What did Paul mean when he told the Ephesians that they should be filled by the Holy Spirit? (Ephesians 4:5) The Bible clearly states that the moment we sincerely believe in Christ as our Savior and ask Him into our hearts, His Holy Spirit makes us His permanent oikeo (Greek word for house). In other words, we become the everlasting dwelling place of God when we are saved.
My question is this. If Gods’ Spirit has fully occupied us at the point of our salvation, how is it possible to be re-filled? Do we need an additional filling of His Spirit every time His spiritual gifts are put to use? No. God has no limitations. Does God leave us when we don’t do as we should? No. Scripture tells us that nothing__not death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, not the present, or the future, nor any powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39) Is His presence within believers dependent on our continual good behavior? No. Scripture says that believers must continually work on becoming more like Christ until the day of His return. That means that we are expected to improve our flawed nature in spite of our inability to be perfect.
What did Paul mean? Paul isnt saying that believers must be filled with God. Paul is saying that we should be filled by Him. Paul was instructing believers to allow God to fully express Himself in them. This fifth chapter is about submitting to authority. The word fill, in this context, doesnt mean filling up an empty container. It is talking about influence. Paul was saying that we should not restrain God’s Spirit from exhibiting His power. He was telling us that the Holy Spirit should continually be allowed to do what needs to be done, in and through us. Please understand that once you sincerely accept Christ as your Savior and ask Him into your life, the Holy Spirit comes to stay. We (believers) already possess God within us. Possessing God is not the issue here. The question you and I must constantly ask is this…How much of me does God possess?
Just as a person can’t have open access to our home without an invitation, God can’t have full access to us without inviting Him in. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means giving God permission to exercise His nature, and to express His personality through us. A believer who walks in the Spirit is one who voluntarily puts his will, emotions and thought-life under the influence of the Holy Spirit. These believers desire to be dominated and controlled by God, in much the same way a drunkard is dominated and controlled by alcohol (Eph 5:18)
We will never fully experience the power of God in our lives until we are totally convinced that we can do nothing without Him. As long as we think we can handle every situation without His guidance we will be left to struggle through things alone. We must stop trying to work everything out for ourselves if we want to experience all the wonderful gifts that God has put at our disposal. Think about this; the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, and if He raised Jesus from the dead, He is also able to give life to our mortal bodies. (Romans 8:11)
Power to get through every circumstance, divine counsel, comfort and guidance is available for the asking. If we could just learn to quiet our minds and listen. We must empty our minds of all the things that elevate our own worth or gratify our flesh if we want to live a spirit-filled life. It is impossible to be full of Christs’ Spirit if we are still full of ourselves. To walk by the spirit we must develop a close, loving relationship with God, which is the only way to build our trust in Him. And trust is always a prerequisite to submission.
Here is an example that helped me see this more clearly. One of the rules in water safety courses is never to swim to a drowning man while he is beating the water with his arms. Trying to save someone who is frantically trying to save himself is a dangerous move. The proper procedure is to stay out of reach so he wont grab you and take you down. Then you must wait until he gives up. There is nothing you can do until he totally surrenders. Not until he is completely dependent on your ability to help him, can he be helped. This is how it is with us and God. We are drowning in our troubles without the power to rescue ourselves, but we keep trying anyway, but God can’t help us if we won’t reach out to Him. In our frantic attempts to keep afloat in our sea of problems, we can’t see that God is waiting for us to stop beating at the water, reach out, and take His hand.
Charles Stanley says it this way:‘The vine is Christ, I am the branch. The Holy Spirit is the sap that runs from the vine into the branch. The branch lives, grows, and bears fruit not by struggles and effort but simply by abiding.’ The most striking characteristic of men and women who are doing Gods work His way is their lack of stress. Believers who are walking in the Spirit are going to experience peace.’