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How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit, Part 1

From the series The Holy Spirit

Are you a Spirit-filled Christian? Depending on your background, that’s a loaded question. So, which viewpoint is correct? Who has the right answer? Chip explores this controversial topic.

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Message Transcript

I was a Christian two years, I have no Bible background, a lady walks up to me and asked a very nice, common question. And she says, “Excuse me?” I said, “Yes.” She goes, “Are you Spirit-filled?” I said, “What?” “Are you a Spirit-filled Christian?” I said, “What’s a Spirit-filled Christian?”

Well, she went on to explain.

Well, that sent me on a little bit of a journey but if someone asked you that question they may be asking about five different things depending on their background.

In some circles if they say, “Are you a Spirit-filled Christian” they mean, “Are you a committed Christian” like are you really seeking to live the life? In other circles if they say, “Are you a Spirit-filled Christian” they want to know do you speak in tongues?

In other circles if they say, “Are you a Spirit-filled Christian” they want to know have you had a second blessing of some kind of the Holy Spirit. In other circles, if you’re a Spirit-filled Christian it is have you ever come to that point of yieldedness, of surrender of, sort of, the Romans 12:1 and 2 lifestyle.

And so people use the word “Spirit-filled” depending on theological and denominational backgrounds in a lot of different ways. They use another phrase too called the baptism of the Holy Spirit that means also a lot of different things in a lot of different groups.

And I won’t go into the whole background but I was being discipled with a group that had this unbelievable commitment to God’s Word. I mean super committed to God’s Word like if you weren’t memorizing three to five verses a week you were just not, like, even close to where you needed to be.

And then I would go home in the summer as a new Christian and there was another group of people that were really, really committed to the experience of life in the Spirit.

And so I don’t know anything and it’s like, it was like ping pong, you know? And I was just, like, trying to figure out, “So what’s the Bible say, what do these terms mean? I don’t know what it means to be filled, I don’t know what the baptism is, I don’t know what the…” And I was just confused.

And so I went on a two-year journey and I literally started from the beginning and if the word “Spirit” or “Holy Spirit” showed up in the Bible I studied it.

And I took every verse in the Bible – it took me two years. I later learned there were things called concordances. I mean, there’s really an easier way to go about this than I did. But I, you know, I didn’t know. And I just was praying for two years, “God, I want all that you have for me and I’m hearing lots of voices so what I know is You wrote this.” And so I went on a journey.

I want you to open your Bibles to Acts chapter 2. The Church is born and the Jews are going to receive the Holy Spirit. It’ll be birthed, they’ll be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and what you’re going to find is they will be filled with power.

Follow along, verse 1. “When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound like a blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. And when they heard this sound a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one of them heard them speaking in his own language.

“Amazed and perplexed,” skipping down to verse 12, “they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They’ve had too much wine.’ But Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and he addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain to you, listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine o’clock in the morning! No, this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel: “In the last days God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”’”

And so Acts chapter 2, it’s the Jews. Did they speak in tongues? Yes. When did they receive it? After salvation. They were believing Old Testament followers of Jesus, they were waiting, they’ve now come to Christ, they believe in Him, the Church is born, and Peter’s role? He’s present when it’s received.

Turn to Acts 8. These are the only four passages that talk about the filling or the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Acts chapter 8, I want you to notice that now chapters 1 through 7 are the growth of the Church. The first decade or more. Some believe up to almost the first twenty years, apart from those who came to Christ, and then were dispersed and went to other places, the Church was primarily Jewish.

Remember the big command? “Go into all the world; make disciples.” That wasn’t going well. Remember when Jesus ascended, “You’ll be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts of the world.” That was not going well.

In other words, they didn’t go very far. And what you find is, in the sovereignty of God, He allows some persecution to come in chapter 8.

And so in chapter 8 the Church is persecuted and as they are persecuted they move out. They run for their lives, apart from the apostles. And as they go, guess what they start doing? It says they preached the Word.

Samaritans, if you don’t know what they were, they were a half-breed. They were people that couldn’t show that they were fully Jews and they inter-married and so they were despised. Jews hated Samaritans.

You might remember the story when Jesus wanted to cut through some Samaritan territory and they wouldn’t let him. They were off-limits people.

I mean this is like the Ku-Klux Clan and the NAACP, okay? I mean that’s the kind of attitudes they had toward one another.

And you need to know that because it helps explain what happens. Acts chapter 8, let’s pick up the story in verse 14.

They’d been spread, they’re running for their lives, they’re persecuted. “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God they sent Peter and John to them.”

So they went to Samaria, they started preaching, these Samaritans trust in Christ. Well now they got a problem. These people that we hate since we’ve been little boys and little girls believe in Jesus the way we do. So we’re going to send Peter and John from headquarters to find out what in the world happened. I mean what could God be up to? He certainly doesn’t love them.

“When they arrived they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them. They’d simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

“Now there’s a magician there named Simon. And when he saw that the Spirit was given by the laying on of hands of the apostles, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ And Peter said to him, ‘May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right with God.’”

All I want to do is just get the facts down. Acts chapter 8 – Samaritans. So they’re, this is a mixed group. But speaking in tongues is not mentioned. It may be alluded to, there was some manifestation because this magician saw some manifestation of power that he thought he could buy by the laying on of hands. It occurs after salvation. And it’s, Peter again is present.

And what you need to understand is, what’s going to happen is if the Samaritans come to Christ, and it isn’t authenticated by headquarters and by Peter, we would have had two churches. Those people would have never stayed under the same umbrella.

And so they respond to the Word and Peter and the apostles come and they say, basically, this is legit. These people believe like we believe. They don’t need to go through Judaism. Salvation is by grace through faith, the free gift of God through Jesus, they received the same way we did.

And so he says this is for real and when he prays for them then God manifests in some manner, doesn’t say exactly how, that they are now a part of the body of Christ.

Skip to Acts chapter 10. The movement of the book of Acts, the outline is in verse 8 of chapter 1. “Where you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,” okay? “Judea,” that’s happened. “Samaria,” right? Well now we’re going to get to the Gentiles, chapter 10.

Peter, who is the epitome, he’s, “Upon this rock your words, your faithfulness, your team, I’m going to build My church.” He’s the point person. They look to him and the other key elders there.

And so Peter is, in the book of Acts, the primary leader in the expansion of the gospel to the Jews. Later we’ll find Paul will be the primary personality in the expansion to the Gentiles.

Peter, little by little, is beginning to break the cultural rules and the cultural laws. He’s gone down to a tanner. You don’t, a tanner is a person that smelled. There was raw skins and hides that they used. And so a good, orthodox Jew would not only not go to a tanner but would never stay in his home.

But Peter is beginning to see some things differently and he’s beginning to realize that this gospel is beyond Judaism and he’s seeing it with the Samaritans and some of the things that were kosher he realizes God’s changing the rules. This gospel is to go beyond.

And so little by little he’s, sort of, breaking some of the cultural rules and some of the traditions. And then something happens to him. Chapter 10 he goes down to meet with this tanner. And lunch is being prepared and so he goes up on the roof, most of the homes in that day are flat on top. And he goes up on the roof, kind of waiting. And he goes into a trance.

And God speaks to him and you, probably maybe many of you remember this story. And a sheet comes down with all the kind of animals that are unclean for a Jew. It comes down once, the Spirit of God speaks to him and says, “Kill and eat.” He says, “Never, Lord.” It comes down a second time. Same thing. A third time. And then the sheet goes away. And he has this vision.

And at the end of the vision the Spirit of God says to him, “Don’t you call anything unclean that I call clean.” And this is going to set Peter up for what’s going to happen because something has happened elsewhere.

So let’s pick up the story. Cornelius is a centurion. And he has a household of all Gentiles. And he was one day praying and God hears his prayer. And an angel says, “I want you to send for this man, he’s down by the seaside staying with this tanner named Simon, his name is Peter. Go get him and bring him here. He has a message for you from me.”

So a couple of his cohorts go down. They now knock on the door shortly after Peter has the vision and the Lord says to Peter, “Invite these men in.”

So now he’s going to eat with Gentiles. God’s sort of given him baby steps, training wheels to do some things he’s never done before. He invites them in the house, can’t do that. He eats with Gentiles. Then he travels back with them and he takes a few Jews with him.

And what you’re going to find out, that’s going to be very important to authenticate what happens. Because if you think Jews and Samaritans hate one another, Jews hate Gentiles at a whole different level. A Gentile was called a “dog.” They thought, to a Jew a Gentile was subhuman. You wouldn’t eat with a Gentile, you wouldn’t walk into the house of a Gentile. They were unclean.

So now Peter is sort of scratching his head and he goes back, he takes this walk, and he goes to Cornelius’ house and in verse 30 of chapter 10 we’re going to pick up the story where Peter says to Cornelius, by the way, Peter doesn’t know what’s going on. I mean he’s thinking, “What’s the message? What am I supposed to say? I don’t get it.”

So he comes in and when he comes in the guy bows down and Peter says, “Look, I’m just a man too.” And so Cornelius explains beginning in verse 30. “Cornelius answered, ‘Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayers and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.”’

“So I sent for you immediately and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here.” He fills his house with his relatives and his friends. “Hey! An angel came, sent for a guy, there’s a big message. You’ve got to come over.”

So Peter walks in, “Now we’re all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us. Then Peter began to speak.” The lights are coming on. “I now realize how true it is that God shows no favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all.”

And then skip down to verse 44. At verse 44, “While Peter was still speaking these words,” he starts preaching the gospel, “the Holy Spirit came on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers, who had come with Peter, were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’”

Acts 2. The Church is born, baptism, filled, Peter, authentication.

Acts chapter 8. Mixed group. They hear. They don’t have the Holy Spirit yet. They check it out. It’s legit. Now they’re under the umbrella of the mother Church. They pray for them. There’s a manifestation. Now they get the Holy Spirit.

Acts chapter 10. Cornelius. They don’t get to pray. They don’t get to talk. They don’t get to explain. While he’s preaching, boom! It happens. And the Jews are going, “Wait a second. This is just like Acts 2. They got what we got the same way we got it. I guess, I guess God loves Gentiles.”

Now, notice there’s one other passage. Acts chapter 19. This is sort of one of those, “I wonder what’s going on?” passages. We’re now in the apostle Paul’s ministry. And there was a group of people, apparently, who were zealous and John the Baptist said, “Behold, I am the forerunner of the Messiah. And one is coming greater than me.”

And some of his disciples got so fired up about telling people about the Messiah they went on a missions trip. And while they were going on their missions trip to tell everyone about how the Messiah is going to come, the Messiah came.

And He not only came but He died and He rose again. And not only He died and rose again but the Church has been born and they must have gone on a long missions trip so Paul meets them and when Paul meets them he has this dialogue, “Hey, where are you guys from and…” Well let’s pick up the story.

Chapter 19 verse 1, “When Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ ‘No, we have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit.’” Now that’s a good one, isn’t it?

“So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ They said, ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the One coming after him, that is in Jesus.’ On hearing this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and they prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.”

Now here’s what I want you to see. In the confusion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Holy Spirit, what it means, does it involve tongues, is it at salvation, is it after salvation – most of the theology will take one of these passages and say, “Look. This is how it happened in Acts 2 so this is how it should happen with us.”

In other words, I remember being on a basketball team, we were playing basketball throughout South America, and we had guys from all over the country. And one guy named Tim, super guy, little point guard, could just shoot tremendously. And he came from a certain theological position that was just, he was, I mean, he was like, this is the way it is.

And I was on my journey and learning a lot at the time and so he said, “Look, we have to do it like the New Testament church. We need to do it just like the book of Acts.” And it’s interesting.

And then I didn’t know this then, I studied later, because then he gave me one of these different parallels and said, “This is how the spiritual life works and this is what it means and this is why because of Acts 2, or Acts 8, or Acts 10, or Acts 19.”

My question would be: Which one of the churches in Acts do you want to be like? So do you pray and get the Spirit later? Does it happen at the same time? Do you believe and then get it?

See, you know why I put that there? You can’t build a theology out of Acts that’s prescriptive. It’s descriptive. It’s describing how the Church was birthed. And what I want you to see is the baptism of the Holy Spirit always includes the inclusion of a new people group. It’s the only time it ever happens.

It happens when the Jews are brought into the body of Christ and it’s created, it happens when the Samaritans are brought into the body of Christ, it happens when the Gentiles are brought into the body of Christ.

And then you, kind of, have a group that never heard there was one. And so there’s no consistency. Like, when did they receive? After salvation, after salvation, at conversion, at conversion.

My only point is I want you to hear is there isn’t a consistent pattern in the New Testament in the book of Acts that says the baptism and filling and this is what it means.

The epistles are written, letters to give us instruction to say, “This is how the theology of God’s Church is to be directed and to be followed.” The book of Acts is a history of how it happened and how it laid out.

So those are great experiences but the consistency is the authentication of people groups in the body of Christ. The book of Acts is descriptive not prescriptive.

If it was prescriptive and we want to be like the church in the book of Acts then we should all go and worship at synagogues. And only meet from house to house in churches. We should all have very important, some dietary laws that they were still keeping for a period of time.

There are a number of things in the book of Acts that we might keep doing. Maybe we should all pool our resources. And live out of one part of a community, which they did for a season of time in the early part of the book of Acts because of the pressure that they were under.

God is describing, in the book of Acts, the birth, development, growth, maturity of His Church and the work of the Spirit in that. And so in summary here’s what I’d say: Baptism is not the same as filling, baptism doesn’t always occur after salvation, the baptism doesn’t necessarily require us to speak in tongues because in Acts 8 it doesn’t say. And then that the early church experience is not normative but the New Testament epistles tell us exactly how the filling of the Spirit works.