an apparent biblical analogy: “Don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18, author’s paraphrase). There are many parallels between the effects of drunkenness and God-intoxication, no doubt, but we are left in the realm of the figurative and still do not know what the expression means literally
The important question is about the present – “Are you filled with the Spirit?” In this sense the expression seems to indicate a state or condition. This use of the expression must also be valid because we are commanded to be filled continually with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). One problem is that many take the state to refer primarily to a subjective feeling, similar, perhaps, to our expression, “filled with joy.” Scripture does promise us a life of awareness of God’s presence.
Another biblical use of the expression seems to refer to a personal characteristic. When we say that a man is full of pride, sinful, we mean that he or she is characterized by pride or sin. Used in this sense, the expression “filled with the Spirit” would mean that the person was characterized by Godlikeness, by God’s being the predominant person or the pervasive influence in one’s life. This must have been the meaning when people in Scripture were said to be Spirit-filled (e.g., Acts 6:3). Others could watch them and tell that their lives were characterized above all else by their association with God and by the results of that association. If someone were to describe what characterizes you, what would they say? What would you want them to say?