Filled with The Holy Spirit
Often when the saints are recovered to a divine truth, the Devil seizes the opportunity to introduce his own “truth”, which to the unsuspecting can seem like a plausible further advancement, but is, in reality, nothing but lies. The old Liar is an expert in his field, and is able to deceive even the elect. Thus whilst the last two centuries have seen an increased appreciation of the practical place the Holy Spirit must have amongst the people of God, they have also seen a rapid expansion in perversions of the same theme. The basic truth is not denied, but what is built upon it are the fleshly doctrines of men, which smother the divine foundation. Take the recognition of the gifts of the Spirit. That each true saint of God has a gift which ought to be allowed practical expression is a blessed truth. That one gift, namely that of tongues, is essential for every Christian, is a downright lie (clearly refuted by 1 Cor. 12: 30). The result is often the misery of a fruitless search for what is forever beyond reach, or the foolish self–delusion of mistaking “flesh”, (or worse), for “Spirit”. Christ, as the believer’s object and joy, is forced into the background in an unholy quest for power. Examples could be multiplied, but I shall limit myself to a brief analysis of just one––what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and chanting with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks at all times for all things to him [who is] God and [the] Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting yourselves to one another in [the] fear of Christ” (Eph. 5: 18–21). Clearly this was something expected of all “the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1: 1) not just a select few––the little children as well as the fathers. How great the moment when Christians woke up to the fact that being men of God depended not upon attending one of the great seats of religious learning but having a life totally under divine control! Yet if God has made it simple, the enemy will introduce complications. Thus we are now informed that the man filled with the Spirit will speak in tongues, and that he who does not speak in tongues has never been filled with the Spirit! The innocent soul who swallows this poison instantly has his attention diverted from the Lord to self as he sets about to remedy the perceived lack. Satan, of course, is more than happy.
Certainly this verse in Ephesians talks about “speaking”, but it is “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” not “speaking in tongues”. Tongues are not mentioned at all in this epistle––and indeed the “evidence” for being filled with the Spirit would be better sought in the speaking, singing, giving thanks and submission that the apostle talks about (see Eph. 5: 19–21). Of course the one hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues (Acts 2: 4), but it does not follow that being filled with the Spirit must inevitably manifest itself in the speaking of tongues. Leaving aside the question as to whether tongues even exist today, it is a fact that none of the other companies that spoke in tongues are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is not to say that they were not filled, only that Scripture does not present it that way. Of one company we can be quite sure, however, that they were not filled with the Holy Spirit––Corinth’s deplorable moral condition was anything but holy. Yet we know that they were great practitioners of tongues. The fact of the matter is that if we approach God’s Word without bias or preconception it will be abundantly evident that speaking in tongues and being filled with the Spirit are not as inextricably linked as these brethren who trouble us would have us believe.
Again, look at those who are said to be filled with the Spirit. How many of these are said to speak in tongues? Did Peter before the high Priest (Acts 4: 8)? There is no record of it. Did the assembly at Jerusalem (Acts 4: 31)? Again, no. (Instead they “spoke the word of God with boldness”.) Did Paul before Elymas the magician (Acts 13: 9)? No. Barnabas was “a good man and full of [the] Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11: 24), yet he is never said to have spoken in tongues. Paul was indeed told by Ananias that he would “be filled with [the] Holy Spirit” (Acts 9: 17), but despite the greater part of the book of Acts being a record of his labours, not once is he recorded there as speaking in tongues. Again, the epistles are overwhelmingly authored by Paul, yet apart from a brief remark to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14: 18) we would not even know that he had the ability. That he––the man filled with the Holy Spirit––and they––the “carnal” (1 Cor. 3: 3)––could both speak in tongues shatters the myth that such an ability is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit! Indeed, we read of persons being filled with the Holy Spirit even before God introduced the promised gift of tongues into the world. Thus we have, for example, Bezaleel (Ex. 31: 3; 35: 31), John the Baptist (Luke 1: 15) and even the Lord Himself (Luke 4:1) filled with the Holy Spirit. Such Scriptures demonstrate that, unlike the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2: 38), the filling of the Spirit is by no means restricted to Christianity.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is indicative of being under divine control, as demonstrated by Ephesians 5: 18: “And be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit”. Just as being drunk indicates we are under the control of alcohol, so being filled with the Spirit shows we are under His control. This filling was often a qualification for serving God (Acts 6: 3), for speaking God’s Word (Luke 1: 41; 1: 67), or to stand faithfully in perilous circumstances (Acts 7: 55). The Lord Himself entered the forty days of temptation as “full of [the] Holy Spirit” (Luke 4: 1). The ministry of John the Baptist was so great that it necessitated him being “filled with [the] Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1: 15). The handling of a sensitive and potentially divisive matter in the Assembly necessitated men “full of [the] [Holy] Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6: 3; see verse 5). What has any of this to do with tongues? Very little, if at all. The purpose of tongues was to be a sign to unbelievers ( 1 Cor. 14: 22)––not as a witness of being filled by the Spirit! Such a direct link is not only fanciful, but splits the people of God into two in a most offensive and unrighteous manner––the tongue–speakers (judged to be the “spiritual”) and the non-tongue speakers (dismissed as “unspiritual”). Some may be proud of such a distinction. The Devil is pleased with them.