Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that you might have grieved or quenched the Spirit?
We learned in the previous post that the Spirit of God is hard at work in lives. But what if we don’t know it, or realize it, or feel it? That would be a bummer, right? The God of the universe is living in us, at work in us, and yet sometimes we can barely realize it. That’s a problem. What we see in Scripture is that just because we are indwelt with the Spirit at the moment of placing our faith in Christ, that doesn’t mean we are filled with the Spirit. There is a difference between being indwelt and filled.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
Does it mean we will demonstrate some special powers? Some people say that if you really have the Spirit in your life, you will know it because you will be speaking in tongues, or you will be slain in the Spirit, or you will be able to do miracles, or you will be able to hear messages from God that he wants you to deliver to other people. Should we expect this to be standard or normal in the life of the believer in the church?
If you go back to the time when the Spirit first came to the church in Acts 2, that is definitely what it meant. In a previous post this week we read verses 1-4, but take a look again at verse 4. After the Spirit filled the disciples, they were speaking in other languages. The implication of the text is that the disciples did not previously know those languages. The Spirit of God was empowering them to preach the Good News of Jesus in the home languages of the people who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. The first time the Spirit gave people the gift of speaking in tongues, those people were speaking real languages for the purposes of introducing people to Jesus. Later in the letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, some 30 years later, he talks about speaking in tongues a bit differently. I’m not going to take the time to do a deep study of 1st Corinthians 14, but essentially he says that there is an angelic tongue of sorts, and people, by the Holy Spirit, are gifted to speak that language, which can sound like ecstatic speech. He also says that not every Christian will speak it or understand it, so there will also be people who are gifted to translate the language to the rest so they can understand. Furthermore he says that we shouldn’t forbid speaking in that kind of tongue, but he believes that kind of speaking in tongues is far inferior to speaking in a language that everyone can understand.
The problem is when there is a requirement for these kinds of manifestations of the Spirit to prove that you are a true Christian. Some Christians say that unless you speak in that angelic tongue, you are not truly a Christian. There is nothing in Scripture, in my reading, that would substantiate that claim. Instead you can be indwelt with the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, and you might never speak in tongues, or do miracles. What, then, does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
In Ephesians 5:15-21, Paul gives a fairly clear teaching about being filled with the Spirit.
He uses alcohol to illustrate being filled with the Spirit. As Paul indicates, when you consume alcohol, it gets in your bloodstream and starts to debilitate you. You lose your faculties. That is what inebriated means. You are intoxicated. You are no longer in control of your life. This is why the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments issue strong warnings about the consumption of alcohol, and both are clear in their condemnation of drunkenness. Paul takes that image and says, do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Interestingly, alcohol is called spirits. Paul is saying don’t allow alcoholic spirits to control you, but allow The Holy Spirit to control you. That is the difference between indwelling and filling. For some of us, the Spirit is living in us, he is indwelling us, but he is not in control of our lives. When he fills us, we are giving him control.
So when you make the choice to give your life to Christ and follow his heart, he gives you his Spirit to indwell you. But for the rest of your life you have a choice about filling, about who is controlling your thoughts, your actions and your heart.
Paul says that though we are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are not always walking with the Spirit. We read this in Galatians 5. When we allow sin to flow from our lives, Paul writes, we are not walking in step with the Spirit. In Ephesians 4:30, he says that we can grieve Spirit. And in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 he teaches that we can quench the Spirit, or put out the Spirit’s fire.
We don’t use the word “quench” all that much, so what does it mean? Most commonly we use it as “quench your thirst”. It is to satisfy or to put out. When it comes to a forest fire or thirst, you certainly want to quench it. But not the Spirit. My NIV Study Bible notes make a very interesting comment about this idea of quenching the Spirit.
“There is a warmth, a glow, about the Spirit’s presence that makes this language appropriate. The kind of conduct Paul is opposing may include loafing, immorality and the other sins he has denounced. On the other hand, he may be warning against a mechanical attitude toward worship that discourages the expression of the gifts of the Spirit in the local assembly.”Leon Morris
In other words, if we choose to live sinful lives, we can quench or grieve the Spirit, meaning that we are less filled with the Spirit, and we are not giving him control of our hearts, actions, and words. But it is also very possible that if we take a mechanical or intellectual, rather than a personal or relational view of the Spirit, that too can quench the Spirit. You can study a driving book, learn all the ways of the road, maybe even pass the test and get your license, but that does not mean that you are a driver. Becoming a driver takes getting a car, putting the keys in the ignition, starting the engine, then driving it onto the road, and navigating it around other vehicles. Just knowing about something does not mean it affects your day to day thoughts and movements. Knowledge is not the same as real interaction.
Check back in to the final post in this week’s series on our identity as temples of the Holy Spirit as we seek to answer the question of how that identity matters in the real world of our day-to-day lives.