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Plain Papers on the Holy Spirit: 4. The Filling With The Holy Spirit

By C.I. Scofield


      In the last chapter the writer endeavored to show that the Epistles, which (with the Revelation) are God's final word to the saints of this dispensation, instead of exhorting believers to seek the indwelling of the Spirit, again and again assert that both the indwelling and the baptism are the present possession of all who, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, are regenerate; and that exhortations to holiness of life are based upon the already existing fact of such possession. It was shown, further, that not the presence merely of the Spirit as indwelling and baptizing secured the fullness of blessing, victory, and power, but the state of being filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, is a distinct command to "be filled with the Spirit." The purpose of the present paper is to point out the simple Biblical conditions of such filling. These conditions are (1) negative--some things must not be, if we are to know this blessing; and (2) positive--demanding a definite affirmative action upon our part.

      1. The negative conditions of the filling with the Holy Spirit.

      (1) The first of these negative conditions is stated in Ephesians 4:30,31. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." The word rendered "grieve" in this passage means literally "to make sorrowful." It is a touching thought that the Bible never speaks of the wrath of the Spirit. The one passage in the authorized version Isaiah 63:10 in which the Spirit is said to be "vexed," is a mistranslation which the revised version correctly changed to "grieved." It is not strange that some have found in this susceptibility of the Spirit to be grieved but not angered the mother part of the divine love.

      The things which grieve the Spirit are unholy things allowed in the life. Some of these are enumerated in verse 31, immediately following the exhortation not to grieve the Spirit: "bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, with all malice." In Galatians 5:17 we are told that "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;" and the "works of the flesh" are enumerated: "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like;" a clause which covers every manifestation of the flesh. All these grieve the Spirit when allowed in the believer's life.

      Everything here depends upon the assent of the will. Temptations to these sins do not grieve the Spirit, nor are temptations sins, but the moment the will assents to the practice of or presence of these "and such like," the holy and sensitive Spirit is grieved. The effect of such assent of the will to "the law of sin which is in our members" is to refuse the rule of the Spirit in some part of our natures; to diminish the sphere of the Spirit's sway over us. Our complex nature is like an empire of many provinces. We are spirit, soul, and body. We may be willing that the Spirit shall control our ugly tempers, and yet indulge ourselves in settled bitternesses. We may be willing that the Spirit shall rule our passions, and yet reserve what we are pleased to call the freedom of the intellect.

      Before conversion this empire (though we were all unconscious of it) was ruled by Satan ( 1 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 2:2) through self as viceroy. Now Christ is enthroned through the Spirit. But the dethroned ruler seeks ever the recovery of his dominion in whole, or in part; and the assent of the human will to any manifestation of the natural heart Mark 7:20-23 is the reenthronement of self and, in so far as self is allowed to act, the dethronement of Christ's vicegerent, the Spirit. It is not that He abandons us. Thank God we are "sealed unto the day of redemption," and "grieving away" the Spirit is an unbiblical notion, but a grieved Spirit is not an all-filling Spirit. The immediate consequence of the restriction of the sphere of the Spirit's authority is loss of blessing and victory in the inner life, and loss of power in the outer life--the life of service. The remedy for this loss, the filling of the Spirit, will be pointed out farther on.

      (2) The second negative condition is stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the Spirit." The word (correctly rendered "quench") is used primarily of putting out fire; and in a secondary sense of resisting any vigorous effort. To quench the Spirit, therefore, is to resist His fiery energy, His consuming and purifying work. We are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He is the "Spirit of burning," and so of purification. He is also the Spirit of power. Through Him God lays hold upon us as instruments in a world embracing purpose. To quench the Spirit therefore (let it be repeated) is to resist this twofold work of purification and of use. To reserve any dross of the natural man from the consuming action of this holy flame is, in so far, to quench Him. Similarly, any resistance to His use of us, however slight, or from whatever cause, is to quench Him. The Spirit will not enforce obedience. His power is resistless, but waits the assent of our wills.

      We quench the Spirit, therefore, when we oppose His will. We quench the Spirit, therefore, when we refuse to speak for Christ when consciously moved to do so by Him. It may seem a very small thing to us, but we are not qualified to judge concerning small and great in estimation of God. In his work immense results often follow seemingly unimportant actions.

      We quench the Spirit when we refuse His call to definite service.

      We quench the Spirit when we refuse His absolute sovereignty over our service as to what ( 1 Corinthians 12:8-11) where (Acts 13:2-4 Acts 16:6-7) and how (Acts 8:29) we shall serve Christ. So long as servants of Christ are influenced in the place, kind, or method of their service by consideration of agreeableness, worldly advantage, salary and like motives, they may not hope to know His fullness.

      We quench the Spirit when we consent to such arrangements in church life or organization as give no liberty for the ministry of the various gifts of the Spirit, thus imposing silence or inactivity on others.

      The effect of quenching the Spirit is precisely the same with grieving Him--the sphere of His authority is diminished; we are no longer "filled," because we have excluded Him from some part of our being. An illustration of this was given in the last chapter in the case of the disciples who, filled on the day of Pentecost, needed to be and were filled again on a subsequent occasion.

      The negative conditions of the filling with the Holy Spirit are, therefore, that we cease grieving Him by refusing the assent of the will to any unholiness; and that we cease quenching Him by opposing the resistance of the will to His sanctifying work within us, and His energizing work upon us.

      It is not, let it again be insisted, that we are to make ourselves clean of sin, or to perfect ourselves in obedience. Neither of these acts is possible to us. In respect of both we are helpless. What we may do, is to put our wills over on the Spirit's side of these controversies. The representation is often made that if we can but will to be holy and obedient the victory is won. But, in the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul makes the tremendous and crushing discovery that willing and doing are by no means the same things. "For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." Romans 7:18. Nor does he ever find it except in the mighty "law of the Spirit." Romans 8:2.

      We come now to--

      2. The positive conditions of the filling with the Holy Spirit.

      These are reducible to three. The first, variously stated in Scripture, as consecration, presenting the body a living sacrifice, taking up the cross, etc., is summed up finally in one word "yield." That is, yieldedness. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." Romans 6:13.

      The word here used for "yield" in its various forms in the original Greek, stands for the most absolute surrender to the control of another. In a slightly different form it is used by our Lord in Matthew 26:53, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me (literally 'yield') more than twelve legions of angels?" Are we at liberty to suppose that those legions would of obedience to Jesus in any but the most absolute sense? The word is used also of the presentation of sacrifices. These, needless to say, were wholly given to God. A sacrificer under the dispensation of law never dreamed of reasserting authority over a creature once brought to a priest. Indeed, his final act of authority was to slay his offering in the presence of the priest. Leviticus 4:33. This very thought of yieldedness, first of all, to death is enforced again and again in the Epistles. Romans 6:3,6, Romans 7:4, The very essence of true yieldedness, is to consent that this judicial reckoning of God that we were crucified with Christ shall, by the Spirit, Romans 8:13 be made real in our experience. Galatians 5:24; 2 Corinthians 1:9. Let it be repeated that co-crucifixion with Christ is not a self-work--Christ did not crucify Himself--but as He "through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself" (Hebrews 9:14), so we "through the Spirit mortify ('make dead') the deeds of the body." ( Romans 8:13).

      And this yieldedness is, be it observed, two-fold-- "yourselves," "your members." The first relates to the inner life--the sphere of soul and spirit as dominated by the flesh; the second to the outer life--the sphere of service. The first includes the yielding up to the Spirit of all things which defile us and therefore grieve Him. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." This is a very different thing from endeavoring ourselves to put these away. That we could never do; but the Holy Spirit can, and our yieldedness includes assent to this purifying work.

      The yielding of our "members" as instruments is abandoning to Christ through the Spirit all control over service as to place, time, or quality. Its formula is "anything, any time, anywhere." In Romans 12:1, this yieldedness is presented under the sacrificial form. Observe that the exhortation is not to sacrifice our bodies, but to present them (to our priest) for sacrifice. The point for emphasis is the utterness of the abandonment of our bodies to Him. Under the old dispensation, as we have seen, the offerer had no secret purpose of reclaiming the offering. In the same way, to "yield" in the sense required, is sincerely, and honestly, and without any known secret reservation, to give self and our members over to the sway of Christ through the Spirit. Let now all possible emphasis be put upon the remaining truth about this yielding, that it is a definite act. Millions are never filled with the Holy Spirit, because they never definitely yield themselves and their members to God. Even among earnest Christians this lack of definiteness is proved by the practice of continually repeated consecrations (so-called). If we really have presented our bodies as living sacrifices, we clearly have nothing left to present. It is done.

      The second Positive condition of the filling is faith.

      By faith is meant not our general trust in Christ as our Saviour, but trust in Him as the alone bestower of the Spirit. Let go all confusing past conditions, and remember that now and for Christians He, "being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost" (or "promised Holy Ghost"), is now in the precise position anticipated by Him when He uttered the words of John 7:37-39, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink . . . but this spake he of the Spirit."

      He has taken up the office of which John Baptist testified: "I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Luke 3:16.

      Just as He, during His earthly ministry, pointed to the Father as willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who should ask Him, so now the Holy Spirit points to the ascended and glorified Christ as the bestower of the Spirit. Acts 2:33.

      Faith, then, is called upon here for a twofold exercise--to believe that the risen and glorified Christ is able and willing to bestow the fullness of the Spirit, and then to "drink" John 7:37; that is, by a definite act of appropriation, to receive the Spirit. It is all of faith. One who has yielded self, and all known sin, and the body, unreservedly to the authority of Christ through the Spirit, is on taking ground. Heeding Christ's invitation, "if any man thirst let him come unto me and drink," he comes to Christ for this definite filling with the Spirit, and having come, he "drinks." It is precisely the same exercise of faith by which in the beginning of his Christian life he "received" Christ. John 1:2.

      Just here multitudes who really thirst, who have honestly yielded the whole being to Christ, fail. Having come so near, they do not "drink." Waiting for some evidence of the senses they continue, perhaps for years praying and longing for the fullness of the Spirit, but never "receive" Him. Perhaps, at last, they inwardly blame God. In the spirit of the elder son in the parable, they say, "Thou never gavest me a kid." The answer always is, "Son, all that I have is thine."

      The third condition is prayer.

      And this, be it remembered, is not asking the Father for the Spirit. Jesus "being by the right hand of God exalted," has "received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:33.) Neither is it asking for the Holy Spirit in unbelief of the repeated and emphatic declarations that the believer now has the Spirit, nor, strictly speaking, is it asking for the fullness of the Spirit. In the wonderful prayer recorded in Acts 4:24-30 the disciples do not mention the Spirit. They prayed about the fear they are in because of the Jewish religious authorities, and of "Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles."

      "Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."

      Think of the directness, humility, and preoccupation with Christ, of that noble prayer, in contrast with the preoccupation with self, the subjectivity of so much latter-day praying about the Spirit. And, chiefly, note this: they prayed about the thing which had got wrong--"behold their threatenings." Fear was quenching the Spirit. So our prayers are to cover the ground of the most scrupulous and searching confession of failure, and of solicitude concerning the interests of Jesus, committed to our hands. To most, also, if not to all, prayer would be the most natural attitude of soul in definitely receiving the Spirit. How instinctively the expression would be: "Lord, I do receive; I am now receiving from thee the fullness of the Spirit. I do believe thou hast received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, and thou hast said, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and so I drink."

      One word of warning. The filling with the Spirit is both an act and a process; both an event and a life. There is a beginning of the state of fullness, but the continuance of that state depends upon the quiet restful maintenance of the conditions. The believer who will know the blessedness of the Spirit-filled life must begin by definite acts of yieldedness, appropriating faith, and prayer. Confess instantly anything that grieves or quenches the Spirit--that maintains yieldedness. Be always "drinking" the spirit. "He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." John 4:14. Keep the whole being in a receptive attitude toward the bestowing Christ. Do not try to think of the Spirit; think of Christ as the bestower of the Spirit. The holy and ever blessed and adorable Spirit would be well content to be quite out of our consciousness it only that consciousness were filled with Christ. Live the life of prayer. Use prayer to hide everything in the heart of God. Bathe the whole life and service in prayer. Then the life that begins with the filling will go on in the fullness.

      A fruitful Christian service is the result of a perpetual drinking at the fountain of "living waters." "I shall be anointed with fresh oil" Psalm 92:10 should be the desire and the confident faith of every yielded servant of God as he goes forward to each new service.

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See Also:
   Introductory
   1. The Holy Spirit As A Divine Person
   2. The Holy Spirit Before And Since Pentecost
   3. The Holy Spirit Before And Since Pentecost, Part 2
   4. The Filling With The Holy Spirit
   5. The Filling With The Holy Spirit Is Indispensable

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