How can we be filled with the Spirit like the Christians in the early church, which we studied in the previous post. In those days, what was happening was precisely what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and 6, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
This is very much in line with what Paul would later write in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” What this verse suggests is that just as alcohol in the bloodstream can lead to a person losing control of their faculties, and therefore we should not get drunk, we should, however, allow ourselves to be filled with, and be under the control of, the Holy Spirit.
Paul explains this further in Galatians 5, a passage that I refer to very frequently, the fruit of the Spirit. Verses 16-25 are where Paul gives a mini-teaching on what a disciple of Jesus will look like when they are filled with the Spirit. In Galatians 5, he calls the filling by a number of other actions: live by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, have the fruit of the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit.
Romans chapter 8 is another excellent place to study the work of the Spirit. Consider just a few verses. Paul writes, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” When the Spirit is in us, filling us, it shows by our behavior. The good things of the Spirit cannot help but flow out of our lives.
All of these passages, and there are many more, help us understand that when become true disciples of Jesus, our dry bones come to life, and God’s Spirit lives in us, and he changes us to think, speak and live in line with the way of Jesus.
What this means is that Christians are people in whom God the Spirit has made his home. In this theology, frankly, the charismatic and Pentecostal streams of the church can teach us much. I am from the Word stream of the church, and by that I mean that I focus on the Bible and on Jesus. Not bad things to focus on. The Bible is vastly important to study. There is also nothing wrong, in my view, with praying to God the Father, and believing that we have a close friendship with Jesus. But clearly, because God the Spirit lives with us and has made his home with us, it is of vast importance that we deepen our relationship with the Spirit.
With that in mind, consider this amazing prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
In that prayer all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned, Father, Son and Spirit; all three depicted as making their home within us, empowering us to so deeply know the love of God that we are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Do you see yourself that way? You should. That is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. That doesn’t mean we need to speak in tongues, or ever will. Some might, and that’s okay. Paul wrote a very specific guide for speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. It seems instead that there is something much more important at stake here, the critically important dynamic of the Holy Spirit living in us and empowering us to live like God wants us to live.
As Paul insinuates, and as the early church experienced, the filling of the Spirit is not permanent. We, by our choices and actions, our thoughts and words, can experience a significantly reduced relationship with the Spirit. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul talked about grieving the Spirit right in the middle of a section about unity and about how we talk and interact with people. Paul says in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” and the very next thing he says is, “Do not grieve the Spirit.” The implication is clear, if you have a pattern of being negative, critical, and discouraging, you are grieving the Spirit. Instead you should be focusing on building the other up. Likewise in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, he wrote, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”
So if you look at your life and think, “I don’t know that I feel the Spirit living in me,” I recommend that you do a thorough and deep examination of your life. If you look at your life, and you do not see much of the Fruit of the Spirit flowing from you, it is highly likely that you have made choices to grieve the Spirit, to put out the Spirit’s fire, by rebellion, by being divisive, discouraging, and by many other sins. This is precisely what Israel was dealing with in Ezekiel’s day. Of course they were like dry bones, people without God’s Spirit, because they were so rebellious.
What will you do, then, to grow your relationship with the Spirit? First, do what Peter said in his sermon in Acts 2, repent and be baptized, and receive the Spirit anew. Do what the Apostles did in Acts 4, pray a bold prayer requiring God to work. Make time to get to know the Spirit, listen for the Spirit’s leading and voice.
The valley of dry bones is an amazing vision of the hope that we have in God’s love, grace and forgiveness. That, though we can struggle with sin, with feeling dead inside and disconnected with God, there is hope. God wants to us experience that hope through the deep inner life of his Spirit.