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There is perhaps not a more misunderstood command than ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). On the one hand it has been used in some places to justify extremes of behaviour and unbiblical practices; on the other hand, some have simply taken it as a fact that all Christians are by definition filled with the Spirit, and that there is little or nothing further to say. This book avoids both extremes, but it begins with a clear statement by the author:
... when the apostle tells believers to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18) it is because some of them are not. Yes, it is possible to be a true Christian who has never experienced this spiritual reality.
He goes on to say:
This is not what the Lord wants. He wants every Christian everywhere to be filled with the Spirit. He wants this for His own sake, for their sake, and for the sake of His churches and the world. But how can this happen if believers don’t know what the filling of the Spirit is?
The following pages are a brief summary and explanation of what the Bible teaches on this important subject. As you read it I trust that you will be enlightened, enriched, and drawn into a more intimate walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Short and readable as it is, this may nevertheless be the most important book (outside the Bible) you have read in a long time.
This is a tiny book…but it is jam packed with great theology! I wish every Christian would read this. It is the best, accessible, book on life in the Spirit that I have read. Confused about baptism of the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, the role of the Spirit, etc? Get this book!
Sometimes one issue – or even one verse – can become widely–used yet wrongly understood. This little book is a delightful correction for one such instance. It is biblical, pastoral, and inspirational. The author explains that the text “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) is a command but it is not a command to be “baptised” with the Holy Spirit (which equates to conversion). In a survey of the filling of the Spirit in Scripture, we find that this can relate to appointment to high office (prophet, priest or king) or sovereign possession of an individual (such as Samson, or Paul on his travels – illustrated more recently with seasons of great fruitfulness in the lives of two preachers, John Livingstone in Scotland in 1630 and Dafydd Morgan in Wales in 1858). However, Stuart Olyott’s main interest is in a third use of this term: settled character. For this he takes us to the appointment of the first deacons where Stephen and others are “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3). “They must be well thought–of and well spoken–of, not only by the church, but of society generally. In other words, they must be widely trusted. Of course! They are going to be handling other people’s money; perhaps, lots of it. And they must be filled with wisdom. Of course! They are going to be dealing with people, especially vulnerable women, into whose homes they are likely to be going quite regularly” (37). The writer then says that obedience opens the door to wonderful blessings. Like Barnabas arriving in Antioch, it takes only one such Spirit filled man “to come into our church for everyone to be happier and holier (Acts11:19–26)” (45). But the vision of being filled by the Spirit is for everyone: “They are active members of gospel churches where they speak to everybody, sing with everybody, thank the Lord for everything, and never show the slightest sign of having a personal agenda. In short, Spirit–filled people, without exception, are model church members”. And when the whole congregation is filled with the Spirit, “There are no attention seekers, no personalities trying to dominate, no displays of self–importance, no jealousies, no resentments, no plotting groups, and no huddles of unkind critics” (47). Lastly, the writer declares that this command is easy to obey. The contrast, as Paul teaches, is in getting drunk. If people find this easy, then being filled with the Spirit must be easy too. We now turn to the words of Christ: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–38). Importantly, we are to note that we come to Christ and ‘drink Christ’ and then the Spirit comes – so we do not attempt to drink of the Spirit. “The cry of the Spirit–touched heart is not ‘Spirit, Spirit!’ but ‘Jesus, Jesus!’” (56). In practice, this gives us the priority of turning on the three taps of Scripture, the sacraments and prayer as a way of living constantly in the refreshment of the Lord. This is a lively and compelling book which can only do us good. I warmly commend this short read to believers of all ages, whatever their church responsibility.
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